Interventions with the PRI Elected Women Representatives (EWRs)
People of four Panchayats of Basantpur and Chhatapur Blocks of Supaul District have been partners in change in the region for the last three years. They have been instrumental in our wide range of initiatives after the disastrous floods in 2008.
As an expansion of our activities AMAN has started working with the Elected Womens Representatives (EWRs) of the Panchayati Raj System in the two blocks. With the support from The Hunger Project support, Aman has organised four Women Leadership Workshops (WLWs) with over 70 EWRs from the two blocks. The first set of two WLWs were implemented in the month of January this year, one in each block. In Basantpur, 35 EWRs (including two Mukhiyas and a deputy-Mukhiya) participated in the workshop. The number of participants in Chhatapur was 36 in which two Mukhiyas participated. The sessions of the workshop included locating an elected women representative in a gendered and patriarchal society, roles and responsibilities of EWRs, mental and social mapping, village planning, active listening and articulation skills etc. One of the biggest achievements of the workshops were that altogether 16 Muslim women participated in the sessions and stayed outside their houses for three days to attend the sessions.
The success of the workshops could be seen in the field when the participant were in the action. Within a fortnight the EWRs organised ward meetings in their respective wards facing the challenges from their male counterparts and Mukhiyas apart from the village secretaries, who could not appreciate the planning and need assessment activities at the grassroots level. Under the leadership of their Ward members, the villagers listed down their needs and prioritised them accordingly before preparing the demand letter for the authorities. In Basantpur, safe drinking water and toilets were on the top of the priority list in most of the Panchayats. They initiated their dialogue with the local authorities positively after the ward level meetings. As a result, UNICEF, in collaboration with the local administration has taken up the issues and is organizing Panchayat level meetings of the elected representatives in the block to launch programme for construction of toilets and assembling of hand pumps in the region.
During the Ward Sabhas, it was noted that there is a huge demand for information on the PRI system among the villagers. It was a delight to see the EWRs conducting the meetings and responding to the queries and obstacles posed by the villagers and the mischief mongers.
After a gap of 45 days, second set of WLWs were implemented as the follow up of the first WLWs. Some of the participants of the earlier workshop could not make it to be part of the sessions this time due to Lagan (Marriage season) and other reasons. In Basantpur, 24 EWRs turned up where as 30 EWRs participated in Chhatapur WLW follow up.
In the last 4 months there has been a marked change in the outlook, attitude, behaviour and initiatives among the EWRs. Earlier, the husbands of the EWRs used to participate in the transactions. Now, the women are taking charge of their responsibilities and could be seen in the local offices for different purposes.