Strengthening Women’s Leadership

WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP, FOLLOW-UP AND NEED – BASED WORKSHOPS

Women’s Leadership Workshops (WLWs) are three-day workshops for first-time elected women representatives (EWRs), and manifest as the first major capacity building initiative of the THP five-year cycle. Participatory in nature, WLWs are conducted primarily to build confidence among first-time elected women and provide them with information and knowledge about their key roles and responsibilities in the Panchayats. It is the first step towards transformative leadership. WLWs seek to facilitate:

• Creation of a sense of self-esteem and dignity

• A shift from an ‘I cannot’ to an ‘I can’ mindset

• Understanding of the self as a woman, a member of caste, class, and religion, and as a leader

• Understanding of political citizenship

• Clear articulation of community vision and goals

• Understanding of society as a system and the balance / imbalance of power within it

• A sense of solidarity and partnership with other grassroots women leaders

During FY2011/2012, the States of Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan conducted WLWs and Follow-up Workshops. In total, 39 WLWs were conducted to train 1,199 EWRs. Around 80 Follow-up Workshops with 2,306 EWRs were also conducted across the States of Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Even though EWRs gain a foothold in local governance and decision-making systems, they continue to face challenges while attempting to fulfill their duties in office. Need for additional inputs are expressed by them during workshops, meetings, and Sammelans (conventions). THP designs these thematic Need-Based Workshops (NBWs) and focuses on equipping EWRs with the skills necessary to address and resolve specific, often context-related challenges. Around 111 such workshops were organized with 3,215 EWRs across Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand to recapitulate and re-iterate their functions in Panchayats, and provide information on various government schemes like MGNREGS, Right to Information, Social Welfare Schemes, and the Domestic Violence Act.

TRAINING OF TRAINERS (TOT)

Training of Trainer workshops are conducted prior to each set of capacity building initiatives for EWRs. Trainers and field-level staff members of THP’s partner organizations are trained in each planned intervention and their capacities are built on thematic issues. Contemporary perspectives and debates are deliberated, new information is imparted, and new training skills and methodologies are taught. Around 111 women and 57 male trainers have been trained through eight TOT workshops during this reporting period.

STRENGTHENING WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT THROUGH ELECTORAL PROCESSES (SWEEP)

SWEEP is an extensive pre-election campaign undertaken in the fifth and final year of a State’s Gram Panchayat election cycle. The objective of SWEEP has been to encourage women to contest for every seat, even beyond reservation. SWEEP also aims to increase the visibility of women in the entire electoral process – as citizens, voters, candidates, and electoral officers and agents.

During FY2011/2012, THP conducted SWEEP in the States of Odisha and Tamil Nadu. While reservation for women remained at 33.3% in Tamil Nadu, in Odisha, the same was increased to 50% for the first time. In Tamil Nadu, SWEEP was conducted in 547 Gram Panchayats across 26 blocks in 11 districts. In Odisha, SWEEP was conducted in 1,108 Gram Panchayats across 50 blocks in 14 districts. Information on electoral processes was disseminated through village meetings, simulation camps and various IEC materials like; radio programmes, mobile van campaigns, poster exhibitions, street-plays and cultural programmes. Several interventions were designed and implemented to make the SWEEP campaign successful in the two States of Odisha and Tamil Nadu. Nearly 137 potential leadership workshops were held across the two States to build the capacity of potential women contenders identified during simulation camps, village meetings and mini conventions. About 1,387 village meetings were held to build rapport with the community and provide information on the upcoming elections. Around 72 Gender and Panchayat Resource Centres were opened in Odisha to provide election related information and forms to both women and men. Radio programmes covered all the districts of Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

The SWEEP campaign resulted in an increased participation of women, with the community being sensitized towards their role as responsible citizens and voters during elections. Both in the reserved and unreserved categories, women contested in larger numbers when compared to the previous years.