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Background Note distributed in the workshop on “Gender Resource Centre in Local Governments:Possibilities and potentials” held on September 15th & 16th, 2017 at Hotel SP Grand days, Thiruvananthapuram

 Gender Resource Centre

It is two decades since Kerala initiated the decentralisation of powers to Local Governments (LGs) and the decentralised planning process. During this period, Kerala has created many models for local development with the people’s participation, especially in the development of infrastructure, making the  health and education sectors efficient, people friendly delivery of services and so on. There were several attempts too on women’s welfare and development with the support of the Panchayati Raj law.

  • Ensured 50% reservation for women in local governments
  • 50% reservation for women in standing committees
  • Special women’s groups in gram sabhas and development seminars
  • Special working group on women to identify needs and issues of women and its solution and to support the LG on this
  • Gender consideration in other working groups and in general projects
  • Special chapter in the panchayat development report and project document to describe women’s welfare and development needs and solutions
  • 10% of devolved funds earmarked for Women’s Component Plan (WCP)
  • Formation of self-groups in every panchayat which led to the formation of the state poverty eradication mission (Kudumbasree) with 42 lakh women and which is the largest single organisation of women the state
  • The formation of jagratha samithis (vigilance cells) to prevent and resolve issues of violence against women

 A review of the20 years of decentralisation in Keralashows that several such attempts were made to bring issues of women in to centre stage of local development and mainstream gender. Yet, in everyday life and circumstances, women face many issues

  • While more than 75% of students in higher education are women, their work participation rate (WPR) is much less that the national average -just 18%
  • Women in the unorganised sector face many issues which go unnoticed and un addressed
  • Although the sex ratio among the adult population is 1084:1000, it is 982:1000 among the 0-6 age group
  • Increasing atrocities against women (15114 in 2016)
  • Child abuse and violence in 2016 2881 (including 375 cases of rape)
  • Increasing morbidity and life style diseases among women; neglect of reproductive and occupational illnesses
  • Special issues of senior women and differently challenged
  • Triple work burden and issues faced by women homemakers
  • Few women own property or assets and no control over it
  • The double standards prevalent in society regarding sexuality and morality

         Many more specific issues till remain unattended

          Besides this, the gender concern in development Is still limited to ‘welfare’ and ‘poverty   eradication’. Theconcept of ‘empowerment’ is being used widely but it means different things to different people. It is only in a very limited way that the power relation between men and women is analysed and programmes formulated to address this. An individual can engage in development only from her ‘social location’. Women are engaged in development from the location of patriarchal families, societies and political parties. These power structures and relations has to be transformed. To achieve this and to ensure equity and gender justice enshrined in the constitution, much more has to be done

Local governments alone cannot bring about such changes. This requires broader networks and collectives. To initiate and implement programmes for gender justice, the LGs face several limitations

  • Limitations to identify relevant issues faced by women and other groups like transgender’s and to bring it in project frameworks which are executable at the local level
  • Lack of technical support for framing relevant projects
  • Sustainability of programmes/projects
  • Lack of clarity, expertise and political will to implement programmes like Jagratha samithis
  • Wrong understanding about WCP; the assumption that any project related to women and children can be brought under WCP
  • Limitations of guidelines issued by the government
  • Lack of expert help to develop ideas and execute programmes
  • Limitation to equip personnel for implementing the programmes
  • Patriarchal attitudes of individuals, society and the system

To identify such limitations and to resolve them several types of interventions and attempts are needed. Along with this, the LGs will have to plan schemes with a long-term perspective. There was a lack of clear guidelines to effectively plan programmes through the WCP.  The plan guidelines issued by Government for 2017-18 (no. 80/2017/LGD dated 03/04/2017) offers assistance to solve these limitations and suggest several of possibilities. It is with the goal of working towards a gender just society and special mention must be made of the suggestion to start Gender Resource Centres (GRC) at the district and panchayat levels to offer continued support in local planning and implementation of gender sensitive programmes

 What is a Gender Resource Centre(GRC)

What the government guidelines says

1.At the district level Gender Resource Centres should be formed. Expertise, support and coordination of activities to be conducted In all schools and other institutions of the panchayat be offered

2. Needed training for the activities, technical support for the projects prepared, developing new ideas, training and support for Jagrtha samithi, gender desk, Prepare and conduct module for gender training in local governments

Prepare innovative project ideas and familiarise local governments and popularise them

At the DPC level, in each district, a 15 member Gender Resource Team should be formed. The chair person should be a member of DPC and decided by the DPC. The convenor should be the women protection officer. The other members could be those who studied gender studies/women studies; those who conduct research on these subjects, those who have experience of working with women/on gender issues, those who have knowledge of decentralised governance, CI of women’s cell, Rep of legal services authority and  women welfare officer 

3. At the gram panchayat level, the chair will be the chairperson of the welfare standing committee; Convenor will be the Asst.secretary of the panchayat; Besides them, the ICDS chairperson, CDS chairperson, 2 women elected members, women volunteers and experts. This also will be a group of 15.

4. Those panchayats who have not completed the study of status of women, should complete it and those who have completed can make it up todate

5. An amount exceeding 2 lakhs can be budgeted for the activities in each gram panchayat

6.The main objective is to assist the panchayats to prepare the projects for the WCP on a logical foundation and improve the status of women in each area

7.Monthly review meetings of those who are appointed as adolescent counsellors be convened each month and reports prepared. This should be given to the local government for follow up and action

8. The GR team can suggest and intervene to make the local government and its institutions women friendly and with all facilities as well as to make the public spaces safe.

9 Each year a situational analysis report regarding women’s development and a performance assessment report of the associated institutions be published

10.Gender audit of the local government of the local government also be conducted

According to the above guidelines, it is a mechanism to be created at the district and panchayat  level to offer guidance,  support and assistance to the local governmentswith the aim of changing the status of women, give expertise, support and coordination of schemes and programmes for the development and empowerment of women.This will be done with the help of 15 member team whose experience and expertise can be utilised towards this

Sakhi is attempting to expand this concept and give more clarity for those local governments whoare interested to pursue this idea of GRC. Here we are pointing to several potentials and possibilities for GRC. This does not mean that all GRCs can undertake all of these. At the beginning, one or two important mandates can be chosen and start GRCs and then expand to include more objectives and activities. Basically, the GRCs aim to bring about social and gender justice to women, girls and the marginalised and contribute too good governance

  1. 1.       District level Gender Resource Centre (DGRC)

DGRC is aimed at giving constant support and guidance to panchayat level GRCs. Government has envisaged that DGRC will function under the District Planning Committees(DPCs)

Objectives

  • Ensure gender justice in development
  • Assist and support local governments to have a gender just good governance
  • Plan and implement activities in such a way to ensure gender consideration in district level plans
  • Help DPCs to conduct gender analysis of projects submitted by Local governments and make necessary recommendations and approve them.
  • District level skill development/capacity development centre
  • Study centre

Structure

This is a team of official and non-official members totalling 15, out of which  more than 50% should be women

Chairperson- A woman DPC member decided by the DPC

Convenor- Women protection officer*

Members

Those who have studied subjects like gender studies/women studies as main subjects

This who did research on such subjects

Those who have experience in areas of Gender/women

Those who have experience in decentralised governance

CI of women’s cell

Representative of legal services authority

Women’s development Officer

(Government has suggested the protection officer as convenor of GRC at district level. We express our concern regarding the feasibility of such a proposal as the Protection officers are already overburdened with their specific responsibilities  and moreover, presently one officer is in charge of more than one district. Lack of neededfacilties is another issue.

 Distrct level GRC: Responsibilities and activities

  • Develop methodology and process to plan and implement programmes for gender justice and equity( women’s component plan, gender consideration in general programmes etc) in local governments in the district and give necessary support and guidance
  • Develop methodology and process to collect needed data, research and training which will help local governments to achieve the specific goal of Gender justice
  • Support the monitoring and evaluation as well as gender auditing of the above mentioned projects/programmes
  • Collect data of different institutions, academic institutions and individuals who can support such programmes and make it available to local governments
  • Develop methodology to study the status of women and help local governments to use them and conduct studies
  • Give necessary academic support to make district jagratha samithis to function effectively
  • Prepare modules for adolescent and other training to assist the gender desk which operate in schools as part of jagratha samathi’s and make them available
  • Can also act as a centre of district jagratha samithi
  • Develop a common methodology for gender monitoring, evaluation and auditing and make them available to local governments
  • Conduct study courses to ensure gender justice and equality
  • Give necessary guidance and support to income generating programme of women with the cooperation of the local governments
  • Organise district level entrepreneurship programmes for women
  • Documentation of all activities at the district level related to gender justice and equity
  • Collect data about all existing institutions, schemes related to development of women, related laws, various courses, women with diverse expertise etc who work for gender justice and make it available to local governments and others
  • Conduct gender sensitive training programmes to district level government officers and others. Crete a permanent mechanism for this
  • Prepare and display general norms to ensure gender equality in institutions and ensure that they are abided. In institutions with more than 10 employees, make sure that the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)mandated by the Sexual harassment prevention law (2013) is constituted and functioning
  • Collect the half yearly and annual reports of panchayat level GRCs and compile them
  1. Prepare and publish gender equity performance report every year

Panchayat level Gender Resource Centre

15 members

More than 50% must be women

Aims

ü  Ensure gender equity in development

ü  Support the local government in developing gender just good governance

ü  Skill training / expertise developing centre

ü  Collect needed data and distribute it to the local government, women and other institutions and individuals functioning in this area

ü  Study centre

ü  A space for women

         Structure

  • The chairperson will be the chairperson of the welfare standing committee of the panchayat
  • Convenor- Assistant Secretary of the panchayat
  • Members

                ICDS supervisor

                CDS chairperson

                Two women elected members

                Women voluntary workers

                Experts

The GRC to be formed at the panchayat level has to play a key role in project planning and implementation. So, the constitution of the GRC has to be with extreme caution and seriousness. When the gender resource team is formed to run the GRC, care has to be taken to select the unofficial members like voluntary workers and experts who will be 9 in number.

The following criteria to be kept in mind

 v  Teachers/ researchers in women’s studies/gender studies

v  Experts from nearby academic institutions

v  Gender trainers from KILA

v  One computer expert

v  One lawyer

v  One plan expert

v  Other gender experts

 When members are selected knowledge and interest in the subject should be the primary concern

Duration of GRC

The term of all the official members (Chairperson of welfare standing committee, Assistant secretary, ICDS supervisor, CDS chairperson, 2 elected women members) will end when their official position ceases to exist. The period of others is 5 years

Death, resignation, continuous absence from 3 meetings, being accused in criminal cases etc also are reasons for losing the membership in GRC

Responsibilities and activities

ü  Offer support and advise to plan and implement programmes like the WCP and others intended to achieve gender justice and equality

ü  Towards achieving this aim, help to collect data and conduct training/capacity building programmes

ü  Facilitate to plan and conduct programmes by the panchayat and various institutions towards gender justice and equity

ü  Give leadership for various such programmes for its continuous monitoring and gender auditing

ü  Collect data about various institutions, academic and otherwise which function within and outside the panchayat and individuals who can give support to programmes for gender equality and network those who can give support as and when needed. The help of district level resource centre can be sought for this activity.

ü  Recommend and support programmes to ensure gender justice and equity to community based organisations like Kudumbasree SHGs, neighbourhood groups. Facilitate the cooperation of these groups in the activities of the panchayat.

ü  Conduct the study of status of women in the panchayat. Upgrade the data every 5 years and help panchayats to plan projects in accordance with the changes in the status of women

ü  Ensure academic support to the activities of Jagratha samithis [JS] (Training, awareness raising, counselling, legal support). Support them to conduct adalts

ü  Support the gender desk in schools (part of JS) to conduct adolescent trainings and other activities

ü  Act as the panchayat level centre of Jagratha samithy and Gender desk

ü  Ensure necessary academic support to conduct gram sabha and development seminar

ü  Conduct training programmes for gender monitoring and evaluation and auditing

ü  Give leadership for developing  physical fitness, interest in sports and games of women and girls and to form groups/teams

ü  Organise camps for women of different age groups on differnet topics

ü  Help in the monitoring of income generation programmes of women’s groups and if needed, give support for management training, skill development, and marketing

ü  Organise entrepreneurship trainings

ü  Form marketing networks and mechanisms for the products from the employment programmes of women

ü  Documentation of activities which helps in achieving gender justice and equity

ü  Plan and implement capacity building programmes for the staff of panchayat and related institutions on gender

ü  Prepare general norms to ensure gender justice in the panchayat institutions and exhibit them in the offices and see that these are implemented. Ensure that the Internal complaints committee mandated by the Prevention of sexual harassment at workplace 2013 is implemented in all workplaces with more than 10 employees

ü  Prepare gender equity performance audit each year and publish it

 Panchayat has several buildings constructed over the years for various activities and under WCP, offices of the jargratha samithi, women’s marketing centres etcare constructed in some places. Besides this, in many panchayats, there are offices of the kudumbasree, legal cell, continuous education centre,gram seva kendram, day care centres for senior citizens etc. Some of these are not utilised properly.Hence the idea of GRC is not another new building but a group of experts and committed individuals who are keen to bring about gender justice.

Linkages

GRC should function by maintaining constant linkages with the respective local government, district GRC, KILA, academic institutions within and nearby the panchayat

Gender resource centre is a mechanism which will give strong support to the panchayat in effectively implement gender just programmes and ensure good governance. So, care and support should be given not only in its formation but supportive mechanisms to effectively carry out its functions

In the meeting of the panchayat committee, a report of the work of GRC, their needs and recommendations should be discussed and follow up activities be planned

The committee should give recommendation about the activities to be undertaken by GRC and what services they should give

  • Gram Sabha: Gram sabha has an important role in ensuring gender equality. It is space where new ideas can be discussed and issues raised and solutions proposed and accepted. GRC should take initiative to discuss the Performance report on gender just projects and report of gender audits in the gramsabha
  • GRG should link with academic institutions within and outside panchayat toget their support for gender sensitive programmes
  • Ensure support to GRC from training and skill development institutions
  • Regular interactions with various institutions and departments of government who work for and related to gender issues: Police station, legal services authority, Child Rights Commission, Women’s commission, Women’s Development corporation, state level resource centre of the kudumbasree, Ministry of Social justice and various other departments of government
  • Regular linkages with district level GRCs and ensure their academic and technical support. Half yearly and annual reports should be submitted to district level GRCs

Conclusion

As indicated in the beginning, GRCs offers a great potential to bring about gender justice and inclusive good governance in local development. Instead of seeing it as a chance to spend money from WCP or build another centre, GRC should evolve as group of gender experts who can enforce gender sensitive planning at local level and ensure its implementation. To realise this goal, clear guidance, continuous trainings and follow up should be made available to district and panchayat level gender resource groups.The consolidated reports of the functioning of GCS prepared by the DGRCS should be discussed and reviewed and the activities of GRCS should be reorganised if needed each year

KILA (Kerala Institute of Local Governance) which is the nodal training institute and supportive and facilitation centre for local governments should also be able to take up this responsibility. KILA should become the state level centre for gender related development and to achieve this, KILA should be able to create a pool of experts of individuals and organisations from within and outside the state.