Networking with the Elected Women Representatives
Our involvement with the local self governments started with the close association with the decentralization programmes initiated by the state government in Kerala in 1996. This innovative process offered an opportunity to mainstream gender in the political discourse in Kerala and to build capacities of women who were elected to represent people. The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments brought many women into the social and political realm. We perceived this as our opportunity and responsibility, to build the capacity of these women to critique the ongoing development from a gender perspective and be proactive to bring about a gender just society in whichever party they belong to.
In the beginning of 2008 we selected 9 Panchayats in Thiruvananthapuram district. The idea was to help in the overall development process of the Panchayats with emphasis on women’s development. The selected Panchayats were: Anad, Panavoor, Kuttichal, Vellarada, Amboori, Kunnathukal, Kalliyoor, Kollayil and Maranaloor.
At the outset we made profiles of all the Panchayats as well as a brief outline of the status of women. We had collected data from police stations, PHCs, Ayurveda hospitals, Schools, Anganwadis etc. of each Panchayat. The Right to Information Act was a real help in collecting data from government offices especially from police stations.
Currently we are helping these Panchayats to form and strengthen the Jagratha Samithis (vigilance cells)as a community response to address violence against women. This special body is to be constituted in all Wards, Panchayats and Districts under the guidance of State Women’s Commission. Several of our training efforts were directed to support these process as it would lead to wider gender sensitization of the community, especially of men.
We also attemped to analyze the state budget and conducted several consultations as preparation for the forthcoming budget. They were named as “What women want from Kerala Budget?” The outcomes of these consultations was submitted tot eh Finance minister and therewas appositive response. The department and the planning board conducted agender budget workshop for the officials
Strengthening the civil society as a democratic participatory public space
This process was done along with the Governance work as now, it is difficult to work at the community apart from the Local government processes. All the process mentioned above in all the 9 panchayats which means several villages have contributed to strengthen the civil society and ensure citizen participation