Department of Economics, St Teresa’s College
Student Participation in Gram sabha.
Kerala state had initiated meaningful steps towards participatory democracy in the 1990s by emphasizing decentralised, participatory planning, devolving 40 per cent of state funds to local governments and reserving one third seats in local bodies for women. People’s Participation was ensured through the ward level Gram sabha/ Ward sabha (village assembly) which could assess the local ‘felt needs’. It envisaged a changing role for citizens from mere beneficiaries of development to active participants. Another milestone was crossed in 2010 when the state government enhanced the reservation of seats for women in local bodies to 50%. To examine the effect of this measure, Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) – an autonomous body under the Government of Kerala – prepared a report on Elected Women Representatives (called Councilors/ Panchayat members) in Local government in the state. We got an opportunity to work in association with KILA for preparing this report. In the course of that work it came to our notice that very few of these elected Women Representatives had higher education indicating that the services of educated women are not available for local governance. As studies indicate, this has adverse implications for the quality of women’s participation in general and women’s component plan (the flagship programme for gender mainstreaming in local governance) in particular. When we asked our students about local governance, none of them had ever participated in a Gram Sabha though they could write a perfect academic essay on the Panchayat Raj (local government) system. This was in concurrence with the reported traits of women in Kerala which reveals a paradoxical picture with high achievements on traditional measures of development but very low performance in direct measures of autonomy such as economic or political participation and decision making.
This motivated us, in the department of Economics, to start taking some of our postgraduate and undergraduate students to the Panchayat at Kuzhupilly located in Ernakulam district in Kerala and for nearly one year, they have been taking part in activities related to Gram Sabha there. Through this we hoped to promote girl student’s interest in local governance. Our visits to the Panchayat along with a review of existing studies made us realize that a major challenge faced by local governments in implementing decentralised planning is lack of reliable regional date to facilitate formulation of effective plans. This made us think of extending the technical know how of our research centre for more efficient planning at the local level. Thus we are now taking our involvement to the next level by undertaking a gender status study as well as survey of existing waste management systems in this Panchayat, facilitating the design of intervention schemes based on identified gaps and finally carrying out gender and environmental resource budgeting and social auditing of the same in the local body. Through such involvement and hands on experience at a young age, we aim to enhance the capacity of these educated young women to play an active role in local governance and motivate them to make effective use of the windows of opportunity opened up for them. Though our primary objective is to encourage educated and empowered female participation in local governance so as to attain true democracy based on genuine partnership between men and women, we also expect our intervention to facilitate progress towards reaching the MDGs of gender equality and environmental sustainability in Kuzhuppilly .
Goal : To encourage educated and empowered female participation in local governance.
To promote interest in decentralised planning and local governance among students of St. Teresa’s College.
To extend the technical expertise of the research centre in Economics, St Teresa’s college for
identifying environmental and gender issues in Kuzhuppilly Panchayat and devising strategies to address them thereby facilitating increased responsiveness of local Government.
promoting gender and environment budgeting and facilitating progress towards reaching the MDGs of gender equality and environmental sustainability in Kuzhuppilly Panchayat
- To lay the foundation for a sound programme for grooming empowered, participatory female citizens and potential councilors who will emerge as role models for the whole of Kerala and India.Implementation
Activity 1 : Participation of students in training programmes for organising Gramsabha
Date : 19-09-2013, Kuzhupilly Panchayat
A group of students from the Department of Economics , accompanied by the Head of the Department Dr.Nirmala Padmanabhan ,participated in training programme for mobilising Gram sabha organised by members of KILA ,in cooperation with the Kuzhupilly Panchayat. The students reached Kuzhupilly GramPanchayat at 10:30am and proceeded to the hall of the Panchayat office were the programme was to be conducted.The members of the panchayat,headed by the President of Kuzhupilly Panchayat,Sri Vijayan,were present.
- The ward members Sri Pathrose,Santhosh Sir,Bindhu teacher and an officer from KILA held training sessions for selected ward members of Kuzhupilly Panchayat and students on how to organise GramSabha meetings, to identify local issues and evolve strategies to address these.The students and the elected members of the respective wards were then divided to form 7 groups so as to initiate discussions on local issues including NREGA,public health and lack of public participation in Gram Sabha meetings .One person from each group had to present the report on their discussion.
- The goal of the 12th Five Year Plan,’Sustainable Inclusive Growth’ ,focussing on waste Management was the next topic of discussion.The ward members and the students were again grouped to discuss about social security,health and hygiene,education and agriculture and to contemplate on how Kuzhupilly Gram Panchayat could attain these goals.Each group presented innovative region specific solutions.
- Sri Vijayan acknowledged and applauded the contributions and active participation of KILA and St.Teresa’s College.The meeting was adjourned at 4:30pm .
- I PG students and Ms.Swathy Varma P.R. participated in training programme for ward members in the Gram sabha