From L to R: Jyoti Panigrahi, Chairperson, Orissa State Commission for Women ; Shashi Singh, Chairperson, Consortium of Women Entrepreneurs of India ; Nomita Drall, Consulting Editor, Skoch Media Pvt Ltd ; Aasha Kapur Mehta, Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Public Administration ; Gursharan Dhanjal, Editor & COO, Skoch Consultancy Services Pvt Ltd ; Vandana Kumari Jena, Senior Adviser, Planning Commission ; M V Ananthakrishnan, Freelance Consultant, UNDP ; Hemlata S Mohan, Chairperson, Jharkhand State Commission for Women ; Sapna Shahani, Director, WAVE – Women Aloud Videoblogging for Empowerment ; Alok Bhargava, CEO – Strategic Support Group, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services ; Heena K Bijli, Assistant Professor, Dept of Home Science, Aligarh Muslim University)
Gender Issues in Poverty, Financial Services & Budgeting Conclave was organised in June 2011 at Mumbai. The conclave deliberated on how to make gender –responsive budget analysis to address gender bias and discrimination and give women enhanced access to financial services, credit and linkages to livelihood that leads to emergence of women micro-entrepreneurs and facilitates their financial inclusion. Following recommendations emerged from the conclave:
- Shift focus from the social construct to the economic construct of the gender. Tag social welfare schemes with financial inclusion. Link up social programmes with microfinance delivery models like SHGs.
- Increase gender budgeting substantively or raise it to at least a practical level (the maximum rent for an anganwadi in Delhi is fixed at Rs 700 per month) as lack of economic empowerment of women leads to malnutrition, adverse sex ratio, domestic violence, poor sanitation and illiteracy among them.
- Don’t treat women as a homogenous entity. Prioritise welfare measures for scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, minority and other disadvantaged and oppressed sections of them.
- Run social awareness campaigns to remove biases against women entrepreneurs
- Make financial inclusion part of school curriculum.
- Involve mothers in management of schemes launched for female and child welfare – mid-day meal, anganwadis etc. Pay them incentives for this.
- Utilise ASHA workers to build patient history, building trends in terms of healthcare challenges for women.
- Recognise women who are involved into farming as agriculturists. Amend law to let them own land and other property so that they have collaterals for seeking loans from banks.
- Encourage SHG members to leave traditional vocations like tailoring and knitting and take up occupations which generate decent income. Or help them learn the new skills that have taken over the long-established crafts (i.e. fashion designing for tailoring).
- Converge Education, Panchayati Raj, Agriculture, Rural Development Ministries with the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- Specify woman’s right to work under MGNREGS. Don’t subsume it in the household.
- Make crèche services mandatory under MGNREGS wherever the number of women wagers is substantive.
- Transform SHGs into entrepreneurship modules.
- Educate women about their rights.
Chair: Vandana Kumari Jena, Senior Adviser, Planning Commission
- Asha Kapur Mehta, Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Public Administration
- Ritu Dewan, Professor, Centre for Women’s Studies/Gender Economics, University of Mumbai
- Hemlata S Mohan, Chairperson, Jharkhand State Commission for Women
- Alok Bhargava, CEO- Strategic Support Group, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services
- Smita Premchander, Secretary, Sampark
- Shashi Singh, Chairperson, Consortium of Women Entrepreneurs of India
- Barsha Poricha, Urban and Regional Planner, National Foundation of India
- Sapna Shahani, Director, WAVE – Women Aloud Video blogging for Empowerment
- G Ramachandra Reddy, Social Development Consultant, People in Development
- Heena Bijli, Assistant Professor, Aligarh Muslim University
- M V Ananthakrishnan, Freelance Consultant, UNDP
- Jyoti Panagriya, Chairperson, State Commission for Women, Orissa
- Gursharan Dhanjal, Editor and COO Skoch
Gursharan Dhanjal: Women are generally excluded from the national mainstream and more so when it comes to India. More women would be under the poverty line compared to men. Over a period of time the growth of SGHs is on a sharp decline. If there were 2.7 million SHGs in the year 2007, there were 7 million by the time we switched to 2011. The number really sounds very, very large but at the same time the growth has declined by almost about 10% to 12%. This is not a very good trend because SGHs are mainly women. There are very few men SHGs which is what you can count on your fingertips. Therefore, it becomes very important that when we talk about gender, we have to include gender into financial services. The inclusive growth, inclusive economics and inclusive governance will not be complete till such time we look at gender in the positive aspect. Our study on Speeding Financial Inclusion in 2009 looked at financial inclusion only from the perspective of opening bank accounts – banking correspondent and banking facilitator model. Little did we realise at that time that there are other dimensions to financial inclusion beyond opening no frills accounts because all efforts whether opening no frills accounts, gender budgeting, gender inclusion, so on and so forth have to hit only at one specific objective which is poverty alleviation. Till such time that happens India really cannot claim to have 8.5%+ GDP growth rate. The trickle down has not happened in last 65 years So we have to look at a bottoms-up approach. Financial inclusion cannot be complete till such time you include following things. One – gender. Two – rural housing. Three – micro finance institutions. Four – cooperatives and five – SHGs. This is what makes a complete story on financial inclusion. Till such time this happens financial inclusion will remain a far cry.
I don’t know how many of us actually have travelled to Kalahandi to see the plight of women and the interventions that have been made which change their economic mind. I also at the same time have my doubts if any of us have travelled deeper into the northeast to see how girl child is still being traded for a buffalo. In Arunachal Pradesh there is a village called Sangram wherein we have an intervention. Skoch Development Foundation has adopted the village. Kindly go and see as to how these kind of mal-practices are still going on. We are not even aware fully as to what our society is going through. Why do we say the scheme has to percolate down, why don’t we say – the scheme has to go bottoms up. That is one point I would like to make. Second the solution may exist in problem. Answer there lies in scale up, capacity building, if you’ve got money in hand; you have got social and economic empowerment both. If you haven’t got money in hand as you said, you are nowhere, then you become women who remain behind pardah forever. So for a women to come out you have to make her, you know economically independent, so self help groups became one of the channels, micro finance became another channel.
Financial literacy is the need of the hour. We talk about financial inclusion, and I can bet that majority of us sitting in this house itself are not aware of various channels of investment. We do not have enough financial literacy despite being educated. We don’t know where to put our money. So that it goes through an investment channel. How can we expect the poor lady from the village who is barely making her two ends meet to get into the investment channel and say that she is financially included. So why not, we look at making financial education part of the curriculum at the school level itself instead of tackling the problem when somebody is out of school, or even if, not out of the school later on in life trying to get them into the SHGs. Every change requires almost like 15 to 20 years to come. There is nothing that happens overnight. Make it part of the education curriculum in the urban centers and village schools. Even if it is informal, at least they would become aware of the financial system.
Vandana Kumari Jena: Planning Commission, as you are all aware, is in the process of preparing the 12th Plan document and the goal and objective of the 12th Plan is faster, more inclusive and sustainable growth and inclusion as defined in Planning Commission Approach Paper which is still being finalised, says better performance in agriculture, faster creation of jobs, especially in manufacturing, stronger efforts at health, education and skill development; improve effectiveness of programmes directly aimed at the poor; special programmes for socially vulnerable groups and for people living in difficult areas.
In terms of legislation India’s laws have been excellent, they’ve covered everything. Indian women got voting on the silver platter without having to fight for it like in US and Switzerland. You say the anti dowry legislation is not implemented seriously by the government, who gives dowry? The community gives, the families give and the families take. Who is committing female feticide- the educated, enlightened empowered working women who wants one boy and one girl and that’s it. Why blame the government. I’m not defending government at all. I am saying the problem is for most of us. Who is committing rape? Who is making the streets of Delhi or India insecure? It is not that enforcement by police is not there. All this isn’t there because communities don’t enforce mechanisms. Whether it is the Panchayats imposing social sanctions on families or some other mechanism where government is out of it. As far as the silos portion is concerned my personal feeling is try multi-stakeholder method. Women empowerment is located in women and child development. will it be able to get the education, the Panchayati Raj, the Agriculture, the Rural Development Ministry on board? It may not because in the pecking order women and child development may be lower than the other ministries. Doing convergence is actually very difficult thing. At the national or state level it is best done at the district level, because there is a District Collector or a Zila Panchayat which can actually do the convergence much more easily. That’s very difficult to tackle.
When we make recommendations, some of the recommendations are absolutely right because in government we think of gender budgeting at allocation of funds. The perspective is- the way the money is used for boys and girls which should be absolutely correct. But the way we see it- 33% of all budgets should go and even the ministries which are gender neutral, they should also ensure that money should go for this. So may be the change in perception is very important. ICDS is being restructured and the principle secretary to the Prime Minister said that it should be a convergent exercise with Panchayati Raj department, Rural Development, Education and Women and Child because it concerns not one but several departments. It would be the member planning commission overseeing that. So trying to converge is one thing, to be able to set it, effect it successfully, is entirely different thing. There is a challenge over there. Point is what is the solution? Awareness generation needs to be done. There should be very sizable promotion of ones for awareness generation and not the television advertisement kind but the grassroots adult literacy, nookad natak kind of awareness generation which goes house to house or having Nehru Yuva Kendra, or having the NSS volunteers going from door to door and explaining schemes so that the women understand it. The right to education act is one of the most powerful tools but if women are not literate enough, or educated enough to actually question decisions – why some schemes are given to somebody, why they’ve been left out – they cannot actually use it. How do you empower them in that sense?
And about the finance, about the SHG- how to strengthen them, how to make cooperatives? People have marginalised cooperatives, I don’t know why? Women’s cooperatives or the cooperatives on the whole are very viable kind of alternative. How do you mainstream that all those issues become extremely relevant.
In the process (some 900) consultations with 900 civil society organisations were held including women, transgender, people with disabilities, minorities, primitive tribal groups, street children, etc. When we talk of women we are not talking of a homogeneous entity. We are talking of scheduled tribe women who are far more deprived than general category women or women who have been subject to or victims of human trafficking, women in conflict areas. When take statistics and start saying women versus men and take Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, now the actual proportion of the girls going to school is almost at par with boys we are actually disguising all these facts. Recently we had a presentation done in Women & Child Development ministry where they pointed out that for higher education 8% girls are going in for higher education. 4% girls from SC/ST go in for higher education. The presentation said it is only 4% less. But it is actually half of the general category. So it depends on how you perceive the same statistics. I would like to point out at this point of time all this has implication for financial inclusion. The census results have come out and out of the 18 determinants two major determinants are education and health. Women literacy has gone up from 54% to 65% which is very good, but when you look at the KBK districts. I am not talking of the tribal women because that disaggregation has yet to come from the Registrar General of India’s office. But the district itself, the four districts of original KBK, erstwhile KBK actually are showing female literacy rate of lower than 40%. There will be blocks where the literacy rate would still be 20% or 30%.
When we design policies we would say it caters to women forgetting that these women will never be able to access those policies. I would like to say the two things, which concern us, which again have a bearing indirectly on poverty and health. In fact, directly. One is the malnutrition of women and one is the adverse sex ratio. Even the prime minister in India said that it was a national shame the women’s sex ratio has gone up from 933 to 940. The girl child, the child sex ratio has gone down from 927 to 914. We have always said female feticide is primarily an urban middleclass phenomenon. Today it is not an urban middleclass phenomenon. It is very much a rural phenomenon as well because 22 states and 5 union territories of this country have reported adverse sex ratio while earlier there were only 7 states which were Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi, Chandigarh, etc., Himachal. They have all shown an improvement except Delhi. But the other states which were traditionally the pro-women, gender friendly states of the northeast except for Mizoram all are showing a decline. It could not be female feticide. It is a question of neglect of the girl child as well, conscious or unconscious. I believe it is conscious. In Kashmir the fall has been 82 points and Planning Commission is going to find out because traditionally the minority community, the Muslim minority community has not indulged in female feticide. In Mewat region it is higher…the sex ratio is the best in Haryana. So we have to see one of the reason is the status of women in society, the violence against women in society people wonder why they have to pay dowry then bring the girl into a world where her own life is not secure and she is not economically empowered as well. The other thing is malnutrition. If you take the national statistics, 1/3 of the world’s malnourished women live in India and malnourishment (anemia) in India among women is as high as 56%. With the males it is 24%. So there is discrimination and we are not talking of people living in below poverty line because 56% women could not be anemic if we were only talking about malnourished women. So Planning Commission is focusing on these two things, and as far as the Ministry of Women & Child Development is concerned it has actually tried to address all these issues through a number of policies. One is Indira Gandhi Matritv Sahyog Yojana which is a scheme of conditional cash transfers for women to look after themselves when they are expecting their baby. One is Sabla which is adolescent girls which is for skill development for adolescent girls who have been out of school so that they can start earning a livelihood. There is the National Mission for Empowerment of Women which has been launched by the president of India last year. Every state is supposed to have a state mission for empowerment of women and that mission is supposed to oversee all the schemes of all the departments relating to women, including the rural development department and all the income generating schemes of the rural development department, is supposed to be looked after by the state mission, and the National Mission will be overseeing it over here and RMK (Rashtriya Mahila Kosh) is now being restructured. It will be converted to Non Banking Finance Company (NFCS), very shortly.
As far as Self Help Groups are concerned, the government thinks they are a panacea for everything. Supreme Court said that hot cooked meal should be served, women’s Self Help Groups will cook them. Women’s Self Help Groups have been telling us it is not financially viable for us to cook for 20 children coming into an Aanganwadi; with the kind of cooking cost which is available with them they cannot cook. They said give us Mid-Day Meals we will run because it is 150 children for whom we are cooking, but when it is only for 10-20 children it is not cost effective. In agriculture one of the issues is that assets are not in the name of women. So they should be in the name of women other women headed agricultural households find it very difficult to access funds. In the northeast women have said that the land is in the name of the community; neither in the name of the husband or the wife. All the income generating activities there can’t happen because we cannot access bank credit. Bank refuses to give them loans because they cannot offer collaterals. In the case of NREGA, women have demanded that there should be crèche services, which is a mandate of the scheme but which is hardly implemented anywhere. I believe not more than 5% crèches are there at the work site. They do have some kind of a little tent and there is facility for water, but no proper crèche where the women could actually keep their child and work. Because of the younger population, more and more women have gone to the workforce and more women will go into the workforce. There are insurance schemes and policies for women, for working women, for weavers They have problems in accessing the schemes because sometimes the insurance agencies are not willing to honour the claims made by them.
We want to make sure that 12th Plan is an inclusive plan, which will take into concern all the gender issues, and with gender it is always a fight. You have to keep fighting for women’s issues to be taken on board otherwise they are completely neglected. In Planning Commission the bulk of the funds go to defence, petroleum, infrastructure and power. They do not go to women & child development. They do not very largely go to health or education, and especially not women & Child. So there also it is a fight to raise the issue and to say that it has to figure somewhere, it has to be mainstreamed, women’s concerns have to be mainstreamed. With every ministry it is a fight to say do not do a notional gender budgeting by saying 33% of all money go to women. Logically all girls go to school. 50% of all education budget goes to women. That exercise is not enough and according to our…specifically for women related issues the funding is only 5% where actually it should be something like 33%.
Asha Kapoor Mehta: Firstly, what is gender budgeting? Basically a process of incorporating gender perspective at all stages, whether it is policy formulation or programme formulation or allocation of resources or implementation or review and impact assessment followed by corrective reprioritisation and reallocation of resources. These are not separate budgets for men and women, its recognition that the same policy may have different outcomes for men and women. It’s recognition that the same policy has a different outcome for women and therefore analysing any budget could be at level for its impact on women and men, girls and boys and beyond that for its impact on the rich and the poor, different castes, different tribes, etc. It is not about setting aside x% or 50%. It is about getting equity in outcomes. It is an approach to developing plans in a participatory kind of way based on identifying priority needs and not just the needs of those with boys. It requires that women are treated as equal partners in decision making and implementation rather than only as beneficiaries.
Basically we have achieved significant reduction in poverty. Between 1973-74 and 2004-2005 which is the latest set of estimates that were put out (based on the NSS) by the Planning Commission which showed that poverty has declined over the years from 55% roughly to about 27.5%. But that 27.5% translates into 301.7 million people and all of this is pre-Tendulkar Committee estimates. The question is when these poverty numbers are estimated and percentages are estimated they are based on a poverty line that is set extremely low at Rs 356.3 per capita per month in rural areas and Rs 538.6 per capita per month in urban areas. When we recognise that these are the levels that we are talking about or these are the poverty lines that we are taking cognisance of, while saying that there are 301.7 million people who live below this then that makes poverty the most important development issue that stares at us in the face. In particular as far as gender issues are concerned and as far as women are concerned, it needs to be noted that estimation is done at the household level and women get subsumed within that household. So there are no estimates at all of how many women are actually poor among 301.7 million people who are poor.
After the official poverty estimates were severely criticised on various counts and then they revised the poverty line, but not by a large amount. It has been revised from Rs 356 to Rs 446 for rural areas and from Rs 538 to Rs 578 for urban areas and just with this revision you have got the head count that is now accepted by the Planning Commission, of roughly 37.2% of our population as being…poverty.
One very critical factor of poverty is ill-health and access to health care and not of the insurance kind, but the universal entitlement to access to healthcare then becomes extremely critical in the context of anybody who is ill and poor, but more especially women who are ill and poor.
There is a whole list of drivers which includes health shock, sudden disability, large social expenditure, high interest borrowing, investment failure, crop failure, natural disasters,…assets, macro policy changes, social conflicts, etc., and similarly there are many maintainers which also include social exclusion due to being scheduled caste or being schedule tribe or geographic or remote location, geographical issues, etc., and similarly there are many interrupters or factor that enable people to get out of poverty.
But among the most particular factors as I mentioned earlier, was ill-health and one example that I would like to give is that of a women who works as a domestic worker, earns about a Rs1800 a month of which Rs 1500 is spent on ARB medication for herself in the hope of getting onto the government list. This was an interview that I conducted about four years ago. Things may have changed between then and now but the major worry for people who suffer from HIV is really what is going to happen to their children when they die. This woman, for example, is widow and then the issue becomes how do you deal with issues of ill-health and how can you use gender budgeting to re-prioritise expenditure to meet needs of people who are suffering from ill-health and poverty. Then the issue becomes strengthening primary health centres and public hospitals, making sure there is access to reliable and quality medical care, diagnostic testing facilities, ambulances to link PHCs to hospitals, effective drugs through revised schedules, providing community care homes and hospitals to reduce the burden on home based care, ensuring universal access to preventive and curative treatment and care, making special provisions for women patients in PHCs and hospitals, safe water, access to toilet facilities, provisions for income earning schemes, providing for children of people who are HIV positive or suffering from TB or cancer or there are so many different kinds of diseases that we have to cope with and in addition recognizing the fact that there is a lot of invisible work that is done by women within, what is called the Care Economy, which does save the public exchequer a huge sum of money because these would be in hospital if they were not being cared for at home or they would be on the pavement, and then the issue is who are the chronically poor and among these it is the casual agricultural labourers who are the largest group and while the MGNREGA is a huge step in the right direction it does not go far enough. Most important source of income for rural poor, especially women, is wage employment and the issue is when you subsume women’s right to work within the household then you are saying 100 days’ of work for the household and you are not giving 100 days’ of work to the woman and that is an issue that needs attention.
Insuring equal wages for equal work and timely disbursal of wages and correcting the corruption stories that are now becoming endemic in the context of various schemes, including MGNREGA becomes an issue. When you look at spatial concentration of poverty we know that about 8 out of 28 states account for 65% of those who are in poverty and the incidence of poverty – as soon as you start disaggregating you start getting very different numbers When you disaggregate, between states you get 46.4% of the population of Orissa in poverty. This is based on 2004-05 earlier pre-Tendulkar estimates. So post-Tendulkar estimates would be even higher and then when you disaggregate Orissa you will get 86% for part of the KBK districts which means that virtually everybody in that particular segment of the state is poor.
So within the states or districts that suffer multi-dimensional deprivation and poor access too whether it is drinking water or roads or sanitation or electricity – and each of these factors has a differential load on men and women and women suffer greater deprivation. When there is no electricity there are additional problems that women face. When there is no access to sanitation there are additional problems that women face with having to hold themselves until its dark and then can go out into the fields and defecate. These are huge issues when it comes to gender issues in poverty.
When it comes to hunger and poverty, again, we have been ranked 67th out of 84 countries on the Global Hunger Index and hunger also has gender and age dimensions and based on NSS data there is an estimate of 58% of India suffering from hunger and there are the malnutrition issues and again women are worst affected because they are the last to eat in many homes and therefore suffer poverty to a greater extent.
When it comes to agriculture women’s work tends to get completely invisibalised and we forget that women work extensively in the production of, whether it is major grains and millets or in land preparation or seed selection or seedling production, for sowing or applying manure and fertilizer and pesticide or weeding or transplanting, threshing, winnowing, harvesting and yet women do not get recognised as farmers When it comes to animal husbandry whether it is greening fodder from fields or chaff cutting or preparing food mix or bathing, cleaning cattle, etc., making dung cakes and there are so many tasks that women perform and yet their contribution remains invisible. 71% of all women workers, 45% rural women workers are in agriculture. 72% of farms are less than 1 hectare or are marginal farms and the face of agriculture is increasingly female. Hence, attainment of agricultural growth targets depends increasingly on policies that increase efficiency of women as farmers
If you want Food security then enable ownership of land by women, make provisions for decentralized food storage, encourage research extension, seed distribution, procurement of coarse cereal crops or nutritious crops because much of food security of small peasant households comes from these crops and access to credit to enable production of these grains becomes critical. Also extend price support in procurement to other states and to rain fed crops like millets and pulses and distribute them through the PDS.
Gender budgeting requires that we focus on needed outcomes and reprioritise expenditure in budgets and plans to attain those outcomes. In other words, we launch concerted effort to eradicate poverty and address gender issues such as the increase in feminization of poverty, the exploitation of women and men in low paid, arduous and secure jobs, correct the high IMR and high MMR and the high levels of mobility that actually exceed what is put out by the NSS data significantly, correct anemia and malnutrition. Make sure there is access to nutrition and quality healthcare, make sure that there is correction of the poor access to financial services, that gender gaps in literacy and education are corrected, that wage differentials between men and women are addressed and that violence against women and the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act is actually implemented. Women get attention, the bias in the female, male ratio is corrected as is lack of access to water and drinking water and the statistical and visibility of women’s work is corrected and access to work is provided. If you are going to do all of this what do you need? You need money. Where is that money going to come from? From the plans and budgets and that is what gender budget is about.
When you come to the ICDS it is actually designed pretty well because you have the mother and the child both coming to the same center and all of you get a bucket of benefits. But when you have things like 400 rupees to 700 rupees rent in a place like Delhi for an anganwadi, what kind of space are you going to get? You get basically the verandah of somebody’s house, and I have visited these anganwadi. So they get a little space within the verandah and when you have visitors that anganwadis can’t function. So you know when you have things like this it goes back to gender budgeting. You haven’t allocated enough budget to be able to make that scheme deliver and it’s a pivotal scheme because the whole malnutrition estimates are, and indicators are dependent on it. Come to anganwadi worker and anganwadi helper what would she be getting even now, what was she getting a short while ago? That is so unfair, it’s back to free labour or a mixed or pittance being paid where women are doing the work. We are assuming that the mother can come and do the auditing. We are assuming that the women, who is involved, can do work. She can do work and therefore deliver the scheme which is so critical to stop malnourishment. That is not fair. And then how many anganwadi a person is supposed to supervise and what is the geographical spread of the anganwadi she is supposed to supervise, how many times is she supposed to supervise and how many times can she supervise. What’s the extra huge burden that is dumped on women who are anganwadi workers and anganwadi helpers? Can you just get that whole thing removed from there, from the anganwadi supervisor and in CDPO? Have you budgeted enough to implement what is a good act to make sure that you get the result? And the answer is no we haven’t.
That too is back to gender budgeting because it’s a question of what is it that we give priority to. So if priority is health and education and nourishment and malnutrition indicators coming down, then let’s allocate money first to these things. And if you allocate budgets in the way in which a woman would allocate her household budget- first priority- food on the table, then nobody would be hungry. But in this, but in our country we forget to do that. So if money is available for everything but it’s not available for things like making sure that you have enough money, for programs like the ICDS so that they deliver properly. Those are huge issues.
And then when it comes to MGNREGS, why is it that women are subsumed within the household? In India yes we’ve got the right to vote, but why do we not get the right to work? Why is it that the right to work get subsumed within the household? Why is it only hundred days? In whose name the job card is being made? Those become issues that need to be addressed. When it comes to literacy packages and other packages that both Ananthakrishnan and Alok Bhargava talked about are these available on the net? Can we make them available on the internet, so that other people can get the benefit of it? Can you treat it like a public good having invested funds into it? If it’s meant to be for use of a community then spread it, let it get used by other community. And in terms of collecting data that you are getting from the women who are part of this whole network, HIV Aids positive and maternity benefits, there are huge ethical issues around that whole thing.
Ritu Dewan: We need to incorporate within our concepts and definitions of poverty, the unorganized sector report where it is calculated that about 70% or 75% of India lives on less than Rs 20 a day. What I increasingly find is that the social construct of gender is much more talked about than the economic construct of gender. There are certain other components of gender financial services and financial inclusion, budgeting, etc., which we just do not debate or we do not debate enough. This is what I call gender at a macroeconomic construct and at a micro level of course. I mean there is no kind of a differentiation between the two and certain concepts and certain policies which reinstate the fact that women are secondary owners, secondary citizens. Economics and economists do not accept the fact that fiscal and monetary systems can bring about change. The entire issue of justice, the ethics component of economics and of economic policies which is generally left out. Tinkering like first aid somehow may not obviously resolve the issue. So we have to go a little deeper.
When I say that patriarchy or gender issues are a macroeconomic concern, they are at two levels. Seeing both sides – the monetary side and the fiscal side – I feel the gender budgeting has been reduced to expenditure in India. It is more like an audit. How much was given, how was spent, what was the percentage, etc. But there is more to that and that is, apart from going deeper into issues of beyond audit and into in terms of the various other tools or methodological approaches of gender budgeting which of course I am not going to talk about here, is the fact of the revenue component and the taxation component on which there is very, very little debate. In fact, the only debate that there was in this budget that the Rs 10,000 income tax rebate which was given to women has now been replaced or reduced or changed over by men getting it. The gender differentiation in terms of increasing women participation is not being taken into account. I am not going into the major issues of taxation etc. because generally in India women have always been Recognised as independent tax entities and when I say tax that reflects the economic participation or the independent economic agent. A woman, an independent economic agent and therefore not a secondary agent and therefore also the fact that you are recognised as an independent tax agent. This of course pertains in a formal market structure, not so much in informal market structure. But if we are talking about financial inclusion through pension policies for the unorganized, SHGs expanding accounts, etc., pension schemes is that we have to take the fact into account of an independent revenue agent also. Not only a productive agent but a revenue agent which women are.
In India, women have the choice to file their own tax returns. You have of course the Hindu Undivided Family which has now changed the karta concept etc. But there are a large number of other countries which have changed this only recently. That it is only 25 years ago that women in a large number of these what we call democratic modern countries recognize women as economic agents, independent economic agents. Till then they were forced to file their tax returns along with their husbands. They had no independent economic status. It was compulsory, it was joint, whether it is Netherlands. In Switzerland it is still not possible in a majority of cases for women, independent women earners to file their own independent tax returns. South Africa, of course, we know is the most interesting case and you see this is how terminology has a ideological connotation. The South African experience, of course 1995 to anti-apartheid movement and Nelson Mandela and therefore the change which comes and the role of women in the anti-apartheid movement. The entire concept of gender budgeting really comes from South Africa in a very original and seminal sense of the term. So South Africa you have different income tax. This is what a terminology also becomes extremely essential. A married woman, one would presume, is equal to a married person. But the two are different. The tax rates were different; the tax rate for a married person which is a man were lower and for a married woman face the highest income tax level, presuming that she works only when the husband does not get work. So you are typical secondary income syndrome. Of course this has been changed. I am not going into these impacts of indirect taxation, etc., except to point out that now in the last few years several of us had been talking not only about the double burden, I think, which is obvious. I do not need to explain the double burden of earning an income and maintain the household, but also triple burden which is the withdrawal of the state from the public sphere whether it is PDS or every other kinds of social welfare activity, the woman has the burden. Therefore, this triple burden is something which we really need to focus on whether this is in terms of nursing or processing food because atta has a higher VAT than unprocessed wheat. So the time shadow price and economic value component.
When we say gender and gender as a construct, as an economic construct – social, macro- economic, micro, etc. – it is not only women but it also relates to the status of the customer in that sense of the term in a patriarchal society and that could be a man or a woman. Here I just want to give two or three very, very simple kinds of examples. Property tax of course we know now. Several states, the property tax for women is lower than the property tax for men and therefore in some cases men have started buying, in miniscule cases, property in the wives’ name to save the 2 or 3 per cent. What it does is that it economically empowers her. It increases her control over resources. I am talking of the concept of it. So there have been instances where women have at least a control over their own house.
The issue of pension policies as well as the issue of medical insurance is quite problematic and these as far as I know have not been taken into discussion at all and particularly if now they are going to be extended to the unorganized sector. I think these are aspects we need to focus on, the gendered aspect. The issue pension policy; that if you are single. That means if you are out of the patriarchal slot of the definition of a family then you cannot give that pension to anybody else even if it is your adopted child or it is a mother who is dependent on you or a brother or sister who might be physically disabled. But the pension, if there is a standard defined family, then it is extended. So this becomes like a punishment for being out of the slot or being out of the patriarchal structure. The issue of medical insurance is also extremely problematic. It is still not being defined and there are several insurance companies which are here and in fact the definition is becoming extremely narrow.
There is a certain rebate which is given on a family medical insurance. You get special additional factors, etc. A single person does not get that benefit. A single person, unmarried, whatever definition one may give for single person – male or female – cannot take insurance for the mother or for the father. You can do it only for a wife or for a husband or for the children. So again your strict definition of a family. If I am single, I cannot say my family consists of my mother who is financially dependent on me. She will not be covered under the definition of a family. It applies as much to single man. If he wants his mother or his father to come under the pension scheme or an adopted child, it cannot happen. So I think gender thing which works both ways at certain levels, particular in these two levels which I am talking about have to be taken into account when we talk about financial service, etc. What Israel has done; has given exemptions for childcare and if you give exemptions for childcare immediately one has seen that the entire graph of women participating in the labour market actually increases because that is an offset value which is given.
So what we call the female labour supply actually expands and of course the kind of benefits which it brings to the family and special concessions for female-headed households. I think poverty data now is very clear that amongst all the households, the poorest of the poor are female-headed households and that this is actually increasing. The last census said about 9% of all households are female-headed. But surveys which we have done in Maharashtra at least show that it is 23% of female-headed households which is almost equal to America’s 24% female-headed households. Totally different causes, but the data is there, the fact is there and the poverty levels which are very, very much there.
There are just two or three aspects which I just want to talk about – one of course is very clear gender and the caste integration which exists. Extremely clear that women get only 8%. Women get much less than men in the SBAs (small borrower accounts) and dalit women get much less and this has actually been decreasing. So the financial exclusion of women and dalit women is increasing. So the integration of gender and caste which is extremely important and the last point I would like to make about SHGs. Of course, there are many aspects in terms of control over land and the fact that the collaterals you need for loans or what several people in NABARD have been arguing and saying that please do not ask for husband’s signature while applying for a loan for an SHG, and a husband’s signature is necessary. So what does a single woman do in that situation, or in Kashmir. Now we have been travelling in Kashmir, having a lot of gender budgeting workshops, etc. Whatever work I did on horticulture, in Kargil out of 19 economic activity 17 are done by women. Kargil, apart from being famous for whatever grows the most fantastic apricots in the entire world and a fact which we really do not know about. 17 of the economic activities are done by women but they cannot take a single loan because they do not own the land. The land has been taken away by the army. What do you do in these kinds of situations and people in areas in conflict zones in Kashmir – Poonch, Udhampur, Kargil – have come out with very interesting alternatives that get 5 people within the village who are not related to stand as a surety instead of asking for a land collateral. So there are many alternatives which can be worked out where this is concerned. The last point I want to make which I am finding increasingly problematic. That is the issue of fiscal and physical targets for women. Women are typically very small borrowers – Rs 5000, Rs 800, Rs 10,000. So what should the target for a bank be? Should it be 100 women who are taking Rs 5000 loans each and therefore you absolve yourself of all responsibility for gender financial inclusion or should it be 2 crores. So a large number of women, and some kind of equilibrium or a balance which needs to be contained between the fact that women are small borrowers apart from the fact that they are the most perfect savers and returners
We seem to have just forgotten radio. And of course nookad natak, and then those things which are ongoing. Now get to very specific is one is in relation to what we have not discussed at all in financial inclusion is the issue of home-based workers I think this has to be debated at some level, may be in the future, may be not today and the home-based workers do not have access to the market and yet get exploited by the market. The last point which I would like to make is at least of one or two changes in terms of who can get a loan, what are the conditionalities? So can we work out those technicalities and change those alternatives? Why is the husband’s signature necessary? What then a single woman can do when she gets a loan? Second, please define a family, when I want to take a pension or I want to take an insurance, what is the definition of a family? There should be a regular definition.
The issue of budgeting I think which is so extremely important and the kind of money, one is how the money is spent etc. and the amount. And I have really found it shocking. Maharashtra is the most progressive in that sense. And I did expenditure on women’s welfare in relation to the annual plan for ten years And it used to be 1.2% ten years ago and today it is 0.01% of the actual expenditure.
Smita Premchander: I am a member of the State Rural Livelihoods Mission of Gujarat. I work extensively with now more and more extreme poor women, not just poverty but extreme poverty and with that it brings me to people who are Dalit women, bonded labourers and I work also in Bangladesh and Nepal as a UN Consultant and to other donors to set up projects which can help extreme poor women come out of the poverty line, but not only economic empowerment. We work a lot with social empowerment issues. I am also member of Enable which is a network that promotes community based micro finance and essentially the agenda is to promote women’s own organizations which is cooperatives so that they can have access and control over their own money rather than NBFCs which are externally controlled and because this is a passion to get more and more empowerment spaces open up for women at the policy level.
Women self help groups are 90% of the groups approximately but they’ve been, you know the rate of growth is declining. In any case even if they open accounts, they are not giving loans. We have 230 self help groups and we have formed them into ten cooperatives.
It’s really important to notice that women-owned organizations give them the maximum empowerment. The SHGs are saving the money. They are rotating the savings and when they rotate it, they get 24% earning on that money, which is their own and they retain it. So they decide what to spend the money on and they keep the financial profit and they manage it. Now the moment you go beyond this to the next organization, let’s say you go to a bank then you are paying the bank 12%. The bank gets 12 and the SHG gets 12. You go to a NBFC, the NBFC gets 24, the SHG gets 0. Now this is something that a lot of people don’t take on board when we decide what kind of financial institutions to promote, which micro finance delivery models are empowering for women and which are not. We’ve been saying very-very strongly in Sampark. Women need that control, it’s not only that you don’t earn the financial profit, it’s also that you don’t get to decide what to spend the money on.
If you’re taking from your own saving then it goes into health, it goes into education, you can pay your child’s fees and things go like that. The moment you’ve given that money to somebody else and you’ve taken loan, it’s that person’s money, that organization’s money, that organization dictates. It has to be on income generation, it has to be cash returns, because cash returns are important to give the money back. So immediately health, education are sidelined and cows and buffaloes and goats and everything is what you go for. So it’s not just financial empowerment alone, it’s also social capital and it’s also spending on health and education.
That said why are women still with 90% being self help groups, why are they just coaxed in the wheel?. Why are there not many women’s cooperatives? Here they borrow, they sell, they take the responsibility to return hundred percent repayment rates for micro finance. This has been the foundation, growth of the micro finance sector. But investment in women-owned organizations is very-very poor. And why are donors still not investing in women’s cooperatives and investing in NBFCs? They usually prioritise profit making MFIs which are normally male-headed. Even now apart from the macs act, many-many government interventions, wherever there is government intervention, they go and clean up the cooperative. I have seen lots of cooperatives on the ground where the government offices go and clean them up and then go and talk to them about now how will we share this loss. It’s criminal. So in Sampark we build the community- based micro finance organisation, it’s a very intensive endeavour, it’s a three level endeavour- SHG, cooperatives and federations. And we have a lot of committees at each level to promote women’s leadership.
The interesting issue which I’m coming to now, two things- one is that when it comes to membership the poorer and the scheduled caste women find it much more difficult to be part of self-help groups. They are the ones who migrate, they are the ones who bring savings regularly, they can’t take big loans, they are not interesting for profit making micro finance. So if you really have to look at including the poorer, the minorities, the scheduled caste, then you have to do flexible micro finance which is not as profitable. I think this competition tension between the two has to be understood. And the second is that by the time an NGO starts promoting a good viable grade A cooperative and self help group, you’re so much into the finance part that the social issues get completely neglected. And invariably not only in India, I found this even in Bangladesh about 6-7 years ago when all of us were transiting from NGOs to NBFCs. I have found the staff of NGOs telling me- didi ek to taaka den, taaka len. This is what it is now. We’ve stopped talking about social issues, we used to talk. Self-help groups used to be women’s organisations, now they are money organisations.
What does it do? There is a lot of economic empowerment happening – increase in family income, increased assets, access to banks, control over assets, family decisions- all this is happening which is related to economic empowerment. Give money in the hands of women, they start earning, they have a voice. They even stop their men from drinking, they stop giving money for alcohol. Earlier they used to get beaten up and give the money.
But if the NGO is not attending to it, then attention does not go. What do you do in terms of getting liquor shops out of the villages? When we were doing empowerment related work, much of this used to be prioritised. Reducing school dropouts, these are not SHG agendas unless the NGO really builds them in and puts a lot of effort to keep them in. child marriage – there is a difference from the last fifteen years to now. The age of marriage of girl children has gone from 8-9 years old to about 14 years old, especially among the scheduled caste. But the moment she attains puberty, when within the years if they don’t get, and this is now 2011 Kuppal district, north Karnataka. If she is not married by the age of thirteen, she will either be dedicated as a devdasi, or every year till she goes to 18 or 19 then she will have a higher dowry price, so reaching 50,000-60,000 and if you are not married by18 then you are definitely landing up in Bombay or Hyderabad or one of the city red-light areas. This is the situation of extreme poor scheduled caste women even now. And what I am trying to say is that when we start working completely with financial – self help groups and cooperatives promotion – some of these things just don’t get attended.
The question we go through at Sampark- is half the team which is doing financial development on the ground is saying- don’t impose these things on us. You want viable SHG, you want good cooperatives, you want them to get bank loans, you want them to be eligible for managing one crore, two crore, three crore rupees, then don’t ask us also to. Women have only that much time, they can come for one hour, two hour every week. Don’t ask them whether MGNREGS is operating properly, whether the anganwadi is operating properly, everybody is reproductive in environment. Like in Orissa the women told me- every department is having SHGs, the only department left out is the police department, baaki sab ka kaam hum SHG wale kar rahe hain. We impose too much and then the question is- even when we go as an NGO, how much can external people do? When, for instance in this example of child marriage that I am giving you, if we go on telling our women, you know- aap devdasi ho, but marry your girl child. She doesn’t have the money, they are not able to earn, there is no male support, if we go as external people and what happens to her fears which are not just fears, which is reality that even if they have, even they have men and sometimes they are alcoholic, they fear for the child safety even in their own house. If the husband is drunk, I have seen women who are saying I won’t even leave her with her father in the house alone, I’d rather marry her off and she is better in her in-laws house than here where everybody is eyeing her as a sexual object. Now what do we do with those kind of fears and social realities and can we – external organizations – handle these deep-rooted prejudices? Sampark has worked with about 7-8 years on financial services but we are going into thematic discussions and workshops. We’ve already started discussions on government schemes, child marriage, dowry, domestic violence etc. Just take them to the police thana, take them to places where they are supposed to get their rights. And get them active in supporting each other. We’ve also started a mental health program because women who are extreme poor also are the most depressive and then they lose money because they don’t go to work. And you ask them- kya hua tha, nahin ji mann nahi kiya and you didn’t feel like going. So, we detected on mental health issue and then we linked up with the national institute of mental health. We started the program and it has really worked well for the last four years So, we now started all these right based work, thematic discussions where leaders become champions.
Vandana Kumari Jena: Alright, you know from all the presentations, what’s really coming out is that we have a huge problem in our hand. But we don’t seem to be having a solution. The solution exists in silos, it is applied in one form or the other, in one industry or the other, in one place or the other but we’ve not been able to put a concerted effort to have all these solutions. If one pilot happened in one city or the other, the pilot remained as a pilot, it never scaled. So we now actually need to find out all the problems raised by you. You know major problems which is what you have countered, so gender actually faces all the issues which men do not. Let me ask the house, do you know what is the solution? It is very valid about women not having time to take on other responsibilities. Though through governments we are told there should be social accountability mechanisms for involving the community. Now the right to education says that in the school management committee, 75% of the members will be parents who will draw the school education plans, 50% will be women. Now if they don’t participate it will not take off. For anganwadis we say mothers’ committees will oversee the functioning of the anganwadi. For the mid-day meals, they say mothers’ committee will look after. According to us if the mothers make sure the quality of the food served is right, I don’t need another mechanism, I don’t need a social audit done. But the mother said I don’t have time to do it, don’t put this burden on me. Now we have a problem. Is there a solution to it? Because instead of having a social audit, which is after the event is over, if you could actually do it before that, you could ensure, if mothers’ group could take all the responsibilities by rotation to see that the quality of food in mid-day meals or anganwadi is good, is fine. But I have got this reaction from a lot of people saying we don’t have time to do this, government should find out some alternative mechanism.
When I was DG national literacy mission and I wanted to tell everybody- do not teach people just to sign their names, that would be totally disastrous because if they can’t read and they sign something, then in the court they will never be able to say- that I am illiterate, I only know how to sign. But in Andhra Pradesh I was told that then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said self help groups would not be given money, save money till they become literate. As a result of which everybody learnt only to sign their names to access that money and they all relaxed into illiteracy because they only knew how to sign. So let’s make sure that when we empower the SHGs, we actually empower them and we don’t have this kind of tokenism. And you know it creates a very bad kind of example.
People don’t know about schemes. Why don’t they know, because they don’t read. When the government makes a scheme, it goes down to the state government if nobody bothers to read what it’s all about, it keeps lying there in the file, it never goes down to the state. Whom do you blame? You have an internet, you have websites, you have all the schemes on the website and then you say- even at the state government level there are lots of people, lots of secretaries who say I didn’t know the scheme was launched, but it’s already available, its available on the hard copy, its available on the net. Unless Delhi calls for a conference and shares, it’s in the meeting with power point presentation all secretaries are in denial about the scheme.
Alok Bhargava: We do some work in the area of education, skill building, empowerment in the form of capacity building and skills largely. Any one entity or even a combination of entities can solve issue is a big question mark. But at our level, normally IL&FS is associated with physical infrastructure but in last 10-12 years we’ve seen areas of education and, especially last 5 years or 6 years, we’ve been doing a lot of work in skill building and entrepreneurship and other such aspects which I’ll touch upon deeply. See education is being there. So we’re working with rural children, urban children, girl child schools, all kind of stuff. And some of the models which we picked up are scalable. For example in UP we’re working on English, Maths and Science teaching, out of school, not in the school, so out of school with community participation. We are trying to cover about 200 thousand children through local facilitators, coming from local SHGs. So we’re training and would ultimately train about 10,000 women from local SHGs to be the educational strength. These are the people who don’t have an educational background in that sense. We’ll train them and we’ve made fair amount of progress, we’ve now reached ten thousand here. The idea is it improves their income level as individuals. It also has a very strong community participation in the program because otherwise we are a Mumbai-based organization. We’re doing a lot of work in skill building and working with industry clusters largely textiles, then we moved on to leather, handicrafts etc. One of the outcomes while we started looking at was physical infrastructure for these clusters How we can deal with the power, water, road needs. Now very obvious to us that unless there is skill building exercise done for these people, nothing will happen and these industries and clusters are not going anywhere. It started off as a relationship with the Ministry of Textiles and the Ministry of Rural Development, where you are running skill development programs for below poverty line youth. Then over the last 2 years we’ve trained more than a 100 thousand below poverty line youth and have placed them in jobs in industry and close to 80% of this trained population are women. So sixty five to seventy thousand below poverty line women have been trained and placed in the industry- some in their geography, some outside their geography. We trained them not only in skill in which the job is required, but also the soft skills and the light skills required to deal with the cooperative environment. An Orissa girl coming and living into Bangalore, provide an ecosystem with partnership with the cooperate hirer so that these girls don’t feel out of place, living miles away from their families. Quite often a first person in the family starts generating 5000-6000 rupees a monthly kind of income level. And suddenly you are pushing them into different income strata.
We’re doing a lot of other kind of training program, we work with a little bit with SEWA in Ahmedabad on women entrepreneurs. We have entrepreneurship training program which are working little bit. We have done about 200 women entrepreneur trainings with SEWA. We’re working a lot at PRI training, so assuming 30-40% of PRI functionaries are women. A number of women are also going through our training program across a couple of states. We’ve done 50,000 plus PRI training all the time. So our focus is on trying to empower people necessarily, not specifically gender focus. But in certain areas where this empowerment is happening obviously there is a gender bias and we have seen it in the skills training, where 60-70% of the women have trained.
We are probably the first private sector entity who’s being tied up or selected by global fund to be the project manager for their interventions on the HIV Aids related stuff. We are handling maternal care part of the project. We’re now building our presence. We have presence in 25 states. We have some 3500 odd outreach workers employed by us who in turn will be dealing with may be 30,000 Asha workers. They are one part- implementing the funds, making sure the tracking of the pregnant ladies and making sure that right intervention is provided at the right point through the local doctors. You bring in technology into it, you know SMSs go out and computer alerts come out and all kind of stuff happens. So you are able to time the healthcare and the preventive or whatever medications you need to do. But there is a lot of potential there. You have such large base of foot soldiers who are dealing in this whole aspect of maternal care, probably lot more that can be done in terms of let’s say, building patient data history, building trends in terms of healthcare challenges in this place. We are trying to see how we can take advantage of the kind of reach we are creating out of this program. How we can start influencing and help out for interventions in these areas. That’s why we ensure IT is used sensibly and smartly to build databases.
Sapna Shahani: I started an NGO initiative a year ago called Women Aloud: Videoblogging for Empowerment. It is a pilot project (funded by a competition) sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and we ran it last year very successfully and now…into social entrepreneurship model and I primarily advocate for ICT as a means of alternative livelihoods. We are starting one WAVE for young women journalists to specifically get higher degree. Like this there are many, many other possibilities and my experience has been that it is very easy to train people and have them. We employ from wherever they are if the training and the channelizing is right.
It looks like young educated urban women are the largest unemployed group in the country? So need to focus on them. But I think we are not engaging young urban stakeholders to increase the number of people that can be working towards this cause. There are lots of people who are outside of aiding development. The other is that developmental issues are hardly reported from women’s perspective. This needs to be looked at. Finally a couple of more things- development communication in general – from what I have seen and so that needs to be, you know at all levels increased a lot more. Why don’t we have a development communication channel? NGOs don’t know what each other are doing across the country, their best practices aren’t shared etc. Need to highlight successful models more and share those and highlight successful women entrepreneurs at the grassroots more and create heroes. We also need a stronger pan India network of NGOs working towards gender justice. There aren’t any fora for people to share these ideas. Encouraging political, financial and technological leadership amongst women is not an area that we prioritize through awards. These are some of the areas we could either look at for solutions.
Hemlata S Mohan: I am taking care a whole lot of activities/women empowerment and everything and most importantly gender bias which starts from female child feticide and to the school education. The most prestigious school of the country and the ratio of girls and boys to the underprivileged school and the ratio of girls and boys to whole lot of activities and most importantly in my State it is trafficking which Commission is working for. I really want Panchayati Raj to be part of our women empowerment programme and awareness which is importantly needed.
Financial literacy is, for most of us, most of the times, amiss. But what about those women who really are not aware about finances. Though it might sound little obsolete but we need some funding for domestic violence act. I’m not trying to literate women in villages, I am trying to educate them. First I’m trying to just tell them of what their rights are. It’s not easy to literate them overnight.
I’m just trying to tell people, educate them about their rights and how they can go about if they have problems. Recently we have elected our Panchayati Raj representatives. Our Chief Minister has agreed upon that all 58% women Sarpanches who have been elected will be brought under commission- women commission – and he has asked me to sensitize and tell them about it.
Jyoti Panagariya: Actually what we see is that coordination is very important among various governments. State government should coordinate with the central government because lot of funds are flowing from centre to our states. But it is different for different states because of the difference in the leadership of the politicians. That also effects sometimes.
M V Anathakrishnan: My basic areas of research in my professional career have been on adult illiteracy and using ICT for educating children and nomadic tribes in Maharashtra and providing ICT enabled facilities for rural schools in Maharashtra. The major problems that I have faced and we are trying to address are, number one the hesitation on the part of girls being educated. Among the nomadic tribes they believe girls are not to be educated. They are only there for working out of the family, taking care of the kitchen and rearing children. That is the only objective of nomadic tribes. So I have faced problems in trying to convince them that education is important and it took us around two years to really bring them round and make them agree.
Literacy; ICT has helped a lot in this exercise and we are happy to tell you that the project that we did for nomadic children got us the UNESCO prize for the Best Non Formal Education two years back. I did it from Ranchi which is in Jharkahand.
I was the part of the team for TCS which develop the adult education program. We developed multimedia package using the adult literacy program developed by the government of India. That book we utilized and the concept we used was that women knows words, women knows vocabulary but they don’t know how to read or write. So we didn’t start from alphabets, we started from words because that is what they are more familiar with. They don’t need to know abcde but they should know the words and where it is utilised. And after program of about three months we were so excited that women were more responsive to the program. Women and children were invited for this program. Mostly the women used to come during the time when their husbands are away. They would come during the lunch break with the children to attend the class. At the end of about 6 months of programme, one of the ladies took the initiative herself and started training other people. The TCS has covered more than a lac people. This is point number one.
Point number two is we have achieved this without propagating much. Since we are family centric the possibility of spreading something beyond the four walls of our house becomes a difficulty unless somebody is very broad minded, very social. So how do we get over this barrier, that’s the problem; that’s one of the reasons why spread is so limited because our structure is like that. When I do something I think what my family and the near ones will gain. We have to get out of this trap. If we get out I think we can solve all the problems.
Shashi Singh: We have a whole lot of processes going on livelihood, but don’t have livelihood system in entrepreneurship because that is a sustainable mode. The 12th Plan is not just about SHGs activities but sustainable SHGs, moving them into entrepreneurship as a module. We are working with a lot of SHGs whom we are now converting into units. Units mean they are going to be under the MSME Act, the new Act which has come under the new ministry. So micro entrepreneurship movement is where we are addressing the women entrepreneurship.
I am keeping my hopes with SHGs which we started and there is a whole lot of change in what we started off with and what it is now. Group dynamism has changed. In our country the women is better role model. The world acclaims this because we are following this module everywhere, in Africa, even South Asia. We’re doing it worldwide in 42 countries.
The government has the policy, the players are different. We are the ones who are implementing programs and policies of government. Now we have to go hand in hand because as we said the one, one outfit doesn’t fit everybody, it has to be tailor made. What is in Jharkhand, what is in Orissa, what is in North East, it’s not. But policies are all one but we have to implement it differently. We are working in all these states very differently because when I go to Andhra it’s different, but when I’m working in Haryana it’s different, when I’m going to Uttarakhand launch which is a tribal belt its entirely different. So I cannot have one module taking me everywhere. Now we’ve given a mindset to the SHGs. – this is what it is, this is the plan, you have to have a meeting, do this. They don’t know that their money lying in the banks is being lent to other big players. The women don’t know what’s happening to their money. We try to tell them you can change your livelihood process with the money. One SHG in Andhra had 9 crores lying with the banks that they were making petticoats. I said 9 crores in the bank and you’re selling petticoats. Now they’ve matured. I am saying there is no technically qualified organization which says what is livelihood, what is self employment, what is this. You know when we are doing skill training we are not doing just the skill training for the sake, because we know they won’t get jobs. And people from the villages will not go to the cities to get the job, they will not. Even in Delhi, outskirts of Delhi women, girls, young girls, they won’t come to Delhi to learn. We have to go to them. We have to acknowledge that we have to go out to the reach to them. But we have to be technically qualified, we are going what we are going to deliver to them, I mean these are the answers to your question. Because when we go to these rural areas, we have to find out for them. We have to find the needs, need assessment of the group and not go ourselves and impose ki hum idea lekar aayein hain, you do this. It’s not like that, so each is different, so different, it’s so contrast, our country is so contrasting, so one policy will not fit all.
Number two we were saying is that what happens to this money. Are we ever looking atwhere is the money going, who is using it, whose benefit it is? And she probably gets a 4% interest or something. People in Haryana, the women SHGs don’t want money from the bank. I ask them why, they said we have enough money, we don’t want to get into this prejudice of repaying 12% to these people.
When we said that okay with your money, what is the kind of livelihood trainings we should give you. Earlier it was, whatever they were making…now we have to go by the market research. So we’ve set up whole brand thing called BPL with, in partnership. All the SHG groups have come to us. We have analyzed what is the market, for whom, where and how. But we have to go back to them and say- this is the demand for this, this has to be changed, this is what it is and this is the kind of finances you will require. So it is a business model. Financial inclusion is not just because we’re working on the minorities in the next session. There are these 27 villages, very poor. But they have very good skills. Now what happens, the banks have come and the bank says open accounts. So we have accounts. Rs 25 , Rs 50, Rs 100 rupees accounts are opened. What happens after that? They don’t get loans, if they are given loans if it turns bad, the rest of them are all debarred from taking. Now come to the new scheme of the credit guarantee, I asked the banker, I said you already know 99% of the money is secured, why don’t you unlink to these people because you’re already doing small businesses and they have market access which you’re not giving them. Because banks have a norm, you know they are not sensitive to these issues.
Barsha Puricha: I am an urban planner by training and I work for a funding and support organization called the National Foundation for India based out of Delhi and for the last decade and half one has been struggling with issues of poverty and governance and gender issues.
Ramachandra Reddy: Within Andhra Pradesh we have 300,000 SHGs and I do not see any of them really working towards financial inclusion growth itself.
Heena Bijli: Uttar Pradesh has alarming indicators of human development, especially in the areas of health where the critical inputs are below the required standards. I stress on micro finance, micro credit as a source of financial inclusion for fulfilling the gender agenda of combating poverty.
The issues are that, women don’t know what assets are, women don’t know what liabilities are, women don’t know what the net worth is, women don’t know what capital formation is, and I think these are the problems which need to be addressed on a larger scale. We should not have a very minimalistic approach towards micro finance where micro finance institutions are just posing as financial intermediaries in disbursement of funds. But we need to have integrated approach where women are involved. When I worked in UP the primary health sector houses buffaloes and it is shut down in Aligarh district and also in Bulandshahar district, that is the apathy of the situation we are talking about. And also where are people who are selling iron and folic acid tablets to particular group of women in the village. That is the extent of corruption which I have seen. So I have seen that a lot of problems need to be addressed, at an integrated approach and we need to get back to the movement, you know the SHG movement, SHG started with the women’s movement about 13-15 years back. We need to get down to the core agenda.
Vandana Kumari Jena: I would still request you to tell us a way out for getting the Anganwadis constructed, because the programme is totally for women. 70% women and 30% men please let us know, because I think one thing which has come out of this discussion is- that women don’t get the kind of priority they deserve and because of that they are neglected. Whether it is in funding, whether it is on information generation, whether it is in partnership; wherever it is, is vandalised. I’d like to raise a point which was raised by you about PPP mode, there are lots of states including the state I come from- Orissa, and I think it’s true of Jharkhand which have reservations, because they say the private partners don’t come forward for many of the schemes in these states. Now how do you ensure that there is a public private partnership not only in Maharashtra, or Delhi or Punjab or Haryana, but in the backward areas of Orissa and Jharkhand as well. And I’d like to also say that in the self help groups I think there is a lot of need for strengthening. In Orissa I know soil conservation department – they just set up self help groups and those self help groups do not understand the issues you raise, what are assets, what is asset formation- nothing. They have just been set up. They have not been actually made vibrant. And that is the role of civil society or NGOs. The government is somehow incapable of doing it or has not done it successfully. And the point that there are partners, I think one is the government you mentioned, one is the private sector, one is the NGO sector and what is the fourth one? Now, the fourth is the Panchayati Raj or the grassroots, all those who, unless the Gram Sabha does it, nothing is going to work. It is actually, the government has withdrawn as you mentioned, rightly so- government should not intervene in a lot of areas, it is better done by other agencies. I think there are some things which only the civil society organisations can do. A lot of money and a lot of expertise can come from the private partners and the planning committee is very-very fond of PPP mode on anything. But ILFS is going to set up something very interesting in Orissa, I don’t know whether they did it or not- they had a lovely project which was there, when I was principle Secretary Education to have an absolutely state of the art kind of school with best academic kind of inputs and an RTI also in Kalahandi region. Why I’m mentioning is that it cannot happen with a civil society organization putting it that much of money, it can come with the PPP mode. So I think in the 12th plan to make it truly inclusive you need all these things.
I think one thing which we missed out was- women not simply as women, but women as women with physically challenged women, women from unfit areas, women who are subjected to, who are victims of human trafficking. Why I am raising it because in another forum, this People Disability Channel, MGNREGS is saying that MNREGS excludes anybody with disability. So 30,000 crores of government of India goes only for the able bodied, what happens to the people with disabilities, they get altogether only 300 crores of government funding. What about women who are disabled, they have a huge challenge. We should think about rehabilitation of women who are victims of human trafficking. You mentioned Jharkhand has an issue with it, Orissa also has an issue with it. And seeing that whether there is self help group formation, skill development or something like that to make sure that they are mainstreamed, that they are given some kind of financial stability.
You mentioned domestic violence- I’d just like to mention that the point made over here is very valid, but there is no funding, we don’t want CDPOs to do this work, we actually want the central government to give. Central government can’t and state governments are also reluctant. But we need offices who are exclusively dealing with it because it is actually linked to economic empowerment of women. I’d like to mention domestic violence in this context that internationally also even in the European countries, in America it is there. But there is a problem in India, you can put women in short stay home for how long? If they have to go back to the same family, they have a problem because they can’t go and complain, register a case against the husband, then go back and stay with the husband. So they need economic empowerment and then we have to think that how to economically empower women, so that they can actually leave the home and live independently.
I’d also like to mention here that when income generating activities are taken up by women, my request to everybody dealing with the SHG sector- please make sure they are income generating activities, which give decent income to women, at least five to six thousand rupees per month. And it is possible to give two income generating activities, to two sisters in the households so that the family income increases, they are independent. Otherwise the traditional mindset is- tailoring, knitting and very traditional skills and they have absolutely no market, because the kind of skills they are taught, they cannot actually compete. So you can have self help groups having low income of 1000-2000 rupees which is sheer token income, which doesn’t generate enough. So when you think of something, the linkages with the market, with the international market if possible. If it is tailoring, then with NIFT, training from NIFT things like that so that the quality issues are addressed, the skill upgradation issues are addressed. So that at least whatever women generate, whatever income they generate, it is not something which is 1000-1500-2000-3000, it is something more reasonable. Ideally it should be 10,000, but if that’s not possible, at least five to six thousand.
And one thing is, which we haven’t mentioned here was about the gender bias. Because I had recently been to Guwahati, dealing with weavers (90% of the women are weavers in Guwahati). But when we were having the entrepreneurship development program, I said logically 90% of the entrepreneur should be women also. They said no, women can’t be entrepreneurs because they won’t be able to handle this. See as long as they are weavers and they are getting their share of what 30 rupees for one gamchha they make or something like that, people are happy. Moment you think of upgrading their skills and making them into entrepreneurs, you have a whole lot of people objecting that it can’t work. So that is an issue which will have to be overcome.
There are several existing examples of women entrepreneurs in the rural areas who are doing really-really well. I mean, and they need further support and support can come only from the Panchayati Raj institutions, they further also need to be empowered. 33% mandated reservation may have brought them into political mainstream, but where are the economic rights? Where is the right to work, where is it that all these 29, you know subjects have been devolved onto the Panchayati Raj institutions to further empower women at the grassroots? Those things remain pending forever, but whatever schemes are there, they are best executed, implemented right at the grassroots level through the mechanism of Panchayati Raj institutions. It has to go down to that level for it to be having a wide spread impact. But as long as that doesn’t happen, we keep on discussing and keep on asking for more money.
When I used to deal with SHGs in the national literacy mission in youth affairs, out of the group of ten SHGs I used to always ask- how many are literate invariably 6 were illiterate and 4 were literate and the accounts were maintained by one person for the group. In one case the lady walked off with everybody’s money and there was nothing they could do about it. We need to tell them how to maintain their passbooks and understand that they are SHGs. For the Panchayati Raj representative of Sarpanch it could be about government functions which he needs to know to be an effective Sarpanch, but for the member of the SHG it could be tailored mainly to the income generating activity she is doing and the maintenance of her account. I think it’s absolutely crucial. The suggestion which is very workable, implementable and should be accepted by education department and others.