Harshingar in Savda Ghevra, Delhi

Savda Ghevra is a 250 acres resettlement colony near Ghevra railway station on Delhi-Rohtak rail route in North West Delhi. Savda falls under Mundka Ward of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Savda Ghevra is divided into several blocks, where approximately 30 000 people live. The inhabitants have fairly regular access to electricity but not to water. Furthermore, much of the promised infrastructure has not been developed, resulting in inadequate civic amenities.

Background

MARG has been working in Savda Ghevra in collaboration with Growth for All has been working towards the legal empowerment of the community in the colony from June 2009 to November 2010. The project sought to increase the community’s understanding of law and legal procedures. A training programme was envisaged as a first step that was crucial in enabling the community demand its rights at a later stage. Participants from among the community were trained on the fundamentals of law and the functioning of government services.

Processes & Outcomes

During the inception of our work in Savda Ghevra MARG spent 18 months has conducted regular training sessions with a selection of community members on various rights, laws and social issues (right to information, right to education, public distribution system etc) and enforcement of these rights. Regular interface meetings with government officials were also organized to provide a platform where the trainees could voice their concerns and enhance their confidence level.

Impact

  • An important outcome of the project so far is that many have come to know about their rights. Prior to this, the members of the group did not even know that as individuals they had any rights.
  • As their understanding of the governmental structure and systems increased, the fear and hesitation in demanding their rights from government agencies progressively was reduced.
  • Thanks to the various exposure visits carried out, the group was able to concretely observe how public officers work. They now know that there is a chain of reporting and accountability in place and that they can use it to access their rights.
  • The frequency of MARG visits has helped the group evolve as a team. They are now used to working together and have built a sense of partnership. In addition, MARG now shares a good rapport with the local team and has succeeded in gaining trust and respect.

Building the capacity of women in order to improve the efficiency of local governance in Savda Ghevra under HARSHINGAR Project, supported by Flowering Tree Inc, U.SA

Governance and women in an urban context

The prevalence of poverty, inadequate housing and shelter, insecure land and housing tenure, poor water and sanitation services and basic infrastructure, and health risks, cause massive challenges for women in society.

The experience by men and women of a city is quite different. Spatial and organisational aspects affect men and women in different ways. For instance, the lack of availability of water in Savda Ghevra colony. Women have to wait all day for the water tanker and do not know at what time it will arrive. This puts a strong constraint over their freedom of movement thus hampering their availability for employment options. Men’s lives are less impacted by this problem as it is the woman in the household who is expected to attend to the issue. Similarly, the inability to use the community toilets because of their lack of cleanliness is more a problem for women. Walking alone to distant fields represents a serious security risk for them. This is why adopting a gender-oriented approach to urban governance and its management is critical. Both women and men should obtain equal access to and control over the resources and opportunities offered by a city. Similarly the design, provision and management of public services should equally benefit both women and men.

A brief needs-assessment survey was carried out by the trainees under MARG’s supervision. A hundred people were asked to prioritize the problems they face in their daily life. Out of 101 respondents, 60 were women and 41 were men. The findings of the survey reveal that the main issues affecting the local population are:

  • The unavailability of water both for drinking and household purposes
  • The poor state of sanitation in the colony (non maintenance of community toilets, no generalised sewerage system, absence of widespread garbage disposal system).
  • Issues regarding law and order
  • Lack of sufficient and efficient transport services
  • The state of the inner lanes of the colony.
  • Insufficient health services within the colony and long distance from hospitals
    Multiple discussions held with other organizations working in the colony confirm these results.

BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE

India’s democracy is a success in terms of all that could have gone wrong. But it has fallen short in all that could have gone right. Indeed the election process, with all its flaws, is robust. Unresponsive or arrogant governments have been voted out; governments that perform have often been voted back. But democracy is much more than an exercise of franchise, it is about participation, transparency and responsiveness. And this is where India has fallen short. Whether it is law and order, the school system, healthcare, sanitation or access to entitlements, institutions are often unresponsive (even abusive) and mired in exhausting procedures. Many are corrupt and act not as duty bearers, but as unreachable centers of power.

Good governance is the solution to this: where state and its institutions (all which act in the name of the people) are accountable, transparent and responsive. And active citizenry is the best way to secure good governance1.

THE THEORY OF CHANGE

The active citizenship approach to good governance has these premises:

  • GOOD GOVERNANCE leads to EFFECTIVE DEMOCRACY leads to BETTER LIVES FOR PEOPLE
  • ACTIVE CITIZENRY leads to GOOD GOVERNANCE
  • The actions of a FEW GOOD CITIZENS can effect enough change in a community to PROVIDE THE TIPPING POINT for mass transformation

The stress on a functional democracy is particularly critical for securing the rights of women: women suffer most under tyrannous, undemocratic rule. Hence the emphasis on the role of woman as active citizens, as they have the most at stake. There is a strong correlation between active citizenship, government accountability and responsiveness.

Active citizenship can be a key driver of development and social transformation. It is multi-dimensional in that it includes vertical relationships (citizens engaging with the state) and horizontal relationships (citizens engaging with and among themselves). Active citizenship is related to rights, equalizing opportunities and enhancing human capabilities. Another aspect is that the state cannot merely act on behalf of the people – it has to act with the people, working together with other institutions to provide opportunities for the advancement of all communities. But for this to happen, citizens need to ‘hold government to account’ and ‘speak out when things go wrong’ (as a civic duty).

1.Ultimately superior to the purely top down approach where a government in power may even provide the most excellent services to a compliant, unquestioning public. Such compliance is a bad habit that leaves a people unfit to deal with exigencies that can be expected to arise

GOAL

To secure improved governance in Savda through women – based active citizenship.

OBJECTIVES

  • To create a cadre of women trained to function as active citizens in Savda
  • To effect improved governance in key areas (determined by the community ) through strategic interventions of women active citizens
  • To engage with the larger community in basic issues and processes of citizenship to catalyse successful interventions and eventual mass transformation
  • To create a praxis for active citizenship that contains processes, strategies and inspirational successes to function as a permanent community resource
  • To facilitate a process whereby the transformation within the community is sustained

A Brief about our Harshingar Project area:

Savda- Ghevra, a slum resettlement colony lying on the outskirts of North-West Delhi has witnessed momentous efforts by women to battle injustice against them through legal means. Harshingar Women Active Cadres (HAWCs) is a team of women volunteers working to fight for the rights of women with the efficient use of law and active citizenship model.

MARG has been working in Savda Ghevra in collaboration with an organization called Flowering Tree Inc. towards the legal empowerment of women and transforming governance in India through engendered active citizenship for the past several years.

Every other day a woman is abandoned, tortured, or raped in this country And how she stands up for her to fight against the injustice matters a lot. The HAWCs project has helped these women overcome their worst fears by making them aware of their legal rights through the active citizenship model. Proving the fact that women are now in charge of their own lives.

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HARSHINGAR PROJECT IN KARNAL, HARYANA

MARG is dedicatedly working in Karnal, Haryana since 2008 to ensure informed participation of Gram Sabha members, especially women through its project called as ‘Harshingar’.

It is doing so through empowerment of women which started initially in two villages (Daha and Shamgarh) of Karnal district of Haryana. One women group in each block is mobilized and informed about varied issues ranging from women’s rights and protection of women from violence, Panchayati laws, right to information, food rights and other entitlements, etc. in order to encourage them to participate and engage in the process.

At present, MARG is working with the partnership of Arpana Trust who have an outreach spread out in approximately 100 villages of three blocks (Indri, Karnal and Gharonda). Recently MARG conducted a Baseline survey wit the help of  Kurukshetra University and Arpana Trust in 55 villages to assess the present situation of Gram Sabha’s.

Pictures from the Karnal work