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Women’s development on demand
Active participation of women in the development planning process could be the slogan of the new women networks, led by the District Development Committees, that are blooming all over Nepal. In Palpa, MS partner Women Welfare Association and her strong women member base, play an active part.By Yubaraj Basyal & Jakob Bak Pedersen
12. January 2009
The VDCs of Palpa district, however, have expressed that the proposals from women often lack something in both quantity and quality. When Women Welfare Association decided to act on this problem in its 12 working VDCs, it coincided with a new initiative of the Palpa District Development Committee: In Srawan 2065 (July/August 2008) the DDC decided to include women more actively in the field of women development through a new kind of network, called "Women’s empowerment Coordination Committee".
The newly formed network is envisioned to cover all wards in the 65 VDCs of Palpa, through VDC sub-networks and it seems that the DDC is positive about working together with local NGOs in order to make this network able to serve the needs of women and also with the ambition of being a tool for participatory monitoring of work done by the VDC.
Active participation of WWA women representatives
The Chairperson of Women Welfare Association, Kashika Gaire, who is a member of the network of Madanpokhara VDC Palpa, is positive: "Through this type of network, women from all levels can get access to the decision-making process. The budgets allocated for empowerment and development of women should not be spent in other sectors, but exactly for empowerment, capacity development and leadership development for and by women," she says.
WWA has so far played a role in the process by advocating and directly supporting the actual formation of the networks, most actively so in the 12 working VDCs of WWA. So far, VDC women networks have been formed in 48 out of 65 VDCs, and the reports from the many experienced women groups, covered by the WWA partnership with MS Nepal, have been enthusiastic. The local government bodies are also positive and would like to draw on the capacity of WWA for activities such as proposal writing, leadership development and advocacy and awareness building on gender, in order to teach women even in the more remote wards that they have to demand development in their area.
Jamuna Jargha, a member of Sayari Women Welfare Group, Palpa, says, "I thought after joining the Women Welfare Association, that it would be helpful to support women with the women network. I have received the opportunity now. Through the network, we need to move forward to raise women's rights, awareness, and capacity building." Teacher Sabitra Adhikari feels a bit more cautious: "I hope that through this network, new programs will flourish and the women get opportunity to present their views and participate in the decision making, at least at the VDC level," she says.
Who is involved?
Coordination of the networks fall under the chief of the DDC (presently the Local Development Officer), who assigns the chairmanship to the VDC chairpersons (presently the VDC secretaries). The VDC Secretary is responsible for budget allocation and therefore s/he would also be the chairperson of the VDC networks, but the network members are encouraged to elect a female vice-chair who will work closely with the VDC Secretary.
The members of the networks are the women representatives nominated by main political parties, active women social workers, women in the educational sector, one member from Dalit and indigenous communities respectively and representatives from various organizations involved in women development and village level health volunteers.
The new district and village-level networks have set ambitious objectives on supervision, monitoring and evaluation of every project, program, and activity launched by both government and non-government sectors for women development. Other major objectives include advocacy for women’s development issues and gender rights, based on the local level agendas and with an emphasis on alignment and effective coordination in the local planning and policy-making processes.
Possible tasks for the new networks:
Based on the local resources, the networks could work in areas such as awareness raising, skills-oriented training and income generation programmes, in order to learn and share experiences, as ways to raise the capacities of women and increase participatory planning in the VDCs. At district level, the network committee has the mission of creating cooperative funds, establishing scholarship and intelligent prize and conducting various studies and research programs on women and gender.
Women Welfare Association is in the process of deciding on which specific activities to support through the networks, e.g. matching funds for capacity building (VDC input matched by a similar budget from WWA) and various trainings on leadership, social inclusion, proposal writing and participatory planning process.
Some potential potholes on the road to strong women networks in Palpa include the roles and responsibilities of different capacities, inside the networks and outside. The networks could easily be “captured” by the local elite or political forces. The VDC secretary and ultimately the LDO reserves the right to intervene and reestablish the network if such problems emerge.
The VDC Secretary of Kaseni VDC, Bishnu Prasad Thapa concludes: "Participating in the women network to discuss and decide for women issues would encourage effective program implementation. It is felt that the network needs more knowledge and skill. We are thinking to involve this network in every VDC development activity."