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Swayam

Strengthening Women’s institutions for Agency and Empowerment (SWAYAM) for the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM)

Background

With over 60 million women mobilised to be part of one of India’s largest livelihoods programme, the Deendayal Antayodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), holds great promise for advancing women’s socio-economic empowerment by organising them into self-help groups (SHGs) and institutions of the rural poor. These platforms are facilitating financial opportunities and livelihood support services for women.

The livelihoods programme works exclusively with rural women, and a critical element for its success has been the mission’s commitment towards prioritising women’s perspectives and being responsive to their needs and aspirations. This approach has been embedded across all DAY-NRLM activities with the goal of strengthening women’s agency, identity, well-being, and solidarity, through women’s collectivisation.

A recent global review of several studies found that women's collectives, such as SHGs, have positive and significant effects on their economic, social, and political empowerment. These positive effects have been achieved through various pathways, such as familiarity with handling money, financial decision-making, improved social networks, and gaining respect within the household and/or community. Gender mainstreaming plays a crucial role in developing these pathways that can lead to better outcomes for women.

NRLM believes that gender sensitisation and social action should be mainstreamed in its framework, systems, institutions and processes. To this end, it devised a Gender Operational Strategy in financial year 2019-20 committing actions that recognise women’s heterogeneity and the unique socio-economic barriers faced by them. Through Swayam, IWWAGE is partnering with DAY-NRLM to provide technical assistance to support this strategy and institutionalise gender across all levels of the Mission. More specifically, the partnership aims to:

  1. Strengthen capacity of staff at all levels in the NRLM through trainings to work on gender issues;
  2. Redesign the existing gender training curriculum used by State Rural Livelihood Missions;
  3. Design and test innovative solutions for delivering the trainings;
  4. Design, implement and evaluate the impact of pilot Gender Resource Centres in four states as models to promote gender equality and help women claim their entitlements; and
  5. Build performance indicators, generate rigorous evidence and develop knowledge management mechanisms to inform programme design.

IWWAGE is partnering with SRLMs in four states including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha, and several implementing partners to test pilots and scale these institutional models for SHG federations to serve as gender resource centres.

COMPONENTS OF SWAYAM

Piloting Gender Resource Centres

Global evidence shows that women’s empowerment collectives (WECs) can have a transformative effect by leading women from a position of limited power and voice to having skills, resources and opportunities to access markets and public spaces. Membership in their own Self-Help Groups (SHGs) can have significant positive impacts on women’s economic and political empowerment, their mobility, and control over decisions like family planning.

One of the components of the IWWAGE-NRLM partnership involves testing the relevance and effectiveness of institutional platforms such as Gender Resource Centres (GRCs)/ Gender Justice Centres (GJCs) that can help women voice their concerns and get connected to rights and entitlements.

To facilitate meeting NRLM’s gender focused objectives, IWWAGE and select Civil Society Organisation (CSO) partners are collaborating with four State Rural Livelihoods Missions (SRLMs) and NRLM to develop and rigorously test distinct scalable institutional models, where federations will be capacitated to serve as GRC/GJCs that can be taken to scale. These pilots are expected to act as model or resource federations for other federations to learn from and replicate.

Inauguration of Lok Adhikar Kendra/ Gender Justice Centre (GJC), Sheopur district in Madhya Pradesh

The Lok Adhikar Kendra in the Karhal Block of Sheopur district was inaugurated on the 1st of June 2020. The centre will be opened with an inaugural workshop which will be attend by all Cluster Level Federation (CLF) office bearers of the Karhal block, District Mission Management Unit (DMMU) and Block Mission Management Unit (BMMU) officials. The Karhal block CEO has allocated a separate room for the functioning of the Lok Adhikar Kendra. The Lok Adhikar Kendra or Gender Justice Centre (GJC) is a physical space established at the Block Level. The GJCs is the first port of call for women who will be guided by Samata Sakhis (Gender Champions trained by CSO partner ANANDI) to the appropriate government office or official depending on their claim. Being offered this accompaniment and hand holding support by women will increase the footfall of women in these offices and institutions of governance. It is a moment of great happiness for us at IWWAGE to announce the opening of the Lok Adhikar Kendra under the project SWAYAM, and we congratulate our partners ANANDI on their success. 

IWWAGE is partnering with ANADI under our project SWAYAM. ANANDI is a feminist organisation, focused on advancing the rights of women belonging to vulnerable and marginalised communities. ANANDI’s vision is to bring rural women’s concerns to the centre of the development process. Under SWAYAM, ANADI is working in two blocks of Sheopur district, in Madhya Pradesh implementing Gender Justice Centres and taking forward gender trainings for rural women.

The partners will develop and test GRC/GJC models (approaches across models may vary depending on contextual differences) at the SHG federation level, which can serve as platforms for rural women to exercise their voice and agency, and access opportunities and resources available through different state schemes. The GRCs/GJCs will link women’s groups with each other, and with state and market players for securing social, economic and political rights, will offer convergence across schemes, will provide women with legal counsel, build their skills and educate them on gender discrimination, atrocities and violence. The overall goal is to test a feminist gender transformative model for women’s empowerment integrated into the mandate and institutional structures of the SRLMs.

State Name Partners
Chhattisgarh Chaitanya WISE and Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Madhya Pradesh ANANDI and International Centre for Research on Women
Jharkhand PRADAN, Jagori and Transforming Rural India Foundation
Odisha Project Concern International and Kudumbashree

Gender Trainings

Besides the GRC pilot, Swayam will introduce and enable norm change/agency building through participatory trainings and outreach/facilitated discussions which can help build women’s capacity and confidence.

To achieve gender sensitisation and gender integration goals, a (draft) module has been developed by the Resource Cell of NRLM. The programme is envisaged and designed as a residential course spread over 8-10 days, proposed as an intensive sensitisation of trainers, who would take this forward in a cascading mode, through Training of Trainers (ToTs). The objective of the current gender trainings is to focus on (i) capacity building of institution structure and (ii) gender integration across all verticals of NRLM.

As part its contents, the curriculum aims to build an understanding of gender, sex, patriarchy, social construction of gender, gender-based violence, social norms and barriers that impede the women’s overall development. Further, it delves into the gender division of labour, gender roles to explain inequalities between men and women and its impact on women in all spheres, social, economic, cultural and political in relation to access and control over resources and decision-making roles. The modules also highlight the importance of women’s empowerment and sensitisation within the family and community, working with men and youth towards reducing inequality and gender-based violence, and how SHGs play a pivotal role in enabling the same.

Besides the NRLM module, the CSO partner organisations for Swayam, such as Kudumbashree, Jagori, Anandi and Chaitanya bring with them their rich experience in conducting gender trainings across India and making women aware about their rights. Empowerment training modules used by these organisations will also be piloted in the selected four states.

IWWAGE as a part of its evidence generation and learning mandate, will additionally create and test a revised curriculum that reflects clear ideas and design to mainstream gender within NRLM. The objective is to create a portfolio of high-quality curricula to strengthen the ongoing gender integration efforts by NRLM and especially, aim at building a gendered perspective within and across the verticals – institution building, financial inclusion and livelihoods. It is expected to serve as a guide to gender trainers as well as community resource persons who are engaged in the roll out and implementation of gender integration work. The redesigned curricula will be adaptable for easy uptake and standardisation at the state level. It will include toolkits, audio-visual aids and clear guidelines to support the roll out, which will be developed in close collaboration with NRLM and SRLMs.

Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation

To support the interventions, IWWAGE has developed a comprehensive Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning plan to assess, continuously, progress made in achieving expected results, identify bottlenecks in implementation, highlight whether there are any unintended effects (positive or negative) of the interventions, and disseminate learnings to scale and replicate tested and successful approaches.

The primary MLE questions are as follows:

  • Proof of concept: Can a gender transformative approach be institutionalised and mainstreamed within NRLM?
  • What are its elements (e.g. training, gender training curricula, system level support to NRLM/SRLMs, GRCs)?
  • What is the impact (effectiveness question) on women’s individual and collective empowerment outcomes?

ILLUSTRATION OF THE KEY ELEMENTS OF THE PLAN

Management Information System (MIS)

A Management Information System (MIS) is being put in place to track input, progress and output of the pilots in the four states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand. The purpose of the MIS is to:

  • Support the pilots specifically in strategic planning, provide accurate operational data and track outcome regularly to record incremental shifts, if any;
  • Ensure availability and accessibility of required information/data to all stakeholders; and
  • Contribute towards evidence-based planning regarding issues prioritised by the Gender Justice Centres/Gender Resource Centres.

Process Documentation

Recognising the need for going beyond single point impact evaluations, IWWAGE is undertaking deep process documentation to track changes and efforts as a part of the technical assistance to NRLM. This exercise will ensure that more nuanced information gets captured. Further, it will allow for the programme to adopt processes that are iterative and ensure collaborative learning given the diversity of contexts, imperatives and priorities.

  • GRC pilot processes: In the pilot states of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh – a ‘process tracing’ is being carried out in parallel with the gender interventions, through various means such as scoping studies being done by the CSO partners, a process monitoring of the roll out of their pilots, engagement with women in community leadership, and through engagement with SRLMs to support their system strengthening to address gender issues.
  • NRLM’s Gender Integration and Operational Strategy: This would entail an intensive documentation of how NRLM’s gender operational strategy was rolled out in select states, analysing different components of states’ envisaged processes including gender sensitisation of Mission staff at state and sub state levels; establishment of a dedicated gender resource pool across national, state and sub-state levels; activation of dedicated gender institutional mechanisms; appointment dedicated gender personnel; gender trainings to different sub state gender personnel/tiers of community institutions; and understanding progress on the ground in terms of key areas of gender social action undertaken by community institutions.
  • NRLM’s support to social inclusion/gender interventions: IWWAGE is supporting documentation of issue-based thematic interventions being taken up by NRLM in select states, (e.g. support to women from Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), victims of witch hunting, human trafficking, and vulnerable groups such as elderly, and differently abled).

Evaluation Survey

The Evaluation survey for the GRC pilot is being led and conducted by Principal Investigators from Stanford University. The matched difference-in-difference evaluation will evaluate the effect of the GRC pilots on gender related outcomes such as: women’s empowerment; different dimensions of gender inequality; and social norms relating to gender. The broad set of measurement indicators include – gender awareness and attitudes; awareness of and access to rights and entitlements; psycho-socio indicators of agency, self/collective efficacy; decision-making capacity; collective action; and political and community level participation. Using a multi-pronged approach, the data collection will collect information at the household, individual (gender champions), SHG/VO/CLFs, Panchayati Raj (institutional), and Block/District Mission Management Unit (BMMU/DMMU) levels to capture detailed data on outcomes and the mechanisms of change.

Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic work is vital for the project to capture nuanced, context specific accounts that will be able to track incremental shifts that occur in women’s lives, through the project cycle such as increased levels of confidence, decision making abilities, economic choice, voice etc. This will be achieved by tracking a cohort of women in each state and conducting in-depth interviews, FGDs, capturing life histories, and understand subtle shifts that occur for women.  Additionally, IWWAGE’s ethnographic work will feed into creating context specific indicators for the measurement of empowerment. To do so, IWWAGE will use values based approaches that have been specifically designed to create context specific values based indicators, including indicators for larger concepts such as empowerment, justice and accountability.