Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Women Who Need No Protection

Today is Rakhee, a festival of the Hindus in which women tie rakhees on the wrists of their brothers asking them to protect them in times of trouble. However, in recent times women have become quite capable of protecting themselves and taking a lead in economic, social and political matters. Especially so since the passage of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment, 1992 in India mandated one-third reservation for women in the three tiers of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) which has since been hiked to 50 per cent. Women have overcome adverse societal structures such as, gender discrimination, caste dynamics, low literacy and patriarchy, amongst others and become politically empowered as a consequence of this opportunity that they have got.  However, this process is not smooth and it also requires training of the women. There are many organisations engaged in providing training to the elected women representatives (EWR) of PRIs to overcome the challenges that face them in the performance of their duties. The Hunger Project India (THP) is one of them. It  aims to "strengthen the role of elected women representatives in grassroots’ governance so that they are able to exercise leadership within their constituencies and practice gender responsive governance and transformative leadership based on the principles of human rights and social justice".
Despite over two and a half decades having elapsed since the passage of the constitutional amendment there are very few large scale impact assessment studies of the performance of the EWRs. I had the privilege of being associated with one such study commissioned by THP where I designed the assessment and did the analysis and report writing - "The aim of this outcome assessment study, has been to measure key capacities like the leadership of the EWRs, gained by the training and capacity building provided by THP, through the five years of their tenure. The study, has been conducted in the state of Madhya Pradesh, one of the seven working areas of THP that received consistent funding from 2009-2014.The logic underpinning this assessment is that the increased capacities of the EWRs as a result of the trainings received from THP should help them in performing effectively within their constituencies. In-depth interviews have been conducted with EWRs, who have been active members of THP’s intervention through the entire project cycle. One of the major contributions of the study has been the designing of a multi-dimensional Composite Capacity Index (CCI) that measures the capacities of EWRs, in the five domains of leadership abilities, confidence, status in households, knowledge regarding their roles and responsibilities and issues that they have taken up in the tenure. Along with that, the study also analyses the performance of the EWRs in terms of the benefits secured by them in their respective constituencies. A control group of EWRs have been selected for the purpose of the study to compare the performance of THP trained EWRs, in these aspects. Finally, the study also calculates a Return of Investment from the trainings conducted by THP in the state, through the entire election cycle".
 The study shows that the comparative performance of the THP trained EWRs with the control group provides evidence of the fact that training and capacity building form an important part of the functioning of the PRI representatives. With the training that is disseminated by THP through the entire five year tenure, the THP trained EWRs not only report higher values of capacity indices but also have benefited a larger percentage of households within their constituencies. Thus, not only have the women demonstrated enhanced leadership qualities, but also have been able to channelise these abilities towards the empowerment of the community. 

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