Innovative Governance Reform Programme in Delhi, strengthening and expanding women-led empowerment strategies (CFAR, India)


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Innovative Governance Reform Programme in Delhi, strengthening and expanding women-led empowerment strategies (CFAR, India)

We also have a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a sanitation project and the details are as follows:

Title of grant: Partnering with Mission Convergence an Innovative Governance Reform Programme in Delhi, strengthening and expanding women-led empowerment strategies

Name of lead organization: Centre for Advocacy and Research

Primary contact at lead organization: Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Grant details:
  • Grantee location: India
  • Developing country where the research is being or will be tested: New Delhi, (New Delhi), Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Kolkata (West Bengal)
  • Start and end date: June 2012 to June 2015
  • Grant type: (e.g. Global Challenges Explorations, Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, Other): Other
  • Grant size in USD:(as per BMGF grant database entry) Global Development, Global Policy & Development; $635,762
  • Funding for this research currently ongoing (yes/no): Yes
Short description of the project:
The focus of the project has been to improve the access of marginal and at risk communities, living in unauthorized and under-served settlements, to sanitation services through constructive engagement with government spearheaded by Women’s Forums in Delhi, Jaipur and Kolkata.

Towards this end we are working at multiple levels to crystallize the demands of the community and using programmatic spaces and opportunities to partner with the government bodies to advance the twin objectives of impacting behaviour change, and strengthening convergence of services for the poor and in particular for women and girls. We have used multiple strategies: Capacity building to advocacy with decision and policy makers to implementing demonstrative, innovative and collaborative processes on the ground.

We have succeeded in catalyzing some modicum of behaviour change, and mainstreamed the Women’s Forums, thus ensuring participatory processes and women’s forum inputs into many critical processes.

In Delhi the Women’s Group is readying itself to take the responsibility for the operation and maintenance of toilet complexes and doing this in partnership with the Nodal agency- Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB). And in the process ensuring that marginal populations across the authorized and unauthorized slum clusters have a voice in the matter

Enable government mandated community structures to play a pro-active role in bringing about behavior change amongst 30 % of the total population across these three cities. Simultaneously, use the Convergence Program spearheaded by Mission Convergence, the State Water and Sanitation Mission and Urban Livelihood Mission to scale up sanitation services for poor and unauthorized settlements with specific focus on vulnerable populations such as women, girls and marginal communities.

1. Behavior change of end-users through community-led sanitation efforts
2. Partner with Mission Convergence in scaling up Sanitation Services for unauthorized settlements in Delhi and replicate the key learning and good practices from Delhi in Kolkata and Jaipur
3. Improving responsiveness of planners using community based scoring, to set standards on sanitation behaviour and service delivery

Research or implementation partners: None

Links, further readings:
Our facebook page:

Current state of affairs:
Across the three cities we are playing critical role in scaling up the issue of sanitation and the need for gender-responsive program and influencing the process from planning, enhancing participation and strengthening the implementation of services on the ground.

Biggest successes so far:
Impacting Behaviour Change
With involvement and participation of the women’s groups we saw a major change with communities adopting health-seeking behaviour. This is evident in the fact that a significant increase in the proportion of households that consulted healthcare providers (baseline-72% to post-intervention-92%)

Similarly there were changes in personal and menstrual hygiene practices (the proportion of women who disposed off the cloth during menstruation after one usage has increased from 32% to 72%; 17% increase in number of people practicing hand-washing). Through various enabling processes the critical linkages between sanitation and health is best evidenced by the fact that the practice of open defecation has also decreased from 18% to 16% and also a greater clamour and more concerted demand for more consistent service delivery

Realizing Rights
Over the past years the community groups have successfully worked towards realizing rights. This has led to major renovation and reconstruction of public facilities such as Community Toilet Complexes (CTCs). In this period we ensured that two CTCs were renovated, 7 water tankers and mobile toilets installed and drainage system permanently corrected and repaired. This has brought relief to 6350 residents of six slums in North Delhi and Northeast Delhi.
Similarly in cities of Jaipur and Kolkata such collective efforts by the women’s forums have helped to resolve long term problems related to supply of drinking water, garbage disposal among others.

Community-Government Partnerships
In Delhi Self Help Groups and Women’s Forum are entering into a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the DUSIB the Nodal agency for managing the operation and maintenance of the Community Toilet Complex in a cluster settlement of Kalyanpuri with about 1200 households.

Main challenges / frustration:
Major challenges that urban poor dwellers stems from lack of tenurial rights, weak accountability structures, multiplicity of agencies and each working in silos and not willing to converge resources and services and women subjected to the double burden of caring for family and being a bread winner having little time for community work or strengthening their associations and forums.

We would be happy to answer your questions here in this thread.

Akhila Sivadas and Shramana Majumder
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  • arno
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Re: Innovative Governance Reform Programme in Delhi, strengthening and expanding women-led empowerment strategies (CFAR, India)

Thanks for this excellent summary showing the successes behind this project. Could you explain how the women's groups are supported? Are they financed by this project or working as volunteers? Has the local government understood the role of the project and are there officials that will continue your work after the project is over later this year? What strategies would you recommend to make a national impact using this approach of community intervention?
Best wishes
--Arno Rosemarin/SEI
Arno Rosemarin PhD
Stockholm Environment Institute
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Re: Innovative Governance Reform Programme in Delhi, strengthening and expanding women-led empowerment strategies (CFAR, India)

Dear Arno Rosemarin,responding to your queries we would like to say:

How the Women's Group was formed and supported?

Facilitated by CFAR, the Women’s Forum came into existence in 2006-07, and since then the group has been relentlessly engaged in a spate of activities which involved reaching out to all stakeholders, networking with all partners to put forward their concerns as single women, women-headed households, mothers and as adolescents living in highly neglected and poorly serviced settlements and collaborating with everyone to strengthen inclusive and sensitive planning and delivery of programs and services.

In the initial days, the Women's Forums engaged with issues such as electricity, ration water, community toilet and highlighted the varying forms of violence they faced.

During the course of their engagement, they collectivized and developed a set of volunteers who focused on different issues. Today the group has come together and registered itself as a Community Based Organization.

In terms of support from CFAR, we firstly facilitated the building of an enabling environment for the Women's Forum, secondly enabled the nascent Forum and its members to internalize and strengthen their perspective on entitlements and lastly facilitated them to gather evidence and then engage in advocacy with stakeholders.

Are they financed by this project or working as volunteers?

CFAR does not financially support the group, they work primarily as volunteers. However all expenses related to activities carried out jointly by CFAR and Women's Forum are borne by CFAR as part of the intervention.

Has the local government understood the role of the project and are there officials that will continue your work after the project is over later this year?

One of the efforts that our intervention has been focusing on over the years is establishing a constant exchange and face to face interaction between community groups and government.

For instance, approximately 23 Women’s Forums members across various cities of CFAR’s intervention in Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, are members of government mandated monitoring committees such as Child Welfare Committee, Maternity Home Monitoring Committee, School Monitoring Committee, Aaganwadi or Childcare Centre Development Committee, to name a few.

To forge a long term partnership with government the Women’s Forums are now registered entities (Women’s Progressive Forum or Mahila Pragati Manch in Delhi) and CFAR is exploring the possibility of cementing a tripartite agreement between Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB-the government agency responsible for upkeep of community toilets in slums), Women's Forum and CFAR, whereby DUSIB and the Women’s Forum will have defined roles in the operation and maintenance of community toilets.

What strategies would you recommend to make a national impact using this approach of community intervention?

Clearly with the government deciding to scale up the sanitation program with the aim of making India open defecation free by 2019 the partnership with community groups is absolutely essential. Having said that we realize that if we want all the strategies that we have adopted to facilitate and capacitate community groups to spearhead the intervention gets duly recognized by the government then we have to ensure tangible successes on the ground and are racing against time to achieve some of these collaborative breakthroughs

Hope we have been able to touch upon all points raised by you. We would be happy to clarify further. Look forward to hearing from you.

Shramana Majumder
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  • CFARDelhi
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Re: Community women playing watchdog at Community Toilet Complex in Delhi, India

Community Women associated with a women's group called Mahila Pragati Manch have taken up responsibility of cleanliness monitoring at Community Toilet Complex situated at Block-18, Kalyanpuri, East Delhi. They are spreading awareness amongst the community on sanitation and hygiene practices.

On the occasion of World Environment Day they planted trees inside the Community Toilet Complex.
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Re: Confronting Hazards, Saving Lives: Negotiating Rights as a Resident, Mother, Community Volunteer, Voter and an entitled Citizen

NTPC Subhas Camp, which has been in existence for more than 25 years, has 950 households. Like other settlements a majority of the population live in semi permanent dwellings.

The biggest bugbear of the settlement was the open, overflowing drain that flowed through it resulting in fatal accidents among children and debilitating health problems among the adults.
To address these pressing concerns, the Women’s Forum, spearheaded by a group of 12 active members, waged a year long struggle during which they persistently petitioned and negotiated with a host of agencies and power structures including the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi Jal Board, the Delhi Urban Slum Improvement Board and elected representatives like the local MLA.
Finally in November, 2013 the drain was closed.

What you see today is not just a closed drain but an extremely happy and relaxed community.

NTPC was one of the settlements where we made an early entry. The initial interaction with women and men revealed a sense of deep despair bordering on desperation. Speaking about it, Mayna, who later became an active member of the Women’ Forum said, “The main problem for us is the open and filthy drain. It is impossible for us to even walk through the settlement and you can imagine what happens during the monsoon. Can you do something?”
Clearly no conversation could move forward without first addressing this issue. So we held one-to-one interaction with the residents, met the local gatekeepers like the pradhan and also involved the Gender Resource Centre and other civil society organizations working in the area.
This process of continuous interactions within the settlement motivated the women in the settlement to take the lead and resulted in the emergence of community action.

From an Aggrieved Resident to Pro-active Citizen

The Women’s Forum began to take shape under the leadership of women like Reena, Manorama, Rajbala and Rani Reena, 34 years, has been a resident of the cluster for the past 10 years. She has four school going children Manorama, 26 years, and mother of two children does home based jobs.

Recalling her decision to join the Forum and lend it unflinching support she said: “We were so troubled with the drain and so desperate for a solution that we thought; why not join the Women’s Forum and together address this issue.”

For 48 year old Rajbala, who has lived in the settlement for the last 15 years, there was no doubt in her mind that it was up to the women, through their collectives, to confront the problem and doggedly pursue it till it was resolved.

Rani, 38 years old, an Anganwadi helper at Goutampuri Centre and a part time outreach worker with the Child Nutrition and Immunization Program, has been a resident of the cluster for the past 11 years. She provided the group all manner of assistance including the framing of petitions and complaints
Shaping the Action
In December, 2012 the Women’s Forum formally met on this issue and resolved that they would concertedly address the problem and not rest till the matter was resolved. They took their resolve forward by organizing a series of community meetings to bring all the residents on board.

Their first instinct was to take the matter to the Councilor or the elected member of the urban local body but he was neither keen to help nor clear about how to help them.

Realizing that the road ahead was fraught with challenges the women decided to approach multiple authorities and power structures.

In January 2013, they submitted formal petitions and applications to the Junior Engineers of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Delhi Jal Board. Recalling their effort Manorama says, “We realized the need to stay with the issue and not give up. We also decided that this time round we would petition all the concerned officials and departments”.

By February-March, 2013, more and more women were participating in the Forums weekly meetings which made the women even more determined to take their movement forward.

In June 2013, the Women’s Forum launched a Signature Campaign. Rajbala said, “We realized that if the pressure on the officials went beyond the Women’s Forum and included and involved the entire settlement our case would be stronger. So we began a signature campaign and motivated every one of the residents to raise their voice and make known their distress with the open drain,”

Armed with the signatures, the Women’s Forum decided much before the elections were announced to meet the M LA and appeal to him as voters to get the drain cleaned and closed.

Having done that and impressed upon the MLA of the urgency of their demand, the Women’s Forum submitted the same petition to the Municipal Corporation Delhi, the Delhi Urban Slum Improvement Board and the Delhi Jal Board in order to ensure that if and when the MLA decides to pursue the matter the officials were ready to consider it.

These interactions with various officials and various segments of the political leadership were sustained for three months.

In October, 2013 their efforts finally paid off with civil work commencing on the drain
This elated them, but having been victims of many kinds of evasions and delays, they decided not to be lulled into complacency or undue hope and took on the role of monitoring the construction. Explaining this Reena said: “While the work on the drain was being done we kept a close watch on what the laborers were doing because we wanted it to be thoroughly cleaned before it was sealed. We also reviewed the progress periodically with the Junior Engineer and Assistant Engineer of MCD”.

The women’s year long struggle came to an end in November 2013 when the drain was finally closed.
Key Lessons

Persistence paid in many ways.
Spirit of negotiation infused with hope and persuasion.
Going beyond sects and groups and making it a Universal Issue proved to be a turning point.
Women’s Forum not only strengthened women’s role of change agents but also improved the well being of the community
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Re: Positive Deviance Initiative: Early stages show positive results

Innovative Governance Reform Programme in Delhi, strengthening and expanding women-led empowerment strategies (CFAR, India)

Centre for Advocacy and Research’s (CFAR) experiment with Positive Deviance Initiative in a slum in the National Capital has shown encouraging results! Still in early stages, the Initiative looks promising.

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Positive Deviance (PD) is a unique approach to social and behavioral change. It is premised on the belief that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing worse challenges. These individuals are “Deviants” because their behaviors are not the norm and they are “Positive” as they model the desirable behaviors.

Started earlier this year, the activities at the NTPC Subhash Camp are based on the concept of Positive Deviance where the community itself is involved in finding solutions to their problems. The entire exercise of identifying positive deviants in the community right up to implementing solutions were based on Positive Deviance Initiative. Instead of focusing on what is wrong here, PD focuses on what is right here, “what do the 25 percent families, living in the same socio-economic conditions as their counterparts do naturally to improve their health?’’

CFAR’s entry point to NTPC Subhash Camp at Badarpur,was a meeting with the existing women’s group the ‘Mahila Pragati Manch’ and sharing with them this unique community-based process through which they would try to improve the conditions in the Camp. They were willing to come forward and involve more women in the process. There was also an existing adolescent group who were to be made responsible for awareness generation in that area by adopting different modes including `nukkad-natak’, posters and slogans on issues like sanitation.

This was followed by a walk around the area (transect) to identify the different communities, resources, existing sanitation condition, and situation of Community Toilet Complexes (CTCs). CFAR also held a meeting with men and different community leaders, including the ‘Pradhans’ (local leaders) to get their approval. Most leaders were supportive and expressed their willingness in improving the area.

In Positive Deviance, the focus of behavior change is in the `hand on practice’ – from knowledge-attitude-practice (KAP) the paradigm shifts to Practice-Attitude-Knowledge (PAK) where the focus is on Practice rather than knowledge. Positive Deviance is based on the use of innate, knowledge, manpower and resources and works without external help after some time leading to sustainability.

The emphasis during training of Voluntary Health Committees was on issues like water, sanitation and hygiene among others and the community itself highlighted these problems. The importance of the issue and he need to address became stronger with training. It is important to identify individuals who are positive, who have leadership skills and time to support the initiative. Existence of women’s forums helped in identifying such people and motivating them to form groups.

``Right from the beginning we were confident that whatever we were being told would succeed. Everything got embedded in my mind and each one of us felt the same. So we got together and decided to discuss sanitation which was our priority,’’ says Shaheen, a resident of Lane 2. There were many NGOs earlier who promised many things but left without doing a thing. But we had faith in them (CFAR), she says with some sense of conviction.

So what has changed? ``Women and children did not venture out of their respective lanes earlier but now we have the confidence to move out and interact.’’ Shaheen says while assuring that the system would not collapse after CFAR moves out. ``On Eid day we cleaned the drains ourselves after festivities. Garbage was gathered at one place and residents collected Rs 300 to get the garbage removed, she cites it as an example as no one from CFAR was there to guide them on that day.

Braving a few setbacks, the NTPC Subhash Camp residents have managed to get the slum cleaned with their own initiatives. The NTPC has promised skills training for the women and young girls and Goonj has volunteer to train women for making sanitary napkins which can be sold at a price and turn them into entrepreneurs!!

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