Women and Child Development Corporation (WCD)

The Problem

Madhya Pradesh happens to be a feudalistic, patriarchal and socio-economically backward state. The condition of womenfolk is even worse especially in the rural areas. Even though women comprise almost 50% of population, their participation in the decision making process at all levels is deplorably negligible. They suffer from non-recognition of their contribution to the family and society, from low self-esteem and have no control over resources.
In Madhya Pradesh tradition of weekly markets called Haat is prevalent. In these temporary and unorganized markets, items of daily needs (grocery, vegetables, consumable household items and personal items of ladies etc.) are sold. An average of 15-20 villages were covered by a Haat benefitting 6-10 thousand families as either buyers or sellers. In these haats female sellers were relegated to peripheral, least important and dirty locations and items of even ladies' consumption were sold by men who occupied prime locations in the market.
World Bank had funded the Swashakti Project in Madhya Pradesh for women empowerment. The project had been successful in achieving its objective and was approaching its fag end. The emphasis was now on consolidating the results and ensuring that the Self Help Groups as well as its members remained empowered even after the project was over.
Major issues which needed to be addressed were -
1. Sustaining the Women Self Help Groups (WSHGs) after the completion of the Swashakti Project was a major concern.

2. Though the WSHGs members were beginning to get empowered, yet it was important to maintain and enhance their empowerment. It was possible through better and positive interaction with the Local Self Government i.e. the Panchayat Raj Institution (PRI) as well as by confidence building of their family members.

3. Control over resources of all kinds was visualized as a sure way to strengthen both the SHGs and its members.
Important trends prevalent in the rural society were -
1. Haats were mostly run by the contractors who were invariably males.

2. SHGs formed under schemes other than Swashakti became non-functional as soon as external interventions and support were withdrawn.

3. Females remained at the receiving end (beggars) in the family as well as society whereas males occupied giving or donor status. Females enjoyed no decision making power. Similar was the case in village Haats.

The groups most affected by this milieu were the women in general and the WSHG members in particular. These women belonged to all castes and socio-economic strata of the society. As a result of centuries old oppression and resultant problem of low self-esteem, these women suffered from a peculiar "No one there" syndrome. It can be described as follows: If someone knocked at their doors during day time (when the male folk were out for work) a voice would come from behind the doors "No one there. Please come in the evening (when malefolk returns)". And, surprisingly, this voice was not a recorded voice, but a live one, of a woman, who did not consider herself "someone".

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The initiative is about enabling WSHGs gain control over resources and ensuring their sustenance by,
• Transferring management of Haat to women,
• Creating of Haat Development Committees and building interaction with PRIs and government agencies,
• Designing organized Haat structure.

The Haat Development Committee, carved out of WSHGs started a haat in village Digwar. Its management for the first time in the country, was in the hands of women rural, illiterate and hitherto little empowered with no resources at their command. The committee demarcated land for various types of shops and fixed the area for each shop. The fees for SHG members were fixed at concessional (50%) rate. In all 150 shops were allotted. Basic amenities like cleanliness and drinking water were also provided free of cost. Total maintenance cost subtracted from total fees collected was the net profit. Half of the profits were given to the village Panchayat and the rest was added to the savings of the WSHG every week.

Women got not only their rightful place in the haat as well as the society but also control over resources. They are able to allot land, shops etc. and decide market days, place, fees etc. for others (including men) in the community.

Started in village Digwar district Sehore, more than 10 years ago, the initiative now encompasses experiment is now expanded to 1775 shops in 36 haats benefitting almost 1800 sellers and 415,000 villagers from 217 villages.
The means to measure the impact of the initiative were,
- regular visits to the area.
- media/audio-visual documentation during pre-initiative & post-initiative period.
- evaluation by funding/external agency.

Quantitative Measurement-
1. A comparison between pre-initiative ( in the year 2002) and post-initiative period (in the year 2012) of the tangible parameter showed considerable up-scaling in various tangible parameters viz. number of haats, no. of villages covered, population benefitted, no. of shops etc.
2. Per shop income as fees to the Haat Committee increased fivefold (from Rs.2/- to Rs.10/-).

Qualitative Measurement-
1. Women became more vocal with increased confidence and awareness levels, able to take decisions both in the family and the community. Their participation in Gram Sabha or Village Forum became more regular and effective. Consequently a substantial number of women got elected as Panch/Sarpanch (Village Heads) across the state.
2. Effective interaction between the WSHGs/Haat Committees and the PRI resulted in the development of the village (construction of roads, drainage, hand pumps and sheds).
3. WSHGs became more powerful with increased savings, (from Rs.12,000 to Rs.90,000) inter-loaning benefitted more women.

i. The primary beneficiaries were the members of WSHGs and Haat Committee who could control the resources for their empowerment and communities' betterment. It also facilitated drudgery reduction.
ii. Other beneficiaries were the villagers/ community who got additional market allowing for more products, services and trade leading to upscaling the village's economy.
iii. The Panchayat, who got additional funds as profit share without incurring any expenditure or effort.
iv. Shopkeepers from the catchment villages also got access to market hitherto unavailable.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The initiative was conceptualized and proposed by Ms. Kanchan Jain, the then Managing Director of the M.P.Women Development Corporation. Ever since her career began in Madhya Pradesh, she was disturbed by the relegation of women to less important places in the weekly village Haats. This to her, was only manifestation of their status in the society. To rectify this gender discrimination, she was trying hard to transfer control over resources (financial, physical, institutional etc.) to women in general and SHG women in particular. She was also heading the State Project Management Unit (SPMU) of the World Bank funded Swashakti Project for women empowerment which was approaching its fag end. She aimed to consolidate the empowerment benefits by ensuring sustainability of WSHGs. A durable, self-sustaining and strong cementing force was therefore needed to keep the WSHGs functional and flourishing even after withdrawal of the Swashakti Project. Combining these, she put forth an idea where operation and development of some haats would be done by women thereby instilling self-confidence and also transferring control over resources (institutional) to them. She anticipated that profits from this operation would act as a cementing factor for the WSHGs and ensure better interaction with PRIs.

She deliberated with the officers of State Project Management Unit. (Mr. A.S.Bhal, Project Director Swashakti) and DPMU of District Sheore, Mr. K.K.Trivedi the District Project Manager, and Dhananjaya Barlinge the Business Development Officer. The DPMU in turn discussed the concept with the implementing NGO Personnel Mr. Kedar Pawar and the SHG members as well as the Panchayat and the District administration.

Several rounds of deliberations and feedback at all levels resulted in a concrete scheme which could be successfully implemented by the SPMU, DPMU, NGO, SHGs the Haat Committee, the Panchayat and the District administration exclusively and collectively.

At field level the initiative was implemented by the local NGO's field officer and the Haat Committee carved out of the enterprising members of the WSHGs, the first President of the Haat Committee was Ms. Ganpati Bai and its secretary Ms. Kripa Bai, both the members of WSHG.

The stakeholders of this initiative were the (Swashakti) Project functionaries, the NGO, the Haat Committee, the WSHGs, the village Panchayat and the District administration.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
Objectives of the initiative
1. Holistic empowerment (financial, perceptional/attitudinal and socio-political) of women in general and WSHG members in particular.
2. Enabling WSHGs gain control over resources.
3. Ensuring sustenance of WSHGs.

Strategies adopted
1. All levels from WSHGs to the State Project Management Unit (SPMU) contributed towards strategy formulation and establishment.
2. As it was to be a Pilot Project, utmost care was exercised while selecting the village to start the initiative.
3. A "smooth sail" approach was adopted to avoid conflict and competition.
4. Mutual benefit was the tagline followed to ensure a win-win situation for all the stakeholders.
5. Counseling and participatory approach were the backbone of project formulation to ensure active and committed participation from all the stakeholders.
6. It was ensured that Haat Committees functioned in a democratic manner and concentration of power in some hands was not allowed. Bye-laws of the committee required elections to be held every alternate year for the posts of President and Secretary of Haat Committee.

To avoid competition and conflict from the contractor exploit the prospects of future haat and muster support and cooperation from the Panchayat (who got a regular source of income), the SPMU selected minor haats which were not outsourced and villages without any haat but with scope for one.

Combining the two most important objectives viz. transferring control over resources to women by making use of already existing institution of WSHG and simultaneously strengthening and sustaining the WSHGs in the process was a challenge. This challenge was met successfully by this initiative. The management of Haat by women in a patriarchal and feudal society gives them great sense of achievement and confidence. The profit (after deducting management costs) adds to the corpus of WSHGs which is inter-loaned amongst SHG members. Now who would like to leave the flourishing SHG? Thus the Haat ensures sustenance of WSHG. The members of Haat Committee were drawn from and were integral part of WSHG. The haat also provides the women an opportunity to actively contribute towards the betterment of the community and in return ensured for these women an important place in the society and the family.

The NGO and the DPMU decided to involve the family members (of the women) too in various services to be provided the Haat eg. cleaning the ground, providing drinking water, selling tea and refreshments etc. This not only gave them incentive to cooperate but also excluded any possibility of resistance and non-cooperation.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
Major steps taken during the development and implementation of the initiative were conceptualization, deliberation, collection of data and its analysis, planning and implementation.

1. In February 2002, a concept note was circulated amongst all the 9 District Project Management Units (DPMU)- District Project Manager (DPM) and Business Development Office (BDO).
2. Several rounds of deliberations and brain storming sessions were held involving the State Project Management Unit (SPMU) Managing Director and Project Director.
- March 2002 to October 2002.
3. DPMU held discussions with the implementing NGO. Its Field Worker held several rounds of discussions with the WSHGs members.
- March 2002 to October 2002
4. SPMU got surveyed all the functional haats as well as places suitable for potential haats. Data was collected as to whether Panchayat was managing the haat itself or had outsourced to contractors. The haats were then categorized as Large, Medium and Minor depending on their size and turnover.
- March 2002.
5. Upon analysing the data, a conscientious decision was taken to first work on minor haats or on the places where there were none at the moment but there was scope for it. The aim was to avoid conflict and competition from the contractors and to exploit the prospects of a future haat.
-March 2002.
6. SPMU prepared an Action Plan wherein roles of all the stakeholders were clearly defined and timelines for each activity specified.
-March-April 2002.
7. Training and skill development programmes of all the members of the 3 WSHGs of the selected village (Digwar)
- April to May 2002.
8. All three WSHGs passed resolutions to establish and manage the haat and also to constitute a common Haat Development Committee for the purpose.
- May 2002.

9. A village Haat Development Committee was carved out of 3 WSHGs.
- June 2002.
10. The Haat Committee sent a proposal to the village Panchayat for giving permission to operate the Haat and also for allotting the land for this purpose. In turn, the committee offered to share 50% of its profit with the Panchayat.
- June 2002.
11. Panchayat acceded to both the requests and the offer and passed the requisite resolution.
-July 2002.
12. Haat Committee decided on issues like fees to be levied, allocation of land for various activities, fixing day of haat so that it did not clash with any other market day in the nearby villages, market maintenance issues etc.
- July -August 2002.
13. Permission obtained from district administration to run the Haat (law and order issues).
- September 2002.
14. Haat Committee made provisions/arrangements for basic amenities like drinking water, cleanliness etc. at the market place.
- August 2002.

15. Campaigning by Haat Committee in the nearby villages to participate in and get benefitted from the proposed Haat.
- September 2002.
16. Launching of first ever women managed rural Haat in village Digwar in Block Narsullaganj, District Sehore (M.P.) on 26th October 2002.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Obstacles -
1. Lack of knowledge/skills/confidence among women.
2. Resistance and disbelief from family and community.
3. Cumbersome procedures for land allotment.
4. Proving the competence of women was a challenge.

People in the State of Madhya Pradesh were a patriarchal society with feudal background. The target women in rural areas mostly belonged to lower castes and were below poverty line. The women were mostly illiterate, unaware of their role in the society, lacked control over resources and considered themselves unable to take decisions. As their self-esteem was low, so they commanded little respect from others. They also lacked any skill to perform challenging and respectful jobs and therefore were perpetually doomed to a beggar's status.

Even the members of the WSHGs who had grown confident, and were beginning to prove their worth faced resistance and disbelief from their family members and the society at large. In this background, there was an apprehension that the entrepreneurs (potential shopkeepers from the proposed Haat) would hesitate or even put resistance to participate in the women managed Haat.

The procedure to start and run any business enterprise were lengthy and cumbersome, specially the one for allotment of land for the purpose of village Haat.

These obstacles were overcome by adopting the following measures -

1. Necessary skills were imparted to the women (WSHG members and Haat Committee) through trainings, workshops exposure visits to other haats/markets.
2. Confidence building and awareness buildup of women (of WSHGs and Haat Committee) was achieved by their counseling and feedback.
3. Orientation of Panchayat officials and elected Sarpanch (Village Headman) as well as officers of district administration was done to sensitize them about the initiative importance and relevance to them and their role therein. This ensured cooperation and support from them at every stage.
4. Women (of Haat Committee as well as WSHGs) campaigned vigorously for their proposed Haat. They distributed pamphlets and contacted each and every shopkeeper of the nearby villages falling in command area to clear the doubts, disbelief and hesitation.
5. Counseling of family members and assigning them duties and responsibilities like maintaining cleanliness of the market place, providing drinking water etc. went a long way in ensuring their commitment, cooperation and support.
6. Besides the above, the policy of mutual benefit which was a win-win situation for everyone viz women, WSHGs Haat Committee, Panchayat, other villagers and even the people of other villages. All of them benefitted from the initiative and therefore supported it.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Major resources used for this initiative was human resource as well as government land. Financial resources were used in very small quantity (to meet the advertisement and travel expenses) and technical resources were not required at all.

A. Human Resources - A wide range of people comprised the human resource and included members of-
i. Women Self Help Groups
ii. Panchayat Raj Institution
iii. Project Team (SPMU & DPMU)
iv. NGO
v. Families of members of WSHGs
They were mobilized through counseling, mutual interaction, participatory approach, motivation, campaigning incentives and profit sharing etc.
B. Financial Resources - Only nominal resources were used for printing of pamphlets for advertising and travelling by WSHG members to the adjoining villages for campaigning for the proposed Haat. The money for this purpose was mobilized from -
i. Savings of WSHGs
ii. Contribution by NGO
C. Other resources - Allotment of the government land was of prime importance. It was mobilized through sensitization of and interaction with the PRI. Offer of profit sharing also contributed to the mobilization of this resource.
Cost associated with this initiative in financial terms was nominal (Rs. 2000/- approx.) as it was a human resource oriented initiative.

Key benefits - were both tangible and intangible,
Tangible Benefits-
1. Income from fees accumulated weekly to the corpus (revolving fund) of WSHGs and acted as a strong cementing force encouraging women to remain connected to the SHG. This income was also used for inter-loaning amongst SHG members for various income generation activities etc.
2. Enhanced income to individuals (both WSHG members & non-members) through sales production and services.
3. Upscaling in the village economy; more openings in the sectors of production, trading and services due to existence of an additional and effective market opportunity.
4. Number of manufacturers and sellers increased substantially in the village where the Haat was situated as well as in the adjoining command area villages.
Intangible Benefits -
1. The most important benefit was that control of women over resources political, managerial, institutional, financial led to attitudinal/behavioral change in family/community towards them.
2. Women became more confident and assertive commanding respect and decision making power both in the society and the family.
3. Positive interaction with the PRI & the district administration improved their interpersonal/negotiation/management skills and these women could increasingly contribute towards development of village (infrastructure and economy). Their contribution in governance gave assurance to the villagers of their competence and suitability to represent them in the local government i.e the PRI. This faith and confidence resulted in a huge member of WSHG member contesting and also winning the next PRI elections not only in this village but also others as the initiative of village Haat too was replicated in other villages with a huge demonstration effect.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The first haat was opened on 22/10/2002. It is more than 10 years since then and the initiative is not only sustaining but also flourishing in 36 village haats with 1775 shops benefitting almost 1800 sellers and 415,000 villagers from 217 villages.

The project under which the initiative was started got over in June 2005 and no land holding could be provided thereafter but the initiative is still flourishing on its own.

1. Economic sustainability has been ensured as the initiative is self-sustainable only a fraction of income from managing the haat is utilized in meeting the recurring expenditure.
2. Profits from this initiative are shared between WSHGs and the Panchayat ensuring sustenance of WSHGs and cooperation from Panchayat. They in turn support and sustain the initiative.
3. It is beneficiary oriented initiative. All of them have ensured that it sustains. The women (both WSHG members and non-members) as well as men of village Digwar and other villages are benefitted financially socio-economically.
4. Panchayat got 50% of profits from this initiative, a regular and assured source of funds to perform its legal obligations of development of village.
5. WSHGs received another half of the profits which regularly (every week) got added to its corpus and then utilized by WSHG members through inter-loaning.
6. The villagers who got benefitted through additional market and economic opportunities would not allow the initiative to discontinue.
7. Above all, the women in general and SHG members in particular got recognition and acclaim by the society and family and also got empowered in a holistic manner have ensured its sustenance by all means as it gave them control over resources for the first time.
Transferability of the initiative
1. The initiative was a huge success in village Digwar. To spread the benefits in other villages too, a booklet was published by SPMU documenting the methodology and case study of the initiative.
Moreover, demonstration effect of the performance of the initiative paved way for its replication in 16 more village haats during the next one year. First replication was done in January 2003 in Dodi (District - Sehore).
2. Even other project like Department for International Development Funded (DFID) M.P.Rural Livelihood Programme (MPRLP) started 13 haats, World Bank Funded District Poverty Initiative Programme (DPIP) started 6 haats and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) Funded Tejaswini Project started 2 haats across the State. Thus the initiative has been replicated 36 times till now.
3. The initiative is a unique one and in developing countries like India where feudalism and patriarchy persists, its relevance to create a sustained path towards reaching the ultimate goal of women empowerment has been proved.
4. The initiative could be replicated worldwide wherever women need empowerment (specially in patriarchal societies) by adopting the same strategy of mutual benefit and transfer of resources to women.
5. The scope and applicability of this initiative can be widened by formulating and implementing policies for transfer of resources and assets to women individually or collectively.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Impact of the initiative was positive on all the stakeholders including beneficiaries eg. women, WSHGs, Panchayat and villagers.
A. On Women
i. Women became part of governance with control over atleast some resources. Due to increased interaction with the Panchayat and administration, they could contribute toward development of village economy and infrastructure. They are now elected as Panch and Sarpanch in their village having strong influence over public opinion.
ii. The realization that they have acquired management skills to run the haat successfully gave them immense self-confidence and respect in the family and society.
iii. Their importance and relevance in the community and the family gave them increased decision making power.
iv. Women always play the role of home makers. They have to do shopping for their household affairs. Providing a market in the vicinity of their house have saved them time and energy which could be used for more productive purposes.
v. This initiative also provided them access to market to sell their products hence enhance their income.
B. On WSHGs-
i. Initiative led SHGs to sustain. SHGs got purpose and platform to sustain themselves and function as a pressure group in times of need.
ii WSHGs became economically viable institutions. At the beginning of initiative total savings were approximately Rs.12,000/- -Rs.14,000/- per SHG (@Rs.20/- per member/month) which rose upto more than Rs.90,000/- per SHG @ Rs.50/- per month per member.
iii. Accumulated profits from this initiative added to the corpus of WSHGs and acted as adherent to the members so as to ensure its sustenance.

C. To the Villagers -
i. They got an opening for more products, services and trade leading to improved economy of the village and enhancement of their income.
ii. Infrastructure of their village (roads, drainage, hand pumps, building etc.) was developed.
iii. Their drudgery got minimized. They need not travel long distances, waste their time and energy to approach the distant markets to buy/sell the products of daily needs or to earn the money from sales. They could utilize these resources in more productive activities.
D. To Panchayat
i. They got regular and assured source of income to perform their duties without any extra effort or investment.

Lessons learned -
i. Policy formulation is required for wider coverage.
ii. Interventions can prove more effective in improving/developing the society if given through women.
iii. Women can excel in even non-traditional areas if imparted the right skill/training.
iv. Women can utilize and deploy resources in a better manner to develop the society and its economy.
v. WSHG is an extremely powerful institution to empower women.
Key elements which made this a success.
i. Win-win situation for everyone and active involvement of all the stakeholders.
ii. Selection of place to start the initiative was critical. It had huge demand for the market but there was no market. Also there was no competition or conflict.
iii. Beneficiary oriented/driven nature ensured not only universal support for its initiation but also sustenance.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Women and Child Development Corporation (WCD)
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Kanchan Jain
Title:   Principal Secretary, Deptt. of Cottage and Rural I  
Telephone/ Fax:   91755-2550084
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   not available  
Address:   Room No- 312, Vallabh Bhawan, Mantralaya
Postal Code:   462004
City:   Bhopal
State/Province:   MADHYA PRADESH
Country:   India

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