Community Participation and Women
As per UN Women, “rural women are key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development.” Creating structures that empower them by giving agency and avenues for decision making are key factors in facilitating that change. “Empowering them is key not only to the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also to overall economic productivity, given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide".
These women are responsible for putting food on the table, taking care of their families - but, in many rural areas of the country, are not encouraged to earn a living. In fact, most of them are unable to afford INR 20 on monthly menstrual hygiene products.
Integrating women into the dialogue of holistic development, giving them opportunities to create livelihoods for themselves and increase household income and creating a platform where women are equal stakeholders of community assets is our key focus.
Village Development Committees (VDC’s) are an integral part of each catchment area that The Mrida Heart ‘n Soil Foundation works in. The committees are created to mobilize the community to take ownership of the planned interventions, but also to reinforce the idea that ‘nothing comes for free’ and to ensure future self sustainability. The VDC’s constitute member households who are beneficiaries of the infrastructure/interventions implemented. With the provision of clean energy (solar street lights & solar water pumps) and clean water, we have established a system of a monthly fee, paid by each household that avails of the facilities provided. The fees are collected at the VDC, facilitated by the President and Treasurer (elected by the VDC members). The VDC serves as a platform for beneficiaries to discuss the issues being faced, and to disburse funds for the upkeep and maintenance of the provided infrastructure transparently. The VDC also undertakes micro-lending activities, where villagers can apply for loans.
The VDC membership is handled in a holistic manner where the participation of both men and women is encouraged. However, women are provided the default membership to the VDC, and hence the decision-making rights, with the men also participating actively. With added responsibility of keeping accounts and collecting fees, the women gain a fair share of control over community assets