Strengthening Grassroots Democracy

A Manual on Panchayati Raj Training and Community Participation

Submitted to:

Earthquake Rehabilitation Cell, Government of Maharashtra


Supported by:
UNDP - New Delhi

Swayam Shikshan Prayog
58, CVOD Jain High School
84, Samuel Street, Dongri
Mumbai 400 009

August 1998



"Creation of opportunities for the women and the poor, democratic decentralisation and expansion of community capabilities are at the foundation of strategies to achieve goals of human and sustainable development." (Human Development Report UNDP 1997)

This document describes an innovative exercise that brought together thousands
of ordinary citizens, first time elected men and women members of Gram Panchayats in two rural districts in Maharashtra. What was extraordinary, was
the enthusiasm of the district leadership (the CEOs - Chief Executive Officers and the PMU - Project Management Unit) and the response of the local groups and members.
A "critical mass" of actors, women's groups and communities, Gram Panchayats and officials alike were mobilised through mass information campaigns, training and networking. These interventions were followed by a transformative leadership which integrated community initiatives in the district programme planning and recognised the power of local grassroots institutions.

The Project :
In 1996-1997 the effort for "Capacity Building for community participation and local governance" was initiated with members of Gram Panchayats, women's groups and Mahila Mandals, government functionaries at village. District and taluka officials and resource NGOs facilitated the programs in Latur and Osmanabad



The two districts of Latur and Osmanabad in Maharashtra were the most affected by the "Marathwada earthquake" of September 1993. The post earthquake rehabilitation especially the program to repair and strengthen houses through participation of local communities and organisations laid the basis for a large scale transition from rehabilitation to development.

The Government of Maharashtra MEERP (Maharashtra Emergency Earthquake Rehabilitation Program) was a large scale rehabilitation effort initiated in the two districts. The program was implemented in two parts: relocation villages in the epicentre area where the housing, social and economic rehabilitation was implemented in 52 villages. The second part was the R&S or Repair and Strengthening program with 2,00,000 households in 1300 villages, through active participation of house owners and communities. As we write the MEERP which began in with relief activities in September 1993 has now completed relocation, reconstruction and rehabilitation phases.

What makes this mass scale effort unique is that the disaster `crisis' was seen as an opportunity by both the government and NGOs to invest in building capacities of local communities. This, together with the need to revitalise the Gram Panchayats (after the 73rd amendment) provided the main impetus for the government policy and commitment to rebuild communities through linking rehabilitation efforts and local development .

The starting point for translating the R&S program in the frame of a community based strategy was the appointment of a Community Participation Consultant (CPC) and involvement of NGOs and local agencies in the reconstruction efforts. Since August 1994, the Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) team jointly with Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) worked as CPC to evolve an information education and training strategy to mobilise communities. (Refer to annexure 1 for more details on SSP)

On one hand, the challenge for organisations such as SSP was to build stakes of house owners, women's groups and communities in the rehabilitation program. On the other hand, there was an urgent need to work with the government to create flexible mechanisms allow information flow, feedback and monitoring by community groups.

The community participation strategy was designed to explore the partnership between Gram Panchayats and women, community groups at different stages of the reconstruction, rehabilitation and eventually in the development process. (In this redesigned strategy by the CPC the district administration was called upon to play a facilitator role vis-à-vis communities instead of demanding participation in already planned efforts).

Social, economic and political processes unleashed after the earthquake in these two districts by its very nature called for strengthening community groups and local bodies. Recognising this, the policy document for MEERP sought the lead role of Sarpanchas, elected members and officials in the VLCs - Village Level Committees.

The challenge of creating functional VLCs meant the strengthening of Gram Panchayats as village local self governments and creating "community ownership" of the reconstruction program. The choice of Mahila Mandals as village community organisations and the appointment of Samvad Sahayaks or communication assistants by the Mandals proved successful in motivation of house owners or beneficiaries. In three hundred villages, the women's groups supported by the "Samvad Sahayaks" scheme worked with Panchayats to conduct Gram Sabhas, solved common problems such as water, transport for building materials, linked beneficiaries to banks and taluka.

The post-earthquake phase also coincided with the first time elections to Gram Panchayats under the 73rd amendment. The spirit of the amendment,giving full opportunity to sections such as the women and poor, marginal and scheduled castes opened up possibility for new kind of partnership between people and administration in village development.


Partnership between women, communities and Gram Panchayats includes:
mobilisation of women's groups, youth groups and communities in village development

collective process of village planning and community information base

collective capacities to access and control resources

community contribution and mobilisation of funds

The project capitalised the partnership concept where capacity building of CBOs or community based organisations such as Mahila Mandals and Gram Panchayats was seen as crucial so that they, together could build and later manage the new housing and infrastructure, drinking water supply and basic services created in the context of earthquake rehabilitation program. Building capacities and skills for effective functioning of local self governments and mobilising women's groups were seen as essential steps towards community self management.


The 73rd amendment to the Constitution and further the Panchayati Raj Act in the rural areas opened up vast opportunities for grassroots democracy and growth of people oriented institutions. It mandated that 33% of elected members of rural Panchayati Raj institutions i.e. Gram Panchayats, Panchayat Samitis at taluka, Zilla Parishad at district levels, have to be women members and a percentage, proportionate to the population have to be from the SC/ST scheduled castes / scheduled tribes.

In April 1995, elections to Gram Panchayats were held in Maharashtra under the 73rd Amendment which resulted in about 85,000 women being elected, of whom 22% of which were SC/ST.

The reality of Gram Panchayat shows that these institutions lack a vision to respond to the new challenges. They represent all the contradictions, gender, caste and class seem powerless to change these equations. Instead the majority of Gram Panchayats portray a situation:

new responsibilities, added administrative work

no environment for inclusion of women and poor

no interaction of women's collectives and community initiatives

lack motivation to generate demand based development

lack ways to mobilise funds for village governance

Gram Panchayats currently function as the last node in the governance hierarchy. At it's best, the Gram Panchayat implements government programs in the village. The Gram Sevak as the village official acts as the administrator or secretary and there are few inputs from the Sarpanchas or members either in planning or implementation. The sustainability of this top down approach towards planning and administration of village resources and development is being questioned by the elected Gram Panchayats. Further, lack of resources prevents Gram Panchayats from actively managing services and resources created.

Opportunities - the 73rd amendment and after

Rural communities and their collective entities have been traditionally dominated by men belonging to the upper caste groups and powerful political interests. Elections in more than two lakh village communities in the country under the 73rd amendment, tilted the apple cart in that it democratised local development and changed the face of Gram Panchayats to include representation to women, lower caste groups and the poor.

In strengthening the Gram Panchayats and providing legitimate space for women and the poor to participate in local self governments, the 73rd amendment provided a new opportunity for political participation and placed them in the front line of development processes.

Gram Panchayats provide an "institutional space" for majority of the poor and women to converge for local development. In turn, it involves the creation of mechanisms in the government structure, with enhanced resources, for decision making and planning by women, communities and Gram Panchayats.

The nature of governance through Gram Panchayat ideally, is to be participatory, transparent and accountable to people. The growth of village local self government/Gram Panchayat depends upon opening up of development structures in relation to information, decentralised planning and 'devolution of political power' within talukas and districts .

Representation of poor, scheduled castes and women by reservation has enhanced the rights of each section with new responsibilities towards community development.

It is a recognition of the changing composition of the rural society and the growing power of women's collectives and assertion of priorities by women in the society. Homogeneous structure of village communities has given way to creation of platforms for multiple actors each asserting their interests in varying degrees. Democratic platform of Gram Sabhas where all sections are represented assists community groups to oversee any facility / work in the village through collective efforts. This has, in turn, placed on the community and on the government an equal responsibility to search for appropriate platforms for convergence. Local governance within communities has given birth to new structures with inbuilt mechanisms of participation.

One of the `big' achievements of 73rd amendment is the convergence of capacities of a wide range of the agencies and interest groups. Apart from community actors - sections, whose participation in collective decision making is recognised by the legislation, there are community based organisations, charitable and private institutions chairpersons of school trust, teachers, doctors and lawyers who command respect among villagers and have articulated views about community needs which are appropriate in terms of technology and resources.

Gram Panchayats as community based institutions They have an essential role to - sustain necessities of community life land and infrastructure, supply and allocation of basic necessities of the settlement like electricity, roads and safeguard the interests of children and weaker sections by procuring rightful share for the village from state allocations/programmes.

In this regard, Gram Panchayats need information updates and continuous inputs on:

translation of constitutional status and powers

linkages with administration and agencies in district planning

anti poverty schemes and their dispensation

identification and planning for development priorities

control and use of development funds

The Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat committees provide a platform for overall development of communities. Gram Panchayats depend on the village communities on one hand, and on the other had they are linked to the state for financial sustenance and maintenance of public services and facilities.

The Gram Panchayat acts as the agency for community governance and self management at the village level. It's functions are localised and fall in the realm of development, management and maintenance of village resources, public facilities and infrastructure. Effective functioning of Gram Panchayat in the above framework together with people's participation through Gram Sabhas forms the basis for community self governance.

Gram Panchayats play key roles as "manager of the services" on behalf of communities. Holistic approach to village development is linked with the growth of Panchayats as institutions. Improvement of community life is linked to vision and capacity building of Panchayats in that direction.

All village development schemes, public facilities and assets created by development projects are usually handed over to Gram Panchayats. Hence Gram Panchayat is a key actor/partner in development. Capacity building of Gram Panchayat members has to strengthen the above role through imparting skills for micro planning, sustain dialogue with development officials and linkages to access resources for village development.

The concept of "community ownership" with regard to maintaining community facilities, services and infrastructure involves creating channels for decision making of variety of actors. They have a role in evolving co-operative/community decision making processes such as:

Community participation in supervision and maintenance

Community education in use of public facilities

Community planning of settlement layouts

Community contribution / tax collection

Changing policy environment: The government appears to be at a stage where it is being forced to facilitate community initiatives through control of programmes and resources by people. Lack of outreach mechanisms to people and low utilisation of development funds are some of the reasons which have pushed several state governments to shed their roles as `implementors' of programs. In some cases, the government's commitment is a product of exposure of bureaucracy to successful experiments by communities and NGOs. The result is the national and state governments are increasingly handing over development programmes and resources for implementation to Gram Panchayats.

On the one hand, the government has sought to strengthen decentralisation processes by: appointment of statutory bodies and allocation of funds and power to Gram Panchayats. On the other, governments are creating decentralised planning mechanisms to find ways to reach out to people and create feedback mechanisms. However, this needs to be accompanied by a shift from "target" orientation to participatory development and a fresh perspective that views the Gram Panchayat as an agency for community level management, ownership of resources and community governance.

Promoting fora for democratic participation: This does not mean simply ensuring that Gram Sabhas and village assemblies are regularly held or village committees established in every village. From the SSP perspective, this means that institutions which represent community interests are re organised and strengthened. It means specifically women have to have their own organisations, namely women's collectives which represent the interests of poor women.

At the village level, the Mahila Mandals and women's groups need regular fora for interaction with the Gram Panchayats and other key actors in the village. They need to be recognised as central actors in the development processes. They need to be recognised as agencies who can plan, monitor and implement development projects. In other words women's groups need to be centrally involved at every stage of the development process.

At the taluka, district and state levels there need to be similar forums of interaction with other institutional actors, with banks and so forth. Institutionalised and regular channels of feedback, information dissemination and dialogue need to be formed such that the perspective of women and communities emerges at all levels.

Need for renewed capacities

"Enhanced capacity of Gram Panchayat and women groups to articulate village needs and to prioritise them directly feeds into district officials capacity to plan for the district" CEO Osmanabad.

The need to develop capacity of Gram Panchayat members is recognised by development facilitators like NGOs, district officials and donor agencies. Participation of Gram Panchayat members in planning and decision making is dependent on their capacity to have effective links with resources (including tax collection in villages and development funds at district and taluka). sustaining the collective decision making mechanisms at the level of communities (including that of village assembly or Gram Sabha ).

The functioning of the Panchayati Raj is a whole system where every participants capacity depends on other participants whether it is maintenance of infrastructure or articulation of community needs, accessing of resources or planning at village of at taluka, it is impossible to provide sustainability to local governance in absence of any one critical actor, Gram Panchayat, women or officials.

The aim of capacity building programmes is to assist Gram Panchayat members and other representatives in realising the full potential of their roles under the 73rd amendment. Training focuses on informing all levels of government of these roles and exploring the possible avenues for collaboration in development which emerge. Training also informs the village level actors about government schemes and exposes them to the intricacies of government systems.

Structuring Women's Participation: Gram Panchayat elections brought to the fore about one thousand elected women in every district in the state. These women members were expected to be involved in micro-level planning in areas such as health, education and livelihoods.

Possibility of working together with Panchayats brings out women to participate and hence infuse energy in the Gram Sabhas which are presently defunct. For both the Panchayats and women, this facilitated outreach to women and people as such and women's rightful access to Panchayat structure. Women's access to Gram Panchayat and linkages between them is intrinsic to overall capacity building of Gram Panchayat as an institution for community self management.

Enhancement of capacity of village women not only to participate in Panchayts as members, but as women's groups to monitor the work of Gram Panchayats and work as partner of Gram Panchayats. Opportunties help to create linkages between women groups and Gram Panchayats, creates "women - support" to women Panchayat members (who may otherwise get isolated) in the village itself and Panchayats capacity to reach out and involve women in village development.


Since most of the issues handled by the Gram Panchayat are "women centred", especially in relation to access and control over community basic services like drinking water, sanitation, schools. Women's groups are keen to develop linkages and want to know their functions, powers and procedures linked to programmes which they handle for improvement of communities.

Reorientation of officials within districts Restructuring the planning and administration mechanisms to include the pro poor and pro women stance advocated by the 73rd amendment is a long term goal which training interventions alone cannot achieve. It is the domain of mainstream political processes in which institutional actors and political representatives are part of. SSP's main concern was to activate existing structures and evolve ways and means by which these structures can be used effectively by women and poor communities within districts. Positive attitude of the administration towards empowerment of women and Gram Panchayats would form the basis of sustained dialogue after the training interventions. Training was to be complemented with reorientation and building of capabilities of district and taluka officials in this regard.

It is expected that the government orients district/block officials make a shift to participatory functioning and to their changed role of facilitators. In performing the new role as `facilitator', the government must recognise that by interfacing with people; not only it develop capacity for increased outreach but the flexible structures allow communities to influence policies and programmes. It follows that capacities and resources are restructured to fulfil new roles and activities.

to reach out and interface with people on a mass scale strengthen networking initiatives with community groups

allocate resources for information dissemination and training

establish mechanisms for information flow, feedback and monitoring

orient officials in decentralised and participatory planning and management.

Important that first hand feedback from villages is collected at the taluka, which is the last level of decision making in the state government hierarchy, and yet the first one at which the village functionaries encounter in order to access state resources and schemes. The taluka office and its location is such that it can play a crucial role in interaction between people and officials.

Given that taluka planning is the first stage of (bottom up planning) information and access to taluka officials was crucial to development action in the village. The Block Development Office (under Block development officer) channels, state development and resource schemes, monitors development of the block or taluka and oversees implementation at every village.

The critical decision to involve BDOs and extension officers in the capacity building / training programme for panchayat members and women groups for the following reasons:

training was seen as an opportunity for interaction which was fruitful and result oriented;

people saw interaction with taluka officials as necessary to access resources for village development as an opportunity to gain the knowledge of decision making process and structures.

Fostering community initiatives: Communities are central actors to processes of social change and local development. Recognising the central, role of community actors in development has been the significant move in this decade towards decentralised governance and grassroots democracy. Development agenda is at cross roads where a "passive supply oriented approach" has to make way to "proactive demand oriented approach". Empowerment of people is placing choices, resources and information in the hands of community groups. Communities always evolve basic services around every day development needs and with an intrinsic knowledge of local resources. All sections of community need to be involved in the planning and creation of communities of services and infrastructure development.

Community initiatives based on community innovations assist community groups to enter arenas for decision making on village development. Groups to learn how to work together how to respect each others' view, how to share and use local resources. All this adds to the knowledge, skills and capacities of specific community groups and the entire village community and leads to achievements such as:-

Community Contribution: Mobilisation of resources for village development to happen, it is important that the community / people contribute through mobilisation of funds, tax collection and voluntary labour towards creation of community assets. The process of strengthening Gram Panchayats in this manner begins with creating awareness among women and community groups monitoring of resources and finally building stakes in the management of community resources and facilities.

Community Self Governance: Gram Panchayat as an institution has potential for community self governance. Inherent in the functioning of local governments is a principle that beneficiaries have to pay for the facilities and services they receive/use. Thus it is a institution which is built on the principle of self management by the village communities. It is a primary holder of all resources within a village and is constitutionally vested with these powers.

Revitalisation of Gram Sabhas : Gram Sabha is one such unique village platform that involves all actors in the information consultation and decision making. Gram Sabha is mandatory in every village community just as Gram Panchayat are expected to conduct business through monthly meetings.



The project task was to train and orient elected members of 1,400 Gram Panchayats in the two districts of Latur and Osmanabad. The SSP team together with the CEO and team jointly designed a two tiered strategy for the district wide capacity building exercise. Activities included learning exchanges, field visits, information network and the creation of platform for dialogue at village and taluka.

Results: In demand for information and additional training, and increased confidence amongst women members to approach officials and the revitalisation of Gram Panchayats as community institutions and Gram Sabhas as platform for community participation. The unique partnership between Gram Panchayats and women's groups resulted in joint implementation of schemes for village development.


Key actors

Gram Panchayats - Sarpanchas and Elected members Mahila Mandals - local Community Based Organisations (CBOs) Voluntary organisations belonging to Swayam Shikshan Prayog - network Zilla Parishad, District Rural Development Agency - DRDA, Block Development Officer -BDO, Extension Officers and Gram Sevaks Resource Persons / Institutions State / district / taluka officials of the Maharashtra Emergency Earthquake Rehabilitation Program - MEERP

United Nations Development Program - UNDP



The resources for training of elected members of all Gram Panchayats amounted to Rs. 30 lakhs. UNDP training funds were shared, equally between the DRDAs of the two districts (15 lakhs) and SPARC SSP. this structuring funds meant sharing responsibilities, design, co-ordinating training, forming resource teams, conducting fora and joint evaluation.

Working out a collaboration between SSP and the district administration

The need for active participation of Gram Panchayat members in the Earthquake Rehabilitation Project in Latur and Osmanabad districts was seen by the PMU officials at state and districts.

As described earlier, since 1994, Swayam Shikshan Prayog network of NGOs had worked on issues of Panchayati Raj and conducted training of Panchayat members. In the context of the MEERP, the SSP team worked as Consultant for Community Participation with the district PMU. As extension of this role as CP consultant - the need for capacity building of community actors on issues related to earthquake rehabilitation and community participation was discussed. Around January 1996, Deputy Secretary, Earthquake Rehabilitation Cell, Government of Maharashtra requested SSP to submit a proposal for training all the Gram Panchayat members. The Earthquake Rehabilitation Cell had received funds for the addressing the gender component and enhancing community participation and involvement of elected members of GPs. These funds lay unutilised (since October 1995) and a tripartite meeting was called to finalise the project with the representatives from the UNDP office New Delhi.

Thereafter, in May 1996, the SSP team headed by a Senior Resource person initiated a comprehensive preparatory process within districts. Dialogue with all levels of officials at talukas and districts was initiated. This period was extremely useful in the assessment of needs, drawing up training guidelines, development of curricula for different actors and compilation of all the development schemes in the form of training booklets.

In the context of the earthquake rehabilitation project, the district wide Payawat training program for village contact persons held earlier in 1995 provided a model of how district/block officials can be involved as trainers. SSP as part of its strategy held consultations with the CEOs, Dy. CEOs to design the training jointly with district officials.

The SSP team evolved the project proposal for training elected members and Gram Sevaks through many months of discussions with the Dy. CEO, Panchayat and DRDA in the two districts. It was finally decided that the district officials would co-ordinate all the arrangements for training through BDOs, while SSP team would facilitate the training process through co-ordination with officials and resource persons. Additionally SSP will co-ordinate publications, bulletins for members, documentation of best practices, reporting and follow up activities with women members.

In the months which followed, negotiations between the, DRDA and SSP team were held with the administration and co-ordination of training. Consultative meetings were held towards forming a District Resource Group at the district and a Monitoring Group at the talukas. NGOs and officials would be part of both structures. SSP team played a key role in convincing officials about the key elements of the project.

Project Strategy

As described earlier, the post earthquake rehabilitation program provided an opportunity for large scale capacity building effort of Gram Panchayats, rural development officials and women's groups together with a range of community based institutions.

Project Strategy "Building peoples capacities for development beyond the disaster"

The strategy was initiating a district wide capacity building exercise through building of new information network, training, learning and exposure and opening up of spaces for dialogue between elected members and officials. Activities consisted of series of training workshops, information dissemination, study tours, melavas with elected members, women's groups and government functionaries throughout the year long process.

In the context of capacity building, training was seen as an ongoing process for strengthening opportunities and choices to empower women, local governments and communities.

The training of elected members was conducted for a period of two months in each district. Follow up activities were organised continuously for a duration of one year. The program was developed largely on the lessons gained from successful leadership provided by Mahila Mandals communities in the earthquake rehabilitation and village development programs.

Political and developmental needs of the community were to be addressed through mobilising women's participation and strengthening Gram Panchayats.

It was expected that the series of interventions would first lead to direct dialogue between community groups and the administration. If the dialogue could be sustained and mechanisms created to both upscale and institutionalise the results of training, it would lead to positive changes in relationships between the rural development administration and Gram Panchayats / village community groups.

Specifically the strategy relied on the leadership and vision of the district administration led by the CEO and taluka administration by the BDO. These Senior Officials were crucial in shaping the training guidelines, building confidence and capacity to articulate by Gram Panchayat members and women and setting the basis for future dialogue and interaction.

It was assumed that the strategy of learning together and learning from each other (i.e. learning in convergence), for a given period would help effectively create the `interface' where officials and communities can interact continuously in the frame of existing structures within districts



Learning through Convergence approach the District Resource Team headed by CEO, Deputy CEO and SSP planned series of events to involve all actors together.

  1. Training of Master Trainers : SSP team facilitated the training program for Master Trainers experienced Sarpanchas, Gram Panchayats and some ICDS supervisors. It was a 5 day training programme for the Master trainers. Field exposure included interviews with Mahila Sarpanchas, Gram Panchayat members, were all invited at the village level responses to work done by Panchayats improved and strategy of involving women's groups in community participation. In the two districts 146 senior officials were selected as trainers / resource persons. Besides this district level officials and BDOs monitored the training program as part of "taluka teams".

Training of elected members and Mahila Mandals: The SSP team together with the team of district officials jointly designed a two tiered training strategy to train and orient elected members of 1,400 Gram Panchayats in two districts in Latur and Osmanabad. Activities included learning exchanges, field visits, information network and the creation of platform for dialogue at village and taluka. Training workshops (where Extension officers (taluka), Sarpanchas, women Sarpanchas, Gram Sevaks, Village Development officers trained as resource persons

Around 14,000 members of Gram Panchayats, and 5,000 women from Mahila Mandals were trained at 150 centres in the two districts. These centres were located at a CPS i.e. the Central Primary School village. For a cluster of villages and the program was co-ordinated by a master trainer team. Every batch of forty to fifty trainees attended training workshop for two days.

  1. Interaction forum in taluka office ("Sakhi Panchayat involving BDO and taluka officials and women members, women groups and women Sarpanchas)

Sakhi Panchayat is a concept that advocates permanent `space' for women to interact at cluster level and at taluka level designed to cater to their need for alliance building among women, exchanges, interface with officials as collectives, quality information for women and creation of women's agenda for village development. The Mahila Sarpanchas, members of savings and credit groups and office bearers of women's groups constitute the Sakhi Panchayat women's forum.

As a follow up to the above training programs, "Sakhi Panchayat" fora or dialogue workshops between Mahila Mandals and Sarpanchas were held with co-operation of BDOs. All BDOs chaired taluka "melavas" at the taluka office where around 300 women members, sarpanchas and Mahila Mandals. Similarly at the cluster levels, shibirs and melavas were used to increase the interactions between officials and women. Schemes and procedures for development schemes were explained.

  1. Building an alliance between village communiti agencies - especially women groups and Gram Panchayat by focusing common concerns such as drinking water, electricity, sanitation, roads etc. Community services and amenities most of the functions of Gram Panchayat like water distribution, health and sanitation etc. are directly linked with women's work and drudgery in the context of every day survival.
  2. District Mahiti Melava / information fairs: At the district level, 1,500 women attended the melava at Osmanabad which included Mahila Sarpanchas, members of Mahila Mandals and savings and credit groups. This Women's Assembly where the CEO and all the officials from Osmanabad district took part resulted in fruitful negotiations between women and officials.

Taluka - Sakhi Melavas: The Mahiti Melavas at talukas were chaired by the BDOs at the taluka office. This had a special significance for women leaders and Mahila Sarpanchas who visited taluka officials for the first time. Melavas often led to demand for more information on specific schemes or meetings (Currently there is absence of any official mechanism for follow up on implementation of schemes at the sub-taluka level. This means that village based groups have to travel to the taluka head quarters). As a follow up of the melavas, one or the other village groups are motivated enough to start a new activity or learn of an innovation in the neighbouring village.

  1. Study tour to taluka offices: Study tours to departments resulted in face to face encounter with officials who directly implement procedures. Actual powers, funds entrusted with and status in decision making / grievance procedures were immensely popular topics and of importance to panchayat members and women groups. It enhanced their capacity to deal with taluka and district development programs.

  1. Exposure visits to best practice villages: Programmes which combined a village tour (evaluating functioning of public facilities) and preparing a rough village action plan includes mapping followed by meetings between the two groups, panchayat members and women groups to discuss the tasks and strategy toward village improvement. This was a practical beginning of such an alliance.
  2. Visit to best practice villages, enquiry together and follow up discussions with local village institutions can expose them to community level processes, capacities and roles. We found that women Sarpanchas need to be recognised and their work highlighted in the face of a hostile male dominated political environment.

  3. Information dissemination: Media campaigns, consultations with NGOs and setting up a joint training group with the district officials preceded the mass training exercise co-ordinated by the CEO-Zilla Parishad, DRDA and team. Posters and circulars to all Gram Panchayats and women's groups informed them of the training events. The training itself was planned as an information inputs session.
  4. Information materials: Over forty information booklets were created by the SSP team on community participation, governance, village planning activities, gender oriented schemes and year planners for effective management by Gram Panchayats and Gram Sevaks. Booklets, posters and bulletins from all talukas were edited by the concerned BDOs and distributed to elected members. They contained special development schemes for women, year planner for Gram Sevaks and a checklist for Sarpanchas containing 12 subjects and 64 activities (Refer annexure on information strategy). Newspaper style bulletins focused on the local action by women's groups, initiatives by women Sarpanchas. These bulletins released prior to the training sessions.

  5. Documentation: The documentation was done as a participatory exercise that involved a team of Mahila Mandals and SSP learns in the assessment and feedback on village development schemes. The exercise usually consisted of mapping of village resources, walking tours or visits which monitored all the public facilities and services.

Documentation of Gram Panchayats: Documentation of Gram Panchayats and village development work. Where the Gram Panchayats successfully implemented schemes with participation of communities they were approached by the SSP research team.

Best practices documentation: Every story of best practice village is story of making different actors and their capacity synchronised and integrate in to a joint effort that goes beyond immediate results. It is sharing a common vision, more the actors with divergent capacities more the sustainability of the result. SSP used this particular collective learning strategy successfully since it pioneered women self help groups in Maharashtra. Collective visits by local officials, women, Panchayat members and others to best practice villages in post earthquake repair and strengthening program resulted in strengthening the common vision among actors and enhanced their capacities to share information and to dialogue with each other.



Highlights of the Training of Elected Members of Gram Panchayats in Maharashtra


    In November 1996 and June 1997 in Osmanabad and Latur districts respectively, 14,000 elected members of Gram Panchayats, 400 Gram Sevaks and 5,000 women group members were trained by a resource team in the areas for capacity building of panchayat and local communities.

    Mainly experienced district / taluka officials, were trained for a period of five days. Seventy-three master trainers each were trained in Osmanabad and in Latur district

    The most important aspect of the Panchayati Raj training program was the convergence of all actors - community based organisations, NGOs, Mahila Mandals, government functionaries and elected members. The involvement of actors at every level set the tone for training in the entire district.

    After the training, monthly meetings of the GP and Gram Sabhas were held in villages.

    After the training, women elected members and women's groups showed an active interest and began participating in Gram Sabhas and linked to Gram Panchayats for the rehabilitation project in over 500 villages.

    The participation of women communities was emphasised in the training. It has been reported that Gram Panchayats began monthly meetings and held Gram Sevaks accountable. In addition Gram Sabhas were called by the Panchayats.

    The cluster level training offered Mahila Mandals the first opportunity to dialogue with officials and elected representatives of Gram Panchayats. While Mahila Mandals recognised the need for this relationship, through the training, officials also emphasised the need for a strong relationship between Mahila Mandals and Gram Panchayats.

    Forums for participation and exchanges, especially among women increased.

    The recognition of women's groups as an agency of village development was firmly established in the eyes of the district administration.

    Involvement of government officials were integrated in the training process since its inception each actor had a stake

    The most significant impact of this training is that it has increased the participation of Mahila Mandals in development programmes and processes.

    Yet another major impact of the training was that women, both elected members and Mahila Mandal representatives had started to visit the block and district offices in Osmanabad, about linking with government programmes.

    The training programme provided women Sarpanchas a unique opportunity to meet each other and network at the taluka level.

    Increased awareness among women elected members and Mahila Mandals has helped to create channels for feedback and monitoring of schemes at the village and taluka level



Learning in convergence

Learning in convergence approach lays emphasis on learning of community actors and institutional actors together on a common platform. Capacity building of this nature targets participating spaces in the state structure to promote dialogue between people and officials. This approach stresses on the need to build capability in the official structures for dialogue, feedback and participatory planning.

Key elements to sustain and effectively use the political structure of Panchayats to respond to empowerment of women and poor (envisaged by the UNDP and other agencies) is focused towards collaborative efforts between the people and the government.

Within districts such a scenario requires that apart from informed communities, officials are exposed to practices of partnership.

Learning in convergence identifies all the actors in development to participate in learning environment. They are members of Gram Panchayat and the Sarpanchas, women groups from each village and development administrators within districts.

Convergence as it was planned in the frame of learning fora allows each of the key actor's experiences to be interwoven with that of other actors. It exposes all them to specific capacity of other actors for e.g. Taluka officers are involved in full strength both as learners and teachers. Women leaders of local organisations other than Panchayat members are invited on mass scale and across the district to share their experience, information and enhance their capacity to work with gram Panchayats and officials.

Convergence was seen as bridge towards building sustainability of alliances that might be created with the opportunities provided through the 73rd amendment. It is a definite milestone in changing the current perception of roles and responsibilities of the state on one hand and that of communities in the other. This is the only way commitment of governments to devolve and empower the poor can be realised. Communities can develop a partnership with the government. Similar partnership/alliances are visualised at the community level in taluka and at district simultaneously.

Exposure to and enhancement of capacities through the convergence approach could lead to a upscaled and sustained vision where feedback, planning, monitoring and outreach become the corner stones of the `capacity building' programmes. Studies of similar projects elsewhere have shown that the existing structures isolation of each actor has led to remain at receiving end as beneficiaries.

As a support, a pool of resource persons in the executive hierarchy especially at taluka and the creation of exchange platform with information from the administration, feedback on priorities and monitoring of programs by community groups are some of the expected results of this strategy.


Convergence of Capacities

Convergence of capacities of all actors involved in rural development, different actors among people, Panchayat members, local institutions, like schools, women groups, NGOs, officials at different level in state structure in district etc. and others is necessary for working of Panchayat Raj institutions in the context of people centred development.

What is meant by convergence? The convergence of all actors in the development process and in governance. At the village it means creating platforms for development that allow for interaction, dialogue, reflection and action for all actors. In any given village, it means that regular interaction between key actors namely the Gram Panchayats, Mahila Mandals, the Gram Sevaks, the Anganwadi workers, the health workers, Yuvak Mandals and other institutional actors. But it also means that women's groups are exposed to and interact with actors outside their villages, for instance with government actors at the block, district and state levels. It means reshaping hierarchical structures of the government through creation of fora for dialogue between women and Institutional actors.

Participation of women in Gram Sabha (village assembly) together with an alliance among women's groups and Gram Panchayat is a motivating force for village development. Women have demonstrated their ability in planning and designing of facilities. This is amply demonstrated in the reconstruction project in several ways women have organised savings and credit programmes. NGOs can and have played the role of facilitation in these innovations.

Training as an opportunity for convergence

Training as a platform for interaction between officials and elected members provided an opportunity for people to present their concerns, efforts and practice. Debate on constructive efforts of women groups towards formation of savings groups, construction of latrines, monitoring school education or functioning of Gram Panchayats, etc. These best practices linked to effective implementation of schemes through community initiatives in local development. By bringing visibility to practices of women groups and Gram Panchayat, officials see their roles and perceive the need for sustained interaction with community actors.

The strategy of learning together and learning from each other (that is learning in convergence), for a given period helps to effectively create the `interface' where officials and communities can interact on an ongoing basis.



Creating an interactive environment

Developing a Platform for dialogue between women and officials: Informal meetings that preceded the training exercise. Women members expressed the lack of interface and regular interaction with officials as crippling their aspirations for participation in the public sphere. Thus the question had to be faced by those of us who designed this massive training exercise. Can the training program be designed as a platform for dialogue of actors, where they learn from each other?

"The workshops should give us more contact with officials, give us opportunity to dialogue with them. What I have learnt from an earlier workshop is about procedures of Gram Panchayat that helped me to deal with the Gram Sevak". Indutai Kamble, Women Sarpanch for five years.

The training situation simulated a common platform where women Panchayat members and Mahila Mandals for the first time spoke of their problems, initiatives taken and demanded accountability of officials. Activities at the block and district levels included meetings and in discussions with district and block level officials. Women members and officers exchanged information, participated in field visits, and in study tours to projects. The officials gained a perception of the village's capacities and the capacities of the women Gram Panchayat members. This information helped to inform the planning process linked to schemes at the village. The members gained by becoming knowledgeable about the functions of district and block level officers whose decisions greatly impacts village life. The district level officers serve as the planning body for all of the villages while the block level officers are responsible for the administration of the Gram Panchayat.

District Officials Leadership

We were keenly aware that it is the orchestration of efforts of district administration, taluka structure and Gram Panchayat that provides momentum to development. District officials are interested in the structuring of fora for dialogue among officials and V.P. elected members, also with women groups, at taluka and at district. Without the encouragement and involvement of district officials such spaces of dialogue can not be sustained. Their facilitation and further the sustained involvement of taluka officer in training program. As a policy decision they facilitated opportunities for interaction in the taluka structures for Gram Panchayat members and women groups on local development schemes.

`Enhanced capacity of villagers to articulate their needs and prioritise issues directly affects the capacity of district officials to plan for the district' to new forces including in after Panchayati Raj enactment and opportunity to dialogue taken shape with them / Gram Panchayat. members across the district the is need of the district officers. Management of infrastructure created through various programs is a task of Panchayat members. Officials are keen to observe and build capabilities of Gram Panchayats to involve community in decisions and development.

The training program for elected members was a massive opportunity to contact and mobilise all Gram Panchayats men and women members in the two districts. Such a massive community mobilisation exercise in relation to Gram Panchayat institutions had few parallels. To realise such an opportunity, it was necessary to involve the development administration structure at the district and talukas and capitalise the advantage that (such an opportunity of mobilisation at grassroots level brings in it's wake. Gram Panchayat members men and women alike are brought in contact with taluka officers. In turn, they get exposed to people especially elected members through an ongoing series of face to face envounters.

Taluka officials as key actors

In the present situation, there is a need for increasing the transparency and information flow from the taluka office to Gram Panchayats. Similarly Taluka officials need to enhance their understanding of priorities of Panchayat members.

Active development of taluka officials was also necessary because it is well appreciated fact that Panchayat Raj (amendment) has brought change in grassroots constitution of Panchayats by bringing women in large numbers in the structure. This requires a new orientation and capacity in the taluka and district structures to work with new community institution which is governed by the people. This change in orientation we believe is required not only because of participation of women and the poor, but also that the monolithic structure of Panchayats has given way to platform of multiple actors such as professionals, local CBOs, private agencies etc.

We envisaged an important role for the BDO office. Regular monthly dialogue meetings with the BDO, where women groups and Panchayat members placed their concerns, gave feedback on schemes and updated their information base was we envisaged important in cementing the alliance between the women groups and the Panchayats. It was important to develop a capacity building program that involved all these actors as it would lead to formation of a three party partnership of officials, elected members and women's groups.

Within each district, the following features formed the basis of the broad based strategy:

Identification of participants: Together with the Gram Panchayat members and village officials, Gram Sevaks training of women's groups and Mahila Mandals in village development issues was crucial to the alliance at the village level.

Convergence of officials and elected members: to widen the meaning of village governance and create an opportunity for all actors to interact and to develop linkages with each other, at all levels. Interaction and dialogue at the district, taluka and village between a wide variety of actors in rural development was seen as the basis for capacity building. Developing horizontal linkages between officials and elected members, women's groups and Gram Panchayats, BDO and Gram Panchayats was an important element of the training process


Creating a Training and resource team at district and taluka: The involvement of district and taluka officials as trainers and resource persons allowed for perhaps the first direct dialogue between elected members and officials. The training situation forced taluka officials to acknowledge the demand for information by Gram Panchayat members and cater to this need. Further the follow up activities with interaction between officials and members was an expected outcome of the training process. Practical information of how rural development and anti poverty schemes were implemented was given to elected members by officials.

Feedback mechanisms: Information flow on programs from the taluka office to Gram Panchayats and similarly feedback on how programs are implemented were seen essential to fostering a proactive role for Gram Panchayats in planning and development. Priorities developed by people through Gram Sabhas need to be conveyed to subtaluka and taluka officials.

Training of Mahila Mandals as agency for effective mobilisation of communities for village development. Specifically the alliances could lead to monitoring of anti poverty schemes, determining priorities in the area of health, education, welfare, drinking water management, sanitation etc. and initiating programs for community self management in the above areas.

Restructuring relations between following actors:

Sarpanchas and members - so that Gram Panchayat meetings are held regularly and Village Committees for infrastructure drinking water management, school education, health etc. are activated.

Gram Panchayats and communities - Shift in accountability towards people and demand for effective functioning through consensus could lead to regular Gram Sabhas.

Demonstration of alliance - women's groups worked as partners with Gram Panchayats in village development: The training was expected to result in active participation of women's groups in Gram Sabhas, village planning, mobilising communities and local self goverments.



The year long capacity building process of Panchayat members and women groups representatives began with two-day training sessions at village clusters. The program included follow up activities:

Study tour to best practice villages

Regular interaction with taluka officials through dialogue / feedback sessions

Regular Sakhi Panchayat Shibirs (workshops) at cluster and taluka

Taluka level melavas for women's groups

Village mapping exercises (walking tour)

Study tours to taluka and district offices

Creating demonstration sites for village development schemes

Planning and co-ordination at cluster level

At CPS (Central Primary School) level : Total of 64 villages were selected as subtaluka training centres. A one month period was allotted for the training program. Ten satellite villages were linked to the CPS villages where members from those villages were invited to attend the two days training program. At every centre village, four trainers were present for every hundred participants. At all centres at the village level Mahila Mandals were present as participant facilitators.

Special effort to involve women from community and other fields: In Latur district, two thousand five hundred Mahila Mandal members were invited to participate with CEO's invitation and so also personal invitation (by name) to all the 7000 members adding upto a total of 10,000 participants and 20,000 training days in 90 centres starting from 23rd May to 10th June 1997. At every training centre the local Gram Panchayat had ensured that all physical arrangements were made.

Mahila Mandals as observers in training program: Mahila Mandal leaders were appointed to observe the training program, mainly to involve women members, observe their participation and stimulate interest in topics. Observers were to make sure that trainers should discuss priority issues brought up by women members such as health and child care facilities, toilets, drinking water, roads and communication etc. Over thirty Mahila Mandal leaders were involved in monitoring as part of a mobile team. Each day the program was held in 15-20 centres.

In talukas, the BDOs inaugurated the first day of training with release of the taluka bulletin "Sakhi Panchayat Raj". The bulletin was co-edited with the SSP team.

To support women representatives in performing in these new roles, SSP devised a strategy to create an alliance of women's groups and Gram Panchayat members. Conducted special training workshops with women elected members of the Gram Panchayat and created taluka support networks for women elected Panchayat members. Experienced women leaders would assist women Panchayat members through activities such as accompanying them to offices or interpreting government documents to Panchayat members. Within villages they would encourage women Gram Panchayat members to promote women's priorities (drinking water, health, education, etc.) as priorities for the entire communities, provide officials with feedback on issues as a mechanism for integrating the community perspective into the planning of schemes.

SSP took up this opportunity (which in turn would enhance various capacities of Gram Panchayat by aligning with women groups in the village) by making women groups from villages in the district, participants of training programmes along with Gram Panchayat members, SSP network in Osmanabad and Latur district was working with more than five hundred women groups (Mahila Mandals). SSP team had built capacities of women's groups through savings and credit groups, linkages with banks, learning exchanges, exposure to water conservation through visit to best practice villages.

Preparatory activities

The two tiered training strategy evolved through several interactions with the CEO and team of officials. At Osmanabad district, the CEO made a special effort in securing active participation of Block Development Officers in emphasising the importance of the program with taluka officials (especially in the context of women's participation and 73rd Amendment. Emphasis laid by the CEO and faith in innate capacity of women elected members, enormously helped to create positive and pro women perspective through the training.

Prior to the start of training review meetings presided by CEO and Deputy CEO (Panchayat) where progress was continually assessed. This process helped with selection of taluka and village officials as Master trainers.

Co-ordination: The Deputy CEO was responsible for co-ordinating the Panchayati Raj training programme. First, master trainers, mainly officials, were trained for a period of five days. Seventy-three master trainers were trained in Osmanabad and seventy in Latur. The master trainers included extension officers, ICDS supervisors, Gram Sevaks, Engineers and health officials. Similarly in consultation with the CEO, the SSP team designed the training programme for Latur district. The CEOs in both districts helped to ensure the active participation of the BDOs as through emphasising the importance of the programme and by establishing an atmosphere of working together. Gram Panchayat members, Mahila Mandals, NGOs and government officials were brought together to dialogue on the issues of governance, development and community participation. Training situation acted as forum was where discussion on potential partnership between elected members and officials occurred.

Women's participation: The CEO's personal invitation by name to independent women's groups and women panchayat members generated enthusiasm among Mahila Mandals across the district. This was the first time so many women participate in a single event of this kind. At the cluster level training, women equalled the number of men, sometimes exceeding them in numbers. The training programme provided the much needed visibility to women, which in turn created dialogue and solidarity among them, leading to demonstration of confidence in public spheres.

Interactive environment: Overall, the support from the CEO and Zilla Parishad was symbolically important and took the following forms:

The CEO sent personal invitations and had planning meetings with all Department heads - Health, Education, ICDS, agriculture and ensured attendance of key officials

Mahila Sabhapathi and Zilla Parishad members personally attended.

Obtained active feedback from the BDO - thus monitoring the quality of training inputs, participation and motivation of elected members (exposed to training first time).

Delegated to BDOs entire charge of the training arrangements

Learn by training, not by mistakes was the slogan given by the CEO Latur at the start of the Master Trainers program.

Keen involvement of district officials facilitated the information dissemination and training workshops throughout the districts. Their presence and direction emphasised the importance of dialogue between actors and recognising of community innovations. Training created the basis of a common implementation strategy for entire district. Most important it created a momentum for learning across the district and sustained the involvement of all concerned officials. Exposure to new forces and opportunities unleashed by the Panchayati Raj enactment is a felt need of district officials to enhance the functioning of the district team. District level training is one such occasion. District officials can have dialogue with range of new actors including women groups and communities.

Co-ordination with taluka officials: Taluka functionaries were key actors in the interface between officials and elected representatives and play a key role in information dissemination and interpretation. The SSP selected 33 Extension officers and 18 village development officers to be master trainers. The SSP team and NGOs together with senior officials to monitored thereby motivated trainees and trainers at the training venue.

SSP was aware that on one hand, capacity building of taluka officials and Gram Panchayat goes hand in hand and (much depends on the orientation of taluka structure) on the other, orientation of taluka structure is as centred as Gram Panchayat members capacity to influence decisions at taluka. The involvement of the BDO and team helped to shape the content and form of the programme. Among all the administration officials, the BDO and his staff (Extension officers and Gram Sevaks) were the officials who interacted directly with village communities.

A Taluka wise planning group under the Chairpersonship of BDOs was initiated. The planning team of three to five persons including Gram Sevaks and Sarpanchas. They handled funds, contacted Sarpanchas, co-ordinated with anganwadi teachers.

Presence of officials in the training programme, the expectation evoked and urge to receive, to ask, to speak, to question and to comment. Urge to share collective experience and interaction with officials. This shaped the programme or part of it, into an interactive one. Community groups and Sarpanchas viewed taluka officials as a regular and reliable resource of information and interaction with them was seen as fruitful one which resulted in concrete and sustained resources for village development.



"On the Panchayati Raj training, initially we thought we would not get a response. We conducted training for master trainers, experienced Sarpanchas, Gram Panchayats, some ICDS supervisors. It was a 5 day training programme for the Master trainers. This was very successful. We did not know, till now, that there were such good trainers amongst the staff. On a mass level we have never done a training exercise like this before. Sarpanchas, Gram Panchayat members, were all invited at the village level. People's responses to work done by Panchayats have slowly improved". Shri. Nemane, Deputy CEO, Latur district

Officials as Master Trainers

Majority will be officials from taluka as they are key to information flow and entry of Gram Panchayat and women's groups in the taluka administration

Implementation to facilitators - this redesigned role of officials will assist than in interaction with communities

Strengthening Local Resource Group - In the post training activities, the trainers can facilitate a taluka team (with including of ex-officials, Sarpanchas, women leaders etc.)


In each district, a District Resource Team or Trainers Team was required to train 6500 Gram Panchayat members (in batches of fifty members each). It was required that equally large number of master trainers were to be trained. District Resource Team (D.R.T) comprised of CEO, Dy.CEO, P.D. D.R.D.A, Addl. Collector, Rehabilitation was established. Their first task was to seventy three officers (ICDS Supervisors, Gram Sevaks and Sarpanchas) who were trained as Master Trainers.

The process of selection differed in each district. The taluka functionaries were key actors in the proposed interface between officials and elected representatives. They played key role in information dissemination and interpretation of schemes. Keeping this in mind, in Osmanabad district, 32 Extension officers rural development and 10 village development officers (VDOs) were selected. In addition 20 women ICDS supervisors, 10 gram sevaks and Sarpanchas were selected to bring in officials working at sub taluka and village levels in program implementation. It was expected that the training encounter would lead to exchange of experiences, horizontal linkages between officials, informal interaction and eventually follow up on training with Gram Panchayats.

Self Education for Trainers: Two Gram Sevaks and two women ICDS supervisors were selected for `Self Learning'. They were given material for important topics like `Task of Gramsevak, Gramsabha and monthly meeting of Gram Panchayat. Given topic were studied by the concerned persons and they had presented the topic before the participants. This exercise was extremely useful for all participant for it had demonstrated the confidence as master trainers.

Locating Best Practices: A survey of hundred villages was carried out to locate the field practices and community innovations. In turn, the two of the villages in each district were chosen for study tour by the master trainees. Tergaon village is an example of how the efficient Gram Panchayat work can lessen women's work and drudgery.

All the planning and arrangements were delegated to taluka level task groups set up by the BDOs. The SSP team and NGOs together with senior officials prepared a daily monitoring plan monitored the actual training's while SSP field workers were present at majority of the training sessions.

Osmanabad district

A five day training workshop for Master Trainers was held at Osmanabad from October 14 to 18, 1996. It was well attended by the Collector, CEO and Addl. Collector - MEERP project.

The success of the training for elected members was largely due to the careful selection of master trainers who included E.O.s or Ext. officers, ICDS Supervisors, Sarpanchas and Gram Sevaks.

Senior officials who participated in the training of resource persons: Mr. Bund, Addl. Collector (Earthquake Resistance Housing), Mr. Molavane, Dy. CEO Panchayat (Our Gram Sevak, Sanitation), Mr. Vasant Salunkhe, Project Director (JRY, IRDP, TRYSEM, DPAP and scheme for water conservation), Mr. Metake, Officer DPEP. In all ten resource persons had participated in the first phase of training program. 73rd Amendment and the topic of women participation had generated lasting excitement participant among master trainers.

The two day workshops for elected members in Osmanabad district numbering 6500 from 650 villages i.e. 613 Gram Panchayats from 6 talukas were held from October 29th to November 29th, 1996 at 64 locations. Over 80% members attended the workshops (information on attendance is expected from talukas). Over three hundred women leaders from Mahila Mandals and five hundred Gram Sevaks and V.D.Os attended these training's at the CPS (Central Primary School) level at 64 villages. While selecting resource persons for five days training for master trainers aim was to strengthen local resources.

Field Visit to Best Gram Panchayat: The excellent implementation of JRY scheme for basic infrastructure in the village was demonstrated Gobar gas plant, quality drainage and road management, innovative child welfare programmes, adult literacy and electricity to all houses, this village became a model village. Master trainers, though study tours, surveyed the village first, prepared their questions and put them to each of the villagers who attended the meeting arranged on the day of the study tour. The lesson from this village was that the combination of various actors such as private school trust, Mahila Mandal and a responsive Sarpanch can turn a resource into an asset of the community. This learning was utilised by master trainers and spread throughout the district in the CPS training.

Gram Panchayat Akluj from Solapur district is well known for its speed of development, sanitation program, women self employment and above all for its account procedures book keeping practices. Akluj town is a model town for its planned. Layout, electrification, drinking water schemes and maintenance of roads, pipelines and collective latrines. At visit to Akluj participants had taken keen interest in accounts and registers of Gram Panchayat women participation in panchayat, tax collection. Experience exchange session which ran for two hours was the most interesting session. In this session participant also could enlighten members of Akluj Gram Panchayat on Amendment, reservation and also, most interestingly on tax collection. Apart from Akluj, field visit to two best Gram Panchayats from Osmanabad were also arranged, are to Ter and other to Upala, where visit to village, meeting with village elders and common meeting with elected members were held.

Another village Javalga Budruk show cased how active participation by women's collectives had led to special status for the new women Sarpanchas. This symbolised the learning process of the entire village inherent in the post 73rd phase. In this village, a dynamic woman Sarpancha worked creatively not only to overcome divisive forces but to create an environment for quality and timely implementation of schemes. The above features as well as the amazing speed at which work was completed was what attracted the master trainers group. The Sarpancha held a Gram Sabha on the day of the study tour which master trainers could observe in practice, take their lessons and communicate to others across the district.

Latur district

The five day training workshop in Latur district was inaugurated by the Zilla Parishad Chairperson Mrs. Sahira Mizra and included all women Zilla Parishad members. Mr. Nandkumar Deputy Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra, Earthquake Rehabilitation Cell - stressed the importance of training and ensuring active participation of elected members with participatory methods and exercises. The importance of the earthquake rehabilitation program and imparting information to Gram Panchayats and active involvement of women's groups and communities ensuring earthquake resistant construction was discussed.

One aim of selecting resource persons for the five days master trainers training was to build a district team of resource persons in Panchayati Raj. From adjoining districts resource persons were encouraged to share experiences and guide the master trainers. Mr. Baba Manker, Ex-Dy CEO, Panchayat, Amravati district, Maharashtra, led the master trainer's training with an emphasis on village resource mapping, model action plan for village and activating democracy at grassroots. With the long record years experience in Panchayati Raj and village development, Mr. Manker could evoke many useful day-to-day experiences in village development.

Training of Panchayat Samiti Sabhapathis, Mahila Mandals, officials and Gram Panchayat members and the informal interaction that ensued, provided a forum for linkage of officials and non officials.

Access to formal resources
Familiarisation with structures
Entry to taluka administration
Gaining contacts with extension officers as resource persons
Confidence to bypass Gram Sevaks
Clear understanding of roles of multi layered administration of sharing experiences, learning from each other.
regular interaction and feed back with officials.
Enabling taluka structure to function and planning
Entire village is involved in local governance due to information skills, interaction/space for articulation.

Study tours to these villages were combined with training workshops. On the fifth day, a one-day study tour was conducted to a co-operative movement area called Warna Nagar, Kolhapur district a barren and unproductive land turned into a co-operative belt, factories, co-operatively run schools and colleges, co-operative supermarkets, local co-operative banks, banks run by women and full employment for the entire community in a belt of 65 villages with a population of 20 lakhs. Around 200 crores rupees worth of production occurs here.

The lessons drawn from this study tour by master trainers included self sufficiency, a participatory approach towards development, sharing of knowledge with common people and women at the inception of every project and levels of participation that could be achieved by full transparency.

Success of this strategy was seen in which 73rd amendment and empowerment of village self government became the "talk" of the district and women's participation in local development became the key message delivered by master trainers at village level training programs. The above two themes attracted larger attention and informed response from participants at both phases of training at the district as well as village level. The experienced master trainers were capable of interpretation according to the spirit of amendment including reservation. Only a little push, information and a platform to share experiences was required to make the first phase of training participatory in nature.

Training Content

Towards effective functioning of Gram Panchayat members:
New constitutional status
Devolution: political and financial
Governance by alliance with women's groups in communities

Community ownership of development programmes
Importance of village assembly / Gram Sabhas

Space for members at taluka and district decision making platforms
Articulation and prioritisation of community needs
Partnership with communities
Resource mapping
Interface and integration with officials
Developing a year plan

Leadership by women's groups:
Partnership with Gram Panchayat to articulate needs:

Public facilities
Basic infrastructure
Community amenities

Implementation of schemes by women:
Drinking water and sanitation

Child care facilities (Anganwadi)

Latrines for all:
Private owned latrines

Monitoring of public facilities and amenities by women's groups
Permanent women's space at taluka and district decision making:
Cluster planning and taluka planning by women
Information dissemination by women's groups:
Information on schemes for women
Participation of women in credit groups
Women leadership in earthquake rehabilitation program: the proven best practice.

Enhancing community participation: Convergence of women and Gram Panchayat
Employment, education, electricity for all
Community ownership of drinking water and sanitation program
Women groups and Gram Panchayats as information centres
Gram Sabha as a tool to demonstrate governance processes within village communities

Under the aegis of governance, the content consisted of imparting management skills to Gram Panchayat elected members. These included:
Participatory appraisal of resources
Making a budget
Developing a year plan for action
Finances and accounts
Revenue and Procedures

Maintenance of infrastructure
Gram Nidhi planning
Role of finance commission
Role of local resources and planning in development
How to conduct a Gram Sabha
How to conduct a monthly meeting
Task of Gram Sevaks
Functions of the Gram Panchayat
Government Programmes available

(Refer annexure 2 - A Typical Training Session)

Highlights of training

Officials as trainers, village women group members, Gram Panchayat member, sarpanchas and gram sevaks staying together at village where training was held for two days led to an open dialogue and exchanges, integration of perspectives, articulation of issues, opportunities for co-ordination and understanding of each other, over and above the information and understanding of what village governance was all about.

Attendance at the CPS Training: Attendance was high overall averaging to about 70-80 percent in each centre. Sarpanchas, Upsarpanchas, Gram Sevaks, Mahila Mandals, Gram Panchayat men and women members were present. BDOs also spoke at the different centers. The BDO from Nilanga taluka, for instance, visited at least 10 to 11 centers as part of monitoring the attendance and quality of participation. The E.O.s acted in the capacity of master trainers. Similarly, another Gram Sevak who also was charged with taking money from people did not attend the training. The material was discussed and presented by master trainers, followed by the dialogue between women's groups, Gram Panchayat members, officials and the SSP staff.

Dialogue: It shows how women were getting their first opportunity ever to dialogue with the officials and the Gram Panchayat. The dialogue included the work related to the earthquake rehabilitation, the roles that Mahila Mandals can play in development.

Participatory Training: Each training was participatory and proved to be an enabling environment especially for women members to speak out. The training's were a first time opportunity for Gram Panchayat members to interact with officials. The workshops provided a glimpse for Mahila Mandals to understand Gram Panchayats and created the basis for active participation of communities

Information Dissemination: It is at these forums that information was given on local self government and government programmes to women representatives of the Gram Panchayats and the Mahila Mandals through the sessions and through booklets prepared by the SSP. Furthermore, the role of the Mahila Mandal in development was stressed by each official trainer. Benefit of this training would be that the Mahila Mandals obtained information about schemes. The use, mainly, of SSP material by officials in their presentations showed the close co-operation between the state and NGOs and a convergence of the work of both.

Convergence: One unique feature of this training strategy was the convergence of Mahila Mandals, Gram Panchayat and government officials and presentation on integration of schemes for better results. The dialogue that ensued, illustrates how through convergence, this space could become a grievance redressal forum, much like a Gram Sabha. This, in essence, was a training ground for women to present their concerns. Because of the presence of officials and NGOs, other Gram Panchayat members felt compelled to act on the issues raised or at the very least to explain why they had not performed and this made the issues more transparent. For example, in the Renapur centre through the discussion in the training, everyone in the village as well as officials knew that the Sarpanch had taken material that belonged to the village and that there was a case against him which the Panchayat Samiti was currently acting on. Furthermore, the Gram Panchayat member felt accountable to the women and vouched to act on the matter raised, himself. This was typical of what was happening in other centres across the district. In other words, the training raised the standards of accountability of both the Gram Panchayat and the Gram Sevaks.

Performance of Gram Sevak: First, the issue arose that Gram Sevaks were not visiting the villages enough. One Sarpanch talked about how the Gram Sevak had not come in four months to the village. Gram Sevaks became a target in the meetings. In fact, women from the Mahila Mandals as well as from the Gram Panchayat confronted Gram Sevaks publicly in many centres.

Performance of the Gram Panchayat and Sarpanch: The performance of the Gram Panchayat and the Sarpanch was discussed from both the perspective of the village community, as well as from the perspective of the Sarpanchas themselves. One woman told the Sarpanch, "Now you are on stage, you will say anything. But when we approach you in the village, you do not respond."

On the other hand, women Sarpanchas expressed the difficulties they experienced in governing the village. Women Sarpanch talked about how they could not read and this was a problem. They said they were asked to come on stage and speak. Some said they did not want to stand for elections but were forced. One woman Sarpanch said "Now I still cannot read or write but I can sign. For my village since I have been elected I have given ten houses to people and am planning the repair of roads." Another woman Sarpanch said that she did not know anything, it was her husband's idea that she was elected. This forum allowed women Sarpanchas to express their problems and get ideas from others on how to handle them.

Recognising success of Gram Panchayat: As much as some Sarpanchas were taken to task, the contribution of those who had done good work was also acknowledged. One main message of the training was the empowerment of Gram Panchayats and co-ordination with Gram Sevaks and other actors. The training provided the correct interpretation of 73rd Amendment as an instrument of empowerment and governance for Gram Panchayat members. The workshops gave recognition to the work done by Gram Panchayats and their capacity for decision making. Members very clearly stated that regular refresher courses on village planning, linkage to schemes, banks etc. is necessary.

Members used the training as the forum for collective review of the performance and working of Gram Panchayats. Members and Sarpanchas resolved to regularise monthly meetings and form alliances with Mahila Mandals for planning, monitoring and implementation.

Gram Panchayat members displayed their knowledge about the manner in which the Repair and Strengthening program was being implemented. They were unable to act decisively with regard to problems at the village level i.e. functioning of Junior Engineers, material depots. They felt that the cluster level training was a better forum to interact. Institutional structures such as material depots officials, tahsildars should allow for greater participation by Gram Panchayat members. They felt the village level committees headed by Sarpanchas were not functioning in the Earthquake Project as they had no powers or responsibility. Members suggested that the government should use media effectively to update information.

Clarification of Roles and Responsibilities: The roles and responsibilities of the Sarpanchas and Gram Sevak were discussed and differentiated in the sessions by master trainers through group discussions. In Khandala village, for example, the Gram Panchayat got an electricity bill of Rs. 3,000 which they had to pay. Gram Sevak clarified that the electricity bill was the responsibility of the Gram Panchayat and not his. Gram Panchayat can collect taxes to pay this bill. The solution proposed was that a community fund should exist which the people should contribute towards for basic services. This was one of several instances of how the training served to raise problems, brainstorm solutions and clarify the responsibilities of each actor.

In Sonegaon village, the Gram Sevak was accused of deleting beneficiaries off the BPL list for which he is actually not responsible. This was clarified for people. In fact, the other major issue discussed was getting "included" in the BPL list. "The anti poverty schemes cost so much for the poor, they include several trips to the offices, and so forth that finally, it does not matter if we get on to the BPL list or not." People asked officials why, despite their being poor, they were not included on the BPL list. Specific schemes were highlighted for discussion such as Javahar Rozgar Yojana.

Discussion on JRY

Presence of Panchayat Samiti engineers led to innovative discussion on the JRY and debate on its technical and administrative issues.

Issues Raised by Women: Each training was participatory and proved to be an enabling environment especially for women members to be articulate. Drinking water, electricity and roads were three priority issues consistently raised by women. Typically, the issue of schemes for women was raised by the Mahila Mandal. Other issues raised by women were programmes and tunes needed to start a centre for women and to initiate economic activities. Women expressed the following priorities during the training:

Women members used the workshops as a public grievance forums against Sarpanchas. There needs to be a consensus building process around Gram Panchayat meetings or Gram Sabhas in the villages. Women members were articulate around their priority concerns - drinking water, health, education and issues of tax collection, encroachment on lands etc. As a majority, women members were called on to be "Lok Adalat" to solve community problems.

Women's Agenda: Women members were articulate in not only their priority concerns mentioned above - roads, electricity, drinking water, health, education but also on issues of tax collection, encroachment on lands etc. As such, the training established that women members perform roles of a "Lok Adalat" or to solve community problems.

Poverty Alleviation Programme: Women Sarpanchas were very clear that unless Gram Panchayats and Mahila Mandals were allotted the role of identification of beneficiaries, organising support to projects and monitoring IRDP and other individually targeted schemes for poor will not work. The debate on BPL also resulted in the demand for the recognition of roles of Gram Panchayat and Mahila Mandal as agencies in the identification and selection of beneficiaries.

Repair and Strengthening Programme: Gram Panchayat members spoke frankly about the manner in which the Repair and Strengthening program was being implemented. They were unable to act decisively with regard to problems at the village level i.e. functioning of Junior Engineers, material depots as the program was not handled by them. They felt that the elected members training provided a forum to interact on these issues. Within institutional structures tahsildars should allow for greater participation by Gram Panchayat members. They felt the village level committees headed by Sarpanchas were not functioning in the Earthquake Project as they had no powers or responsibility. Members suggested that the government should use media effectively to give information to Gram Panchayats.

Feedback Mechanisms at Taluka Level: As a follow up it was strongly proposed that a Mahila Sarpanchas committee be formed at taluka office and that it meet once in month under the chair-personship of the BDO. It would lead to exchanges, information dissemination, interaction with officials and facilitate better scheme implementation and taluka planning. This first meeting between Sarpanchas resulted in formation of committees at the taluka to handle grievances and lobbying for new schemes at district, communication and feedback to district CEO and BDOs.

Economic self Reliance: The need for strengthening finances inside village for development through alliances with Mahila Mandals and strengthening administration with less help from Gram Sevak was recognised. This emphasis on financial self reliance symbolised the build up of control of Gram Panchayat over administration.

Following are the priorities women expressed at Village Training sessions.

Extension officers and involvement of B.D.O.s in the training was important in conducting the two day workshops.

Taluka level support for the training involved co-ordination with various line departments including DPEP and ICDS functionaries Sarpanchas and Gram Sevaks. At the village centre anganwadi workers and Mahila Mandals ensured that women members attend. At all locations at least 50% of members were women members.

Local resource persons from NGOs, extension officers and educational institutions and experienced women chairperson - Zilla Parishad and Sarpanchas were the backbone of the program. They encouraged participants and shared concrete experiences.

Involvement of Extension officers - Panchayat, Agriculture Education were enthused in their efforts to information to elected members. First time a forum was available for interaction with elected members.

In the training situation, Extension officers were assisted by BDOs to undertake the training. Impact of master trainers workshop that EOs level of confidence

The need for sanitation program in villages was discussed and debated by both the men and women Gram Panchayat members. As a follow up several Sarpanchas took leadership to give in proposals for building latrines to district officials.



Sakhi Panchayat is a concept that advocates permanent `space' for women to interact at cluster level and at taluka level designed to cater to their need for alliance building among women groups, interface with officials as collectives, information, exchange and creation of an agenda for village development. The Mahila Sarpanchas, members of savings and credit groups and leaders of women's groups constitute the Sakhi Panchayat forum. Various activities were facilitated for exposure and interaction.

Women used the forum of training, where elected members and taluka officials were present, to speak out their experiences and concerns vis a vis basic village facilities and their efforts for village development. Very presence of women in large numbers in all the training centres all over the district, made taluka officials recognise them as an important actors in village development. Along with this visibility and presence of women, narration of their efforts to improve the quality of life of women by various means and strategies or bringing facilities to the village by groups forced officials and panchayat members to see them as an ally equal to Gram Panchayats who can give feedback from the community, participate in programmes and monitor schemes.

Activating Mahila Mandals through development programmes: An inactive Sarpanch, the Mahila Mandal was able to work. Partly, this was because the Mahila Mandal was extremely active. The activities of the Mahila Mandal, however tended to be strong in the areas where the SSP has intervened, namely in the Samvad Sahayak programmes and in savings and credit. The other work it has done has been in health sector which again seems to be universally the case in most Mahila Mandals.

While women from the Usturi Mahila Mandal did not attend the Panchayati Raj training, their one request for training was for more information on government programmes. This was a component of the Panchayati Raj training and indicated to us that if they had attended the training, they in all likelihood would have found it extremely useful.

Establishment of Mahila Mandals as Implementation Agencies: Today, particularly due to their experience with the Samvad Sahayak programme, women in Mahila Mandals are ready to become the implementation agencies of government programmes. This was clear from the account given by the women of Tadmugli village, Nilanga taluka. This Mahila Mandal had developed their communication skills, especially with officials through their experience with the earthquake and through the Samvad Sahayak programme.

Quality intervention by women in public sphere: Improved status at village level as change agents, regular interface with officials, recognition and space at taluka level enabled women's groups to consistently intervene in public sphere. Whether going to district offices for drinking water and sanitation schemes, visiting school building in the village or going to taluka offices for training for handpump repair women come forward. According to Shanta Patil, Mahila Mandal representative, Usturi, Nilanga block, "We Mahila Mandal visit each house to ensure that every girl child in our village get education, at least upto 10th standard, we also visit school so that education of good quality is imparted to our children. We also insist on Gram Sabha (village assembly) takes place, every year. We women participate in Gram Sabha and raise issues".

Creation of Informal networks: At a district level workshop held in Osmanabad district in June 1997, the SSP held a session which brought together women elected officials. Here women Sarpanchs and Gram Panchayat members discussed the issues they faced in their villages ad discussed strategies they had tried to overcome any problems they might have faced. In the cluster level training also women elected officials from nearby villages came together in dialogue and discussion. One outcome of this process was the creation of an on-going informal network of elected members. Similarly through its on-going work with savings and credit groups, similar informal networks among women's groups were created. In the cluster levels, training bringing both these sets of actors together allowed yet another new level of exchange and dialogue.

Active participation of women all over the district balances out the aloofness of officials and V.P. and present Panchayati Raj in perspective of linkages and convergence.

Mobilisation of women's groups and women's capacity building programme takes new impetus and meaning when linked to panchayat Raj development programme. Capacity building on women centred issues in the context of Panchayati Raj structure in the district involves following points

Important is regular convergence of women at taluka office institutionalise the space for women in the institutional structures itself. This special programme for learning of women is named as sakhi panchayat. Access to village panchayat and women groups across the district helps to create taluka forums of learning exchanges and of interface (of dialogue) with officials. Officials, in turn, see this outreach to all in a district as part of their capacity building for information dissemination, feedback from community and more over to capacity of planning with participation. These are the incentives for officials to regularise the taluka forums on their own.

Building women's linkages with village panchayat requires that they are equipped with information which helps them to monitor functioning of V.P. Regular flow of information to update them regarding procedure power and functions of V.P., best practices and schemes, funding and policies at taluka can play the role to equip them to monitor V.P. in their village while learning exchanges at civility level (cluster of villages) meeting strengthens this role, availability of regular forum at taluka BDO office where feedback is given for action validates this role.

Access to village panchayats means access to Gram Sevaks - village officials and access and more importantly to elected women members. Here is a opportunity to come in contact with all elected women members of panchayats in the district and mobilise them. Essential first step towards building capacity of these women members is to create alliance between V.P.s and women's groups.

support from women groups in the village first to combat social isolation and to make their presence in the panchayat meeting representative of all women in the village. Alliance can give confidence to elected women to attend the meeting, enforce regularity of panchayat meeting (as stipulated in law) and present their view point without fear.

The Sakhi shibirs often led to demand for more information on specific schemes or meetings (Currently there does not exist any official mechanism for follow up on implementation of schemes at the sub taluka level. This means that village groups have to travel to the taluka head quarters very often for follow up). As a follow up of the workshops, one or the other village group is motivated enough to start a new activity or learn of an innovation in the neighbouring village.

District Melava: At the district level, 1,500 women attended which included 40 Mahila Sarpanchas, 300 Mahila Mandals and 200 savings and credit groups. This women's assembly where the CEO and all the officials from Osmanabad district took part resulted in fruitful negotiations between women and officials. Results of these negotiations included status is conceded to Mahila Mandal as implementor of schemes and linkages of savings and credit groups to banks.

Highlights of the Block level Melavas:

Walking Tours: Walking tours began with women's groups representatives visiting a village to map its resources and facilities such as water resources, school building, child care centers, health centers, ration shops and so forth. At the end of the day women would sit with the sarpancha and gram panchayat members to pinpoint the crux of the problems relating to each issue.

Increased Participation of Women at all levels: Yet another major impact of the training was that women, both elected members and Mahila Mandal representatives had started to visit the block and district offices in Osmanabad, about linking with government programmes. Evidence for this increased participation of women came mainly from officials in Osmanabad district.

Officials also recognized the impact of the training on the participation of Mahila Mandals. "I came here in August 1995. After the Panchayati Raj training, 76 women's groups have approached me about programmes. From Upra alone, 5-6 women's groups have asked for the IRDP and DWCRA programme. Whenever we go to visit the villages the first thing that women ask about now is IRDP and DWCRA." Vasant Samanke, Project Director, DRDA, Osmanabad district. According to one official, Mr. Sindley (Extension Officer, DRDA, Osmanabad district), "Some villages have seen a difference. Women have become more aware. They have started coming to the offices either for themselves or for the groups. Mahila Sarpanchas come for the entire village. Mahila Mandals come either for their group or for their villages. Women have come to know about the offices from the Panchayati Raj training. They come directly to us. There is no need for mediation. Application for programmes have increased as a result. Our target for IRDP was exceeded to give 60 percent of IRDP funds to women after the training through group loans. Before the training we could only give 30 percent to women. We could not, with all outreach of the bureaucracy and our target. Also, for sanitation and other programmes, there are 90 percent subsidies for beneficiaries. Earlier they did not know about this. Now, the applications have increased."

Other evidence supported this perspective. According to the same official, "Ten to eleven women Sarpanchas have come to the offices after the training. Earlier they knew very little. After the training in Poona and after the SPARC training, they have full information about the government programmes." Sindley, (Extension Officer, DRDA, Osmanabad district.

According to a second official, "After the training took place, women trouble us more than men. Women Gram Panchayat members, women Sarpanchs, both are coming to the offices more frequently. Even the Mahila Mandal members are visiting the offices, mainly those of ICDS and Women and Child Development. Women are speaking more to Gram Panchayat members." D.B. Lagdivi (V.D.O., Osmanabad)



Increased Frequency of Gram Sabhas and Monthly Meetings: After the training monthly meetings and Gram Sabhas were held across the two districts. Increased Participation by Women: Attendance by women at Gram Sabhas, participation of women elected members in the monthly meetings and work done by Mahila Mandals in village development activities increased. Community Participation: The participation of communities in village development and the resulting was emphasised in the training. That generated a reaction among Gram Panchayat members. It has been reported that Gram Panchayat is having monthly meetings, people's participation increased in these meetings. Forums for Participation: Forums for participation and exchange of experiences, like exchanges shibirs, melavas especially among women increased. Importance of Community-Based Organisations: The importance of CBOs such as Mahila Mandals as agencies for information dissemination, in monitoring anti-poverty schemes and mobilisation of communities in village development was recognised by the taluka and district administration. Training provided the fora for convergence of officials: The most important aspect of the PRTP is the convergence of all actors. The involvement of actors at every level set the tone for interaction between women members and taluka officials throughout the entire district. Increased Accountability of Officials: Govt. officials were integrated in the project planning stages and thus facilitated the transfer of information on schemes ,procedures & opened up spaces for information flow to Gram Panchayats Creating a Permanent Pool of Resource Persons in the District: District and taluka officials acted as resource persons and were trained as master trainers. They were instrumental in shaping and redesigning roles of women's groups, Gram Panchayats which, in turn, made them active interpreters of government schemes and policies They were and will continue to be brought together on occasions such as master level training, CPS training, Sakhi Panchayat Shibirs, Gram Sevak training and study tours, contributing to an enriched understanding of local governance. Building Relationships between the Gram Panchayat and the Mahila Mandal: One outcome of creating a strong Mahila Mandal is that they become political actors to contend with. Training offered the Mahila Mandals a first opportunity to dialogue with officials and elected representatives of GPs. While Mahila Mandals recognised the need for this relationship, through the training, officials also started citing examples of how a strong relationship between these two actors was essential. Institutionalising an Innovative Training Methodology: The training program of PR members was an innovative approach which entailed a one year learning process involving study tours and learning exchanges and forums for dialogue for several actors. Forum for Sarpanchas - The training programme provided women Sarpanchas a unique opportunity to meet each other on a larger scale. Some Sarpanchas decided to continue the networking process within talukas and demanded fora for advocacy, lobbying and intervention in the block level planning process.

Increased Transparency: Promoting Gram Sabhas is one of the means by which transparency of the Gram Panchayat's work and finances is encouraged.

Increased Participation of the Mahila Mandals in village development: After the training in Sonegaon and Rajuri villages women from the Mahila Mandal began actively asking Gram Panchayat members about meetings. Mobilisation of women within communities increased as shown by attendance at meetings and active participation in village development activities.

Increased Participation of Women at all levels: Yet another major impact of the training was that women, both elected members and Mahila Mandal representatives had started to visit the block and district offices in Osmanabad, about linking with government programmes. Evidence for this increased participation of women came mainly from officials in Osmanabad district. Monitoring village development: Women elected officials and representatives from the Mahila Mandals were able to identity the most crucial issues faced by the community and prioritise these for action. Quality intervention by women in public sphere: Improved status at village level as change agents, regular interface with officials, recognition and space at taluka level enabled women's groups to consistently intervene in public spheres. Whether going to district offices for drinking water and sanitation schemes, visiting school building in the village or going to taluka offices women's groups participated in a visible manner. Gender Responsive Officials: Panchayati Raj training took place after the capacity building and visibility of Mahila Mandals was established through the Earthquake Rehabilitation programme on a mass level through out the district. This helped officials at all levels to view village level CBOs as partners in development. Including them as active participants in the training with GPs reinforced their visibility in community governance.

Role of the govt. as facilitator, not as direct implementing agency in village development. The creation of a strong partnership between the Gram Panchayat and the Mahila Mandal and promoting community participation was part of the vision articulated by officials.


Community Participation, Governance and Democracy: The accounts of several officials show that, in fact, this training has resulted in the increased participation of Mahila Mandals and women elected officials in the development process. Linking this aspect of the training to promoting grassroots democracy, the BDO, (Ausa taluka, Latur district) said:

"Democracy is a form of governance where there should be least interference of government. Village governance and people's participation, is being discussed in this training. The Panchayati Raj Act, laws and schemes are being talked about and more important we are discussing the participation of the village communities in each of these areas. This is very important. Government is overburdened with so many schemes. The government needs to take care of major issues in relation to law and order and security. Even this, it will not be able to do. The micro issues of the village can be and should be handled by the village community."

Engendering Governance: There were cases of how women elected members view their roles in governance. The Sarpanchas here, saw their role as providing every household with drinking water, electricity and public facilities. In a tour of Devni village, the Mahila Sarpanch showed us certain areas in the village where for twenty years there was no water and four days before our visit, the water has started to be supplied in there areas. Work on tar roads is about to start. She showed us how in one area there was no water, she had provided water supply and other wards where she intended to increase the water supply. The Gram Panchayat in this village had built their own structures for the anganwadi - they revised the original area and cost estimates.

A brief interview with women from the village confirmed our perception of the excellent work done by the woman Sarpanch in her village. Women spoke about how the work done by the Gram Panchayat had become visible in the last two years since the Sarpanch had taken office and reported that she was responsive to their needs. However, this was an example of a woman who was successful in an all-male environment and was supported mainly by the entire community. She saw this world of implementation of development-related programmes as outside the reach of the Mahila Mandal. Unless the Sarpanch and the Gram Panchayat is able to see the Mahila Mandal as an implementation agency, as a potential actor in every stage and aspect of the development process, (planning, monitoring and implementation) the relationship between the two does not challenge or explore the full potential participation by women and communities.

Making administration responsive: Gram Sabha - Training of local self government involved elected representatives and district officials. The department of Panchayati Raj headed by the Chief Executive Officer. Zilla Parishad is responsible for efficient working of Gram Panchayats in the district. District officials desire qualitative improvement in the functioning of Gram Panchayats as they deal with them (day to day) and their job satisfaction or otherwise depends on the capacity and articulation of panchayat members. Upscaling the `informed' involvement of Panchayats in implementation of the state sponsored schemes works to lighten the burden of district officials.

Involvement of CEOs and deputy CEOs who were among the top rung of district officials ensured two important things. Important not only for quality of training program but quality of participation of taluka officials and panchayat members.

First, information on the state sponsored schemes, the main resource of development in the district) procedures and funds available for each scheme for each taluka (important for taluka planning), and fresh update of process information / of utilisation of each scheme and update pertaining to each village is ensured. It tells how various schemes can be converged for lasting effect and larger impact. Such information which is basically related to basic needs of the community, drinking water, schools, roads, sanitation, electricity and related poverty alleviation programmes were directed towards enhancing skills of Gram Panchayats, women groups and the community members. This process was facilitated and made accurately reliable because of involvement of district officials.

Secondly, it provided access to all departments involved in developmental works at districts. Top officials projected involvement facilitated participation of taluka - departmental officials and staff who were directly involved in work implemented in villages and whom the panchayat members or women groups had to face on an everyday basis (as larger schemes involving an half to one million rupees were sanctioned at the district) especially piped water supply, water storage tanks, school buildings, primary health centres and access roads.

Increased Frequency of Gram Sabhas and Monthly Meetings: In the past, Gram Sabhas, and monthly meetings were rarely held. In centre after centre in Latur district, the issue of regularising meetings was consistently raised. Either these meetings were not held or they were held without sufficient notice for members to attend. The minutes of meetings were on paper. The question of attendance of these meetings was also raised by Gram Panchayat Members, who said that in fact often the meetings would be announced and no one would come. The other problem frequently raised was that the Gram Sevak did not attend these meetings and yet he was a signatory for the resolutions.

At the training workshop, a male Sarpanch told a Gram Panchayat woman member "I send the meeting notice which you have signed and then you complain that you did not know about the meeting." She responded saying that "Every time I go to the Gram Panchayat, the male members say that there is no meeting today, so I cannot attend the meetings."

Consequently, Sarpanchas, Gram Sevaks, and Gram Panchayat members made collective resolutions to change these processes around conducting Gram Sabhas. In Osmanabad district as a consequence, monthly meetings and Gram Sabhas were held across the district after the training. The following reports by Gram Panchayat members, Sarpanchas and Mahila Mandal members show the impact of the training in their villages and on governance.

"In every place, Gram Panchayat meetings are happening regularly. Gram Sevaks and Sarpanchas are attending. Gram Sabhas are also being held. Women are attending and now aware of what is being spent through various schemes". Project Director, DRDA, Osmanabad district

"Gram Sabhas take place but the problem is that people do not understand what its purpose is? The people who have power do not attend. People come to ask the Sarpanch what he or she is doing? People do not realise they have a right to attend. We, too, did not know the procedures of how to hold the Gram Sabha? We did not know how to invite people. Now we have all that information after the training. We know the laws, procedures, how members have to be inform people so many days in advance, how to conduct it, etc." Woman Sarpanch, Devni Village, Latur district

Increased Participation by Women: After the training, women elected members started showing an active interest in the monthly meetings. In the past, women members were not informed of the meetings, nor were they interested in attending or actively participating in them. "After the training, now women come for meetings when we call them and they speak. So there is a change" Sarpanch - Bori village. The impact of the training seemed to be stronger in Osmanabad than in Latur overall for two reasons. First, more time has elapsed during which women elected members have been able to make use of the information imparted to them during the training. Secondly, there have been other types of training inputs in Osmanabad - block and district level forums which had not yet occurred in Latur. "Basic knowledge has increased. After the training, there is more incentive for the meetings and Gram Sabhas to take place. Participation, especially women's participation has increased. This is the first time that women are speaking."

The articulation skills of Sarpanchas and elected officials were enhanced as a result. For example, in a visit to Devni village, the Sarpanch was able to articulate clearly the needs of the village, the work done by the Gram Panchayat and how she had managed the water supply problem. Since the training, she was also better able to articulate the issues faced by women. Furthermore, in her future vision of what she wanted to accomplish she had started to look at the role of the Mahila Mandals and how she was going to include them in the Gram Panchayat work. Similarly women in Rajuri village talked about how the Sarpanch behaved before the training and how her confidence was built through her interaction and exposure to work of other Gram Panchayats.

Another complaint of women Gram Panchayat members that emerged during the training was that they are not listened to by men in the meeting. The men veto every thing they ask for. Some women spoke of how it was difficult for them speak in the training sessions in front of the Gram Panchayat members and the Sarpanchas. In fact, the training itself was modelled on how a Gram Sabha could take place, allowing women the opportunity to speak and men to listen.

Gram Panchayat Acts and Procedures: Twenty-seven registers have to be maintained in any given village. Since the EOs are directly responsible for the maintenance of records they had a direct stake in imparting this information at the training. Therefore, the EOs took particular care to give people information on property registers, maintenance of private property records, village mapping, resource mapping, taxes, finances, and bank books. In addition, a booklet entitled "Acts and Procedures" which covered the entire range of Gram Panchayat Acts and Procedures was provided to each member who participated in the training. Model year planners and action planners were provided to every Sarpanch, Upsarpanchas and Gram Sevaks. Weekly work planners were provided to Sarpanchas, Upsarpanchas and Gram Sevaks. In the action plans provided to each Gram Sevak, tasks were outlined for all the months in a year.

Exposure to Government Offices: Through the study tour to the BDO - taluka office, Sarpanchas got exposure to details of taluka and district offices and personal encounters with every district official was arranged through study tours as a part of this training event. In this manner, tasks at every level, village, block and district were covered by the training programme.

The above reports show that not only have the frequency of meetings increased, but attendance and awareness of the work done and expenditure incurred also increased. In fact, the Sarpanch of Rajuri talked about how the awareness of everyone in the village of issues related to development has increased. According to her, when officials came to visit the village even she was not around other people in the village were able to update them on the work going on in the village.

Planning for Village Development
Government officials, themselves, were able to identify how the training was going to have an impact on village development. The following story related by an official shows how the training could assist newly elected members.

"One woman, a Gram Panchayat member for 15 years got the opportunity to become a Sarpanch but she turned it down because she thought that she would not be taken seriously. I told her that she should not have turned down this opportunity. This is an example of someone who had the knowledge but does not feel that she has the knowledge, despite 15 years of experience. Then, there is the other type, people who do not have the knowledge and have not been motivated to learn, nor are there people who can teach them. This is true for men and women. This training and knowledge will help both categories of people. It will help them to match schemes for village problems. The training will be enormously helpful for the next term. This training will really help those who are attending, both Sarpanchas and members, to give lead and direction to their communities. They will be able to give people ideas for development." BDO, Ausa taluka, Latur district.

Future Development: People's visions for future development were being shaped by the training. For example, after the training, the vision of the Devni's Sarpancha for the work she planned to do in the next year included:

"In the remaining three years my vision is to provide water in every house and light in every house. I want to provide school facilities to girls. The school for tenth standard and above was for girls. Initially, no one was sending their children. I was the first to send my daughter. After that everyone started sending their children. Now that school is functioning very well. The school is run by an NGO but I go to monitor its progress regularly. The Gram Panchayat has to be in contact with every house hold. When there was a man as a Sarpanch no one even knew about the Gram Panchayat. I visit families. No one even asked about people. I leave the house at ten, nowadays 11 in the morning. Sometimes, I do not go out but people visit me. The work goes on till 10 at night. There are 15,000 people in this village. It is a large village".

Transparency of Planning: The year planner for the Gram Sevak increased their answerability because it made the activities of the Gram Sevak open to the public. Furthermore, women were urging more accountability of the Gram Sevaks and asking for regular monthly meetings and Gram Sabhas thereby increasing the forums for planning. The E.O.s had a stake in the training imparted on the model year planners because it was compulsory for them to submit the yearly plan cum budget.

Case studies on best practices on village development were disseminated by the master trainers, who were trained on these examples. The two villages which were visited included Tergaon and Juvala Budhruk were among the best examples for planned development. For the cluster meetings or Sakhi Shibirs, which were a part of the training programme, SSP mobilized women (Gram Panchayat members and Mahila Mandal members) from 25 villages for every cluster. After information dissemination, there was the recording of grievances and best practices. Walking tours were conducted at the village level which included mapping exercises of village resources. After the training, articulation had improved, people's interaction increased and women articulated the needs of the community which allowed for better inputs and a more informed planning process. Finally, this training ensured the increased participation of women and their awareness of the Gram Panchayat, its functioning, schemes for development and the officials in charge of those schemes.

Mobilization of Communities
The main source of articulation on community needs is at the taluka office. Their interaction with the community can speed up the forces of mobilization. The very fact that all the actors in the village were present in the training programme, led to a review of their performances. The presence of taluka and district officials with whom interaction occurred activated members to maintain contact with the administration.

Community Participation: The participation of communities in village development was emphasized in the training. It was reported that every Gram Panchayat had monthly meetings, Gram Sevaks submitted accounts and that people's participation increased in these meetings. "People's active participation has increased since the training. People who normally do not speak to each other interacted, like the Gram Sevaks, Gram Panchayat women members, Sarpanchas, Mahila Mandals and NGOs." This participation increased the community's articulation of needs, especially women's articulation. "This training will help the village community understand what they should do. It will show the people where they can handle things themselves and where they should not approach the government." "BDOs, EOs and Gram Sevaks are all saying that women have become more talkative. They are demanding information on schemes. Yes, there is change".

Forums for Participation: Forums for participation and exchange of experiences, especially among women increased. "Basic knowledge has increased. After the training, there is more incentive for the meetings and Gram Sabhas to take place. Participation, especially women's participation has increased. This is the first time that women are speaking." "After the training, ten village women came together to me. These women have become knowledgeable and now talk about how they should be 50 percent of every scheme. Women take the booklet on schemes given out in the training on government programmes and they go out. Women can now participate in all programmes, they know about them. Women Sarpanchas can do a better job because of the training."

Importance of Community-Based Organisations: Incidentally, local participation for the government implied the involvement of local organisations as can be seen by the comment made by the BDO, Latur taluka, Latur district, "There should be local participation. We need NGOs, Mahila Mandals, Yuvak Mandals." The importance of Mahila Mandals been firmly established in the eyes of the government in Latur and Osmanabad.

Integration with Officials at all Levels

Official presence in the training was crucial in several respects:

It provided a supportive environment for the training program

It allowed for increased accountability on the part of officials towards women

In increased the co-operation among women and officials.

Increased Accountability of Officials: It is here that the SSP's concept and strategy of learning exchanges and inclusion of a diverse range of actors plays a crucial role. Because government officials were integrated into this process from the very beginning each actor had a stake and to feel his/her share of responsibility. The following story by the BDO, Latur district illustrates this feeling of accountability of officials to women's participation in governance, "There cannot be development without the participation of women, it is simply impossible. At the same time there are some cases where women who should come forward and who are not allowed to. Take the example of Patrawadi. Because the Sarpanch is from the scheduled castes, the Gram Panchayat will not allow her to operate. She said to me "Instead of the whole village suffering due to me, I will give an application to let the schemes be administered through your department. Do not let the funds lapse However, if someone is not allowed to be Sarpanch and do the work because she is a woman or from the SC or ST community, then it is a failure on my part and on the part of the E.O. When problems like these arise it has to be dealt with by the BDO or the Tahsildar. We are responsible."

Accountability of Gram Sevaks: In the past, Gram Sevaks did not provide utilisation of budgets in monthly meetings. Gram Sevaks duties towards presenting monthly accounts to all Gram Panchayat members was clearly emphasized in the training. The result was that not only did the frequency of meetings intensify but at these meetings Gram Sevaks were now presenting accounts, which includes the balance at the beginning of the month, expenditure and income during the month and the balance at the end of the month.

Accountability of Gram Panchayat Officials: Women Sarpanchas also changed their practices after the training and became more vigilant about funds handled by Gram Sevaks. Several instances were reported after the training in Osmanabad where women officials demanded to know from Gram Sevaks the checks written and whether there was a resolution for those expenditures.

Increased Co-operation Among Women and Officials: According to one official, "Part of the training was to inform women members - the functions of various departments / officials concerned with IRDP, DWCRA, Agriculture, Sanitation and other programmes. Women approach taluka officials with increased frequency.

The training on Panchayati Raj has been a learning experience for all, its effect, transformative. According to the Deputy CEO, Osmanabad district, "Women elected members and sarpanchas did not know about the schemes. Gram Sevaks tend to keep the information to themselves. The training has allowed women members gain new knowledge and confidence. The behaviour of officials with women and sarpanchas has changed as a result of the training. They realise now that they have to listen to women."

Reflecting on the relationship between women's groups and the Gram Panchayat, officials in Latur and Osmanabad fully supported the notion of Mahila Mandals being involved at every level in development processes, "Women have to participate more in Gram Panchayat. Women, as a whole should plan for schemes. They should influence the policy of government. Mahila Mandal and women groups should be involved in policy, monitoring and implementation at the micro (village) level. They should be involved in all issues." BDO Ausa taluka, Latur district

Officials in these districts also started to view the Mahila Mandal as an NGO. Reflecting on the roles of the Mahila Mandal, the NGOs and the government, officials were beginning to see how with further training, the Mahila Mandal could be treated as an NGO. With the recognition of the status of an NGO, the Mahila Mandal is not only viewed differently but can take on a different role from its previous decade. Mahila Mandals should be properly trained and should collect their finances for participation. Mahila Mandals should build their organisation, get training, learn financial management, to strengthen them. The entire development budget of the district should be handed over to NGOs. I call even a successful Mahila Mandal as an NGO. There should be no interference of Government. The only role of the government should be to give money, get utilisation certificates." Mr. Haridas, Project Director, Latur district.

One purpose of the training and the materials handed out to women in the village was to give women the message that they had a equal right to development resources. Even male Sarpanchas experienced change in their villages. These women have become knowledgeable and now talk about how they should be allocated 50 percent resources of every scheme. Women take the booklet given out in the training on government programmes and they go out. Women can now participate in all programmes, they know about them. Women Sarpanchas can do a better job because of the training." Jadav, Sarpanch, Chikli village, Osmanabad taluka. This was an example of a male Sarpanch who was actively integrated into the Panchayati Raj training and who supported women and the Mahila Mandal is his village. In contrast, several do not support the works of Mahila Mandals. Further training sessions, study tours and peer exchanges between supportive male sarpanchas and others are needed.

However, one Project Director was able to provide an example of a place where despite strong group politics within a village, there were best practices where people were able to overcome these divisive forces and where the Mahila Mandal was doing very well. For example, Murud and Boregaon have DWCRA groups which are successfully running economic projects. This is because of continuous interaction between the NGO, government officials and the Mahila Mandal. These villages had the same problems but were able to transcend. This is a real achievement. Lots of visitors to those villages which broke the barriers. There are two Mahila Mandals doing masala and garments which were economically successful. For next year, we sanctioned houses under the Indira Awas Yojana and handed it over to the Mahila Mandal and that construction was much better than the Gram Panchayat. Show the achievement and the barrier is broken." Haridas, Project Director, Latur district. One reason he gave for this success was the involvement of outside actors. According to him, "Because of the involvement of government officials, Sarpanchas and Gram Panchayat's attitudes changed. A different trend was set in." It is only through identification of and exchanges with these villages that the attitudes of other Gram Panchayat members can change.

Widespread Information Dissemination
Information Imparted to All Actors: One official described this training process as well as the information imparted during this training, "In August of 1996, we had a workshop. We had representatives from the panchayat in the field, Gram Sevak, BDO, Sarpanchas, Junior Engineers, Extension officers and other staff. The major emphasis was the role of the panchayat. Their duty, how the panchayat should function, what is the state of the Gram Panchayat today and what it should be." The BDO, Latur taluka, Latur district

Content of Training: A rich variety of subjects were brought up during the training. As one official put it "Information was given about JRY, IAY, BPL schemes. We trained master trainers so they could train members of the panchayat. The major foci were a. Gram Panchayat meeting b. Gram Sabha. The outcome was 80-90% attendance." The BDO, Latur taluka, Latur district Detailed information was also given by the master trainers on several other aspects of governance besides the role of the Gram Panchayat, etc. Other issues covered were no-confidence motions, how to deal with unjust no-confidence motions, taxes and patronage.




Swayam Shikshan Prayog is a voluntary organisation works jointly with SPARC (Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres) in Bombay. (SSP was initiated by SPARC in 1989, as a networking process with over 40 small and medium organisations working on issues of economic empowerment with women's collectives from rural poor communities in Maharashtra). These women's collectives work on survival issues - credit, livelihoods, implementing anti poverty programmes etc. Capacity building of Gram Panchayats and community based groups together with central participation of women's collectives in development are important goals of SSP.

Today, there are two sections of SSP's work. Firstly the networking activities which link SSP organisations in ten districts in Maharashtra through workshops, study tours and advocacy with the government and linkage to credit, resources and training institutions. Secondly, the field activities are administered by a field team in the two districts Latur and Osmanabad. This part of SSP's work began in 1993 as part of the post earthquake project for community participation.

Community Participation Consultant

Since August 1994, SSP worked as Community Participation Consultant with the government in the earthquake rehabilitation project. The SSP team designed a community participation strategy to ensure coverage of 1,200 villages within two districts in the project. Information, education and training of all actors - village communities, CBOs and NGOs and officials were the mainstay of this innovative program. Community participation activities - study tours, dialogue workshops with officials, exhibitions on earthquake safe housing etc. were facilitated by SPARC team and the program drew upon the strengths of the existing actors - motivated officials, wide outreach to communities by district to village administration, Mahila Mandals - village women's leadership and Gram Panchayats.

Emerging from this, SSP works with small NGOs, savings and credit groups, Mahila Mandals and Gram Panchayats in 300 villages located in the six talukas of Latur and Osmanabad districts and in the Marathwada region. The work in the field is largely shaped by the need of women's groups to function as village based organisations and consequently to address every day survival issues and access resources and schemes. Currently the areas of intervention are construction and housing, savings and credit, antipoverty schemes, livelihoods, management of drinking water, toilets, monitoring of services such as health centres, schools, anganwadis, etc.

Another important direction of SSP's work is the involvement in training and information network with elected members of Gram Panchayats in the two districts. This initiative led to making visible the participation of women elected members and Mahila Mandals in implementation of government schemes.

Perspective and work linked to Panchayati Raj institutions

Since the last decade, at the base of SSP's networking processes were the women's groups, Mahila Mandals and savings and credit groups. NGOs in the districts and the groups participated in learning fora and gained access to information and resources within districts. The mobilisation of women's groups and training had to led enhanced capacities for dealing with village and local area development.

Within the context of SSP's work women and communities were viewed as central actors and essential to a holistic approach to development. The multiple roles played by rural poor women in daily life within house holds and subsistence activities make them an integral part of village communities. In order to tap the strength of this perspective in village development, women have to be included in the local development processes. Access to information and resources and interaction with a host of institutional actors would lead to visible participation of women in decision making.

The 73rd amendment offered new opportunities for the poor communities and women, historically silenced by social norms, to initiate a dialogue with Gram Panchayats.

Including newly elected members especially women and poor presented a formidable challenge to not only NGOs like SSP but also to the district administration who had primarily worked on development not governance issues. Redesigning roles and relations between key development actors was the basis of a new partnership:

It was recognised that the multiple actors need to interact on a common platform at all levels (village® district) through a range of participatory development activities such as information network, constructive dialogue on village planning, evaluating existing public amenities, and monitoring antipoverty and development schemes for the poor.

Prior to the elections of 1995, SSP facilitated a workshop for NGOs in Maharashtra on exploring issues around Panchayati Raj. The forum allowed for sharing between elected women representatives and interstate, inter district NGOs to work with local self governments. The first elections after the 73rd amendment provided SSP with opportunities to educate village communities about the political spaces / opportunities process and to explore relations with Gram Panchayats as a point of entry in reaching out to and involving women's groups in village development.

The elections in 1995 to Gram Panchayats brought forth thousands of women and men in grassroots leadership. At SSP, we saw a tremendous need for information and education that would result in capacity building of Gram Panchayat members and committees.

Among, the other activities that SSP undertook was a voters' campaign with NGOs in several districts in Maharashtra. Through the education campaign, voters were educated regarding such basics as the voting process and selection of a candidate. Similarly, women candidates were educated on women's issues and development issues. Prior to the elections, through bulletins people were informed of voting procedures, the prevailing election issues, and the candidates' records on these issues.

Results of election to GPs in Maharashtra:

The post election period was significant in creating an entry for women's participation in local self governments and for increasing participation of NGOs and field organisers in issues related to local governance.

The upscaled participation of both women candidates and women voters in the two years (1995 and 1996 elections) afforded the SSP network a valuable outlet for moving on to village priorities as evaluated by women. These issues go beyond the concerns of village. Women express interest in issues regarding community development. This perspective informs the issues promoted by the SSP network. These issues included development issues of access to economic resources, how Gram Panchayat members can promote development through the formal government roles they fill, budgeting and allocation of government funds, facilitating dialogue between village communities, officials and experts within each district regarding how communities can participate in the development process.

A unique feature of these efforts was the recognition by SSP that women need to interact within the village and also with actors at the taluka to influence local planning and decision making. Panchayat Sakhi - Forum for convergence at the block level for interaction between women Gram Panchayat members, Mahila Mandals, block level officers, and district level officers.

The taluka is the level upon at which entire rural development resources and state policies are targeted and the level where the interface with the administration occurs. Development resources and resource agencies such as educational institutes, women's groups, and NGOs are located here.

By creating a development dialogue platform at this level, village communities were informed of the taluka administration and made aware of the capacity of village level leaders. The elected Gram Panchayat members especially women in these talukas possessed a role in the development structures for the first time so exposure to district administration and its functioning was essential. Participation in these fora increased confidence in the women members to approach officials, give feedback on development schemes and participate in village planning processes.

As part of creating an information network, bulletins on Panchayati Raj from March 1995 were produced and distributed to all the Mahila Mandals in Latur and Osmanabad districts. Information on the 73rd amendment, the reservation policy; the role and work of the Gram Panchayat, its structure, and its function; procedures, reservation, and possible difficulties related to the post of the Mahila Sarpanch; roles and responsibilities of the Mahila Sarpanch and how to conduct meetings and Gram Sabhas, maintain records were some of the information upscales in these issues.

Interactive village planning - The SSP evolved "hands on "training for women's groups, elected Gram Panchayat members, which focuses on skills for micro planning in their villages and at sub taluka levels. The basic premise is that these groups will be more successful in promoting village development if they prepare a plan for the village(s) together. Community information or database which will be developed through village resource mapping exercises. These include mapping of local resources, existing facilities, funding flows and expenditures by women's groups and elected members and charting administrative rules and procedures at the block and village levels. The women will be better equipped to participate in local governance if they have assessed these characteristics of village and the administration. This model of interactive planning between Mahila Mandals, Gram Panchayats and implementing agencies can be an useful planning tool for village and taluka officials in other districts.


A Typical Training Session: Latur taluka, May 24, 1997
At this meeting master trainers began by presiding.   Monitoring the session throughout were SSP-SPARC staff and 
Mahila Mandal representatives. T.J. Ramani (Extension officer), a master trainer presided over the first part of the 
meeting. The session started with a discussion  on earthquake, construction, repair, precautions that could be taken 
and  earthquake resistant technology. T.J. Ramani, used a poster made by the SSP to demonstrate precautions
 people could take in case of disasters. 
The next area covered was government programmes that people could access. Mr. Ramani talked about IRDP,
 DWCRA, TRYSEM and money available for poor women  ad communities. He discussed the eligibility criteria, 
such as age limits,       BPL list and limitations. He showed participants where to find more information about schemes 
in the books prepared by the SSP. Two books were handed out  to participants, one on all schemes and another 
on schemes for women.
The Roles of the Mahila Mandal was next discussed. Officials informed people  that ten percent of the Gram 
Panchayat money is for women and should be  given after consultation with the Mahila Mandal. SPARC arranged
a study  tour of 65 people to Warna nagar co-operative to see how women were organised  through co-operatives.
Finally, the role of the Gram Panchayat and Gram Sevak were discussed. Here, village infrastructure is not good. 
Gram Panchayat should ensure this and also ensure that the water provided can be drunk. Gram Panchayat can 
bring in water programmes to manage and supply water. Provision of safe drinking water is the responsibility of the 
Gram Panchayat, Gram Sevak and Sarpanch so as to ensure the health. Gram Panchayat should take a stand against
 alcoholism. If 50 percent of women in the Mahila Mandal petition against alcoholism, the Gram Panchayat has to act. It is 
the responsibility of the Gram Panchayat, Sarpanch, members and Upsarpanch to bring in the programmes into the village.
Mr. Navadi, E.O. then discussed the sanitation scheme.  A scheme At this meeting master trainers began by presiding. 
 Monitoring the session throughout were SSP-SPARC  staff and Mahila Mandal representatives.  T.J. Ramani 
(Extension officer), a master trainer presided over the first part of the meeting.  The session started with a discussion 
on earthquake, construction, repair, precautions that could be taken and earthquake resistant technology.  T.J. Ramani, 
used a poster made by the SSP  to demonstrate precautions people could take in case of disasters. The next area covered 
was government programmes that people could access.   Mr. Ramani talked about IRDP, DWCRA, TRYSEM and money 
available for poor women ad communities.  He discussed the eligibility criteria, such as age limits, BPL list and limitations.  
He showed participants where to find more information about schemes in the books prepared by the SSP.  Two books were 
handed out to participants, one on all schemes and another on schemes for women. The roles of the Mahila Mandal was 
next discussed.  Officials informed people that ten percent of the Gram Panchayat money is for women and should be given 
after consultation with the Mahila Mandal.  SPARC arranged a study tour of 65 people to Warna nagar co-operative  to see how 
women were organised through co-operatives.  Finally, the role of the Gram Panchayat and Gram Sevak were discussed. 
 Here, village infrastructure is not good.  Gram Panchayat should ensure this and also ensure that the water provided can be 
drunk.  Gram Panchayat can bring in water programmes to manage and supply water.  Provision of safe drinking water is the 
responsibility of the Gram Panchayat, Gram Sevak and Sarpanch so as to ensure the health.  Gram Panchayat should take
 a stand against alcoholism.  If 50 percent of women in the Mahila Mandal petition against alcoholism, the Gram Panchayat 
has to act.  It is the responsibility of the Gram Panchayat, Sarpanch, members and Upsarpanch to bring in the programmes
 into the village.Mr. Navadi, E.O. then discussed the sanitation scheme.  A scheme for toilets was started in Maharashtra in 
1995-96.  Every Gram Panchayat, Zilla Parishad, tried in Maharashtra to distribute 3,500 for the construction of each toilet.  
We got some applications initially from the Panchayat Samiti  Only from March 1997 did the requests for toilet construction 
increase.  In every house there should be a toilet.  To apply put in the application with the Panchayat Samiti  Women should
 monitor the construction of toilets, its size, the layout of pipes and so on.  Toilets should be constructed in such a way that 
manure is prepared for the fields.
Laxmikant, (SSP, Latur):  Women can be trained to  make toilets in 3 days.  Women should speak up about this.  Each Mahila 
Mandal can get Rs. 150 for building a toilet.  An application can be put in to the BDO.  You can get 3,500 Rs. for material to 
construct each toilet.  Mahila Mandal should do this work because why else have they formed a Mahila Mandal.  SPARC can 
train women on toilet construction.  You can get space as well.  The Gram Panchayat and Mahila Mandal can supervise the 
work together.   The dialogue between participants and the trainers and the SSP began with some appreciation given for the 
training and then an exercise was conducted in which women were asked to express their concerns here taking it as a form of
 Gram Sabha and a preparation or training for this type of participation.
Vimalthai, Gram Panchayat Member, Rainapur village:  This type of training never been held in this district.   The programme is to
 help the poor and women.  SPARC's involvement has brought us this far.  We should now take on the work as our responsibility,
 not to please officials, not because we will get something out of it.  We are all here because this is our duty, our responsibility.  
Our village should be clean, healthy and have  facilities.  We need toilets, especially for women.  This is shameful for our country 
that we do not care about this.  The toilet programme is not for us to make money but to benefit our families and communities.  
These officials are coming here and sharing their experiences.  Only if we do the work will this programme be successful  I 
promise that the programme that SPARC has started we will complete, we will do the work.  Women's confidence have improved 
and their courage has increased.  It is good that for the first time this woman has a woman Upsarpanch.  Today, women also
 want sit in the front seat.  We want this village's Gram Panchayat to do good work.  Our Gram Panchayat is one of the biggest 
in the district.  Every village has political parties.  We may fight each other during the time of elections.  When a development 
programme comes into the village all of us should join hands. E.O.:  We have all come together to discuss development.Mahila 
Mandal member:  We like this training because it has shown us what women can do.  We learnt that in every house there should
 be a toilet.  Can we make a toilet outside the house?Laxmikant: Yes and the officer in charge can help you design it.  The 
material we have given you has the design for the toilet outside the house.One woman:  Water is a problem in our village.
E.O.:  Bring up the water problem in the Gram Sabha.Laxmikant:  If water is a problem, then you should put in an application
 now for a programme to make a bore-well because it will take a long time to process.Mahila Mandal member:  In two years, 
not even one meeting has been held by the Gram Panchayat.Laxmikant:  Sometimes, the meeting does not take place because
 it is not well organized.  No one is informed.  On August 15th the Gram Panchayat is supposed to hold a Gram Sabha.  The Gram
 Sabha is for the village.  This meeting today is one form of a Gram Sabha.  The Gram Panchayat is here, the Sarpanch and 
members are here, officials are here.  What are your demands?   Speak openly.E.O.:  Let us pretend the meeting has started.  
Tell us what are your problems?  What are your demands?Uchala Bai (Mahila Mandal member, Arz village):  There is no water,
 no light, no roads, no pipes.T.J. Kandai (Gram Panchayat Secretary):  You are right that there is no water.  The pipes leak.  
The Gram Sevak and the Sarpanch took this on as their responsibility.  I can give you a report.  The material for construction has
 been kept by the Sarpanch and there is a police case against the Sarpanch.   Every month, there is a meeting but the Sarpanch
 does not attend. You should come to the Gram Sabha and speak about these issues, express your views.Uchala Bai:  I am
 telling the Sarpanch, not you.Gram Panchayat Secretary:  The Sarpanch is a business man.  He has a shop in Latur and s
pends most of his time outside the village.  So, what can you expect from him.  Put in an application and I will take responsibility 
for the material for the water and pipes. We may fight each other during the time of elections.  When a development programme
 comes  into the village all of  us should join hands.
E.O.:  We have all come together to discuss development.
Mahila Mandal member:  We like this training because it has shown us what women can do.  We learnt that in every house 
there should be a toilet.  Can we make a toilet outside the house?
Laxmikant: Yes and the officer in charge can help you design it.  The material we have given you has the design for the toilet
 outside the house.
One woman:  Water is a problem in our village.
E.O.:  Bring up the water problem in the Gram Sabha.
Laxmikant:  If water is a problem, then you should put in an application now for a programme to make a bore-well because
 it will take a long time to process.
Mahila Mandal member:  In two years, not even one meeting has been held by the Gram Panchayat.
Laxmikant:  Sometimes, the meeting does not take place because it is not well organized.  No one is informed.  
On August 15th the Gram Panchayat is supposed to hold a Gram Sabha.  The Gram Sabha is for the village.  This meeting 
today is one form of a Gram Sabha.  The Gram Panchayat is here, the Sarpanch and members are here, officials are here.  
What are your demands?   Speak openly.
E.O.:  Let us pretend the meeting has started.  Tell us what are your problems?  What are your demands?
Uchala Bai (Mahila Mandal member, Arz village):  There is no water, no light, no roads, no pipes.
T.J. Kandai (Gram Panchayat Secretary):  You are right that there is no water.  The pipes leak.  The Gram Sevak and the
Sarpanch took this on as their responsibility.  I can give you a report.  The material for construction has been kept by the 
Sarpanch and there is a police case against the Sarpanch.   Every month, there is a meeting but the Sarpanch does not attend. 
You should come to the Gram Sabha and speak about these issues, express your views.
Uchala Bai:  I am telling the Sarpanch, not you.
Gram Panchayat Secretary:  The Sarpanch is a business man.  He has a shop in Latur and spends most of his time outside
the village.  So, what can you expect from him.  Put in an application and I will take responsibility for the material for the water 
and pipes.


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