India is a prominent global voice that has made significant progress on human development over the past 60 years, but the benefits of a growing economy are not shared equally: the country is still home to one-third of the world’s poor. India is the world’s largest democracy with a population of 1.17 billion. Between 2005 and 2010, 53 million people were lifted out of poverty. But in 2010, 69% still lived on less than £1.25 a day, and 33% on less than 80 pence a day. With a national goal of increased shared prosperity (increasing absolute number of people who are socially included, reasonably secure and not poor), means more than lifting people out of poverty. Gender inequality is pervasive, and the ratio of girl children to boy children is decreasing. Educational attainment is low, and India holds one-third of the world’s illiterate. India must overcome enormous structural challenges to sustain a population out of poverty.
Rita Sarin’s International Women’s Day Statement 2013 ‘No Silence on Violence’
Our Work in India
The Hunger Project has been active in India since 1984 and currently works across 7 states. The Hunger Project’s approach, mobilising people for self-reliant action, empowering women as key change agents and engaging with local government has culminated in one comprehensive strategy, the Panchayati Raj Campaign.
The 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution mandated that one-third of all seats in panchayats (village councils) be reserved for women, bringing more than one million women into elected office. The Hunger Project facilitates the leadership of these women leaders with key interventions in each year of their five year tenures.
Year One: Women step forth as leaders and participate in capacity-building activities with The Hunger Project, such as Women’s Leadership Workshops (WLWs) and follow-up workshops. Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) begin developing work plans for their communities, and initiate contact with other EWRs for the formation of federations in the next year.
Year Two: Leadership development among EWRs continues, with WLWs and follow-up workshops. Leaders start implementing work plans within their communities, and begin to build federations.
Year Three: EWRs strengthen the federations at district and state levels and start engaging with local issues. EWRs continue to participate in capacity-building activities with The Hunger Project, introducing the needs-based workshops to self-identify and address gaps in their leadership development and within their communities.
Year Four: EWRs begin assessing impact in the fourth year, reflecting on their training and documenting their experiences. Federations in action advocate across their states to work towards more enabling environments for future leaders
Year Five: Leading up to the next election cycle, EWRs prepare new potential leaders, identified through campaigns that encourage the participation of women as voters and as candidates. Networks and alliances are expanded, and EWRs work to track elections.
The Hunger Project has partnered with 40 local civil society organisations to train more than 87,000 elected women representatives since 2001. Examples of the interventions within this strategy include:
Women’s Leadership Development
The Hunger Project builds leadership skills among women who have been systematically denied information, freedom of motion and voice in decision making. The overall goal in this leadership development is for women in the community to lead, own and shape development processes that give priority to basic services like water, sanitation, education, health care and an efficient food system.
Women’s Leadership Workshops (WLWs) are the first major capacity-building initiative of The Hunger Project five-year cycle with first-time elected women representatives (EWRs). These three-day workshops are participatory in nature, and are conducted primarily to build confidence among EWRs and provide them with information and knowledge about their key roles and responsibilities in their Panchayats. It is the first step towards transformative leadership.
Empowering Women in Elections
To encourage greater voter participation among women and nominations of potential women leaders, The Hunger Project conducts SWEEP (Strengthening Women’s Empowerment in Electoral Processes), an intensive pre-election programme . This includes identification of potential leaders meetings, film screenings, street plays, door-to-door engagements, trainings and distribution of educational posters and pamphlets.
Federations for Advocacy and Mutual Empowerment
To empower women leaders and their communities, The Hunger Project supports the formation of federations among their elected leaders. In the states of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, women leaders are creating federations at the district and state levels to voice their concerns as a collective unit. Priority issues include 50 percent reservation of seats in local government for women, removal of two-child norm laws and increased transparency and support between levels of government.
Mobilising the Media to Support Women Leaders
To highlight the work of women leaders and Panchayati Raj, The Hunger Project actively engages with the media and annually awards the Sarojini Naidu Prize. The prize showcases the efforts being made by the elected women and recognises three journalists reporting on their work in Hindi, English and other Indian language categories.
Coping with Climate Change
In partnership with the Environmental Defence Fund, The Hunger Project is training elected women to build the capacity of their villages to cope with the ravages of climate change.
Implementing Disaster Preparedness
To strengthen local governance and improve disaster preparedness in 17 areas affected by the 2004 tsunami, The Hunger Project facilitated the formation of contingency plans for use by each of the panchayats, including digitised maps that will help villagers evacuate in times of natural disasters and developing the capacity of the community for managing disasters.
Meet Rita our Country Director in India, visit THP-India’s website, learn more about the key initiatives that are empowering people to end their own hunger or take action now and get involved.