Skip to main content

Helping get NREGA work, Mahila Sangh 'inspires' women to come off traditional role

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

The Budhner Narmada Mahila Sangh, a federation consisting of 385 women’s self-help groups in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, is playing a major role in the planning and execution of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) work in several villages of Mohgaon block. Formed in 2012 for empowering rural women on livelihood issues, income enhancement, agriculture and livestock, the federation is the apex body governing all women’s groups which come under it.
MGNREGA, as a social security scheme, guarantees 100 days of labour work in lieu of payment to rural communities in Indian villages since its launch in 2006. Narmada mahila sangh president Saraswati Maravi, a resident of Mungwani village in Mandla, informed that before its formation women in many villages of Mohgaon did not possess a clear-cut idea about MGNREGA and how it can change the face of villages.
“After grassroots non-profit PRADAN started working with us, we gradually came to know that MGNREGA is a positive scheme through which large-scale developmental activities can be carried out in villages. To reap maximum benefits out of the scheme, women from the federation started attending meetings of the gram sabha during which they placed their views. Gradually, our members showed interest in how plans under MGNREGA are executed and attended janpad (local government body) meetings. Now, we know which officials to approach to get things done faster,” Maravi added.

Changes on the ground

It has been a huge achievement for almost 4,500 women associated with the Budhner Narmada Mahila Sangh, said Sumendra Punia, PRADAN executive, who works for the organisation in Mandla. A few sangh members admitted that when it is a question of the benefit of rural communities, personal approach is time consuming, but as a group it is always helpful and things move to the next level much faster.
A positive change that has happened in Mohgaon is that apart from MGNREGA work, women associated with the sangh have also opened up meaningful debates in the community on gender, domestic violence, health and nutrition. Discussions are happening with men too in several villages of the block.
It often happens that panchayat members are not that responsive to our needs. So, in these cases, the sangh raises its voice collectively. “Women are getting more confident as a result of this and their role and responsibility are fast changing in a traditional male-dominated society. Most of the times, the sangh also tries to get dates for meeting the zilla parishad chief executive officer and other officials,” Maravi pointed out.
The main aim of the sangh is to hold government officials accountable for their performance. In the past two years, there have been several attempts made by women members to meet the block development officer and they have succeeded in this mission.
On being asked as to how men are responding to women taking the lead role, the sangh president admitted that at first the men could not understand our mission and constantly questioned the purpose of meetings and formation of self-help groups under an umbrella federation. “There are issues still, but an improvement has been made. As we worked hard over the past four years, gradually people came to recognise us. Now, some men appreciate the work done by us,” Maravi said.

Arresting migration

Besides making women come out of their traditional roles, MGNREGA work in the village has arrested migration by offering jobs to the local population. A lot of water harvesting structures like jalkunds (water basins) and farm ponds have been created, boosting agriculture which is the main means of livelihood in Mandla. This year during monsoon, the women federation members also carried out tree plantation in a common land during which they planted 22,600 saplings.
Punia said that the main aim of PRADAN’s work was to bring about improvement in the economic status of rural communities. “Most villages in Mandla district are dependent on farming but farmers face issues like water scarcity and poor soil health. Thus, it is imperative for villages to create good assets and MGNREGA is the only means to go about it.”
As a non-profit, PRADAN works with women’s collectives and empowers them so that they can collaborate with panchayats, the district administration and government departments in capacity building. Initially, discussions happened at the village level and women were exposed to work in other states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Amol Das Bairagi, MGNREGA gram rozgar sahayak from Chubhawal gram panchayat in Mohgaon, said after initial discussions, a design was made with the help of the patwari or village-level accountant. Work started with the treatment of lands in the higher elevation and gradually moved on to lands in the lower reaches.
In the past four years, over 1,000 acres of land have been treated and 330 units of work have been done for rainwater harvesting. “Women members of the Narmada sangh helped us a lot. Earlier, they were not much aware about these things but the scenario has changed since 2017-2018 when work started in many villages of Mohgaon block in Mandla. A lot of activity has been carried out on contour trenches to prevent landslides from top to bottom,” Bairagi added.
MGNREGA mate Nanhesingh Netam, who looks after Dhamanpani village in Mohgaon, pointed out that positive results have come about in all villages after the women’s sangh arrived on the scene. As the women kept on meeting and taking interest in our work, proper planning could be executed.
“Things have changed for the best for all of us. Earlier, villagers used to flee to Maharashtra and Kerala for work, but in the past three to four years, villagers aren’t going outside anymore,” Bairagi said.

Comments

TRENDING

Importance of Bangladesh for India amidst 'growing might' of China in South Asia

By Samara Ashrat*  The basic key factor behind the geopolitical importance of Bangladesh is its geographical location. The country shares land borders with Myanmar and India. Due to its geographical position, Bangladesh is a natural link between South Asia and Southeast Asia.  The country is also a vital geopolitical ally to India, in that it has the potential to facilitate greater integration between Northeast India and Mainland India. Not only that, due to its open access to the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh has become significant to both China and the US.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'BBC film shows only tip of iceberg': Sanjiv Bhatt's daughter speaks at top US press club

By Our Representative   The United States' premier journalists' organisation, the National Press Club (NPC), has come down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recent "attacks on journalists in India." Speaking at the screening of an episode of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question,” banned in India, in the club premises, NPC President Eileen O’Reilly said, “Since Modi came to power we have watched with frustration and disappointment as his regime has suppressed the rights of its citizens to a free and independent news media."

Chinese pressure? Left stateless, Rohingya crisis result of Myanmar citizenship law

By Dr Shakuntala Bhabani*  A 22-member team of Myanmar immigration officials visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar to verify more than 400 Rohingya refugees as part of a pilot repatriation project. Does it hold out any hope for the forcibly displaced people to return to their ancestral homes in the Rakhine state of Myanmar? Only time will tell.

China ties up with India, Bangladesh to repatriate Rohingyas; Myanmar unwilling

By Harunur Rasid*  We now have a new hope, thanks to news reports that were published in the Bangladeshi dailies recently. Myanmar has suddenly taken initiatives to repatriate Rohingyas. As part of this initiative, diplomats from eight countries posted in Yangon were flown to Rakhine last week. Among them were diplomats from Bangladesh, India and China.

40,000 Odisha adolescent girls ask CM: Why is scheme to fight malnutrition on paper?

By Our Representative  In unique a postcard campaign to combat malnutrition, aimed at providing dietary diversity, considered crucial during adolescence, especially among girls, signed by about 40,000 adolescent girls from over 10,000 villages, have reminded Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik that his government's Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG), which converged with Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman  ( POSHAN ) 2.0 in 2021, is not being implemented in the State.

Natural farming: Hamirpur leads the way to 'huge improvement' in nutrition, livelihood

By Bharat Dogra*  Santosh is a dedicated farmer who along with his wife Chunni Devi worked very hard in recent months to convert a small patch of unproductive land into a lush green, multi-layer vegetable garden. This has ensured year-round supply of organically grown vegetables to his family as well as fetched several thousand rupees in cash sales.

Over-stressed? As Naveen Patnaik turns frail, Odisha 'moves closer' to leadership crisis

By Sudhansu R Das  Not a single leader in Odisha is visible in the horizon who can replace Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He has ruled Odisha for nearly two and half decades. His father, Biju Patnaik, had built Odisha; he was a daring pilot who saved the life of Indonesia’s Prime Minister Sjahrir and President Sukarno when the Dutch army blocked their exit.