Rural Women Empowerment Project, 1998-2001

The project, supported by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, US and The Summit Foundation, US, sought to consolidate and expand scientifically and gradually on human development activities on five blocks of Chittorgarh districts of Rajasthan. This project was an extension of the Rural Women Empowerment Project (RWEP)-II. Under this project, 45 underdeveloped villages were selected so as to develop them as “model villages”, and efforts were being made to multiply the process in four surrounding villages of a model village. RWEP was initiated in order to bring up the inbuilt capacity of the rural women and their full participation in the decision making process.

The aim of the project was to empower rural women as well as gender, sensitise their male counterparts through an integrated training programme covering subjects, such as gender issues, reproductive and child health, social justice, basic needs, and sustainable development.

Among other goals, the project also focused on elected women members of the Gram Panchayats and community leaders. A quarterly newsletter entitled, ‘Aage Badhno Hossi’ (Women Marching Ahead) was produced and distributed widely. The project was implemented in five blocks: Gangrar, Nimbahera, Kapassan, Bhadesar and Chittor of Chittorgarh district. Trainings, Chaupal Baithaks (Village Centered Meetings), Cultural programmes, Audio-visual aids, Publications etc., were some of the effective methods adopted.

In RWEP-III, the empowerment of women was seen with the perspective of those women

  • having a respectable position in the society
  • have good health and capacity for good nutrition
  • who know and understand their rights and are capable of acquiring them
  • who understand the process of governance and development and can play an active role in it

An important feature of the project was organising Chaupal Baithaks (meeting at village centre) during night so that women can attend, actively participate in the discussion and discuss their problems in presence of their male counterparts. Furthermore, in order to sensitise backward communities about the rights of women, awareness generation workshops of community leaders were conducted regularly.

Another major issue covered under the project was reproductive and child health. High infant mortality and pre-and post-natal deaths in rural Rajasthan are big concerns. The government health machinery is either non-existent or in decrepit conditions in most of the villages. Although traditional healthcare systems are available in rural areas but the knowledge is disappearing because of lack of interest in the new generation.

The Centre had made efforts for the revival of the traditional health care system in the project area. Awareness generation workshops on women’s rights vis-à-vis reproductive and child health were conducted for gunis (traditional medical practitioners) and dais (traditional birth attendants). Herbal garden has also been established in the Centre’s premises.