The Women Empowerment: Community Sanitation through Democratic Participation was launched in February 2017. It is a two year, pan-India initiative jointly funded with the United Nations Democracy Fund. It aims to address the issues of inadequate community sanitation, women’s health, and water management in rural India through improving democratic representation of women in community leadership and local governance. The project targets one village in 21 states in India, and aims to empower at least 5,000 women in rural Indian communities to champion sanitation and community development, eventually reaching their entire village, or 30,000 indirect beneficiaries.
Participating women will receive continuous life skill training, will conduct sanitation campaigns, and will organize and mobilize efforts to implement key community actions to access government programs, such as the Swachh Bharat Mission, that specifically promotes sanitation. This community mobilization and training effort is designed to efficiently reach entire communities in a short amount of time. It will also provide strength and support to the women advocating and petitioning to their local governments to address social and environmental issues in their villages. It is in line with the Government of India’s commitment to improving sanitation and rural development, as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Since the launch of the project in February of 2017, we have accomplished a number of objectives. After setting up centers in each of the villages and selecting Community Organizers (COs), we held a Train the Trainer event at the university headquarters in Amritapuri where women from all over India got the chance to learn about their role in the project, and get to know each other and share their incredible stories. Since then, the CO’s have engaged over 20 SHGs, held dozens of Community Awareness Events, and have started to meet with local government, becoming real community leaders. The COs and SHGs have launched their community sanitation campaign and have begun a process of social change. As these women continue to empower themselves and others, we hope to see a chain reaction that will lead to stronger, more resilient communities where women are able to lead the way to sustainable development.
The WE:CSDP project is off to an exciting start, and already so much has been accomplished. Our next steps
are to continue the progress made on ASHG formation and structuring, continuing the c-LEE classrooms,
and increasing the amount of community involvement by the women’s groups. Our focus will be on assisting
the groups to meet with local government and hold discussions on the community problems they have identified
with the goal to encourage government support. Water testing, clean-up drives, and other community
assessments will continue and provide supporting evidence the ASHGs can use in their government meetings.
Monitoring and evaluation is an integral part of this project. From November 16 to 21, representatives from the United Nations Development Program (head of UN operations in India, and on the behalf of the UNDEF) visited five of the twenty-one villages where the Women Empowerment: Community Sanitation through Democratic Participation (WE:CSDP) project is active. The villages were: Devgain, Jharkhand; Ratanpur and Hadiabad, Bihar; Guptapada, Odisha; and Kanti, Haryana. These are the same villages where AMMACHI Labs, Amrita SeRVe and other MA Math activities are ongoing. Read more here.
The official start of the project began in February of 2017, with a 10-day Train the Trainer initiative. 50 women from 16 states around India convened at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham for the historic cause of taking up the responsibility of becoming Community Organizers for the UNDEF WE:CSDP Project. The trainees became our first women leaders and Champions of Change. In 2014, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in India, Ms. Lise Grande voiced her praises, “AMMACHI Labs has the most creative way of empowering women. Of all of the projects which the UN funds around the world, this is the one dearest to our heart. It’s the one we are most proud of. And it’s the one that we intend to take to the rest of the world so that they can learn from what you have achieved.”
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