The National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), one of the largest government programs for financial inclusion and livelihoods of rural women has built a network of over 6.5 million Self-Help Groups (SHGs) comprising of more than 70 million households in India. These SHGs are federated at village level into Village Organization (VO), and VOs are federated into Cluster Level Federation (CLF). This vast network of women’s community institutions is a potential space to engage with issues and concerns of rural women and work towards a more gender equal society.
The Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and in collaboration with the NRLM, is working with several partner NGOs under Project Swayam, to showcase four pilot projects across four states of India with the aim to mainstream gender into institutions, processes and operations of NRLM and SRLMs. ICRW’s partnership with ANANDI (Area Networking and Development Initiatives) in Madhya Pradesh is one such pilot. In collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh State Rural Livelihoods Mission (MPSRLM), ANANDI is implementing the Gender Justice Program in the Sheopur and Karhal blocks of the Sheopur District of Madhya Pradesh. ICRW is the research partner in this project. The GJP aims to build rural women’s capacity to exercise their voice and agency to overcome gender barriers and access opportunities as well as resources that enables realization of their rights and entitlements. It intends to achieve this through a three-pronged approach: developing a strong cadre of community-based feminist leaders (Samta Sakhis); leveraging and strengthening existing community-based institutions (Cluster Level Federations (CLF); and mainstreaming gender into the mandate and structures of MPSRLM.
WHAT ARE WE SETTING OUT TO DO?
ICRW is undertaking research to study the strategies and processes through which rural women are empowered to claim rights and entitlements by exercising their voice (through various institutions and platforms) and agency (capacity to reflect, decide and act). ICRW aims to –
- Conduct formative research to understand the current state of gender responsiveness of MPSRLM at systems’, staff and community institutions level
- Undertake an intensive process documentation to capture and analyse the strategies, processes, enablers, barriers and milestones of the GJP interventions
- Explore the process of building community leadership and the changes brought about by these community leaders in their own lives and that of their community
WHAT METHODS ARE WE USING?
A qualitative research design is developed including secondary research as well as primary research methods. Secondary research includes literature review of journal articles, papers, evaluation studies, grey literature to understand the experience of the SHG movement in India with regard to women’s empowerment. Additionally, it includes review of government policies and papers to understand the efforts of NRLM and MPSRLM towards gender mainstreaming.
Primary research methods include key informant interviews, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews and consultations with different stakeholders such as Mission staff at National, State, District and Block Levels, Subject Matter Experts, ANANDI Project Staff, IWWAGE staff, CLF Office Bearers, CLF Social Action Committee members, Samta Sakhis, Master Trainers, participants and beneficiaries of social action. Further, it includes participant observation of CLF/VO/SHG meetings and several meetings at State and National level.