Gender mainstreaming and responsibility of Government

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By: Shabir Ahmad
Every state has a State Employment Guarantee Council or Mission (SEGC) that monitors and evaluates the program and takes necessary actions such as recruitment, technical studies and decides on preferred works. The Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC), headed by the Ministry for Rural Development, monitors the program nationally. MGNREGS has an inbuilt quality and fraud check system. The Technical Assistant (TA) and the Programme Officer (PO) are the key personnel responsible to ensure works are implemented on time without any frauds.

Schedule II paragraph 6 of MGNREG Act provides for participation of women in employment guarantee under the Act. It specifically provides that at least 33% of the women should be provided employment. Not less than one-third of the non-official members of Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC) shall be women. In case the numbers of children below the age of six years accompanying the women working at any site are five or more, provision shall be made to depute one of such women worker to look after such children. Equal wages will be provided to both men and women. If some applicants have to be directed to report for work beyond 5 Kms. of their residence, women (especially single women) and older persons should be given preference to work on the worksites nearer to their residence. Mates (site supervisor) should be selected through a fair, transparent and participatory process. Adequate representation of women among mates for supervision of work and recording attendance of worksites should be ensured.

The Act provides some explicit entitlements for women to facilitate their full participation. These include: Equal wages for men and women – Equal wages shall be paid to both men and women workers and the provisions of Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 shall be complied with.

Participation in Management and monitoring of the programme – The gram sabha will elect the members of the committee and ensure that SC/STs and women are represented on it.

Participation in social audit –The timing of the forum must be such that it is convenient for people to attend – that it is convenient for REGS (Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) workers, women and marginalized communities.

Providing support for child care, and convenience to households – The guidelines mention the need for a crèche at the worksite, and for the works to be convenient for families.

Ensuring that single women are eligible – By recognizing a single person as a household‟, the Act makes it possible for widows and other single women to access this work for widows and other single women to access work. The share of women in total person-days steadily increased over the years from 40 per cent to 56 per cent. It was ranged from 40 per cent to 48 per cent for the first six years. In second half, their share in employment varied between 52 to 56 per cent which is slightly higher than first six years.

Under MGNREGS, participation of women was observed to be very high in the states like Kerala, Goa and Himachal Pradesh where rural poverty is very low; and Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Telangana which fall under medium rural poverty category. Women participation is relatively low in the states like Jammu & Kashmir which comes under low rural poverty category, high rural poverty states of Odisha and Rajasthan; and some of the medium rural poverty states like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Nagaland and Uttar Pradesh. At bottom, Gram Panchayat and Gram Sabha are responsible for the implementation of the programme. In the beginning, these local bodies were the main channels to create awareness about various provisions of MGNREGS to the people.

The functions like registration, verification, job card issuance, identification and planning of works, determination of works to be initiated, worksite management and supervision, labour budget preparation, conducting social audit, etc., are carried out by local bodies, i.e. Gram Panchayat and Gram Sabha, coordinating with higher level officials.

Gender mainstreaming under MGNREGS will become successful only when there is active participation of women. Improving efficiency of the local bodies is an external outcome of the implementation of MGNREGS. By strengthening local bodies, MGNREGS can make its contribution towards Gender mainstreaming at grass-root level.  MGNREGS promotes decentralized governance through three pathways, gram sabha, labour budget and social audit. In MGNREGS works women’ participation was observed to be better during initial discussions about registration, identification of works and implementation related issues. While preparing labor budget and conducting social audit, women’ participation is found to be extremely poor.

In Gram Sabha meetings, presence of females is found to be above the national average (40.4 per cent) in 16 states. Among them, state like Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Andaman & Nicobar (UT) having highest participation of females in Gram sabha meetings. It is quite low in the states like Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Female participation in social audit is reasonably good in the states like Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and Andhra Pradesh.

Female participation in both Gram sabha and social audit is quite high in the states like Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Manipur, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. In Andaman & Nicobar Islands, female participation in Gram sabha is very high about (92 per cent), but no involvement in social audit. The participation of females is extremely poor in the states of Punjab and Gujarat. More female participation is observed in MGNREGS since its inception. At aggregate level, the female workers are well ahead of the male workers by six days on an average.

MGNREGS empowers women by giving them a scope of independent earning and spend some amount for their own needs. Women play a major role in raising the economic resources for their family but their contribution remains uncounted because of they perform a significant amount of unpaid work. In rural areas, the dominance of males in intra-household decisions has been seen. MGNREGS has significant impact in converting some unpaid work into paid work and widen the scope of decision making role of women in household matters.

Women’s participation at the local and district level of governance process is low in spite of 73rd Amendments of the Constitution. But women participation has increased after the implementation of MGNREGS in many areas. A large number of women workers attended the Gram Sabah meeting held in connection with MGNREGS. Community level empowerment of women is one of the great achievements of this Act.

-Author hails from Raiyar Doodhpathri and can be reached at [email protected]

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