‘Ensure women in planning roles in rural jobs scheme’

New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) As empowerment of rural women remains a major area of concern, a parliamentary panel has asked the government to ensure there are more women in decision-making roles in the flagship rural jobs scheme so that they could devise ways to benefit even the poorest of them.

The panel on empowerment of women, in a report tabled in parliament, noted that although more women are participating in the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), they were not involved in the planning process.

MGNREGS is a flagship programme of the Congress-led government aimed at providing 100 days of employment to one member of each family in rural areas.

The committee said that at the national level, the participation of women since the inception of the scheme has been steadily rising from 41 percent during 2006-07 to 48 per cent during 2010-11, “much more than provided in the Act, which is 33 percent”.

However, it adds the “fact remains that at the planning level, their contribution has not been significant because the women in villages are not educated and awakened enough to formulate effective plan for women and to assess the projects in terms of benefits for women”.

The committee has recommended involving the panchayati raj ministry to draw training programmes for elected women representatives of gram panchayats for effective implementation of the jobs scheme.

“The committee had also recommended that to enhance leadership quality in the women, endeavours should be directed towards designing some capacity building training programmes,” the panel said.

“Since MGNREGA has the potential for empowerment of women in rural areas, the committee expect that their recommendation for drawing up some training programme for elected women representatives of gram panchayats in consultation with the ministry of panchayati raj would be taken up with all seriousness and in a result-oriented manner,” it said.

It said the women should be trained so that they can plan creating assets focussing on poor women under the jobs scheme.

The panel also slammed the government for not taking its earlier recommendation on the same lines seriously.

“The committee is constrained to express that the (rural development) ministry has not taken their recommendation in its right perspective in spite of the fact that the Panchayats are the only institutions which could effectively ensure empowerment of women in various spheres,” it said.

According to government data, in 2010-2011, out of the total of 87.30 lakh workers who requested for work, 39.25 lakh (44.96 percent) were women.

However, the state-wise women’s participation rate during 2010-11 shows a regional imbalance.

While states like Kerala and Tamil Naidu registered 90.39 percent and 82.59 percent women participation in the jobs scheme, the figure for Uttar Pradesh was just 21.42 percent, for Assam 26.51 percent women and Bihar 28.49 percent.

The government has attributed this to factors like caste, religion and social hierarchies, which limit participation of women in the workforce.

Keeping this in view, the committee also suggested a comprehensive study to examine the level of women’s participation through intra- and inter-state comparisons.

According to a ministry official, the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) has already submitted a proposal to conduct the study.

The panel instructed the government to ensure the study is completed before the end of 2013.

India ranks 105th globally according to latest gender index published by World Economic Forum.

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