A Workshop on Mahila Panchayat for 35 Community Women 

Written by Shweta Singh, Project Manager & Tara Rana, Communication & Fundraising Officer 

Maitri collaborated with an organisation called CEQUIN (centre for equity and innovation), that works towards women empowerment and their rights, to organise a two-day training workshop on Mahila Panchayat for a group of 35 women from two of the target communities, Nehru Ekta camp and JP colony in South Delhi from 2nd -3rd May 2016. The effectiveness of the training was evident as the same number of women turned up on the second day of the training. The duration of the training was not the most suitable for these women however, they managed the family demands, finished the household chores on time and chose to attend the training.

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The session involved discussions and interaction on topics around women’s daily situations, the roles and responsibility, their perception about their situations, understanding of gender roles, and how it influences their life. The trainer used a participatory approach, which worked to hold their interest, and allowed them to introspect the varied roles they play as daughter, wife, mother, and sister; the position and status they have been given in their family in general and in society at large.

The trainer supported this session with an exercise in which, women were divided into two groups. Each group was asked to select their leader who will monitor the session and one woman could write down the points discussed. First group was asked to discuss the work that a woman does in the family and the second group was asked to discuss the role played by the man in a family. The outcomes of the group discussion showed that the women have to carry off the most difficult task of running the family, they have to toil day and night to keep every member of the family happy. And despite this, their work carries little value. All participating women could relate to each other’s life situations and problems.

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One of the important elements of Mahila Panchayat is to have members from same social economic background so that they relate to each other and develops a bonding based on mutual understanding. It was an opportunity for the group to share their personal problems and discussions were held around that. The women come forward to share their personal experiences and stories, which opened the scope for in-depth discussions offering more clarity.

The trainer, Ms. Naseem, introduced them with the concept of Mahila panchayat. Mahila Panchayats is an innovative collective approach for community participation in dispute redressal.  After need assessment and motivation, community leaders are identified and these women are then motivated to volunteer as Mahila Panchayat Members.  The 15 to 20 members are trained in legal issues, dispute redressal mechanism, trained in the laws relevant to crimes against women, given exposure about the existing legal position regarding property, maintenance, marriage, custody, etc.  They are also given training in counselling, FIR writing, pursuing with police station, how to proceed for legal recourse.  The Mahila Panchayats itself acts as a “Watch Dog” and its members, after orientation, and training, can handle delicate and family disputes.  They find solutions at the local level through the workers in the field itself.

The second session was aimed towards the importance of forming Mahila Panchayat (MP), core elements of MPs, like importance of having a pressure group, having collective strength, the motto of its functioning and its impact on an individual in general and community at large, resolving domestic violence cases at panchayat level etc.  Mahila Panchayat also takes up cases pertaining to availability of basic amenities in the community, child marriage, issues of girl Child etc.

Various exercises were used to make the sessions informative and interesting. Such as importance of having collective strength, having strong decision –making ability at group level, mutual understanding, cooperation and empathy towards each other situations etc.

For Maitri, the Training is a step in right direction towards bringing together the potential members for the formation of Mahila Panchayat and developing a sense of determination and strong will power to come together. The training concluded with the women giving positive feedback on the importance and usefulness of having Mahila panchayat in their community and showed willingness to take up the leadership role, act as pressure group and be a change-makers in the long run.

Learn about other activities we carry out in an effort to reduce Gender-based Violence here.


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