Learning exchanges: women’s groups lead the way

As a part of resilience initiatives in Bihar, grassroots women leaders organised learning exchanges in Darbhanga district in November 2011. These learning platforms provided opportunity learn from each other, understand their capacities, explore the possibilities of replication, how to the solve problems in partnership with local government, and what are the challenges to overcome.

The learning was more focused on new agricultural practices of the villagers, toilet construction
for BPL families, drainage, health and infrastructure. More than 100 women participated in two  such exchange events.

In Shiso village on Nov. 27, a learning exchange was organised by women’s groups. A total of 51 women were participated from 10 villages of Shivdaspur, Harichanda, Fulwaria, Rampurdih, Shishodih, Haripur, Jamalchak, Maulaganj. Alinagar, Karhatia.

The learning exchange started with the transect walk in the village. The learning community understood what problems villagers face and various measures taken by women’s groups at Shiso village.  They visited a low lying area where flooding is a major cause of worry year after year. They also discussed with the community about issues they face in their daily lives.

Then the community visited agricultural farms to learn about natural vermin compost, details of cultivating potato, radish, chilly, water melon, cabbage, beans and tomato etc.

Village mapping

When they came back to the village, women leaders facilitated the group to draw the map of the village. Women from all villages participated in this process. They identified the following hazards and vulnerabilities of the village: open defecation, water logged low lying area, disruption of children’s schooling after the floods, impact on agricultural production due to changes in the pattern of rainfall, problem in waste management that cause environmental pollution, lack of remunerative price for agricultural products, health care services for pregnant women, children and the aged etc.

They have concluded that this village is very much in need of a Primary Health Centre (PHC) to cater to the healthcare needs of five villages 5000 population. To bring the PHC to the village they formed a special team which is slated to meet district district officials this month to urge them to establish a PHC here. Since there was no public land available for the PHC, the community identified a private land to establish centre. They met the owner of the land and he agreed to donate the land. This is a great victory for women and a proof of their organisational and resource mobilization capacities.

The community also decided to access government subsidy for BPL families to construct toilets, and urged APL families to do the same towards achieving 100 % open-defecation-free village.

Waste dumping and school reconstruction at Siso

Dumping waste in school compound and damaged condition of the school building were the other identified problems of the village. Accumulated rubbish in the school leads to disease among children and degrades environmental hygiene. To solve this issue, women’s groups from the village met the Head Master of the school and told him to remove the rubbish and to prevent such dumping immediately. Moved by the appeal by such a large number of women guests to the village, the Head Master took quick action to remove the waste. Within two weeks the task was accomplished and he made an application to higher authorities to reconstruct the school building which was in dilapidated condition. The crucial victory for the women’s groups came as the reconstruction started without any delay.

Monitoring by women’s groups

Earlier teachers were not attending on time and left early. This was noticed by women’s groups and discussed in the SHG meetings. They began monitoring the attendance of teachers regularly. They also raised this issue with the Head Master when they met him regarding waste disposal. Since then the teachers are reported to be attending to their work on time. This is a victory for women group, children and entire families.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012

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