The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is an initiative and social security measure of the government of India, aimed at providing guaranteed employment to rural people in an attept to reduce distress migration from villages. This act was introduced with an aim of improving the purchasing power of the rural people, primarily through semi or un-skilled work for people living below the poverty line in rural India.
Shivpura village comes under the periphery of Rajsamand district, about 10 km away from Railmagra block, a region characterised by infrastructural bottlenecks. The village has a predominance of Dalits and lacks adequate means of livelihood.
One of the fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution is the “right to work”, but when Manjari Foundation entered the Shivpura village as part of the Sakhi project, we were surprised to learn that the village had not got a single day of work under MGNREGA for the last 10 years. Moreover, no PRI leader or local authority had visited the village in the last 15 years. Because of this, women’s participation in MGNREGA has been a challenge, attributed to pre-defined gender roles and discrimination, lack of awareness, socio-cultural challenges and mobility of women.
The Sakhi team decided to facilitate discussions on MNREGA among women during its SHG meetings. This initiative was well received by members. Women started discussing their issues and problems and wanted work but did not know how to approach the authorities.
For the first time in the history of the village, women got together and demanded that they get work under MGNREGA. After several discussions it was agreed upon that a few women leaders along with the Samuh Sakhi would meet the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat and convey their concerns. The matter was appraised to the Sarpanch and the Sarpanch of Khad Bamniya GP visited the village for the first time. He assured them work under MGNREGA
It was because of the unity of the SHG women that 5 new job cards were prepared and 21 women applied. Through the collective efforts of the SHG women, now MGNREGA work began in Shivpura and other nearby villages from from March 2017 where till date, 210 SHG women are working. Due to advocacy and awareness raising efforts of the Sakhi team, more women are now active about standing for their rights.