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Published on: 23/12/2021

Photo caption: She Makes Change workshop, November 2021, Odisha, India. Credit: IRC

On International Women's Day in March 2020, IRC participated in the CPC Run The Hague to raise funds for a series of women's empowerment workshops in Ganjam, our partner district in India's Odisha state. These "She makes change" workshops aimed to increase local women's participation in political and social decision making for sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for all.

Then came COVID-19

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the workshops, originally scheduled to be held in June and July 2020, had to be postponed. Ganjam was especially affected because the national lockdown forced several hundred thousands of migrant workers from the textile mills in Surat, Gujarat to return to their home district. In reaction to the loss of livelihoods and rise in infections, IRC secured funding in December 2020 from the Waterloo Foundation to involve Ganjam's women in hygiene promotion and soap production. 

The birth of Pragati

Since both the She Makes Change and the Waterloo Foundation project focused on empowering women in Ganjam district, it seemed logical to merge them. And so Pragati was born - Pragati, meaning progress is also a popular Indian name for girls. The leadership skills built during empowerment workshops would enable the women to raise awareness and promote hygiene practices more effectively. In April 2021, the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD) was selected to implement the Pragati project. A second wave of COVID-19 delayed progress once again so that the situational assessment and selection of 50 women project could only start in August 2021. The insights from the situational assessment were used to develop a workshop training manual on citizens' rights, governance structures and hygiene promotion.

First workshop and follow-up

In November 2021, women participants from Kanamana and Aryapalli Gram Panchayats in Ganjam attended the first of the capacity building workshops. The workshop concluded with a plan of action proposed by the women participants that called for more awareness of women on existing government schemes that can be leveraged to make WASH gains. They called for attention to be given to understand the reason for low participation of women in decision making processes. Further,more they committed to use their enhanced knowledge on good hygiene behaviour to influence others in the community. The second workshop is scheduled to be held in the last week of December 2021.

In addition to the three workshops, several other activities are planned as part of the Pragati project:

  • Knowledge camps for women leaders on hygiene and leadership skills and how they can influence local government processes
  • Transform women leaders into rural-entrepreneurs for the production, packaging and marketing of eco-friendly soap and helping them get seed money to start their business
  • Capacity building for local government representatives to enable women's participation in decision making spaces
  • Developing and disseminating knowledge products targeted at state and district officials

We will continue to provide updates on the Pragati project on the She Makes Change page.

Acknowledgement: this news item is based on a project update provided by Shiny Saha.

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