Mainstreaming women

Published: Wednesday 15 February 1995

-- (Credit: Rustam Vania)Women can get sterilised, but men will get the land. The Uttar Pradesh government's decision to reward sterilisation volunteers with a patta (DEED) for land has resulted in women going in for tubectomy, and the men collecting the rewards.

Many other instances of gender discrimination came to light during a recent conference organised in New Delhi by the Gender Planning Training Project (GPTP), sponsored by the Indian and British governments. For instance, men have cornered all the seats in the forest protection committees, and women have to walk even further now to collect fuelwood.

Titled "Mainstreaming Gender in Development Programmes", the conference focussed on how the GPTP is using case studies, lectures and other methods to educate middle rung bureaucrats on gender issues in five states. It now plans to extend its reach to other states and also incorporate gender issues in the curriculum of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussourie.

Correcting gender bias in sectors such as health, forestry, education, Panchayati Raj institutions and the police force will be the thrust areas.

Dismissing stereotypes about women being mere reproductive beings, Margaret Alva, Minister for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, pointed out, "Even in the distribution of assets in poverty alleviation programmes, the bulk of the assets go to men."

There were the usual crop of sceptics too, at the conference. "Gender concerns are very important, but they cannot replace socio-economic issues," pointed out Mira Shiva, head of the Voluntary Health Association of India's public policy division.

Nevertheless, GPTP protagonists are optimistic. Flush with recent achievements, they feel they'll succeed in "providing people with a different window through which they can revaluate gender realities."

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