Op-Ed: Good Move To Empower Women

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: In its latest move to empower women state government plans to engage women from economically deficient background in services like running of Aahar kendras, managing community toilets and collecting water bills.

These women will be part of the self-help groups (SHGs) formed by the state urban development agency (SUDA) under the housing and urban development department. Considering that the state government runs more than 150 Aahar centres that provide meals at Rs.5 to the urban poor managing these outlets can be a good source of income for the members of the fair sex.

In all likelihood a beginning in this direction will be made by putting women SHGs in charge of a limited number of Aahar centres on a pilot basis. Further expansion of their work area will depend on their success in managing these outlets.

Similarly to start with women will be given the responsibility of collecting water bills in areas such as Bhubaneswar, Khurda and Jatni. Slowly they will move out to other areas as well. There are also plans to engage them in the job of managing micro composting plants.

On the face of it, it is a good move that will not only augment the income of women but also teach them some basic management skills. Considering that women SHGs in the state have generally given a account of themselves one hopes they will also pass this test with flying colours.

But a word of caution is necessary. There is a world of difference between these SHGs organising economically rewarding activities independently and delivering services on behalf of the government. They had an experience of how the government functions while running the mid-day meal scheme on behalf of it. There were success stories in the execution of the scheme and also controversies. The women SHGs involved in running the scheme had a brush with the authorities at various levels including in the schools.

They also had to contend with political interference and deal with complaints of sub-standard food material being used for the cooking of meals. Though they did a good job of it the job by no means was easy.

They may have to contend with similar issues while running Aahar kendras and in the collection of water bills on behalf of the government. While the department concerned will be monitoring them closely they will also have to rise to the expectations of the people they will be serving.

The task may not be easy but women over the years have faced many such challenges and more often than not they have passed these tests with flying colours. They have almost invariably proved themselves to be better and more reliable workers than men. That, in fact, is the reason why the government has decided to expand the work area of women SHGs which have earned a name for themselves.

The credibility of these SHGs can be guessed from the fact that one of their leaders, the hexagenarian, Pramila Bisoi is a member of parliament from Aska. One hopes that women will also do well in the new role chosen for them by the housing and urban development department.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)