Empowering women to strengthen local governance...

A member of a Citizens’ Awareness Centers explaining what she has learnt
A member of a Citizens’ Awareness Centers explaining what she has learnt. Photo: Tapa Dipti Sitaula/UNDP Nepal

The Citizens’ Awareness Centers and Ward Citizens’ Forums have become an important foundation of decentralized local governance in Nepal. The communities inclusive of men and women from different economic and social status can express their opinions and take part in the local level decision making processes. Most importantly the marginalized and poor women have become an integral part of  local development.

Recently, a user committee comprising of 100 percent women constructed an 8 km road in Kapilvastu (birthplace of Lord Buddha). The Kopawa and Niglihawa villages of Kapilvastu earlier did not have easy access to transportation facilities just as most of the villages in Nepal. The problem is even severe in hilly areas.

Highlights

  • There are 9 wards in all the 3915 VDCs of Nepal. By the end of the fiscal year 2011-2012 it is expected that all the VDCs will have Citizens’ Awareness Centre.
  • Similarly, it is expected that by the end of the fiscal year 2011-2012, all the 35235 wards will have Ward Citizens’ Forum.

Tara Chaudhari, Chairman of the road user committee said, “Transportation is one of the basic pre-requisites of development. Road construction came up as the highest priority when we discussed the needs of our community. We presented this need to our District Development Committee and got the funding approved.”

The result of the road project was so transparent and successful that the local development authorities now say, “We are more than willing to form all-women user committees in the future”.

The Government’s Local Governance and Community Development Programme (LGCDP), supported by 6 UN agencies has been working to institutionalize systems and mechanisms in place for decentralized and inclusive local governance. This road project was one of the many supported by the Programme to bring women to the forefront of local development.  Building on the experiences of the past UNDP supported governance projects, LGCDP began in 2008 as the first nationwide integrated support programme to strengthen local governance and is implemented in all the 75 districts of Nepal.

Manju Kori from Zahadi village in Kapilvastu, shared the benefit of being a member of Citizens’ Awareness Center. “I suffered from domestic violence, lacked access to basic services such as citizenship certificate and had no role in family decision-making. Now, I have obtained citizenship certificate, marriage certificate and birth certificates of my children. I have a say in my family for selling and buying of property,” she says.

Sarita Biswakarma, a student of marginalized community studying in grade 10 who  represents the children’s category in the Ward Citizens’ Forum says, “We came to know about the provision of 10% budget allocation for children and we used that amount to build a compound wall for the safety of our school.”

According to Shambhu Pokharel, coordinator of Local Service Provider (LSP)—a body that facilitates social mobilization process, “Earlier, the budget sanctioned for women and children was used for general development works such as drinking water and electricity projects. But after creating the Ward Citizens’ Forums, the women members have started to demand this budget for income generation projects such as tailoring training. Even the children have started demanding for proper school furniture. “