The Second Gender Samvaad was organised by the Ministry of Rural Development’s Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) and the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) at LEAD. This edition of the Gender Samvaad, held virtually, focused on the best practices of various states and from women’s collectives under DAY-NRLM in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, particularly the second wave that has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of many people.
Senior officials from the Ministry of Rural Development, including Shri Nagendra Nath Sinha, Secretary, Rural Development; Smt. Alka Upadhyaya, Additional Secretary, Rural Development; and Smt. Nita Kejrewal, Joint Secretary, DAY-NRLM presided over the event. The Chief Guest for the event was Smt. Aparajita Sarangi, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha). Presentations were made by three State Rural Livelihood Missions (SRLMs) on how they were addressing the COVID 19 crisis.
Gender Samvaad is an attempt to create a common platform for generating greater awareness on NRLM’s interventions, and the impact of its gender operational strategy, across the country. The Samvaad focuses on highlighting best practices and the lessons learnt in implementing gender responsive interventions, with a focus on hearing voices from the states and the field.
Smt. Aparajita Sarangi, MP lauded the efforts of the State Rural Livelihoods Missions (SRLMs) and women’s collectives in curbing the impact of COVID-19 through a range of interventions. Smt. Sarangi stressed upon developing a gender focussed recovery plan, where women’s needs are at the centre of such efforts. She proposed focus on enhancing women’s capacities, leadership and encouraging them to be a part of local governance mechanisms; ensuring that every woman is financially secure and has a bank account to avail the slew of government direct benefit transfers; strengthening women’s enterprises by providing low-interest credit support, particularly through the latest measures announced by the Ministry of Finance in extending the emergency credit line for borrowers; ensuring food security and nutrition for women and girls; and finally, in order to bounce back better and stronger from the pandemic, ensuring last mile coverage of vaccinations.
Two compendiums were released on this occasion. This included a compendium on the DAY-NRLM’s efforts towards strengthening Food, Nutrition, Health and WASH through State Missions and community institutions. It highlighted the work being done on key themes under the POSHAN Maah such as breastfeeding, complementary feeding, importance of early identification of severe-acute malnutrition and promotion of nutrition gardens for diet diversity. The second compendium captures stories of resilience from rural India during the COVID related pandemic in 2021, and how SHGs responded to the needs of women during and after the second wave.
Shri Nagendra Nath Sinha, Secretary, Rural Development spoke of DAY-NRLM’s continuous efforts towards mainstreaming the vulnerable in its institutional architecture by linking them to formal financial institutions, initiating micro enterprises at individual or group level, focusing on women’s health and nutrition and establishing and strengthening institutions at the village level which vulnerable women can approach for grievance redress.
Smt. Alka Upadhyaya stressed upon reviving and strengthening women’s self-help groups post pandemic through sustainable livelihoods planning. For this, she laid emphasis on both forward and backward linkages for better economic returns, as well as on ensuring social security for SHG women to mitigate future economic shocks.
Smt. Nita Kejrewal gave a background to the Gender Samvaad and spoke of the relentless work being undertaken by SRLMs to provide relief measures during the second wave of COVID while also accommodating the myriad needs of women and girls.
Smt. Soumya Kapoor Mehta, Head, IWWAGE moderated a panel discussion where senior State Government officials from the states of Bihar, Kerala and Meghalaya shared their insights on how women’s collectives responded particularly to the second wave of COVID, through innovative practices such as home delivery of food and cash. Community resource persons from the same three states shared what they went through during the second wave and highlighted the role that their SHGs played in helping them recover.