Women as building blocks of liveable cities - Hindustan Times
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Women as building blocks of liveable cities

Oct 21, 2023 10:35 PM IST

The Mukta project in Odisha empowers women through self-help groups and aims to increase the involvement and empowerment of women

In the recent past, there has been considerable focus on the Women’s Reservation Bill and its potential to empower women. But the implementation of the legislation is still far away. However, the good news is that there is political support for it across the spectrum unlike in the past. While we wait for the day when 33% of parliamentarians will be women, we should take note of and applaud several initiatives taken by state governments across the country to put actual power in the hands of women. One is the Mukhyamantri Karma Tatpara Abhiyan (Mukta) project in Odisha which began in 2020 and aimed at increasing the involvement and empowerment of women in the state through self-help groups and slum development associations.

While we wait for the day when 33% of parliamentarians will be women, we should take note of and applaud several initiatives taken by state governments across the country to put actual power in the hands of women(Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times) PREMIUM
While we wait for the day when 33% of parliamentarians will be women, we should take note of and applaud several initiatives taken by state governments across the country to put actual power in the hands of women(Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times)

At least half of the 3.5 lakh beneficiaries applying for the Mukta project are women. The project has been given 100 crore by the Odisha government. The scheme will increase the economic empowerment of the urban informal worker with the wage amount of the beneficiary going directly into his or her bank account.

The scheme has ensured wage employment opportunities for many women and today, they are working on drain construction, vending zones, drinking water, mini parks, children’s play stations and public toilets. The work undertaken by 15,035 self-help groups (SHGs) of 1,49,000 women, 1,000 sanitary workers and 350 transgenders have to complete their tasks on one scheme in 40 days before undertaking another one.

The Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR)’s project area in Bhubaneswar has seen the helpdesk team set up in 123 settlements to enable 150 SHGs of 1,390 women, 10 transgenders and 100 sanitary workers to leverage the Mukta scheme for securing wage employment in the same manner as MGNREGA did in rural areas. The Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted the livelihood opportunities of vulnerable groups such as migrant labourers, women, transgenders and persons with disabilities and pushed them deeper into poverty. Involving women in public works to benefit all sections of society is a departure from the run-of-the-mill women-oriented welfare schemes. What is unique about this scheme is that it involves women in critical aspects of urban development which will benefit marginalised people living in urban centres, ensure the protection of the environment, help the creation of climate-resilient community assets and build trust-based partnerships with community-based organisations. All this will strengthen the fourth tier of governance and achieve community-centric and community-led development.

This is a vital step towards building safer, liveable and inclusive cities. The involvement of women in building mini-parks will ensure that they have safe spaces for leisure. Safe and accessible toilets for women are another feature lacking in most cities. Well-lit footpaths and last-mile connectivity are other issues which would ensure that more women are able to venture out of their homes and workplaces without facing so many obstacles. Involving women in urban development could bridge many of these gaps.

Schemes like Mukta and Kudumbashree in Kerala give women real power and not just representation. This is the path to genuine empowerment while we wait for the Women’s Reservation Bill to kick in. The groundswell of empowerment through schemes like Mukta will increase the talent pool of women for more roles in politics when the time comes.

The views expressed are personal

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