PCI under the aegis of ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’ is extending technical assistance (TA) to the Rural Development Department (RDD) of Bihar to advance women’s economic empowerment through social and economic convergence. The focus of the support is to increase women’s participation in the state workforce by enabling convergence between the two largest programmes of the RDD, JEEViKA the State Rural Livelihoods Mission, Bihar and MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme).
The project aims to improve women’s access to entitlements and facilitate safe and dignified avenues of economic empowerment as provided by the state, along with increasing women’s participation & agency, decision-making abilities, and control over resources.
Gender centric policy advocacy has been the pivot of the project. Aligning to this, the project has advocated policy tweaks by conceptualizing the women MGNREGA Mate initiative; strengthening Rozgar Diwas platform; leveraging MGNREGA funds for Village Organisations infrastructure; prioritising ultra poor households for livelihood generating assets, setting up of Didi Adhikar Kendra.
Furthermore, the projects key analytical learnings are a result of the district & block wise MGNREGA performance analysis developed by PCI, with a focus on women and SC-ST participation. Additionally, the project throughout its tenure is strengthening capacity of district and block RDD officials, placing systems for monitoring and tracking of Village Poverty Reduction Plan (VPRP) and its integration to Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP). As a far-sighted approach, PCI is demonstrating models of women upliftment through synergising inter-departmental & PRI actions in 1 block of each, Madhubani & Gaya districts of Bihar.
The projects uniqueness by design is demonstrating convergence of multifarious strategies to establish women at the centre of individual and community economic progression. The outcome through this project aims at; established productive asset ownership through generating avenues for community infrastructure by leveraging MGNREGA funds and enhanced access to entitlement through conceptualised Didi Adhikar Kendra. Additionally, the projects outcomes also foresee strengthened women’s agency by; creating SHG-led Community-PRI-local administration platforms, exhibiting Mahila Sabha as a community-economic discussion forum, positioning of rural women as Mahila Mates & Data-CRPs and institutionalising rozgar divas at panchayats.
All these strategies are integrated to strengthen voices of women & enable them fetch livelihood opportunities within their local vicinity by leveraging on the varied employment choices offered under MGNREGA Act. By virtue of the above, over the course of the past fiscal year (2022-2023), the state has seen significant progress in its MGNREGA program. Notably, Bihar stands out as the only state among the top 15 in person-day generation to see a year-on-year increase. Specifically, the state has achieved a 28% increase in person-day generation, while national figures fell by 20%.
In terms of women’s participation in the program, the state has made impressive gains. Women’s person-day generation has increased by 37.88% compared to the figures from the previous fiscal year (2021-2022). This increase is particularly noteworthy considering that national figures related to women’s person-day generation fell by 15.23% over the same period.
Moreover, the state has made progress in terms of SC participation. Person-days generated by SC families increased by 88.67% within the state, while national figures fell by 18.83% in the same period.
The increased participation of SC/ST and women in the MGNREGA program is a significant achievement for the state, as it stands at the highest level in the last five years. The state has also focused on other key parameters, such as productive asset creation for vulnerable households, strengthening NRLM-compliant structures at the grassroots level, and completion of incomplete assets. Quality and transparency measures have also been implemented to strengthen the scheme’s implementation.
Overall, the project’s strategic support for MGNREGA has significantly contributed to impressive achievements and improvements, particularly with regards to women’s and vulnerable group participation in the program.