Case studies

Access to government schemes

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Janani Suraksha Yojna (JSY) is a safe motherhood intervention to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality by promoting institutional delivery of babies; but women may have to fight for their entitlements. This was the experience of 28-year old Aliara Khatun, who lives with her husband in the Muslim-dominated Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal, when expecting her second child. Supported by PACS and partner NOSKK, Aliara protested until she received the payments she was due, and mobilised other local women to do the same.

With help from PACS, Aliara learnt how to acess her JSY rights.

Developing common interest groups

CSO Nari-o-Sishu Kalyan Kendra (NOSKK) aims to empower socially excluded women, especially from Muslim communities. Its work with PACS incorporates 451 villages in the Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Murshidabad districts of West Bengal.

In 2012, NOSKK field supervisor for Uttar Dinajpur, Abdul Halim, formed common interest groups (CIG) of women in Gorgoach village in order to boost awareness around health, education and MGNREGA (the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which guarantees rural households 100 days of paid work every year doing unskilled manual labour). 

Abdul explains: ‘Under health, we focused on JSY and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSYB - health Insurance). In education, our focus was on midday meals (MDMs) and reducing school dropouts. There were other cross-cutting issues like domestic violence, right to information (RTI) and social discrimination. The mode of awareness was training, group meetings and linkages to government departments and schemes.’

Understanding monetary entitlements

For example, Abdul met housewife Aliara Khatun, who is married to a labourer, during a Gorgoach village meeting, and encouraged her to join a CIG. 

Aliara explains: ‘From NOSKK, I received the information on JSY. To access JSY, I had to register at the local sub-centre (health centre), and I then got to know about four periodic antenatal check-ups during pregnancy, immunisation of new-born babies and also monetary entitlements under JSY.’

Expecting her second child, Aliara followed the JSY process and received services under the scheme. Once her child was born, Abdul informed her that she was entitled to Rs. 1,000 for her institutional delivery. 

She says: ‘I approached the sub-centre and submitted my BPL (below-the-poverty-line application form) and ID cards. I was assured that the money would be given to me in a month’s time. I continued to approach them periodically and visited the sub-centre for several months. I visited six or seven times, but each time was asked to come later for the payment.’

Protesting collectively

Aliara learned that other women in her village were experiencing the same treatment, and started mobilising them to take action. They discussed the issue during CIG meetings and encouraged women from five villages to hold a collective protest at the sub-centre. NOSKK’s field supervisor supported the move, as the women’s payments had been withheld for two years. 

In March 2015, 300 women from five villages protested at the sub-centre. The auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) was confronted and held accountable for the delayed payments, compelling her to call on higher authorities, panchayat (council) members and PACS representative to resolve the issues. After several rounds of negotiations, it was revealed that she had not kept records of the women entitled to JSY payments. It was agreed that a list would be prepared urgently and that payments would then be released.

Aliara received her payment within 15 days of the protest, as did several other women in the village, and the ANM was requested to maintain records from then on. She comments:  ‘The awareness under PACS/NOSKK helped us to know all the details of JSY and RSYB and also to access the facilities.’

Maintaining vigilance

CIG members in Gorgoach village have become very active in accessing their entitlements. They discuss issues during their meetings and take relevant action to improve services. Aliara and her group ensure  vaccinations are given regularly and that all mothers access the same services. They also keep a close watch on the quality of food served at the integrated child development services (ICDS) centres and ensure there is better participation at Gram Panchayat, and improved accountability.

Ultimately, the PACS initiative has ‘led to greater accountability and shed a lot of inertia among women in accessing government schemes’, according to Mohammed Shafiullah, District Coordinator for the PACS programme. ‘It has also brought women together to rethink their everyday responsibilities, myths and superstitions, and how they could contribute to household income and actively participate in public life,’ he concludes.

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