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Uttar Pradesh Inclusion Utsav

13 January 2016 Share: facebook share twitter share

The Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme celebrated its seven-year long journey of creating leadership and empowering socially excluded communities in Uttar Pradesh by holding a three-day closing ceremony – ‘PACS Inclusion Utsav’ - in Lucknow from January 11-13 2016.

The three-day event was a celebration of the empowerment and inclusion of socially excluded communities. With more than 300 people in attendance, the Utsav involved eminent personalities who have worked in the State in varied capacities including leaders of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), representatives from PACS partner Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), PACS programme officials and government officials. Speakers and attendees reflected on PACS’ contribution in the State and what’s next in store after the programme closes.

PACS in Uttar Pradesh: a summary

The PACS programme in Uttar Pradesh has successfully impacted 2,475,722 people. PACS, through its partners, has reached 3357 villages across 17 districts in the state. Building a strong social capital, a base of 3889 CBOs was built, 78% of which are led by socially excluded groups.

Find out more about PACS work in Uttar Pradesh.

Day 1

Session 1: Inauguration
The inaugural session of the event began with some community leaders presenting inspiring songs to enthuse the gathering.

The first session was chaired by Dr. Rajesh Tandon, Founder and Director of Participatory Research in Asia. This session was an overview of PACS’ work in the State.

Dr. Rajesh Tandon, Director of PRIA, chairs the inaugural session of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Director of PACS, Anand Bolimera, then spoke about the role of the state in providing for marginalised sections of society through social development programmes and the role of civil society in demand generation at the ground level. He stated, “PACS has worked with civil society organisations to make people aware of their rights and entitlements without any discrimination on the basis of caste, gender or religion.” He concluded with the point that the success of the PACS programme will be measured on the basis of how CSOs and CBOs take it forward.

PACS UP State Manager, Prashant Kumar, identified the root cause of poverty as the discrimination against the socially excluded. He suggested that welfare work should be addressed in order for these groups to fight against poverty and outlined the strategy adopted by PACS – to mobilise CBOs led by socially excluded people and give them direction on how to ask for their rights.

CBO leader, Mohammad Rafiq, spoke about his experience being part of the School Management Committee (SMC) programme led by PACS. He spoke about how PACS had encouraged the community to get together and address various problems in government schools like dropouts, Mid-Day meal quality and discrimination against students. Through this programme, 15 people were trained in his community by PACS to undertake the responsibility of identifying problems in the school and going to the right authorities to solve them. This gave them an opportunity to improve the education system at the ground level and ensure access to good education for all children.

Ex-Chancellor of Lucknow University, Roop Rekha Verma, stated that work is still not complete. With the PACS programme concluding, she felt that there should be a clear way charted down by CSOs on the way forward. She also said, “Governments and CSOs can’t change things till people demand their rights.”

The Chairperson of the UP State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Nahid Lari Khan, then took to the stage to talk about her aspirations for the State with regard to the welfare of children. While she spoke about a variety of initiatives like the Children’s Parliament and the Sports Development Programme, the main issue she addressed was the lack of welfare work for specially-abled children. She spoke about the Government’s plan to scale-up and speed up work that benefits these children and her vision for UP to be a model state pioneering work for the differently-abled. She requested the support of PACS and its partners to facilitate this work.

A celebrated social activist, Ashok Singh, spoke on the critical issue of ‘what’s next?’ He said, “PACS has begun the work of generating demand among the marginalised, it is now the CSOs that should continue this work.” He identified a model where all CSOs build a network and share best practices, and requested for PACS to share their learnings.

The Chairperson of the UP State Women’s Commission, Zarina Usmani, summed up PACS’ work beautifully. “PACS has done some commendable work in raising awareness at the ground level. Today, people know their voice will be heard and they should use that to ask for their rights,” she said. She also announced that the Women’s Commission is going to take all of PACS’ initiatives forward. However, she also said that the responsibility of raising awareness and generating demand should be shared between the Government and NGOs.

Zarina Usmani, Chairperson of the UP State Women’s Commission, praises the PACS programme for its work with socially excluded groups in raising awareness and demand for rights.

Session 2: the Rights of Manual Scavengers
The second session was on PACS work in the field of rights for manual scavengers. The session was chaired by Shri Rajkumar Bidla, Head of Programmes for PACS and the discussion focussed on two prime topics – how to eliminate the practice of manual scavenging and how to rehabilitate and provide livelihood to those seeking alternative work.

Mr. Bidla said that the right to dignity comes before rights and entitlements and that there is a need to work towards eliminating manual scavenging as a means of livelihood for dalit women who are still a victim of this practice.

Nitesh from the PACS UP team gave an overview of the work done by PACS to eliminate manual scavenging and to rehabilitate the workers. One of the main aspects has been the need to raise awareness amongst manual scavenging communities that manual scavenging is illegal and informing them about rehabilitation compensation. By bringing together all stakeholders – communities, government and civil society - PACS has successfully liberated many families from this practice. PACS has also worked on the implementation of a Public Health Manual.

From PACS partner Jan Sahas, Asif talked about the issue of rehabilitation for manual scavengers under the law passed in 2013. “The government provides compensation of INR 40,000 to those who leave the practice, but what about those who left before the law in 2013?” he asked. He concluded that the fight against manual scavenging addresses the issue of discrimination on the basis of caste. PACS has started the work and its partners will continue on the path provided by them.

Vinod Tewari from the SC/ST Finance Development Corporation shared the government’s perspective. He said that while the provisions exist on paper, demand needs to be raised at the on-ground level. The roles of individuals, civil societies and the government need to be clearly defined - the government has provisions available and civil societies should raise demand by generating awareness at the ground level. He also noted that the movement against manual scavenging and rehabilitation should be a public movement and practice should be discouraged at a personal level wherever possible.

Vinod Tewari from the SC/ST Finance Development Corporation speaks about how the movement against manual scavenging should be both personal and public.

Activist Babu Ram mentioned that the latest Act implemented in 2013 has been the most detailed to date. He said there are three key acts that enforce the following – that (a) no employment should be in a hazardous place of work, (b) if such employment is made, then in case of death of employee, proper compensation must be given to kin and (c) lastly, all should be employed through a formal process and contract and not on the basis of daily wages.

Mr. Kapil Dev from PACS partner PRDTI said, “The fact that we are still talking about the issue of manual scavenging is shameful. The laws need to be implemented on-the-ground and strictly. The people we work with are extremely vulnerable and actively seeking support. PACS has empowered citizens to extend that helping hand and move towards eliminating manual scavenging completely.”

From PACS partner PRDTI, Mr. Kapil Dev speaks out about the success that PACS has had in helping to eliminate manual scavenging, but also the challenges that still need to be overcome to eliminate it completely.

Session 3: Health Rights
The last session of Day 1 was chaired by Ms. Kanchan Sinha, ex-Country Director of India and Tanzania for OXFAM.

The sessions started with an overview by PACS UP Programme Officer, Ms. Mamta, about the PACS intervention in the space of health and nutrition. In Uttar Pradesh, the programme has reached 4 lakh people directly and more than 5 lakh people indirectly across 16 districts focussing on 3 key interventions - the JSY maternal health scheme, RSBY health insurance and nutrition-related interventions.

From PACS partner Gramya Sanshtan, Bindu Singh cited some examples of the work done by PACS on JSY and RSBY. Women (especially expectant and new mothers) from socially excluded groups were not able to access basic health care and the PACS programme has bridged that gap. The programme has worked at two levels – firstly, advocacy to create demand and secondly, monitoring to ensure supplies are available.

Bindu Singh from PACS partner Gramya Sansthan talks about their work to educate women about their rights under the JSY maternal health scheme and RSBY health insurance scheme.

Rajvinder Kaur, Chief Functionary from PACS partner PACE, shared that 42% of children between the ages of 0-5 suffer from malnutrition. However, she highlighted that, “Different research from different sources share different data. Hence, the first step is to have a robust and consistent mechanism in place for all data points to accurately address the situation.” As a part of the PACS programme, trainings were held using the cascade model approach to ensure top down dissemination of information.  These trainings reached almost 30000 women, teaching them about well-balanced meals for them and their families. The women were then asked to further share this information with other women.

From Save the Children, Ramanathan Nair said that right to life comes before right to health. This is an important issue in India’s context because children are missing out. At this point, he said, health and education are too privatised to be accessed by the poor.

Sunil Singh, another representative from Save the Children, said that, despite numerous policies for health and nutrition, as a country India falls in the bottom five. He explained that the key to success is a fruitful partnership between people, government and civil society. He shared his commitment to continuing all of PACS’ effort.  He reflected, “70% of children who suffer from malnutrition are from the socially excluded groups, primarily girls and those belonging to SC/STs. Hence, improving health and nutrition and eliminating discrimination of the socially excluded need to go hand in hand.”

Sanjoy Sengupta from SIFSPA – a reproductive health organisation in UP - gave an implementation driven perspective highlighting the need for setting goals, ensuring quality access and demand, and ensuring a bottom up approach. “We can adapt PACS’ model of working and use it as a go to approach for development initiatives in the state” he concluded.  

The final session on Day 1 of the UP PACS Inclusion Utsav was chaired by Kanchan Singh - ex-Country Director of India and Tanzania for OXFAM.

Day 2

Session 4: Education Rights
Day 2 started with a discussion on education rights. Mr. Sharad Behar, Governing Board Member of the Azim Premji Foundation and ex-Chief Secretary - Government of MP, chaired the session.

Mr. Behar began the session by making the critical point that education means empowerment - it is not limited to attaining knowledge – and that PACS has helped socially excluded communities to be empowered through education of their rights and entitlements.

Sharad Behar - Governing Board Member of the Azim Premji Foundation and ex-Chief Secretary, Government of MP – chairs the session on education at the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Lucknow.

The PACS UP team shared some interventions by them in this field. The identified issues were low enrolment and retention, bad quality of Mid-Day meals and erratic timing of teachers and students. PACS introduced School Management Committees (SMCs) - CBOs led by socially excluded groups. These SMCs have mobilised and made parents aware of their children’s right to education without discrimination. Other interventions include partnership with the State government, School Development Plans and Children’s Parliaments.

From PACS partner Lokmitra, Rajesh Kumar shared his experience next: “Working with PACS made us realise that the conditions of government schools can improve and our children can get a better quality education.” He highlighted that a lot of issues can be addressed by the Panchayat including ensuring blackboards in all classrooms and electricity. He concluded that when people get together in a movement, change is possible.

Chanda Devi, a SMC leader from Gazipur, shared her experiences. “The on-ground PACS activities of mobilisation and sensitisation opened our eyes,” she reflected.

Sandeep Khare from PACS partner Vigyan Foundation said that strengthening SMCs is the way forward: “PACS has given us the direction and a structure which we can use to move forward. We must work towards making the SMC model more federal, partnering with the government to get a higher budget allocation.” He also made an important point stating that whilst education is a provision, it is also a political issue as well and while literacy rates are soaring, the 13% who are still excluded are the ones from vulnerable backgrounds and it is these children who should be our target.

Mr. Behar concluded the session with a question and answer session for the audience. Recommendations and suggestions were made about how to strengthen SMCs, how Panchayats and SMCs could work better together and how to make government schools aspirational for kids to join.

A member of the audience joins in with the Q&A session on education, discussing how School Management Committees are an important tool to improve government schools.

Session 5: Livelihood Rights
The second session on Day 2 was a discussion on livelihood rights. The session specifically focused on two aspects of livelihood rights – MGNREGA and land rights. The panel included representatives from government and civil society, and was chaired by Dr. Shiraz - Chief Functionary of PACS partner GEAG - who spoke about the 5 elements of development - extension, employment, ecosystem, empowerment and economic generation.

Mr. Prashant Kumar – UP State Manager for PACS - shared a video and an overview of the work done in the State. Thanks to the PACS “Kaam Mango Abhiyan” (Work Demand Campaign), mobilising people to ask for work and wages through MGNREGA, over 80,000 people applied for work and wages worth rupees 94,200,000 were generated. Under land rights, 1024 claims were received.

Vimla, a beneficiary of the PACS programme from Kushinagar district shared her story: “PACS helped women like us to get together in a group and demand their rights. Working in a team has empowered us to go to officials and demand our land.”

Community leader, Vimla, shares her experience of being supported by PACS to join a women’s Community Based Organisation and, together, to demand their rights to land.

From PACS partner Prayatna Foundation, Nahid said that land rights are an issue of freedom, respect and a place in society. The key is raising awareness on-the-ground. She also said that different researches provide different facts and figures. “We must work towards bringing in more robust research mechanisms as numbers are core to understanding the gravity of the issue,” she said. She closed her note by acknowledging the platform that PACS has provided and shared her commitment to move forward on it.

Additional Commissioner for MGNREGA - Government of UP, Pinki Jowal, elaborated on the issue of MGNREGA and gave some action points. She spoke about spreading awareness about dignified livelihoods and said that there is a dire need to increase women’s participation in MGNREGA. Using an example, she went on to say that the model of women’s participation has worked in South India and we must adapt that in UP. “Like PACS has created on-ground activists, we should continue that and have ground-level activists for MGNREGA” she said.

Pinki Jowal, Additional Commissioner for MGNREGA - Government of UP, takes to the dais to encourage more women to demand MGNREGA employment.

Session 6: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
The final session on Day 2 was an interaction among industry stakeholders on the way forward for PACS’ work through CSR. Sri Sharad Behar (Governing Board Member of the Azim Premji Foundation and ex-Chief Secretary - Government of MP) obliged as the chair for this session.

Mr. Amitabh Mehrotra from PACS partner SPARC shared his experience with PACS working on the programme, providing vocational skills training for the differently-abled. “We partnered with PACS in 2012 and a lot of what we have achieved today is through their unconditional support,” he said. He shared the working model of their ‘Livelihood Resource Center’ that involves sensitising the community, creating awareness among differently-abled people and their families and developing their abilities through training allowing them to access the job market and resulting in empowerment.

From the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), Mr. Anand stated that CSR departments should broaden their scope of work and focus more on on-ground activities. Mentioning some initiatives Mr. Anand stated that, “CSR must start investing in projects that provide basic necessities to the underprivileged. The CSR activities should not be temporary and have a long term vision. Organisations should attribute 2% of their earnings to CSR.”

Mr. Anand from the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) speaks about how CSR departments should invest in projects that reach out to the most underprivileged people.

Mr. Rakesh from the National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation resonated similar thoughts. He said that sustainability and long term vision for CSR activities will have a positive impact. Currently, there is no clear allocation of budgeting the money. He said that the industry must try and bracket spends across different welfare activities. With almost 7000 crores spent on CSR (in 2015), a lot of work can be done if money is allocated and spent efficiently.

From TATA Trust, Ms. Amita shared her experiences and contribution to improving agriculture. She mentioned that their CSR programme targeted the agricultural sector along with others like technology, education and health. "We wish PACS to continue their work and extend a partnership towards PACS and its partners for future projects,” she said.

From the PHD Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Nilanjan spoke about the importance of skill development for the differently-abled. He reflected that, before anything, the attitude should be positive and people should be self-motivated. He mentioned that if those who are self-motivated are skill trained and consequently hired, they become more committed and have a higher loyalty towards the industry.

Mr. Nilanhan from the PHD Chamber of Commerce encourages more differently-abled people to take positive steps to develop their skills and join the work force.

Anand Bolimera, PACS Director, was then invited to make the concluding remarks. He said that PACS is leaving a legacy of empowered citizens and over 25000 Community Based Organisations. He requested that the CSR sector look into the delivery of rights and entitlements.

The session ended with a Question and Answer session. The most prominent questions were around motivating CSR departments to take up projects that don’t lead to a direct benefit in their respective industries. Tips were also given about the points to keep in mind when writing a CSR grant proposal.

Day 3

Session 7: Conclusion and Celebration
The final day started on a festive note with a cultural programme and video.

Performers take to the stage on the final day of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Mr. Rajkumar Bidla, Programme Manager for PACS, welcomed everyone saying, “The PACS programme is now transformed into a movement, a movement of socially excluded groups who are empowered to voice their needs and demand their rights and entitlements.” He shared that the rationale of the PACS programme to reach the vulnerable was because there was lack of confidence and fear of discrimination amongst socially excluded groups, and PACS had committed itself to give these citizens a voice.

Some representatives from the field were invited to share their stories. Yashoda from Kawi Nagar district acknowledged said, “All that I know about my rights is due to PACS.” As a CBO leader, she has advocated for the women farmers of her village. She brought them into a group and raised awareness about the importance of saving money to use for their own purpose.

This was followed by launch of ‘Change Story’ – a book with stories of leaders from School Management Committees and their anecdotes of change. It was launched by Arvind Singh Gope - Cabinet Minister for Rural Development.

Members of the panel at the final session of the MP PACS Inclusion Utsav release a book on stories of change from SMC leaders.

Mr. Sharad Behar (Governing Board Member of the Azim Premji Foundation and ex-Chief Secretary - Government of MP) shared his thoughts about the PACS programme and the need to continue through its partners: “Thanks to PACS, all the CSOs are now aware, empowered and together. No one can stop their work now.”

Member of Legislative Council, Rakesh Singh Rana, was invited next to share his thoughts on role of young leaders: “PACS has given a voice to the voiceless, given them confidence and is leaving them feeling empowered. Even though the programme is ending, the force and pace of the movement should not be impacted.” He promised the people that the UP Government is with its people.
Juhie Singh (Chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights) stated that the Government and PACS have the same goal – access to all rights and entitlements. At a recently-held Children’s Parliament it came out that education, health and safety are basic rights and should be accessed by everyone without any discrimination based on caste, gender or religion. “Organisations like PACS have brought the socially excluded into the mainstream” she said. She also mentioned that a higher share of the State budget will be allocated to education, health and nutrition.

Cabinet Minister for Rural Development, Arvind Singh Gope, shared his vision and way forward. In his words, “PACS through its work is helping the UP State government to realise their own ambitions and aspirations for the State.” He elaborated on some of the schemes proposed and implemented by the State government to fight poverty and was pleased to hear from beneficiaries and CBOs who spoke on stage to share their stories. “PACS has worked very hard and gone through a lot of struggles to achieve what they have. The UP Government is with you through all your future endeavours,” he said.

Arvind Singh Gope, Cabinet Minister for Rural Development – Government of UP, encourages PACS beneficiaries to continue in their work.

Shariq (a young leader supported by the PACS Changelooms programme) shared his experiences, saying that young people are the present and if they’re given a chance to lead, present their thoughts and implement change, they will be able to bring bigger, faster changes in society. He thanked PACS for giving an opportunity to youth to lead and make the changes they wish to see in the society.

Anshuman from the PACS Community Correspondent Network then spoke about video as a medium to bring about change. These video journalists have given voice to the socially excluded. Since 2013, the PACS Community Correspondents in UP have worked across 13 districts producing 280 videos.

Finally, the PACS team felicitated all the CBO and CSO members and the Utsav concluded with folk songs and dances by groups from all over the State. There was a spirit of positivity and enthusiasm among all present.

Members of the PACS team felicitate Civil Society Organisation partners at the end of the UP PACS Inclusion Utsav, celebrating the work achieved together.

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