Kochi, November 4: Delegates at the ongoing BRICS conference in the city on ‘Participatory Local Budgeting’ expressed their admiration for the running of the Mararikulam South Gram Panchayat, which has over 50 per cent representation by women.
The panchayat, with its comprehensive projects for women and children, stands to be emulated countrywide as a shining example of women-friendly villages, they felt.
On Day 2 of the three-day conference, the delegates visited Alappuzha municipality, Kumarakom, Nudumbassery and Thalikkuam and Mararikualm grama panchayats.
As many as 21 delegates visited the panchayat to study its various pilot projects including ‘Manasa’ and ‘Balakairali’, which focuses on improving educational standards of childen and ‘Sthree Souhrida Grama’ aimed at the safety of women.
Mararikulam, in Alappuzha district was the first panchayat to start the ‘Sthree Souhrida Gramam’ (Women-friendly village), under the gender budgeting concept and is perhaps the first of its kind in the state.
The key factor associated with gender budgeting is that panchayats should act as the model for women safety and gender equality. The process involves the formation of various working groups, training programmes, gender workshops, discussions and total participation of women neighbourhood groups.
Dr Jayaprakash R, project coordinator of ‘Manasa’ in his brief presentation pointed out that the project identified 147 scholastically backward students from impoverished socio economic backgrounds and conducted group counselling for them and their parents.
“Around 54 percent of students showed an improvement in their performance. The total expenditure of the project was Rs 4.5 lakh, which was solely funded by the panchayat,” he said.
The delegates also visited the project sites including Balakairali and Preethikulangara Government LP School.
Mohan Das, the brain behind the ‘Balakairali’ project, explained how the primary education was made affordable to the people of the village.
The panchayat, with 15,600 families residing, has only two government LP schools making lower primary education unaffordable to the common man.
“Hence we decided to set up ‘Balakairali’ for nursery education. Now we have 10 Balakairalis in the Panchayat,” said Mohan Das.
He also added the project contributed to raising the quality of education in the government schools too.
“The Preethikulangara Government LP School has become the first school in the district with 100 per cent smart classes. This was the only government school to win ‘Best Performing School award among the 9000 LP schools across the state,” said Mohan Das, Balakairali Project Chief.
“Out of total plan allocation, 63 per cent of Mararikulam South panchayat projects are women-oriented. We conducted crime mapping as part of ‘Stree Souhrida Gramam’
project and classified issues faced by women under 14 different categories. And those were intervened by the Panchayat and resolved,” said K B Sundaresa Panicker, former secretary of Mararikulam South Panchayat.
Swarup Das, one among the BRICS delegates said projects like ‘Manasa’, ‘Balakairali’ and ‘Sthree Souhrida Gramam’ are quite impressive and this model can be adopted nation-wide.
Panchayat President Indira Thilakan and Joy Antony, Senior Clerk also interacted with the delegates during the visit.
The BRICS conference will conclude on Friday (November 5). ENDS
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