Mahila[p1]  Shanti Sena [p2] (Women Peace Corps) in Orissa – A Report[p3] 

____________________________________________________

 

Mahila Santi Sena in Orissa was initiated by Unnayan in Jhatiada and Gadighati Gram Panchayats of Rasgobindpur block of Mayurbhanj district in 2005. These groups were formed by taking women Panchayatiraj functionaries, traditional women leaders, selected women SHG leaders who started to work in their neighborhoods, particularly in the sphere of health and education services, good governance, maintaining neighborhood peace and harmony.

 

The overall idea was to build awareness in favour of democracy and development by all and for all, which will lead to the building up of a democratic violence free social order. It also visualized to capacitate the poor and marginalized women and to develop their leadership in elevating the health, education, and nutrition and sanitation status of the community by cultivating the spirit of social responsibilities and inculcating the sense of basic minimum services.

 

A total of 1752 Shanti Sainiks have taken the oath so far and the number of trainee days for the MSS has been 3496.

 

The overall objective of this peace movement:

 

  • To motivate and organise women from grass roots for peace, social solidarity, social justice, participatory democracy and good governance and for creation of a value based society through working in close association with Panchayats.
  • To develop leadership among women for securing their rights, to undertake responsibilities for civil society empowerment and to overcome the barriers to women’s development

  • To bridge the gap between social and economic discriminations, gender preferences by ensuring empowerment through information dissemination
  • To form women’s units at the grassroots level and developing their linkages to form federations that would work as pressure groups and advocacy fronts at various levels.
  • To organise large meeting and public hearing on issues concerning women and for propagation of Gandhian philosophy and social values addressing women’s liberation from subjugated role to political responsibilities

·         To develop the skill of women in conflict resolution, maintenance of social value systems, representation of their issues in appropriate fore, moral and economic self-reliance.

·         To elevate the health and educational status of the communities by cultivating the spirit of social responsibility and inculcating the sense of community health, sanitation, and education among them

  • To create a consultative forum to review women’s issues at the grassroots and find suitable means for their empowerment.

 

Our activities in last two years

Inspired by the philosophy of Mahila Shanti Sena of Shrambharati, Unnayan decided to get involved in furthering its cause in Orissa. With keeping in mind the holistic development of women in the societal change process, several activities have been organized from time to time. Following are the glimpse of MSS activities in last two years.  

MSS PROGRESS

 

 

 

 

S.No

Date

Particulars

Participants

Venue

Responsibility

 

1

27-29 Aug '05

Training

50

Kakbandh

All staff

 

2

29 Nov '05

1st Workshop

400

Kakbandh

All staff

 

3

28th Feb- 1st Mar '06

Training

40

Angul

7 staff

 

4

2nd Mar '06

Workshop

100

Angul

7 staff

 

5

1st Mar '06

2nd Workshop

250

Tambakhuri

Indira, Malati, Anup, Manab

 

6

28th May '06

3rd Workshop

1200

Jhatiada

All staff

 

7

16th July '06

MSS Leaders meet

19

Jhatiada

Malati

 

8

20th July '06

Consultative Meet

20

Kakbandh

8 staff

 

9

1st Aug '06

Meeting

76

Tambakhuri

3 staff

 

10

22nd Aug '06

Half- day training

17

Nalagaja

2 staff

 

11

25th Aug '06

Half- day training

28

Nakichuan

3 staff

 

12

29th Aug '06

4th Workshop

70

Kakbandh

All staff

 

13

21st Sept '06

Consultative Meet

80

Chitarda

Sanjukta, Manab, Malati

 

14

24th Sept '06

Consultative Meet

31

Rasgobindpur

Indira, Piyush, Manab

 

15

15th Oct '06

Consultative Meet

10

Manida

Sanjukta, Manab, Piyush

 

16

26-29th Oct '06

Training of Trainers

28

Kakbandh

Snehakumar and Umashankar Chaturvedi

 

17

16th Nov '06

Consultative Meet

28

Chitarda

2 staff

 

18

19th Nov '06

Consultative Meet

107

Malihata

Manab and Malati

 

19

25th-26th Nov '06

Training

42

Kakbandh

Shanti Sainiks

 

20

20th Dec '06

5th Workshop

900

Kakbandh

All staff

 

In the year 2005, August a three-day training programme was organized with 54 participants at Kakbandh village of Rasgobindpur block, Mayurbhanj district. A follow-up workshop was conducted at the same venue in November 2005. The second training programme was organized at Anugul from 1st to 3rd February 2006. This was followed by a two-day workshop at the same venue (February 4 and 5). ACHARYA RAMAMURTI attended this training and workshop in Orissa. These efforts produced[p4]  a very good result in small pockets of two districts Mayurbhanj and Jagatsinghpur. Being successful in two locations the Unnayan team began work in some new areas, namely Suliapada Block, Morda Block & the entire Rasgovindpur Block of Mayurbhanja District.

1. Consultative meeting with potential community leaders: Two consultative meetings were organized of potential community leaders. The first was organized on 24th September 2006, participated by 31 Women leaders at Rasgobindpur block, Mayurbhanj. The second was on 19th November 2006, participated by 81 Women at Malihata village of Chitroda Panchayat, Mayurbhanj. The objectives of these consultative meetings were to brief them about the philosophy of this peace movement.

 

2. Panchayat Level Meetings (One Day): Total of five one day meetings were organized at panchayat level as follow up work of the consultative meetings. These meetings were organized with an aim to be in direct touch with people. Following are the details: 

 

Date                            No. of Members Present       Place

 

22nd August 06                        17 Women                   Nalagaja, Mayurbhanj

25th August 06                        78 Women                   Nakichua, Mayurbhanj

21st September 06                   80 Women                   Chitrada, Mayurbhanj

15th October 06                       15 Women                   Manida, Mayurbhanj

16th November 06                   28 Women                   Chitrada, Mayurbhanj

 

3. One Day Meetings: Three one-day meetings at village level were organized. 

 

Date                                        No. of Members Present       Place

 

16th July 06                              19 Women                               Kakabandh

20th July 06                              20 Women                               Tambakhuri

1st August 06                           200 Women                             Tambakuri

 

4. Training of Trainers[p5] : A 4 days training of trainers programme was conducted from 26th- 29th October 2006 at Kakbandh, Mayurbhanj. It was attended by 28 participants, 10 from Rasgovindpur block, 6 from Morada block, 5 from Suliapada Block and 7 from the Unnayan team. The main objective of the training was to create a cadre of grass root trainers. As a result of this training programme some new women trainers were created who imparted training to other women Shanti Sainiks in furthering the cause later on  . 

 

5. Training camp (2 days each): A training camp was organized of women peace workers on 25th and 26th of November 2006 at Kakbandh office. A total of 41 women participants from 12 villages of 5 Gram Panchayats of Rasgovindpur block, took part in this training. It was facilitated by Mahila Santi Sainiks who were trained as trainers in the month of October 2006.

6. Quarterly meets: Total of five quarterly meets have been organized till date. The details are as follows:

  • The first quarterly meet was organized on 29th of October 2005 at Kakbandh where total of 400 women participated.

 

  • The second quarterly meet was organized on 1st March 2006 at Tambakhuri. 250 women participated in the event.

 

  • On 28th May 2006, the third quarterly meet was organized at JhatiadaIntegralSchool premises in which 1200 women participated including women from the nearby district Balasore. The Panchayatiraj minister, Sri. Raghunath Mohanty also attended the programme.

 

  • On 29th of August 2006, the fourth quarterly meet was organized and attended actively by 70 women Shanti Sainiks.

 

  • The fifth quarterly meet was organized on 20th December 2006 at Kakbandh in presence of Prof. Srigopal Mohanty of McMasterUniversity and was attended by 900 women.

 

The Inter group visit and Peoples assembly could not be organized due to the Panchayat level elections. Some of our MSS leaders are nominee for Sarpanch and are busy in election campaigning process. Only after 15th of February 2007 these meetings can be organized.   

Till date the geographical area covered by Women Peace Corps (Mahila Shanti Sena) activities in Orissa are two blocks of Mayurbhanj district, Moroda and Rasgobindpur; Jaleswar block of Balasore district and Balikuda block of Jagatsinghpur district.

Pre-Shanti Sena Situation:

 

The study of rural Orissa shows gender dominance and the consequent attitude of the society towards women, women’s relatively low awareness level in the unorganized sector give them little space to play their role in governance and decision making processes. However, there is quite good deal of potentials in these groups taking up the responsibilities of change agents at the grass roots. With the introduction of local self-help groups (SHG) in villages, women become more self-sufficient. But SHGs usually deal with the credit and thrift activities and sporadic income generating activities. Their wellbeing can be improved only when they have the access to basic minimum services especially health and education[p6] . Mahila Shanti Sena process is the right platform for them and is a right kind of approach at this situation in transforming the mere women groups in to formidable change agents at grass roots.

 

POSITIVE IMPACTS OF MSS:

The recent past has witnessed remarkable change in the mindset of people towards this movement in Orissa. Now women are more sensitive about local and political issues. Apart from working on promotion of health, education, creating awareness of women for increased participation of women in Panchayatiraj movement and other developmental activities, these women groups have contributed significantly to the anti-liquor movement in this area. There is quite good deal of potentials in these groups taking up the responsibilities of change agents at the grass roots and has become an example for others. 

 

 

 

 


SUMMARY OF THE CASES ADDRESSED BY MSS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.No

Date

Village

Issue Addressed

Leadership and no. of SS involved

Steps taken

Current Status

1

Jan '06

Gadighati

Domestic violence

Bijaylaxmi Behera + 10

The Shanti Sainiks called the husband to attend the SHG meeting and asked him to put an end to the violence. Any repetition of his behaviour would mean the involvement of five other SHGs in finding a solution to the issue

The husband and wife are living together peacefully. The wife says that she now has greater faith in the SHG

2

March '06

Tambakhuri

Alcoholism and domestic violence

Jayanti Sahoo +10

the Husband was counselled

The violent outbursts have ended

3

May '06

Jhatiada

Commercial Sex work

Rukmini Bindhani +10

The girl involved in this was asked to stop her work in the village. When it continued, she was given a request in writing and asked to leave the village if she could not put an end to her ativities.

The girl involved in the racquet left the village

4

July '06

Khunta

Village celebrations stopped due to party politics

Minoti Behera + 35

One of the quarterly workshops of the MSS was held in Khunta so that the rest of the village would understand the significance of the movement

The festival was celebrated

5

May '06

Tambakhuri

Printing of counterfeit money that lead to a kidnapping

Sandhya Rani Dutta, Itisree Kabi + 17

The women first visited the block office with a complaint explaining the entire case-- that this man in the village was printing counterfeit money and some children who had seen this money had stolen some notes from a suitcase to spend it at the local shop in the village. When the shop keeper told them that these notes were not real, the truth of the matter began to surface. Fearing that the police would find out the truth, he kidnapped the boy before he could come out with teh story. The Shanti Sainiks then filed an FIR and held a silent procession at the block office. Someone gave them a lead that they boy was hidden in a house in Balasore. They went and rescued him from there.

Stopped priniting counterfeit money but the man is out of prison on bail.

6

Aug '06

Tambakhuri

Shortage of teachers in school

Bharati Kabi +30

The Shanti Sainiks first gave a petition to the SI stating that the primary school was facing a shortage of teachers. When he did not respond, they wrote to the Collector who responded to them in a week and sent in a new teacher in 15 days.

New Teacher Appointed

7

Sept '06

Gadighati

Incomplete road construction work

Biajaylaxmi Behera +22

The group called for a meeting in the village to discuss the incomplete road.

The group sat together and took a decision. The road was completed.

8

Sept '06

Tikayatpur

Gramadebati Puja stopped due to party politics

Bharati Kabi +30

The Shanti Sainiks called a meeting with the entire village where they took the decision.

Gramadeboti Puja held

9

Feb '07

Badhimuhan

Intercaste marriage

Milli Patra + 25

When the boy and girl faced opposition from the families to the marriage, they eloped. Fearing the consequences, they approached the MSS who took them to a templecloseby and got the couple married. They also spoke to the parents who agreed to the match.

Wedding held and parents accepted the match

10

Mar '07

Khunta

Disregard towards Shanti Sena

Minoti Behera + 60

Since the initiation of the Shanti Sena Movement in the village, people have stopped seeking help from the Mukhiya for their problems. This shift in power made the Mukhiya feel threatened who abused the MSS publicly. The women tried speaking to them but they started to abuse the women, who approached the police. A meeting was held with the two parties.

Peace restored in the village

11

Feb '07

Khunta

Domestic Violence and death threats

Minoti Behera + 60

when the husband threatened to hang his wife, she ran away to her Father's residence. The MSS counselled the husband who agreed to live peacefully. They also explained the implications of his threats and actions under the Indian Penal Code.

The man has sworn to live in peace with his wife.

12

Dec '06

Khunta

Corruption

Minoti Behera + 60

The government "chowkidar" or guard of the village used to drink when on duty and ask people for money to do any work. The MSS hatched a plan. One evening when he was drunk, one of the women wore the uniform of a senior officer and went over and threatened him.

The guard now abides by the rules

13

Mar '07

Darkhuli

Alcoholism

Draupadi Behera +40

A woman was running a brewery in the village and that has increased the consumption of alcohol by the husbands' of the Shanti Sainiks.The 4 SHGs in the village met together to put an end to the problem

An anti- alcohol committee has been formed in the village

14

Nov '06

Praharajpur

Alcoholism

Kabita Jena + 10

The man who was running his business in the village was warned by the MSS.

Distellery/ Brewery closed

15

Nov '06

Alikanta, Koronia and Thailo

Road Cleaning

Sarojini Das, Rita Parida, Sasmita Parija + 40

The MSS from these villages came together to conduct a cleanliness campaign

Campaign conducted

16

Dec '05

Thailo

Village celebrations stopped due to party politics

Sarojini Das, Rita Parida, Sasmita Parija + 70

A village meeting was held asking everyone to put aside party politics for the larger good of the village

The Agni utsav was held in the village

17

Sept '06

Udupur

Domestic Violence

Sarojini Das + 25

One of the MSS members' husbands used to beat her regularly. One evening, he also threw her out of the house. The MSS refused to allow her to leave the village and asked to stay with another MSS member. They counselled the husband who agreed never  hit his wife again

Couple living peacefully

18

Sept '06

Balikuda Block

Flood relief

Sarojini Das + 200

the women organised a paeacful 'dharna' outside the block office and invited the sub- collector and BDO to their village. The officials had to wade through the water- logged "roads" to reach Thailo. There were 200 women waiting for them there and the women showed them all the work that they are doing with Golden Grass.

Work has started in the construction of better drainage systems

19

Dec '06

Alikanta, Koronia and Thailo

Incomplete road construction work

Sarojini Das + 55

The government had sanctioned the construction of a road through the village Alikanat. Only half the fund for the construction had been released and hence, only half the work completed. The women staged a 'dharana' outside the block office.

Funds that were held back were released and the construction completed

20

Jan '07

Nobango

Alcoholism

Sarojini Das + 56

The MSS held a meeting in the village to put an end to the nuisance.

The men in the village have stopped drinking together outside the temple.

21

Nov '06

Nobango

Domestic Violence

Rita Parida, Sasmita Parija + 45

Just after the marriage, the boy asked his new bride to leave the house. The MSS refused to let her leave and took the boy to the police station.

the boy has accepted the girl as his wife and they are living together.[p7] 

 

Anti liquor Campaign

Last year in 2006 some women SHG members of Nalagaja village participated in the third quarterly workshop of Mahila Shanti Sena organized in Jhatiada Grampanchayat and also in one of the training programme at Kakbandh. With their active involvement in this programme they started on thinking about the problems and their peaceful solutions in their area. They decided together to handle this tough situation in a peaceful way. Firstly they made an anti liquor campaign in their area. Their second attempt was to break the earthen pots in which the liquor is being prepared. As a result the liquor sellers are now fearful to sale liquor in that market.

 

Fake Currency Transaction

One person in Rajghat village, Mayurbhanj was running an illegal liquor shop and running various other anti-social activities like keeping fake notes in huge quantity at his home. After many requests and information about it, the police was not taking any action against him. Last year in 2006 an attempt was made by Mahila Shanti Sena to stop transaction of fake currency and to cease the shop. Shanti Sena, called a meeting of the villagers along with the Mahila Shanti Sainiks (Women Peace Brigade) in Rajghat after that an inquiry by some Mahila Shanti Sena members was made at his home and a FIR was lodged at police outpost. Now with the intervention of the police the liquor shop has been closed and fake currency notes are no more found there.     

 

Celebration of village Festival

The third quarterly meeting organized in Jhatiada village was attended by women from Jhatiada, Amarda; Gadighati gramapachayat of Rasgobindpur block, Mayurbhanj and women from nearby Khunta village, Balasore district for the first time. These women were very much inspired by the ideology of MSS and after going back to their village they started thinking of peaceful means to resolve their village problems. In Khunta village previously all the village festivals were celebrated by the local political parties as their party festival. In 2006 for the first time with the initiation of these empowered and trained women the festivals organized in a peaceful way with full participation of people from all sects. They took the strategy of convincing women, elderly members, Sarpanch of the village and succeeded in this move. The women collected money from all the villagers, cooked food in a common place, ate together in a group and celebrated the festival for the first time in a different way. 

 

Peaceful Resolution of Pot Maker’s case  

In Jhatiada village a pot maker in the pretext of selling pots lured women and daughter-in-laws to fulfill his sensual desires since last one year. The Mahila Shanti Sainiks after a peaceful dialogue with the Pot maker were able to convince him. As a result he left the village without causing any harm to those women.    

 

The experience gained from these programmes and their outcome shows that the process has gained momentum in the operational area in Mayurbhanj, Balasore and Jagatsinghpur because of the consistent follow-up with the members by the staff of Unnayan. So the perspective emerging out of the learning is that focused programmes in a specific geographical location should be undertaken where the process can be directly monitored. At the same time strategic process needs to be initiated in order to make this programme gaining wider outreach.

 

 

Our experience from these first two years with the MSS movement shows us that a little input encourages the women to take a lot of steps to change their lives for the better. We believe that the training process for the whole programme should incorporate the following—

a.       Leadership training for the members – we recently conducted training on Leadership Development in KhuntaVillage and the community received that very well.

b.      Gender Training-- for the MSS members and their husbands for a deeper level involvement of the family.

c.       Cross Visits and Exposure visits to different organisations-- in our trainings with the SHG and MSS members, they have often said that one of the achievements since they started the group is that they have started to travel. For many, the travel has only been to the neighbouring village but it has been a very important part of their lives. Peer learning remains a very strong tool and we need to use it more frequently and effectively for the MSS programme.

d.      In Jagatsinghpur, the women were very excited when the work began. In the absence of any funding, there has been no planned work for the MSS but our field staff there have been organising women and addressing cases when they arise. We believe that there is a lot of potential for the MSS in Jagatsinghpur.

 

The Shanti Sena movement has given a lot of old SHGs a direction to move ahead in. It also acts as a system for them to act upon issues that are relevant to their lives. In the past, the women have wanted to address these issues but have feared to, in the absence of a support system and the assurance that there are other people backing them in their efforts. For Unnayan too, it has been a way forward for the SHG movement that was initiated in the early 2000s. In many villages now, the SHG is formed after the women get involved in the Shanti Sena movement thus strengthening the various goals of this programme—social, political and economic empowerment of the women. A stronger, more systematic training schedule would aid us is achieving what we have set out to do—create communities of women [p8] who are truly empowered.

 

SHG status: What’s the “global status” of  the economic and self-help activityies of all the SHGs now operating as MSS ?[p9] 


 [p1]

This is the reply we received to the follow-on comments/questions we have inserted throughout the document.
-----------------------------------------
Thank you for your suggestions about the title of the
report. Noteworthy that in a a poverty stricken state
like Orissa, the primary concern of the people, or
women for that matter, is livelihoods and the process
of MSS can’t work ignoring this vital attribute. Thus,
the progression from SHG to MSS is an advantage and
MSS without SHG needs to address the issue of women’s
income generation for its sustainability. We would
like to inform you here that he MSS process in Orissa
is not necessarily a progression from SHG to MSS. We
have also the experience where the progression has
been from MSS to SHG. Eg, the very dynamic group in
Khunta, a report of this group has been given
elsewhere.

We appreciate your suggestion for producing a document
that would act like a manual. We believe in the
process of documentation of any programme. We shall
work out the possibility of producing a soft copy of
such a document in Oriya first, of course.

I found it difficult to understand the fourth note.
Please explain.

It would be wrong on our part to say which problems
and issues are important and which are not. This
depends on the gravity of the problem from the
perspective of the people who are affected by them. We
value the dignity and empowerment of the women and the
whole process of MSS is directed towards this.
Moreover, MSS is a process where it’s very difficult
to keep track of each and every event in the
day-to-day life of the associated members. Thus, it
has not been possible to reflect everything in the
report. Only the most important happenings have been
reflected. We shall try to reflect the health and
education aspects in the future reports as well.

The future of MSS lies in proper follow- up of the
issues taken up by its members in order to meet with a
logical end. For this matter, we give importance to
capacity building of its members through training,
exposure, sharing etc. we advise the members not to be
tempted to take up much sensitive issues until the
groups are strengthened enough to properly deal with
such issues. Yes, the case you have mentioned and also
other issues that have been taken up by the members
are monitored through social- control mechanism.

We would like to ask SEEDS to continue its undaunted
support (not only financial) towards this movement.
Given the social concern of the esteemed members of
SEEDS, we would like to mention here that we are all
travelers in the wilderness of this world. The best
that we find in our travels is an honest friend. We
expect SEEDS to continue as an honest friend in the
process of MSS. Moreover, we would also be obliged if
the esteemed members who have a wider contact can help
establishing linkages between MSS and others who can
contribute both to financial and no- financial terms.

The global status of economic and self- help
activities of all the SHGs working with MSS shall be
added as a monitoring indicator. However, we can do
this considering our own operational area as the
globe. We shall request Shrambharati to conduct a
small study on it to have an overall idea of the whole
process all over India.

I hope this mail has clarified some of your questions.
We will be sending you the annual report of MSS
shortly. The accounts report will be sent along with
that.

Regards,

Bhanu

 [p2]Kudos for a good effort – natural progression from SHGs to MSS!

 [p3]I want to see a half or full page financial summary table

 [p4]Can we produce a softcopy document that works like a manual/guide/reference for the Shanti Sainik? Perhaps an Oriya softcopy first?

 [p5]How’s Acharya Ramamurthy’s  organization is leveraged by Unnayan?

 [p6] Two aspects that distinguish SHG from MSS are highlighted here . In the case studies tabulated below,  I hardly found one instance that focused on either of the se two specificities.

 

Not that liquor and road construction or preventing a broken marriage are not impotant. But some “back to basics’, I would ask to emphasize.

 [p7]Any follow up? There are a few cases where follow up and true progress should be monitored – this is only one case I point out explicitly.

 [p8]How is the trend line in terms of both new MSS member strength and their total per person training hours?

 

Given its limited rersources and SEEDS’s penchant for catalytic way of bringing change and its mindshare leadership, what is it that MSS leadership would like to ask of SEEDS?

 [p9]Added this final question

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