New Delhi: The Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) of the Ministry of Rural Development and the World Bank organized a virtual learning event on February 24, 2022 on how to include ultra-poor women in Mission programs. The learning session included presentations by BRAC and BOMA, organizations that have successfully piloted programs for the ultra-poor in many countries, as well as Bihar’s State Rural Livelihood Mission, and brought together over 6,000 participants from 34 states and union territories in India.
Senior officials from the Ministry of Rural Development, including Mr. Nagendra Nath Sinha, Rural Development Secretary and World Bank Country Manager for India, Mr. Junaid Kamal Ahmad, chaired the event. The learning session included a special address by MR Subrahmanyam, Secretary of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
India’s DAY-NRLM is one of the largest community mobilization efforts in the world, organizing over 80 million poor women into more than 7.4 million self-help groups – building their savings, promoting sustainable livelihoods, but above all strengthening their empowerment. Particular attention is given in particular to women from vulnerable communities such as garbage collectors, victims of human trafficking, particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTG) and people with disabilities (PwD). Yet many women from the poorest households continue to face challenges joining groups, maintaining their savings and developing their livelihoods. The learning event focused on lessons learned from programs such as BRAC and BOMA that have worked with these “ultra-poor” households using a set of holistic, time-limited and sequenced interventions, enabling them to earn a basic minimum amount to progress along a path to sustainable livelihoods and socio-economic resilience.
Shri Sinha recognized the need for clear definitions to identify and target women who face additional vulnerabilities due to their identity and circumstances. He added, “We need better bottom-up targeting to focus on these poorest women, give them small grants and assets, and some empowerment through training and market linkages. , before they can reach a minimum threshold to join groups and enjoy their rights”.
Shri Subrahmanyam also said that women with special needs such as tribal widows, the elderly and the destitute need special attention, emphasizing the need for a defined strategy for the ultra poor under DAY- NRLM.
Shri Junaid Kamal Ahmad added, “The World Bank has a long relationship with the NRLM. This partnership, through State Rural Livelihoods Missions (SRLMs) in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, has helped lift millions of households out of poverty. However, the objective is even more ambitious, that of universal coverage. Women are often unable to take advantage of these missions – because they belong to socially excluded groups or live in isolated hamlets. The World Bank, in partnership with States, is committed to ensuring that livelihood opportunities are accessible to all women seeking to enter the labor market”.
Setting the context for the webinar, Ms. Nita Kejrewal, Co-Secretary of MoRD, said that a special strategy is needed to bring the poorest households in rural areas under DAY-NRLM and support them for a better quality of life. She said the webinar aimed to bring national and international experiences to help design an appropriate strategy for coverage of the ultra-poor under the Mission.
The discussion included presentations by two international organizations working on targeting ultra-poor households. Mr. Palash Das, Director, Ultra Poor Graduation Initiative, BRAC presented the approach BRAC has taken starting in Bangladesh and expanding to 50 other countries to identify extremely poor people, supporting their immediate needs, skills , their assets and their businesses and by developing their savings. The program has reached nearly 14 million people over the past 20 years, and 95% have been lifted out of extreme poverty.
Ms. Jaya Tiwari, Vice President and Chief Impact Officer of BOMA, explained how her organization has reached more than 350,000 women and children living in extreme poverty in six dryland countries in Africa by piloting approaches to peer and group learning to build resilience. among the most vulnerable.
Mr. Balamurugan, CEO of Jeevika (Bihar), described the approach taken by the program to reach over 100,000 vulnerable households from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the state who lack the capacity or face complex social norms for joining groups.
In the ensuing discussion, Ms. Alka Upadhyaya, Former Additional Secretary, Rural Development and Chairperson, National Highways Authority of India, urged the NRLM to intensify its strategies to broaden its membership base. She added: “Sometimes you need an extra push to open the poverty traps that women live in. Dalit and Adivasi women may not be able to join self-help groups due to social norms in a village. They may not even be able to meet basic savings criteria or face daily food insecurity. I hope this learning event will help the NRLM and States design an operational approach to reaching these women. »
Ms. Anna O’Donnell, Senior Social Development, Social Sustainability and Inclusion Specialist, South Asia, World Bank, the second panelist in the webinar, shared that rapid poverty reduction is possible with approximately 18-24 months of intensive work and well-sequenced assistance to ultra-poor households sustained with convergence with all programs. The flexible and adaptive design of the program while retaining the essence of the model would be most effective in a country like India with a wide range of contexts. Using technology in the model can help build learning and adaptation into the model with pace.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Kevin Tomlinson, Practice Manager, Social Sustainability and Inclusion, World Bank added, “Around 100-150 million people in India live on less than $1.90 a day, a number that may have increased after COVID. These people face a multitude of interconnected challenges, which often intersect with their social identities. They have few or no productive assets and are often excluded from social services. Women, as we know, face additional barriers. I hope the presentations made today have given the ministry some thought on how to develop and scale up an approach to reach women who are in the most vulnerable situations”.