Federation of elected women: An important step towards improved local governance in India

Formation of a federation of elected women – SUGRAMA – was a crucial and sucessful part of the Swedish Indian Co-operation to Strengthen Local Governance.

In the framework of the Swedish Indian Co-operation to Strengthen Local Governance, SKL International, SIPU International and The Hunger Project (THP) have worked, from January 2008 to October 2009 to strengthen local governance and decentralisation in the state of Karnataka, India.

A key result of the first phase was the formation of a federation for elected women representatives in Karnataka, named “SUGRAMA”.

The project was built around two central components:

1. Building a federation of elected women representatives from gram panchayat (village) level in Karnataka and develop a model for broader Local Government Federations.

2. Building a Karnataka Platform to Promote Decentralisation (KPPD) involving all key stake holders of the decentralisation process.

Creation of SUGRAMA

The first component was built on THP’s extensive work with elected women representatives (EWRs).  The process of building SUGRAMA was initiated by the formation of an interim steering committee of EWRs that carried the work forward supported by THP, SKL International and SIPU. The formation of SUGRAMA has been based on a principle of strong ownership and involvement by the EWRs and has revolved around the development of bylaws that would guide the operations and the future of the federation.

As a concrete result of the project, SUGRAMA was formed and became the first membership based state level federation of elected women in India. Consequently the objective of establishing an independent representational body equipped to advocate on behalf of its members and a model for local government federations was achieved.

Regarding the Karnataka Platform to Promote Decentralisation two successful multi-stakeholder workshops were held though the political will provided a drawback for the prospects of moving into concrete actions.