Revival of an Anganwadi Center
Anganwadis (daycare centers) are early childhood (0-6 years) development centers. The government provides them under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme. This is one of the most prominent government programs in India. The program fights illiteracy, malnutrition, morbidity and mortality rates. It provides education for preschoolers and supplemental nutrition and health care to children and pregnant or lactating women. Andanwadi centers (AWC) are set to provide for 800 people. They have one Anganwadi worker (educated through 10th grade standard) and one helper (educated through 5th grade).
In many villages, AWCs have bad infrastructure and insufficient facilities. They frequently fail to adequately provide for the local community. In the village of Kharkari in Mewat, Haryana, there is only one AWC. The center was built in 1975, and now serves a population of 5000. This disregards the government mandate that AWCs provide for a maximum of 1000. Records showed that the AWC was successfully providing for the entire village population. But the reality was very different. The AWC operated from a helper’s home. The Angawari worker fabricated the records of how many villagers they were serving.
Sehgal Foundation offers the Good Rural Governance (GRG) training in several villages across Mewat. The program teaches villagers about the local government structure. It empowers them to take action when local programs are not running properly. A group of seven villagers from Kharkari participated in the Good Rural Governance program. The villagers realized that the local Anganwari was not properly providing for the community. They began raising community awareness about the ICDS program.
The community began requesting changes to the AWC so that everyone could benefit from the ICDS program. The Anganwari worker tried to disregard the requests. But community participation increased and the Anganwari worker could no longer ignore their rights. One of the GRG trainees filed a Right to Information (RTI) application with a district level Project Officer. The RTI application requests that government information be provided in a timely manner under the RTI act. The Project Officer immediately passed the RTI application on to the Child Development Project Officer (CDPO). RG trainees visited the local AWC to assess its condition.
Negotiations soon followed. The Anganwari worker agreed to shift the AWC to a new location. The center was moved to a harijan (scheduled caste category) chaupal (common gathering place). Community members were upset by this move as it meant some could not access the facilities due to strong caste divisions. RG trainees and authorities held meetings with the Anganwari worker. It was finally agreed that the center would shift to the local school.
Today, Kharkari’s AWC runs efficiently from school grounds. It properly provides for many of the mothers and children in the village. RG trainees worked with authorities to have another AWC sanctioned in the village. This center is now operational.
This story goes to show that a little bit of training and empowerment can enable villagers to fight for their rights. Sehgal Foundation empowered RG trainees to take community development into their own hands. The Foundation will continue to offer RG training to villagers in Mewat. They hope to see more villagers in Mewat seeking development for their communities.
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