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Gender in Panchayati raj

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        Report of the study on status of women
          in 3 selected panchayats in Kerala


          Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre
                  Thiruvananthapuram 695 035
                                   Supported by

Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft
ConfJdJration suisse
Confederazione Svizzera
Confederaziun svizra

Swiss Agency for Development                      CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT FOR
and Cooperation SDC                               DECENTRALISATION IN KERALA
Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of Women in Kerala

                    First Printed
                   January 2006
                 September 2007

                   (not for sale)

                  Cover Design
                 Shamnad Rasool

               Design & Production
                  Word Pecker

                  Prepared by
Dr. Seema Bhaskaran, S. Jayasree and Aleyamma Vijayan

                    Published by
        Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre
           T.C. 27/1872, Convent Road
   Vanchiyoor P.O., Thiruvananthapuram 695 035
             Phone : 0471 - 2462251
               Fax : 0471 - 2574939
         E-mail :
          Website :

                   Supported by

      Programme on Capacity Development for
              Decentralisation in Kerala
 Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC

             SBI Buildings, Pattom P.O.,
           Thiruvananthapuram 695 004
     Phone: 0471-2543392 Fax: 0471-2543391
Preface                                                                   9
Acknowledgements                                                          11
1.  Introduction                                                          13
    1.1 Decentralisation in Kerala                                        13
    1.2 Gender and decentralization                                       13
    1.3 Women Component Plan                                              14

2.   The process of the study on the status of women                      16
     2.1 The study of status of women in selected panchayats in Kerala    16
     2.2 Conceptual framework of the study                                16
     2.3 Nature of women’s subordination and meaning of gender equality   17
     2.4 Status of women in Kerala                                        19
     2.5 Context of present study as a part of gender mainstreaming       22
     2.6 Process of the study on status of women                          22
     2.7 Geographical location of the study                               23
     2.8 Methodology                                                      24
     2.9 Limitations                                                      24

3.   The Profile                                                          25
     3.1 Demography                                                       25
     3.2 Religion                                                         25
     3.3 Caste                                                            25
     3.4 Family details                                                   26
     3.5 Women-headed households                                          26

4.   Access to and control over assets and resources                      28
     4.1 Ownership of House and Land.                                     28
     4.2 Home appliances                                                  29
     4.3 Working tools                                                    30
     4.4 Ownership of vehicles                                            30
     4.5 Ownership of livestock                                           31

5.   Access to and control over public resources                          32
     5.1 Water                                                            32
     5.2 Toilets                                                          33
     5.3 Fuel                                                             33
     5.4 Education                                                        33
     5.5 Health                                                           35
     Conclusion                                                           36
6.   Control over their own labour and income                  38
     6.1 Work                                                  38
     6.2 Household work                                        39
     6.3 Income, Saving and Debt                               40
     6.4 Debts                                                 41
     6.5 Decision-making                                       41

7.   Control over marriage, body, fertility and sexuality      43
     7.1. MARITAL STATUS                                       43
     7.2 Marriage                                              43
     7.3 Dowry                                                 44
     7.4 Demand for dowry                                      45
     7.5 Sexuality                                             46
     7.6 Knowledge about sex                                   47
     7.7 Reproductive health                                   48

8.   Access to and control over political spaces               50
     8.1 Political participation                               50
     8.2 Participation in Gram sabha                           51
     8.3 Self help groups (SHGs)                               51

9.   Physical security and mobility                            53
     9.1 Mobility                                              53
     9.2 Violence                                              54

10. Access to and control over intangible resources            57
    Perception in relation to Gender                           58

11. Conclusion                                                 59

12. Follow up                                                  62

Appendix 1: Study of SHG’s in Panchayats                       63
Appendix 2: Gender issues in relation to Tsunami at Alappad    67
Appendix 3: Indices of Parameters to Measure Status of Women   70
Appendix 4: Questionnaire                                      72
Reference:                                                     84

Table 2.1:    Conventional indicators                                18
Table 2.2:    Profile of Panchayats selected for the Study           23
Table 3.3:    Age- wise classification of respondents (%)            25
Table 3.4:    Religious profile (%)                                  25
Table 3.5:    Caste profile (%)                                      26
Table 3.6:    Type of family (%)                                     26
Table 3.7:    Head of family (%)                                     27
Table 4.8:    Ownership of house (%)                                 28
Table 4.9:    Gender-disaggregated possession of houses (%)          28
Table 4.10:   Ownership of land (%)                                  29
Table 4.11:   Possession of working tools (%)                        30
Table 4.12:   Families owning vehicles (%)                           30
Table 4.13:   Ownership of Cattle                                    31
Table 5.14:   Source of water (%)                                    32
Table 5.15:   Toilet facility (%)                                    33
Table 5.16:   Source of fuel (%)                                     33
Table 5.17:   Education of the husbands of women respondents (%)     34
Table 5.18:   Education of women respondents (%)                     34
Table 5.19:   Nature of health problems (%)                          35
Table 5.20:   Purpose of going to Primary Health Centres (PHC) (%)   35
Table 5.21:   Substance Abuse of men (%)                             35
Table 6.22:   Work participation rate (%)                            38
Table 6.23:   Men’s work (%)                                         38
Table 6.24:   Women’s work participation rate (%)                    39
Table 6.25:   Help for housework (%)                                 39
Table 6.26:   Pattern of family expenses (%)                         41
Table 6.27:   Purpose of debts (%)                                   41
Table 7.28:   Marital status (%)                                     43
Table 7.29:   Age of the men (%)                                     43
Table 7.30:   Age of marriage of women (%)             43
Table 7.31:   Forms of dowry (%)                       44
Table 7.32:   Use of gold received as dowry (%)        45
Table 7.33:   Age of Menarche(%)                       46
Table 7.34:   Source of information abour sex (%)      47
Table 7.35:   Methods of family planning used (%)      48
Table 7.35:   Age of Sterilization (%)                 48
Table 8.37:   Participation in political process (%)   50
Table 9.38:   Problems during travel (%)               53
Table 9.39:   Types of violence against women (%)      54
Table 9.40:   Notion about violence on women (%)       55
Table 10.41: Use of Media (%)                          56
Table 10.42: Knowledge about decentralisation (%)      56
ADS     Area Development Society
CBO     Community Based Organisation
CDS     Community Development Society
CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women
EMR     Elected Male Representative
ER      Elected Representatives
EWR     Elected Women Representative
FGD     Focus Group Discussion
GO      Government Order
KRP     Key Resource Person
NFHS    National Family Health Survey
NGO     Non Governmental Organisation
NHG     Neighbourhood Group
OBC     Other Backward Caste
PHC     Primary Health Centre
R.D.O   Revenue Divisional officer
SC      Scheduled Caste
SHG     Self Help Group
SSLC    Secondary School Leaving Certificate
ST      Scheduled Tribe
WCP     Women Component Plan
The study of the status of women in Kerala was conducted as part of the project
and process of Gender mainstreaming undertaken in four Local Self Governments
by Sakhi, a women’s Resource centre based at Trivandrum. The programme was in
partnership with SDC/CapDecK (Capacity Development for Decentralisation in
Kerala) and the committees of the respective panchayats. The study of status of
women was suggested by the Government of Kerala when the decentralised
planning was initiated in 1996. This was as a prelude to gender based planning to
be undertaken by the local governments. But such studies were undertaken only
by very few local governments due to lack of expertise and needed resources like
trained personal, finances, etc. Hence the study of status of women in the four local
bodies was undertaken with a view to evolve a comprehensive methodology to
conduct such studies, simple to enough to be followed by the local governments
themselves. It was seen not as an academic exercise but as a process of gender
sensitisation of all sections of population in the panchayat and as a basis for gender
based planning by the local government.

The processes was aimed at the inclusion of women in all the forums of the local
government and facilitate a proactive role for them in decision-making forums.
Women’s active participation and building of a women-centred perspective is
inevitable for equitable planning and budgeting. This necessitates a sharp gender
analysis and study of status of women to arrive at an understanding of the inequitable
and discriminatory structures, systems and institutions and differential allocation of
resources. It was expected that study of status of women would help to understand
the position of women, the problems they experience, identify practical and strategic
gender needs and incorporation of this into the process of planning and budgeting.
This can be effectively achieved only through a process of gender education at all
levels, beginning from Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to the Panchayat
committees and institutions.

Prior to starting the project, discussions were held with all the four panchayat
committees and their active participation, consent and approval was sought. It was
a project of the Panchayat committee and Sakhi was only providing a supportive
role. The project outline of ‘Gender mainstreaming ‘was discussed with the
committee and all the processes were with their participation and approval. Apart
from the committee, the key actors were a core group of 6 educated young women
from each Panchayat who were selected through an interview process with the
help of the committee and trained.

The study was initiated in June 2004 and data collection was completed in August
and the entire process was completed in March 2006. The interviews and focus
group discussions were conducted by the core group and they were supported by
expert groups from the panchayats which consisted of various stakeholders. The
Tsunami (December 2004) affected our work in one of the 4 panchayats we had
selected (Alappad in Kollam) and hence the study had to be limited to 3 panchayats.

Dr. Seema Bhaskaran and Jayasree S. coordinated the process of gender
mainstreaming .We were supported by an advisory team of experts.

The study findings were printed (panchayat wise) and presented in special gram
sabhas held in 2 panchayats and the findings were validated and suggestions for
gender based planning based on the findings were discussed.

A booklet on methodology of undertaking such a study is brought out, so that all
local governments can use the methodology and draft questionnaire

We believe that the study with its comprehensive findings will serve as a useful
reference for the respective panchayats to effectively carry out local planning with
gender sensitivity

                                                             Aleyamma Vijayan
                                                   Sakhi Women’s resource centre

      We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to the President and Committees
      of the four panchayats of Olavanna, Vilayur, Kollayil and Alappad for the trust they
      placed in us and the freedom they gave us to interact freely, to use the panchayat
      office space and facilities for meetings and interactions. It was their study and we
      were only facilitators. It was their trust in us that helped us to be of help to them.

      We acknowledge the guidance and support provided by the advisory committee at
      Sakhi and in each panchayat. There were many individuals and we are not
      mentioning anyone by name. We are grateful to all of them

      The crucial factor in the study was the core team of 6 young women from each
      Panchayat, who were the field investigators. They knew their village, could easily
      establish rapport with the committee and the women and hence their sincere and
      committed work made the whole processes a success. The following were the team

                                      ,         .N,
      Olavanna: Ms.Regina, Beena P Bindhu P Shaji N.M, Usha P      .P& Thankamony
      Vilayur: Ms.Santhakuamri E.K, Raji K.T, Prabija.K, Shifanath M, Sabira M &
      Jayasree T.P
      Alappad: Sudha, Bindhu, Sheela, Seena, Binu, Sneha
      Kollayil: Suraja devi, Saraswati, Mary Bindu, Sumalatha, Sandhya

      We are happy to say that all the teams continue to be active in the process in the
      panchayat. Some of them have been elected as members. We are very proud of
      Usha who became block member, Raji, who became member and chairperson of
      the social welfare standing committee of the Vilayur panchayat and Suraja Devi
      who is the president of Kollyail panchayat.

      We owe deep gratitude to the men and women of the 4 panchayats who patiently
      gave their time and enthusiastically participated in the special gram sabha.

      We are very grateful to the team at CapDecK- Dr.Joy Elamon, Ms. Nirmala and Mr.
      Madan Mohan who were supporters and partners in the whole process and were
      available anytime for help, advise and support.

      We are grateful to Ms.Nija for the data entry, Saraswthi for the typing and to all
      members at Sakhi who were available for reflections and comments. We are also
      grateful to the project advisory team at Sakhi who helped us at every stage of the

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                            11

1.1 Decentralisation in Kerala                            be best served by the local governments.
    The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment
was a milestone in constitutional reforms. In             1.2 Gender and decentralization
1994, the Kerala Panchayati Raj Act came into                  Democracy within local self-governing
being. Since 1996, Kerala government initiated            institutions can be achieved in its genuine spirit
the decentralized planning process and 35-                only when women become equal partners and
40% of plan funds were allotted to local                  participants in the processes of decision-
governments to identify local specific needs,             making. Political parties that form the core of
mobilize resources, plan and implement                    this democracy need to incorporate women
programmes suited to each area or locality. By            into decision-making positions. Gender equity
transferring powers, responsibilities and by              and equality can be achieved only when the
devolving finances to the three tier Panchayati           existing gender gaps are diminished and
Raj Institutions (PRIs), Kerala has been able to          women have equal access and control over
transform them to real local governments.                 resources, freedom from discrimination,
    In the newly formed local governments                 exploitation and violence, decision-making
Gram Sabha is the pivotal point for all                   power, freedom of mobility, increased work
discussions and decisions in relation to local            participation, better access to professional and
development. It is a forum where people can               vocational education, etc.
voice their suggestions and seek solutions                     Most importantly, 33% reservation for
jointly. In a state like Kerala, the size of the          women and proportional representation to
average panchayat is bigger than that of other            backward communities (SC/ST) as Elected
states. An average panchayat has a population             Representatives was a stepping-stone in
of 20,000 to 30,000 and each will have wards              decentralization. Women’s representation
ranging from 7-20. Hence the gram sabha                   brought more women to the leadership roles.
would be too crowded if all people were to
participate. Self Help Groups (SHGs) or                       In Kerala, several attempts were made to
neighbourhood groups (Ayalkoottams) served                integrate a gender and development approach
the purpose of involving more people in the               in decentralized planning process.
local development discourses and giving equal             • Participatory study of the status of women
representation to all voices. These voices                    in each panchayat was made mandatory
would then reach the gram sabha.                              as a step to understand local specific issues
    Institutions delivering services most                     of women and forming projects based on
required for a healthy society like the schools,              that
Primary health centres (PHCs), Krishi Bhavan,             • Working group on women was initiated
Vetinary hospitals, etc were transferred to the               to formulate projects for women
local governments. Officials were also                    • Direction was given that women’s
transferred and made responsible to the local                 representation should be there in all
governments. These reforms have profoundly                    subject wise working groups
changed the political scenario. The local                 • Attempts were made to improve women’s
governments are institutions in close proximity               participation in gram sabha and discuss
to the people and their immediate needs can                   issues of women. Out of the two who get

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                      13
   selected from each subject group in gram      Panchayati Raj? Have women’s voices been
   sabha, it was decided that one would be       heard? Are women equal partners in the
   a woman.                                      decentralization process? Have issues of
• A separate chapter on women and                gender equality and justice been raised? Have
   development was mandatory in the              developmental issues been seen from a
   development report to be prepared by          women’s point of view?
   each local government                              When posed with these questions, the ten
• Special consideration was to be given for      years of decentralization has to be viewed
   women in general projects                     critically and analytically. Constitutionally,
• At least 10% of funds be earmarked for         significant changes have taken place to involve
   women as Women Component Plan                 women. With 33% reservation of women,
   (WCP)                                         many women have become elected
• Special subject committees in the              representatives. Since this is the first political
   Technical Advisory Committees (TACs)          experience, which is mostly imposed on them
   which scrutinizes the projects at the block   due to reservation and for political reasons,
   and district level to ensure that women       the five years are mostly spend only in gaining
   are given due consideration and also to       exposure and learning technicalities and
   asses gender consideration in general         issues. Politicisation and wielding of authority
   projects and whether 10% of funds is          and power of elected male representatives
   allotted to WCP                               (EMR) in a male-centred atmosphere hardly
• 1/3 rd representation of women was             enables women to think independently or
   ensured in all beneficiary committees         voice their opinions.
• SHGs as new organizational forms for                On the other hand, in local bodies, where
   women were attached to the PRIs and its       elected women representatives (EWR) have
   ward and panchayat wise coordinating          had previous experience in public action and
   bodies like ADS and CDS were created.         political forums, they have been more
   At the state level a coordinating body        articulate and adept at political processes.
   called Kudumbashree mission was formed        Women’s participation in all forums has
   to give overall guidance and facilitate       increased and there have been attempts to
   poverty eradication through the process.      address women’s issues.
• It was suggested to form vigilance cell
   (Jagratha samithies) at each local            1.3 Women Component Plan
   government level in the model of state             A major achievement in the
   women’s commission to address issues of       decentralisation process in Kerala was the
   atrocities against women and to work          introduction of Women Component Plan
   towards preventing them                       (WCP) and the direction stipulating the use of
• Gender awareness classes were organized        it for the implementation of strategic gender
   for elected representatives and officials     needs. This was the result of a recognition that
• Number of handbooks on gender and              focusing merely on practical needs and
   development, guidelines for the study of      economic projects without backward–forward
   status of women etc were published            linkages, constant and meticulous monitoring
• In the cost benefit assessment of the          and lack of an educational process would not
   projects, a gender impact statement was       help in changing the historical process of
   made mandatory.                               subordination and suppression that women
   Despite these path-breaking changes, the      have been subjected to.
question which is to be posed, is whether             In the Government Order (GO) of 1998,
women have gained equal representation in        Women Component Plan (WCP) was made

14                                                 Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
mandatory. It specified that WCP projects were        on their own. They have achieved a sense of
to be examined by a sub-committee specially           self-esteem as they have some income at their
constituted for that purpose. Women were to           disposal. It has led to increased
be in majority in these committees.                   communication or sharing of information and
     In the GO issued in 2000 the WCP was             knowledge among women. This has also
made more comprehensive by involving the              enhanced women’s participation in gram
SHGs in plan formulation and it was formalized        sabhas and in the entire process of project
for the first time. The mandatory allocation of       conception to implementation. Simultan-
10% for WCP was over and above the consid-            eously, men’s participation in the decentra-
eration given to women in general projects.           lisation process has decreased or not so visible.
     It was clearly stipulated that funds for         Yet it is acknowledged now, that the self-help
schemes benefiting men and women like roads,          groups have not helped in the political or
toilets, electrification of houses and smokeless      social mobilization of women or lead to
cooking stoves were to be met from general            women’s empowerment in the true sense.
projects. Projects like kitchen garden, poultry            On a closer look, it seems that women’s
rearing and goat rearing were not to be included      participation in the political process has
in WCP unless complete control of                     increased but behind the façade, several
management was in the hands of women.                 questions emerge:-
Funds for anganawadi programmes and pre-              • Has men’s participation reduced in gram
primary educational programmes were outside                sabha and in the working groups?
WCP but Construction of only those                    • To achieve quantitative participation and
anganawadi buildings, which functioned as                  fill the quorum, are women seen as mere
community halls for women to be included.                  numbers or tools?
     It was also stipulated that a                    • Do women actively and creatively
comprehensive study on the status of women                 participate in the process?
should be undertaken. Such a study would              • Has there been any discussion in relation
help in assessing the practical and strategic              to gender equality and social justice and
gender needs. But most local governments did               recognition of the voices of marginalised
not attempt a comprehensive status study due               communities at any level?
to various reasons.                                   • Have the key decision-makers gone
     With the advent of self-help groups                   through a gender sensitisation process in
(SHGs) besides savings and credit                          relation to social justice and sustainable
programmes, women have been supported                      development?
and encouraged to start micro enterprises.            • In a patriarchal environment, where the
The state poverty eradication mission called               mind-set and attitudes have been
“Kudumbashree” aims at poverty eradication                 dominated by class, caste and male-
and women are visualized as primary agents                 centred thinking and wielding of power,
of such a process. Kudumbashree aims at the                how does one actually achieve
empowerment of women as its ultimate                       decentralisation of power beyond class,
objective ( Self help                 caste, sex discrimination, and how does
groups have succeeded in enhancing the                     one disseminate knowledge, power and
mobility of women. Now women visit                         the skills of articulation for voices of
Panchayat offices, make efforts to learn about             women to be heard loudly and legibly?
services, participate in meetings and have                 It is with these questions and background
started opening bank accounts. Women have             that the process of gender mainstreaming in
succeeded in starting income-generation               the four local governments was undertaken.
activities and are trying to sell the products

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                 15


2.1 The study of status of women in                     situation of women in some key sectors like
    selected panchayats in Kerala                       economic and work status, health and
     It is in the context of gender mainstreaming       educational status etc.
in local self-governments that the study of                 Different frameworks look into women’s
the ‘Status of women’ in 4 panchayats was               status from different perspectives. In another
facilitated. It is expected that the methodology        dominant perspective, the gender gap in
devised through this would assist in the                availing services, facilities, economic resources
identification of practical and strategic gender        etc. have alone been taken as criteria in
needs, incorporation of gender into the                 assessing women’s status. The World
planning process and achieving gender                   Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey
equality and equity.                                    study assesses the status accorded to women
                                                        in a broad range of countries.
The objectives of the gender-mainstreaming
programme were the following:                           Five important dimensions of female
o Gender sensitisation of all stakeholders              empowerment and opportunity have been
o Study of the status of women in each                  chosen for examination, based mainly on the
   panchayat with the involvement of                    findings of UNIFEM, concerning global patterns
   Community Based Organizations (CBOs),                of inequality between men and women1:
   SHGs and elected representatives                     1. Economic participation
o Gender analysis of transferred institutions           2. Economic opportunity
o Gender based planning to be undertaken                3. Political empowerment
   based on the above                                   4. Educational attainment
o Preparation of a bill of rights for women             5. Health and well-being
   or a women’s policy at local level                        Conventional indicators used to
o Setting up a resource centre for women                understand the status of women had some
                                                        inherent problems. “They are determined and
o    Conduct social audit of the entire                 limited by the nature of existing data and /or
     process                                            the inherent gender blindness or bias of formal
2.2 Conceptual framework of the study                   information systems themselves. For example,
    Before venturing into the study of the              analysis of women’s economic status in formal
status of women, it was important to                    data systems inevitably boils down to using
understand what is understood as “status” of            female work participation rate as a measure.
women and what are the ‘indicators’ to                  But this data tells us nothing about what
measure status. While reviewing study of                control employed women have over their
status of women undertaken by other                     income, the constraints to their choices and
panchayats in the first phase of decentralised          access to labour market, or what household
planning, it was understood that more of a              productive assets they control. Obviously
sectoral approach was used, in analysing the            these are more important indictors of women’s

16                                                        Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
status than merely being in the workforce or          from various disciplines and the women’s
earning wages” 2                                      movements have themselves unearthed the
     The study of rural women in Karnataka            social and ideological roots of this oppression
undertaken by the Women’s Policy, Research            and gender subordination. Women’s agenda
and Advocacy unit of National Institute of            is increasingly being articulated in the
Advanced studies, Banglore provided us with           framework of Human Rights.
valuable guidance and conceptual framework                In the decades following 1975, which the
to undertake the study of status of women.            United Nations (UN) declared as International
     A literature survey showed feminist              Year of women several international
scholars like Ranjani Murthy3, Naila Kabeer4          conferences on women were held. In 1974,
and Srilatha Batliwala5 in bringing out different     prior to the first conference held at Mexico,
dimensions and indicators to capture status           all member countries were called upon to
of women. Ranjani advocates that the study            prepare a report on the status of women in
of status must place women at the centre and          their countries. The report prepared by the
examine the degree of control they exercise           committee in India called “Towards Equality”
over their lives”.                                    unearthed the several stark realities of
     She outlines five key aspects over which         women’s lives in India. After the 4th World
women’s control has to be assessed - their            conference of women held in Beijing, a
labour, resources (economic, health,                  document called “Platform for action” was
education and political), their reproduction,         prepared to which all member nations are
sexuality (their physical integrity and freedom       committed. All these has contributed to the
from mental and physical violence) and their          growing clarity on issues of women and roots
mobility. Srilatha and team added the                 of women’s subordination.
dimensions of women’s control over political              In the Human Development report
spaces, systems of redressal and the ‘intangible                           ,
                                                      prepared by UNDP initially Gender-related
resources’ that Naila Kabeer stresses. The            Development Index (GDI) was used to rank
framework developed for the study of rural            countries on the basis of indicators used in
women in Karnataka is adapted here to study           relation to women’s integration in
the status of women in Kerala.                        development process in each country.
                                                          GDI is a composite index measuring
2.3 Nature of women’s subordination and               average achievement in the three basic
    meaning of gender equality                        dimensions captured in the human
    The historical subordination of women             development index—a long and healthy life,
may appear to be stark and visible to those           knowledge and a decent standard of living—
who have been able to analyse and understand          adjusted to account for inequalities between
the process and dimensions of it but for              men and women. Subsequently this is found
majority of men and women, such a                     to be inadequate and UNDP started using
subordination and oppression are ‘natural’,           Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) rank.
‘unchangeable’ and needed for social stability.           GEM is a composite index measuring
The patriarchal power relations are so complex        gender inequality in three basic dimensions of
and present themselves very subtly, especially        empowerment—economic participation and
in a state like Kerala with its supposedly            decision-making, political participation and
positive indicators like literacy and health. But     decision-making and power over economic
various actors like activists, feminist scholars      resources.

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                               17
     A framework to study status of women has          time and fertility.
to follow from a clear understanding of gender             In the context of material, human and
equality. “Women’s status means a sensitive            intangible resources, access refers to the
diagnosis of the nature of gender                      opportunity available to use the resource.
subordination through the study of gender              Control is much more complex, and needs to
relation in a specific context”                        be understood within the notion of shared
     Researchers in women’s studies have               power and on-going negotiation
developed frameworks that include both                     The Karnataka study has used the
conventional and non-conventional indicators           conceptual framework discussed above for
to measure the status of women taking into             assessing the status of women. In this
consideration the issues of access and control.        framework, the status of women can be
For women, the absence of power has meant              understood through examination of:
that women lack control over resources or they         1. Access to, and control over private assets
lack the bargaining power to define or                 and resources
determine the use of that resource. Women’s            2. Access to public resources
powerlessness and their lower status begin             3. Control over their labour and income
from the lack of resources – human, material           4. Control over their body – sexuality,
and intangible. Men are favoured by the rules              reproduction and physical security
of the institutions within which gender                5. Control over physical mobility
relations occur, and that they enjoy and               6. Access to and control over political spaces
exercise power in commanding these                     7. Access to and control over intangible
resources. Gender inequality is therefore an               resources – information, influence,
asymmetry in power, where men are in a                     political clout etc
position of power and women of                         8. Position in law and their access to legal
subordination. The absence of power has                    structure and redressal mechanisms
meant the lack of access and control over                  In Kerala, since we were doing the study
resources, a coercive gender division of labour,       in the context of data needed for local
a devaluation of their work, lack of control over      planning and budgeting, we have added the
their own self, skills, labour, mobility, sexuality,   dimensions of nature of health problems faced
                                 Table 2.1: Conventional indicators

 Indicators                                                   Kerala                       India
 Sex Ratio (for 1000 males)                                    1058                         927
 Literacy (%)                                          88 (women) 94 (men)        54 (women) 74 (men)
 Life expectancy of women                              73.1 (67.1 for men)                 65.43
 Maternal mortality per (1000 live births)                      1.3                         5.7
 Child death rate/1000                                         14.0                        73.0
 Birth rate/1000                                               16.0                        27.2
 Work participation rate (%)                                   15.8                        22.3
 Age at marriage                                                22                          18
 Sources: Census 2001; Economic review, Government of Kerala 2002 & 2003; NFHS-2

18                                                       Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
by women, system of medication used,                  for its high achievements in the field of health
facilities of the Primary Health Centre and           and family welfare at a low cost (Krishnan,
women’s access to it or lack of access if any         1985; Thankappan and Valiathan, 1998). This
and the reasons for it, the ownership women           unique phenomenon of socio-economic
have of tools of work, the debt incurred by the       development has also been very widely
family and whose responsibility is to repay?          referred to as the ‘Kerala Model of
Since majority of poor women in Kerala are            Development’ (Zachariah, 1998). Kerala ranks
organized under the Self help groups, study of        the highest among the Indian states in HDI
such groups was done separately.                      with a value of 62.8 followed by Maharastra
     As part of this study, a gender analysis of      with an HDI of 55.49. The quality of life
the transferred institutions was also                 indicators make Kerala closer to high income
undertaken. Gender inequalities are                   developed countries than to the rest of India.
institutionalised and the institutions like                In general, Kerala is said to achieve a high
primary schools, health centres (PHC’s),              physical quality of life in terms of literacy, life
agricultural offices etc with which women             expectancy and infant mortality, at low per
interact on a daily basis also has to be gender       capita income. However, these developmental
responsive. Hence an analysis of such                 indicators do not go hand in hand with its
institutions from a gender perspective was also       progress in the material production sectors.
found to be as necessary as part of gender            There continues to be economic stagnation,
mainstreaming                                         increasing unemployment and a fall in the per
                                                      capita income.
2.4 Status of women in Kerala                              These gender development indicators
    A comprehensive study has, so far not             show a higher status of women in the state.
been undertaken on the status of women in             Kerala tops the list in terms of the reproductive
Kerala. Looking at secondary data, it is clear        health index of 84.61 (Srinivasan et al, 1997).
that certain paradoxes exist. Conventional            The recent National Family Health Survey-2
indicators like literacy, maternal mortality,         (1998-1999) found that 93% of the births in
morbidity, life expectancy show that Kerala has       Kerala took place in a medical facility.
achieved remarkably well but when each                     The state is favourably placed when it
indicator is taken up for serious scrutiny, there     comes to sex ratio with 1058 females for 1000
are several contradictions. Similarly                 males (2001 census). But, when it comes to
unconventional indicators like political              sex ratio of children in the 0-6 age group, there
participation, work participation rates,              is an unfavourable trend (963:1000). There are
violence against women etc also show that the         debates about whether Kerala is gradually
status of women in Kerala is not as rosy as it is     inclining towards the national scenario where
portrayed.                                            there is increased male bias or whether this is
    Kerala has been considered to be unique           a natural biological phenomenon, which evens
in many aspects as compared to the rest of            out when we look at sex ratio from age 10
India. In spite of having a poor economy, lower       onwards.
per capita income and unemployment, the                    Life expectancy of women in Kerala is 73
state of Kerala has been known to achieve a           years which is greater than that of men at 67.
quality of life, which is higher than all the other   In Kerala about 11% of the population is in
states in India and as equal to that of some          the 60+ category and there are 1120 females
developed countries. Kerala is often quoted           to 1000 men in this category. Increasing life

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                   19
span without adequate resources has led to          used for building assets in their own name.
increasing dependency, loneliness and               Even if it is in joint name, authority is wielded
insecurity among old women.                         by men. Money received as dowry also
     With respect to education, literacy rates      increases assets for men.
are perhaps the highest in the country with              In relation to work within the family,
88% literacy for women but there are sex            patriarchal norms reign. Men hardly help in
differences with male literacy at 94%. Primary      the domestic chores. There is no recognition
education is satisfactory but with reference to     for work women do within the family. High
women’s technical, vocational and                   work load and household responsibility for
professional education, Kerala is far behind        women keep them away from public and
other states. Even when women are enrolled          social life. For example, it is the women who
for technical courses, they are admitted only       manage all the household responsibilities such
for those courses, which reinforce sexist norms.    as shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing,
With regard to Kerala data, although gender         taking care of the children, looking after the
disparity is extremely low in the 10th standard,    other family members (Ramanathaiyer and
[even reversed to some extent at the pre-           Macpherson, 2000).
university and non-technical diploma levels],            Kerala is well known as a state with high
currently women far exceed men in graduate          degree of male migration. This leaves many
and postgraduate education in the art and           families where women have to be head of the
science courses. But women formed less than         households. Hence, the number of female-
one-third of the students enrolled in               headed households is high in the state.
engineering colleges in recent years [GoK                Women owning assets and having control
2001]. In the job-oriented lower technical          over them also is low in a state where matriliny
educational institutions, the intake of girls was   is supposed to have prevailed in some
below 10% in technical schools, between 13          community. Women hold only 23.18% of the
and 23 percent in industrial training institutes    operational holdings in the state. Women own
and between 30 and 40 in polytechnics during        only 17.16% percentage of the total area
the 1990’s. In a striking contrast in the ITI’s     under operational holdings. [Economic review,
and ITC’s data on trade-wise intake for the year    Kerala State Planning Board, 2001]
2000-2001 reveals a preponderance of                     Maternal mortality and Infant mortality
women in stenography, dress-making, cutting         rates are low. Yet, the population control
and tailoring, secretarial practice and data        achieved through remarkable family planning
preparation. Women have limited entry into          methods emphasized the control of female
masculine specializations but dominate those        fertility as its sole means. Maternal mortality
already identified with them. [Kodoth and           per 1000 live births is 1.3 and infant mortality
Eapen, EPW, 2006]                                   rate per 1000 is 14% and birth rate is 16% and
     Work participation rate of women is lower      the age of marriage is 22 years (census 2001,
than the national average. Women have not           Economic review, Government of Kerala 2002
entered into non stereotypical professions in       and 2003 and NFHS-2)
a large way. Even marketing by women is not              Sterilization of women is the commonly
yet accepted. Women rarely have control over        practiced method playing a severe toll on
the income they earn. Women’s income is used        women’s reproductive, physical and mental
for children’s education, health, and for           health. Over commercialisation and
repaying debts whereas men’s income is mostly       privatisation of health services has affected

20                                                    Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
women’s health. Women hardly have any                 violence especially within their homes. With
control over their own body and sexuality.            respect to the studies that have been
Men have never owned up sexual                        conducted in Kerala on violence against
responsibility.                                       women (INCLEN 2001, Sakhi -2004), women
     With respect to marital status and type of       are victimized within home mostly by their
family, several women are divorced, deserted          husbands.
and separated. With respect to marriage,                   A study conducted by INCLEN, 2001 and
women hardly have any choice in relation to           ICRW on domestic violence in Kerala found
whom or where or when she should be                   that as high as 62.3% and 61.61% of the
married.                                              women in Kerala are subjected to physical
     Dowry is fast replacing property rights and      torture and mental harassment as compared
the rate has escalated. Dowry is under the            to 37% and 35.5% at the national level. The
control of the men and is usually spend after         same study found that Thiruvananthapuram,
marriage to fulfil marriage expenditure. The          the capital of Kerala ranked first among the
institution of marriage mainly rests on the           five cities in India for the prevalence of
transaction of money and goods. This trading          domestic violence against women (ICRW
is inversely related to education, class and caste.   2002). A study by Sakhi for the Department of
     Decision-making is an important                  Health, Government of Kerala, report 40%
determinant of the status of women. The               violence against women, with an average of 2
NFHS survey among women in Kerala related             women patients coming to the Out Patients
to autonomy of the women has questioned               Department (OPD) with injuries due to
the claims of the so-called “high status’ of          Violence (Sakhi, 2004). There are increasing
Kerala women. The survey found that more              reports of dowry related violence, rape and
than 50% of the women in Kerala needed                other atrocities against women in Kerala
permission to go to the market or visit friends       (Women’s Commission, 1999).
or relatives. [UNDP 2001] Very few women
                       ,                                   This has been substantiated by other
have any say even with respect to the purchase        studies also. Belief in the propagation of
of food, clothes, gold or costly equipment.           patriarchal values and reinforcing stereotypes
Even in families when women are the major             lead to violence. Power relations determine the
income earners, decision-making rests with            family structure and dynamics. Mobility is
men.                                                  severely affected due to eve-teasing and
     In the recent years, there has been an           molestation.
increase in the cases of depression found                  Women’s political participation is
among the women in the state [Suchitra,               abysmally low with women’s membership in
2002]. There have been increasing cases of            political parties and trade unions almost
suicide and unnatural deaths. Most of this is         negligible. Women are merely used to enhance
associated with escalating rate of dowry,             numbers in processions and strikes.
consumerism, high indebtedness, pawning of            Information in relation to services is almost nil.
property and increasing rate of domestic              Political participation is yet another
violence. But this increasing trend of unnatural      determinant of the status of women but in
deaths has not led to the questioning of the          Kerala which is so politicised, out of 144 seats
high status of women projected by the state.          in the State Assembly, the number of women
     Women are victims of all forms of violence       has never been more than 13 i.e.10%.
viz. mental, physical, economic and sexual            Women’s representation is also low in the

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                  21
various decision-making bodies of the political         interests of women and men in the
parties and trade unions.                               community which requires engendered
    In Kerala, gender gaps are not explicit.            economic development, development
Careful scrutiny and probing into the subtle            planning and resource allocation.
patriarchal forces and dynamics that repress       •    To create awareness of women’s rights and
women would shed light on the real picture              develop a bill of rights of women in the
of women’s status and the discrimination they           model of CEDAW.
suffer from.                                       •    To initiate a resource centre for women
                                                        which can be a space for women and
2.5 Context of present study as a part of               women’s groups
    gender mainstreaming                           •    To evolve a methodology for status of
    The study of status of women was                    women study and gender analysis, which
undertaken as part of gender mainstreaming              can be later, used by other panchayats who
in local governments. The objective of the              want to undertake such processes.
project was to strengthen Panchayati Raj           •    The purpose of the study was to start a
through mainstreaming gender in the planning            dialogue on the unequal power relations
process. This was expected to be achieved               in our society, between women and men,
through a process of gender sensitisation at            as equals and as learners, through locally
wider level and also by engendering the                 based gender sensitive education. There
planning process at the local level.                    was a need to engender the planning
The specific ways of achieving these objectives         process at the local level through assessing
were:-                                                  the needs and priorities of women and
• To undertake a gender sensitisation                   introducing the concept of gender into the
    process among all sections of people in the         entire functioning of the local government.
    panchayat through community based
    organizations.                                 2.6 Process of the study on status
• To undertake a study of the status of                of women
    women in the selected panchayats with              Arriving at the study was a long process.
    focus on the processes as a form of gender     Important stakeholders in each panchayat
    sensitisation in the village.                  were formed into a core group and a
• Through the study and various                    consultative group. Initially brainstorming was
    participatory processes, strengthen various    done with the core group comprising of elected
    local level groups like the NHGs, SHGs,        women representatives, women heads of
    Mahila Samajams, NGOs, CBOs etc for            transferred institutions and leaders of women’s
    effective intervention in the a sabha and      organizations (Mahila Samajam) and the
    to make gender an agenda in Panchayati         consultative group comprising of EMR, male
    Raj. This should lead to greater and           heads of transferred institutions, Key Resource
    effective participation of women in the        Person’s (KRPs), etc. on the issues faced by
    formal and informal political structures.      women, their understanding of development
• In the second phase, popularise a gender         and the importance and participation level of
    analysis frame work in local level planning    women in gram sabha in the respective
    with focus on livelihood issues, violence      panchayats. Discussions were held with the
    intervention and health, to deliver services   CBOs and representatives of SHGs and CDS
    that addresses the specific needs and          and ADS bodies.

22                                                     Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
     A resource team of women was formed at           predominant panchayat in Palakkad and
the local level who were to act as investigators      Olavanna, a suburban panchayat close to
in the process of study and later as facilitators.    Kozhikode Corporation and renowned for its
A thorough training of investigators (6               participatory water management scheme, in
animators from each local body) was held to           North Kerala.
sensitise them to issues of gender, Panchayati
Raj and research methodology and impress              Table 2.2: Profile of Panchayats selected for
upon them the need for status study, which                              the Study
would help the incorporation of gender into
                                                      Panchayat    Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil Alappad*
the entire planning of the panchayat and with
special emphasis on WCP A manual on ethical
                          .                           District     Kozhikode Palakkad Trivandrum   Kollam

and other issues was prepared for their easy          Area ( 21.43     17.78     13.73       7.38
reference. Questionnaires, which were                 Population   55417     20674     24686       24931
context specific, were prepared. With several
                                                      Male         27393     9754      12082       12468
deliberations with the core group and
consultative group and advisors at Sakhi,             Female       28024     10920     12604       12463
questionnaire was prepared incorporating all          Wards        20        14        10          15
these issues.
     The data collection was completed in a           *Due to Tsunami, we had to change the nature of work
                                                      in Alappad.
period of three months. The sample size was
250 women from each panchayat. Dialogues                   Olavanna is the most populated
with the selected women lasted for 2-3 hours          Panchayat among the four and is close to the
often and a process of give and take of               Kozhikode Corporation. It is a predominantly
information was held. Ten Focus Group                 agrarian Panchayat with large number of
Discussions (FGDs) were held with groups of           women also engaged in coir making. Coir-
men and women in each PRI to understand               making units are in a declining stage affecting
their perceptions about the status of men and         several women who were engaged in these
women.                                                units. Clay-mining is erratically going on which
                                                      has reduced the agricultural land.
2.7 Geographical location of the study                     Vilayur is an agricultural predominant
     The study and the process of gender              Panchayat, with a substantial population of
sensitisation were carried out in the panchayats      Muslims. The work participation rate of
of Vilayur in Palakkad district, Olavanna in          women is very low. The number of girls
Kozhikode district, Kollayil in Trivandrum            studying in the higher classes is also very low.
district and Alappad in Kollam district. Due to       The Panchayat can claim to have good water
Tsunami and its consequences, we had to               sources but sand-mining poses a threat to
change the nature of work in Alappad. These           depleting water resources and resultant water
panchayats were selected in view of their             scarcity for agricultural purposes. Most of the
varying nature and spatial representation.            men from the area, ie, 3600 out of 8850 are
Alappad was a coastal area with a unique              in the Middle East countries.
culture, Kollayil, an agriculturally predominant           Alappad is a coastal panchayat in between
area in south Kerala, with women’s organic            the lake and sea (a narrow stretch of 17 kms)
farming group called ‘Haritha Mitram’                 and the precious resource is black sand, which
functioning effectively; Vilayur, an agricultural     is being incessantly mined by the Indian Rare

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                       23
Earths, yet the Panchayat does not receive any              findings was conducted in 2 panchayats
benefit from this. The Tsunami played havoc                 The study of status of women used random
in the first four wards of the Panchayat taking         sampling method for the selection of women
a toll of 150 lives comprising of mainly children       to be interviewed and focus group discussions
and the aged.                                           as its methods. Two-fifty women were
     Kollayil is also an agriculturally                 interviewed from each panchayat. This
predominant panchayat with many women                   method was adopted, as it was simple enough
engaged in both agriculture and weaving. A              to be replicated in any other panchayat. FGD
strong network of women’s groups called                 was an excellent method of generating
‘Haritha Mitram’ is working in this area,               information as well as a method of generating
engaged in organic agriculture.                         discussions, a tool for empowerment and an
                                                        apt prelude to the gram sabha. The findings of
2.8 Methodology                                         the study as a draft report were presented
The process of gender mainstreaming and the             before the panchayat committee. After it was
study used a variety of methods:                        approved it was printed as a report and
• A profile of all community based                      presented in the special gram sabha, convened
    organisations in the area and the SHGs was          only to discuss the report.
• A core group and consultative group was               2.9 Limitations
    formed to guide the study,                              The study used random sampling, which
• Discussions with a cross-sections of the              could be carried out by any panchayat without
    population including the panchayat                  expert help, but the sample had only a small
    committee and transferred officials was             section of women from upper caste and upper
    undertaken.                                         class. A wealth ranking process before the
• Gender analysis of transferred institutions           selection of sample would have helped to
    was done                                            have a more representative sample. Men were
• A review of the last 10 years of women’s              also not included in the sample for interviews.
    Component Plan in each of the                           The entire project duration was one year
    panchayats under study was undertaken               and the study was only part of a process. Time
• Study of the status of women through                  limitation did not allow for carrying out the
    interviews using prepared schedules and             study among all women in the panchayat but
    FGDs with men and women.                            10 FGDs, 5 with men and 5 with women
• Special gram sabhas to discuss the draft              helped in addressing several women and men
    report, disseminate and validate the                untouched by the study.

1    Source: http//
2    Srilatha Batliwala, N Shantha Mohan, Anitha B K, Anita Gurumurthy, Chandana S Wali, Status of rural women
     in Karnataka (1998)
3    Ranjani Krishnamurthy, Gender and development in India (Initiative for women in development, Madras,1994)
4    Naila Kabeer, Reversed Realities-Gender hierarchies in development thought (Kali for women, New Delhi
5    Srilatha Batliwala,et all; Status of Rural women in Karnataka(WOPRA Unit, National Institute of Advanced
     studies, Banglore 1998)

24                                                         Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
                                              THE PROFILE

3.1 Demography                                            Hindus        56.16%
     The sex ratio in Kerala is unique in the             Muslims       24.70%
country. It is the only state having an excess of         Christians    19.02
females over males i.e. 1058 females per 1000             Others        0.12
males. The data of sex ratio in all three
panchayats follow the state pattern. But when                  In this study a large number of women
it comes to the sex ratio between 0-6 years, it           respondents were from the Hindu community,
is adverse to girl children.                              followed by the Muslim community in Vilayur
     The NFHS data shows that the distribution            and Olavanna. Only in Kollayil, there was a
of population of women is highest in the age              significant representation from Christian
group of 15 to 29 years (29.3%) followed by               community.
women in the 30-49 years (26.9%). The
                                                          Table 3.4: Religious profile (%) of respondents
women respondents in the sample were
mainly from the reproductive age group of 20               Religion     Olavanna     Vilayur    Kollayil
to 45 years. Depending upon the population
                                                           Hindus         69.2        56.0       62.0
in each Panchayat and the ward–wise
distribution, there are slight changes in the              Muslims        30.4        42.8         2.0
frequency of women respondents from each                   Christians     0.4          1.2       36.0
age group.                                                 Total          100          100        100

      Table 3.3: Age- wise classification of              3.3 Caste
                respondents (%)                               The Kerala study (KSSP)1 shows the caste
                                                          pattern in Kerala as follows
Age                Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
                                                          Upper castes        14.65%
Between                                                   Other backward castes     31.39%
15 to 20 years      9.2           9.6       9.6
                                                          SC                    9.07%
Between                                                   ST                  1.07%
20 to 45 years     64.0         55.6       48.4
                                                               Majority of the respondents in all 3
Between                                                   panchayats belonged to the OBC
45 to 60 years     18.8         21.2       32.0           communities followed by dalits in Vilayur and
Above                                                     Kollayil and upper caste in Kollayil. The
60 years            8.0         13.6       10.0           proportion of dalit women respondents in
                                                          Olavanna was lesser than the other 2
   Total           100          100        100
                                                               It is to be noted that the presence of other
3.2 Religion                                              backward communities in the three
    The census (2001) shows the religious                 panchayats under study is different from the
pattern of Kerala as follows:                             all Kerala pattern.

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                        25
          Table 3.5: Caste profile (%)               mostly in Middle East countries and many
                                                     women had been deserted.
 Caste             Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
 Other                                               3.5 Women-headed households
 Backward Castes      82.8       67.2     59.2            The sex of the household headship has
 Dalits                4.0       18.4     17.6       become very important in the literature on
                                                     gender, development and planning. This is
 Upper caste          13.2       12.4     23.2
                                                     mainly because Female Headed Households
 Not responded         -          2.0       -        (FFHs) have been found to be at a
 Total                100        100      100        disadvantage thereby making analysis of
                                                     household classified by gender an important
3.4 Family details                                   policy issue.
    The families were basically classified into           The headship of the household is usually
three categories:                                    identified with the person who has the greater
• nuclear where husband, wife and                    authority in the family or household. Power
    children stayed together,                        and authority, in turn may be vested in the
•    joint where in-laws included siblings on        member who has control over the general
     either side stayed together                     affairs of the family unit, including decision-
•    houses where women stayed alone.                making concerning its economic, social and
                                                     political affairs . In India, as elsewhere, this
          Table 3.6: Type of family (%)              person is often an adult male resident member
                                                     of the household. Female headed households
 Type                                                are households where a female adult member
 of the family     Olavanna    Vilayur Kollayil      is the one responsible for the care and
 Nuclear family      65.6        53.6     97.2       organization of the household or is regarded
                                                     as head by the other member of the
 Joint family        33.6        45.2      2.8
                                                          Though there are several female-headed
 staying alone        0.8         1.2       -
                                                     households in Kerala, due to men’s shifting to
 Total               100         100      100        Gulf or desertion or divorce or widowhood,
                                                     they are hardly recognized as independent
     The above data shows that there was             families. Social recognition is lacking and
increasing trend towards nuclear families,           women especially from the deprived sections
which also simultaneously led to greater             have to work hard to make both ends meet.
isolation of elderly people as in the whole state    So there are de facto female-headed families
of Kerala. In Kollayil, only 2.8 % stayed in joint   where deserted, widowed and unmarried
families and the majority stay in nuclear            women are actual decision makers or are
                                                     forced by circumstances to make decisions. De
families. Here, women had a greater share in
                                                     juro female headed families are where men
property and more voice in decision-making.          are in the Middle East countries and decisions
In Vilayur as part of FGDs and discussions for       are conveyed through phone and women have
gender planning, it was learned that several         to abide by his instructions and bear the
women were staying alone as husbands were            responsibility of the entire family.

26                                                     Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
         Table 3.7: Head of family (%)                families are more vulnerable to poverty and
                                                      unemployment. Women especially from dalit
Head of family Olavanna           Vilayur Kollayil    communities who were earlier engaged in
Female headed           6.4        17.2      15.6     traditional occupations had lost their work
Male headed           92.8         82.8      84.4     because the sector is in a crisis and also there
                                                      are no supportive or supplementary services
Both                    0.8          -         -
                                                      to revive their skills and marketing capacities
Total                  100          100       100     and availability of capital. This had led to
                                                      further impoverishment and the young
    Vilayur had only 53.6% nuclear families;
                                                      women were forced into unorganised sector
yet it is in this panchayat, we find the highest
                                                      and menial jobs. Even the micro credit
female headed households. The data from the
                                                      movement had failed in touching this poorest
FGDs shows desertion and male migration as
                                                      section of the population.
the reasons for this.                                      Nuclearisation of families had in no way
                                                      improved the status or decision-making
Conclusion                                            capacity of women. Number of women
     The respondents were mostly from the age         especially in Vilayur were deserted and had
group of 20-45, followed by those between             no assets or source of livelihood to support
45-60. Most belonged to the Hindu                     themselves. There is an emerging trend, which
community followed by Muslims in Olavanna             shows that older persons are mostly feeling
and Vilayur and Christians in Kollayil and most       isolated and insecure due to families becoming
of the respondents belonged to OBCs                   nuclear. When both the adults go out to work
followed by upper castes in Kollayil and dalits       and the children go to schools, they are left
in Vilayur. Female headed households are              alone in the house. This is an emerging problem
quite high in Vilayur and Kollayil and these          in Kerala, which requires serious attention

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                27

Control over productive resources such as               the practice of partitioning the property and
land, equipment and housing is crucial to basic         giving almost an equal share to women. During
security. The lack of material resources or             the marriage, only vessels were given. But now
complete lack of assets, causes tremendous              the practice of giving land has been converted
stress for the poor and a preoccupation with            into the practice of dowry.
survival. Gender-based discrimination
deprives almost all women of control over                    Table 4.8: Ownership of house         (%)
assets, regardless of class and across
communities, making them extremely                       Ownership
vulnerable. In many agrarian communities,                of house        Olavanna      Vilayur     Kollayil
women’s access to land is restricted due to              Own                 83.2        91.6        84.8
traditional taboos that prevent them from                Rented               6.0          1.2        4.0
performing certain operations like ploughing             Tenancy              1.6          0.4        1.6
which is conventionally deemed as man’s work
and which demands higher wages. The control              family house         4.8         3.2         4.4
over land whether in matrilineal communities
                                                         Wife’s family
or elsewhere in terms of its management, use,
                                                         house                0.4          0.8        1.2
disposal, etc. is increasingly being determined
by men. Lack of land or productive assets                Siblings             0.4          0.4        2.4
affects women in several ways. In case of taking         Own father’s
loans, they have no collateral to offer. Even            house               1.6          1.2         0.8
when women engage in agriculture, they have              Own mother’s
to lease land. Having no asset of their own              house               1.6          0.4         0.8
basically means total insecurity and                     Total               100          100        100
dependence on men.
                                                                 Table 4.9: Gender-disaggregated
4.1 Ownership of House and Land                                      possession of houses (%)
    Housing is fundamental to physical
security and it is an important indicator
                                                        of House         Olavanna      Vilayur     Kollayil
pointing out the status of women.
    The data (Table 4.8) shows that more than           Woman               12.4         14.4        12.4
80% of families have own houses. The last 10            Man                 34.4         45.6        30.4
years of decentralisation has contributed to this       Both                10.8          1.6        15.2
trend of providing housing for the poor.                Children’s          4.0           1.2        13.2
    The study conducted by Kerala Sasthra               Father-in -law       7.6          9.6          -
Sahithya Parishad (KSSP 2006), confirms the             Father               4.8          5.6         7.2
above findings. It says that 95% people have
                                                        Others              10.4         13.6        8.8
their own houses and 60% of it was built in
                                                        Not Applicable      15.6          8.4          -
the last 20 years. In most of the communities
especially in Olavanna and Vilayur, there was           Total               100          100         100

28                                                        Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
    Despite several people having their own           33.6% in Vilayur and 46.8% in Kollayil having
houses, only 12% to 14% women had houses              land, this was not in woman’s name. As stated
in their name. In Kollayil 15% had houses in          earlier, even when the land was being bought
joint names. Until very recently, there had been      with dowry money, it was converted into
no effort by the panchayats to give title deeds       permanent assets in the name of man. Women
in the joint name of husband and wife. But            enjoyed a comparatively favourable position
the present policy is to give preference to           in Kollayil. In Kollayil, 12% women had
women in housing.                                     ownership over land and 12.4% had land in
    The difference in possession of houses            joint names.
clearly reflects the lower status of women.                Several women in all three panchayats
Despite the claim by the panchayats that              were engaged in agricultural operations as
houses are being given in joint name, this is         labourers or taking land on lease as SHGs
                                                      especially paddy fields and for vegetable
not reflected in the data.
                                                      cultivation. But discussions in FGDs revealed
    Table 4.10: Ownership of land            (%)      that women had very little control over the
                                                      earnings. Even when they engaged in paddy
Ownership                                             cultivation in groups, they depended on men
of Land            Olavanna      Vilayur Kollayil     for ploughing. This dependence on men for
Woman                13.6           7.6      12.0     ploughing and for marketing constrained them
Man                  10.0        114.0         9.6    in may ways. Despite being engaged in
                                                      agricultural operations, they were not part of
Both                   4.0         2.0       12.4
                                                      any decision-making committees of the
Others                 5.2         9.2       12.8     panchayat in relation to agriculture. Women’s
Not applicable       77.2         67.2       53.2     engagement in agriculture as always perceived
Total                 100         100         100     as backyard farming or kitchen garden’ and
                                                      their income only as supplementary income.
    Access and control over land too is crucial       Building assets like land in their name and
to basic security. In Kerala, despite the false       having control over ‘commons’ is crucial to
belief that is propagated that most women             their security and safety.
have rights over land due to the matrilineal
system, this is restricted to only Nair families      4.2 Home appliances
and even among the Nairs, this is being                    Radio/ tape recorder was the common
converted to the practice of dowry. Despite           home appliance owned by the respondents.
                                                      During the group discussions and the various
the trend of nuclear families and some
                                                      meetings that were held with the male groups,
households being female headed, where
                                                      the pre-fixed notion was expressed that
decision-making was primarily done by
                                                      women were addicted to serials and spend
women, very few had houses or land in
                                                      most of their time watching television. During
woman’s name. Despite the emphatic                    group discussions of women, they said that
pronouncement by most discussants in the              many of them have no time every day to go
FGDs that women had property rights, very few         the neighbourhood to watch television. Many
women in reality had any control over land.           of them listened to radio especially while they
    Despite 22.8 % families in Olavanna,              were working.

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                               29
4.3 Working tools                                  women who have the necessary basic skills in
                                                   th handloom and weaving sectors. Enhanced
                 Table 4.11:
                                                   mobility and storage facilities will help vendors
      Possession of working tools      (%)
                                                   of fish, vegetables and fruits.
Working tools       Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
                                                   4.4 Ownership of vehicles
Tailoring machine     13.6       7.6     13.6
Weaving machine         -         -          1.6     Table 4.12: Families owning vehicles (%)
Ratt (Coir)             -         -          1.2
                                                     Vehicles         Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
                                                    Scooter/bike         18.4         9.2       14.4
     The state level data shows that the work-
participation rate of women is low in Kerala.       Cycle                15.2           3.6     18.4
The data from this study shows that the work        Car                     -           -       0.8
tools that women possess are also very few.         Others (Cycle,
Only very few women had tailoring machines.         Scooter, Auto
Several women were supposed to have been            rickshaw &Car)        6.0         5.2       4.0
given working tools as part of WCP during the
last decade but the above data shows that very          The above data shows the vehicles owned
few have actually received any. Several women      by the families. Scooter/bike was the
in Vilayur and Kollayil are engaged in             commonly used vehicle but apart from 2 or 3
agriculture but the panchayat or agricultural      women in each of the panchayats, women
department had no schemes to provide them          hardly owned or used vehicles. Even when
with agricultural implements. Women were           they had vehicles in their house, it was mostly
not part of any agricultural committees and        owned and used by men. There was also the
have no say in decision-making. Several            cultural restriction of women learning to drive
women in Olavanna and Kollayil are engaged         or ride vehicles of their own. Public forms of
in the traditional sectors of weaving and coir-    transport were also difficult to use as several
making as wage labour but there has been no        women complained of molestation and eve-
up gradation of their skills, efforts to provide   teasing. Use of cycle by the young girls is also
them with better working environments or           limited. Even in households that could afford
tools to protect their hands.                      a bicycle it was the boy child who was given
     Hence the younger generation is moving        the cycle. In FGDs and workshops, it was learnt
onto jobs like working in small companies and      that mobility was a serious constraint. In
as sales girls. There is no upward social          several panchayats, training in auto driving was
mobility of these groups. While poverty            imparted to women but there are very few
eradication and income generation by               women who own and drive autos. Fear of
creating alternative employment are the focus      safety, fear of getting cheated by male
in decentralised planning , the already            passengers, harassment by traffic police, lack
available occupations in the traditional sectors   of collateral to get loans from banks to
are neglected. Certain innovative interventions    purchase three wheelers etc. Owning a vehicle
can improve position of women working in           would have improved their access to public
these areas. For example better designs in         places like PHC, schools and increased their
weaving and better technology will help            mobility.

30                                                   Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
4.5 Ownership of livestock                            backward and forward linkages which would
                                                      help women sell the milk, get fodder from
       Table 4.13: Ownership of cattle (%)            women who were engaged in paddy
                                                      cultivation, use dung as fuel and provide it for
 of cattle          Olavanna      Vilayur Kollayil    agricultural purpose. Women mostly tended
                                                      cattle in isolation and the market linkages were
 Yes                   30.0         30.4     61.6
                                                      not profit-oriented.
 No                    69.6         69.6     38.4
 Not Applicable        00.4           -        -      Conclusion
 Total                  100         100       100         Thus, In relation to private resources,
                                                      whether it be houses or land, equipments,
     Several families owned cattle especially in      working tools, vehicles or cattle, women hardly
Kollayil (61.6%). Availability of milk                owned or possessed them. Even in instance
cooperatives to sell the milk, availability of        where land or house was given as dowry, it
fodder etc encourages the ownership of cattle         had been converted into man’s name. Even
in Kollayil. But this does not imply that they        those women who were engaged in agriculture
were in a position to use the income derived          as part of self-help groups relied on men for
of tending for the milk cattle. It only increased     marketing and accounting and were never
their work burden as it is they who looked after      represented in decision-making agricultural
the cattle. Even under WCP several women
                               ,                      committees of the panchayat. Work tools for
were provided with cattle but this could not          women in agriculture or in the traditional
be effectively used as most of the cattle died        occupation were not provided. Negligible
due to affliction to some disease. There had          amount of women possessed vehicles or could
been no efforts by the panchayat to provide           use it even if they had one in their house.

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                31

Women as citizens should have equal                          In all the three panchayats, most of the
entitlements to the fundamental rights                  families had their own wells. Few of the
enshrined in the constitution and range of              women did not have their own source of water.
services like education, health, sanitation,            Except Kollayil, shortage of water was raised
nutrition, etc. Kerala is hailed as a model with        as a major issue in both the other panchayats.
respect to entitlements to public resources is          Olavanna has been acclaimed as a model for
concerned. When the data on education and
                                                        participatory water management in Kerala, in
health is disaggregated, it is seen that there
                                                        the first phase of decentralized planning. Here
are differences in women’s’ and men’s access
                                                        15.6% families have their own pipe
to education, especially technical and
                                                        connection. Yet now, several women
vocational; access and availability of treatment
too is different. Women’s bodies are over               experienced water shortage. This was mainly
medicalized and family planning is seen solely          because there had been no consistent
as women’s responsibility.                              monitoring of the projects. Clay-mining from
    With respect to sanitation, Kerala has              paddy-fields and conversion to real estate
achieved laudable results in providing toilets to       plots had contributed to water resource
individual families but their environment               crunch.
friendliness has not been taken into                         In Vilayur, due to the fall in voltage,
consideration. Women bear the sole                      pumping was undertaken only at night and
responsibility of fetching water to be used in          hence women had to fetch and carry water at
the toilets and for cleaning them even in areas         night from public taps. Women in the FGD
where there is severe water scarcity.                   have raised the issue of sand-mining from the
                                                        river which runs through the panchayat. With
5.1 Water
        Table 5.14: Source of water     (%)             incessant sand-mining and clay-mining and
                                                        the ground water level falling, it is important
Source of water       Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil         to think about the conservation and recharging
Own Well                56.8     48.4     76.8          of ground water. Here there is a conflict of
Public well             10.0      3.2         5.6       interest as sand mining brings in revenue to
Public taps              5.6     16.4         2.0       the panchayat. There is an urgent need for
                                                        wider awareness raising programmes about
Own pipe connection     15.6      3.2     1.6
                                                        alternative methods of water conservation like
Fetching from
                                                        water-shed management, roof harvesting of
near house              9.2       2.8     10.4
                                                        rain water, etc. Well water is an important
Others                  2.4      25.6         3.6
                                                        source as it gives women control over water
Not Applicable           0.4     0.4          -         and they need to be helped to recharge source
Total                   100      100      100           of water in the wells.

32                                                        Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
5.2 Toilets                                               efficient smokeless cooking stoves and
                                                          whether use of firewood is causing breathing
           Table 5.15: Toilet facility       (%)
                                                          problems. In Vilayur, use of firewood and
 Toilets             Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil            working in areca nut peeling without
                                                          protective masks had led to breathing
 Own                    97.6       95.2            92.8
                                                          problems. Though smokeless chullah models
 Public toilets          0.8        2.0            0.4    are quite popular in Kerala, they have not been
 No toilets              1.6        2.4            4.8    introduced by the panchayats. Kitchens have
                                                          always been designed in a manner, which is
 Sharing                  -          -             2.0
                                                          at the corner of the house without sufficient
 Not Applicable           -          -              -     ventilation. Moreover, as sharing of domestic
 Total                   100        100            100    work has not yet been taken over by men, they
                                                          hardly realize the difficulty experienced in
    In all the three panchayats, most of the              inhaling smoke. As many families are
people had toilets of their own. The                      dependent on firewood, it is also important
panchayats had succeeded in extending basic               to consider how much money is spend on
amenities to most people through the                      purchasing firewood, who is engaged in
decentralization process. This has a positive             collection and the labour involved in it?
effect on health of the families                          Cooking stoves using firewood also mean that
                                                          women’s drudgery is still not addressed. This
5.3 Fuel                                                  is an area, which requires urgent attention in
         Table 5.16: Source of fuel          (%)          the coming phase of planning.

 Source of fuel        Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
                                                          5.4 Education
 Firewood                 33.6      71.2           66.0        Kerala is lauded for its high standards of
                                                          literacy and it is assumed that women are
 Gas                       4.0       1.2           14.0
                                                          comparatively better educated. But they are
 Kerosene                  0.8           -          -     far behind when it comes to technical,
                                                          vocational or professional education. Even
 Firewood and gas         42.0      23.2           13.6
                                                          among those who gain higher education, it
 Firewood                                                 does not lead to increased decision-making or
 and kerosene              7.2      22.8            5.2   empowerment. Increasing privatisation of
                                                          education and closing down of government
 Others                   12.4       1.6           1.2
                                                          schools affects the girl child the most.
 Total                    100       100            100    Increasing trend of dowry also forces parents
                                                          to marry off girls early than spending more
    Most of the women in Vilayur and Kollayil             money on education and then having to pay
used firewood. Most families in Olavanna,                 higher dowry.
which is a suburban panchayat, used more                       Just having passed secondary levels of
than one type of cooking fuel. It would be                education also do not help women to gain any
important to consider if they could use fuel-             employable skills.

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                   33
  Table 5.17: Education of the husbands of               Similarly, Table 51.8 show that in
          women respondents (%)                     Olavanna, most of the women had studied up
                                                    to 10th standard followed by those below 8th
 Husband’s                                          where as in Vilayur, most of the women
 education        Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil         respondents had studied below 8 years, the
 Below 8 years       31.2       40.4     22.0       main reasons being early marriages. It is to be
                                                    noted that, it is in Kollayil, that there are more
 8years               6.8        5.2      5.2
                                                    graduates and postgraduates among women
 10 years            30.0       22.8     22.8       unlike the Olavanna, which is a suburban
 12 years             3.6       11.6     11.6       panchayat.
                                                         In Vilayur, 74.4% women were not able
 15 years             0.8        4.8       4.8
                                                    to study according to their own satisfaction.
 Above 15 years       0.8        0.8       0.8      In Olavanna and in Kollayil, only 24.8% and
 Illiterate           2.8        3.6      3.6       19.6% women could study according to their
                                                    satisfaction. In Vilayur, early marriages were
 Not applicable      22.8       27.6     29.2
                                                    stated as a hindering factor. Basic education
 Total               100        100       100       helps women gain knowledge about day-to-
                                                    day lives. But this has not in any way enhanced
     Majority of the husbands had studied up        their self-confidence or inculcated any skills.
to secondary level followed by those who had        Even when women are organized under SHGs
studied up to 10 years. In a state renowned         they have no skills or capabilities to carry on
for its educational standards, it must be made      these enterprises successfully. This also has to
explicit that we have only attained literacy and    be read with the fact that their mobility also is
not high standard of education. Boys drop out       restricted.
due to the lack of interest in studies or because
of the need to earn to supplement family            Focus Group Discussion
income; whereas girls drop out due to poverty           Most of the women respondents in the
or proposals of marriage or to look after           FGDs were not satisfied with their education.
younger children. The low levels of education       They feel that they should have learnt more.
also signify that men are in low paid               Economic difficulties, father’s alcoholism,
occupations.                                        housework, mother’s lack of knowledge about
                  Table 5.18:
                                                    the importance of education were sited as
     Education of women respondents (%)
                                                    reasons for not getting education. “Earlier, it
 Education         Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil        was believed that if girls are educated they
 Below 8 years         27.2     43.2     32.8       would have a tendency to fall in love with
                                                    boys. But now, girls and boys are educated
 8 years               10.8      5.2       6.0
                                                    without discrimination.”
 10 years              35.6     28.0     29.2
                                                        Technical education given to girls is
 12 years             11.2       5.6     15.2       comparatively lesser; girls are educated up to
 15 years               4.8      3.6       8.4      marriage. Some opined that even a less
 Above 15 years         0.4      0.8       3.6      educated man wants to marry a woman with
 Not applicable         7.2     13.6       4.8
                                                    degree to teach children at home. Those who
                                                    have education are more confident. One
 Total                 100      100       100
                                                    Muslim respondent said that her education

34                                                    Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
worked adversely. Her family believes that               Table 5.20: Purpose of going to Primary
because she gained education, her husband                      Health Centres (PHC) (%)
deserted her. So she is constantly subjected to
scorn and sarcasm of her family members. She           Purpose of
                                                       going to PHC    Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
suffers from severe mental agony due to the
blaming.                                               Children’s
                                                       vaccination       39.6    17.6      6.0
5.5 Health                                             Fever             18.8    26.4    36.0
    In Kerala, 70% of people depend on                 For taking
private health care and only 30% use public            injections         2.8     0.4      -
health care facilities. According to the KSSP          Check-up during
study, treatment expenses are the highest in           pregnancy          0.8     1.6     0.8
Kerala. The poorest are spending 1/3rd of their        Others             6.4    34.8     9.6
income on health expenses. Several women               Not Applicable      -     19.2    47.6
had to take continuous medication. In Kollayil,
52.4% in Vilayur, 45.2% and in Olavanna,                  Despite the availability of PHC in close
34.8% women reported that they are taking             vicinity, most of the women used the facility
continuous medication. Many of them                   only for children’s vaccination whereas in
suffered from joint pain.                             Kollayil, they went for treating everyday
                                                      aliments like fever. The reasons quoted for not
 Table 5.19: Nature of health problems (%)            going to PHCs was the distance, lack of interest,
                                                      availability of private hospitals, lack of good
 Nature of health                                     doctors and non-availability of medicines.
 problems         Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
                                                      Improvement in the facilities of the PHC would
 Joint pain              10.0      17.6      16.0     enable women to access the facilities for
 Blood pressure           4.8       5.2        4.8    treatment of illnesses. As the PHCs have been
 Diabetes                 3.6       0.8        3.6
                                                      transferred, panchayats can play an important
                                                      role in improving facilities so that everyday
 Breathing related                                    health care needs of people are taken care of.
 problems                 3.6       5.2        6.0
                                                      The emphasis on preventive health care can
 Abdominal                                            be restored and healthy living patterns promoted.
 problems                 2.4       5.2       2.0
 Heart problems           1.6       1.2       2.8      Table 5.21: Substance Abuse of men         (%)
 Others                 18.8       17.2      17.2      Habits              Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
 Not Applicable         65.2       54.8      47.6      Drinking               9.6      2.0      8.0
                                                       Smoking               12.0     31.2      5.6
    49.6% take recourse to private hospital for
                                                       Drinking and s
treatment in Olavanna, 32.4% in Vilayur and
                                                       moking                 8.4     10.8     23.0
24.4% in Kollayil. Majority of the women took
recourse to private hospitals in Olavanna,             Others (Drinking,
                                                       Smoking and
which is suburban panchayat whereas
majority took recourse to government hospitals         betel nut leaves)      4.4      3.6      4.6
in Kollayil and Vilayur. Very few went to
                                                       Not Applicable        65.6     52.4     58.8
ayurveda or homeopathy hospitals.

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                   35
        Though several of the men were                  employees, as their co-operation is very poor.
addicted to habits of drinking and smoking,             As there are no medicines in government
women talk about it only when it becomes                hospitals, people depend on private hospitals.
unbearable and start causing financial
difficulties at home. In Kerala, alcoholism being       Conclusion
a major source of income for the government,                 In providing public services like water, fuel,
it is also promoted and the monopoly of sales           toilet facilities, education and health facilities,
is with the state government. But it drained a          Kerala is far better when compared to other
major share of income of families and deprived          states. In India, the state of Kerala enjoys
women and children even of nutritional                  rainfall for six months and so water scarcity is
requirements. It also subjected women to                not a natural problem and is the result of land
domestic violence and severe mental strain.             use pattern and lop-sided development. Well
                                                        water is the primary source in all the three
Focus Group Discussions                                 panchayats but this is drying up in summer
     In FGDs, women said that the increase in           and even immediately after the rains. Even in
standard of living and facilities has led to a          Olavanna, which was hailed as a model for
sedentary life-style without exercise and this          participatory water management, women
has led to severe health problems. Many                 complain that water shortage has been created
women who are working earlier in traditional            due to clay-mining from paddy-fields. In
occupations are forced to withdraw due to               Vilayur, water shortage is attributed to sand
crisis in these sectors. Even for small illness, they   mining from rivers as these leads to falling of
go to doctors. Women engaged in coir making             ground water levels. Firewood, being the main
said that they have several illnesses like allergy      source of fuel seems to have caused breathing
and arthritis. Common illnesses are allergy,            difficulties especially in kitchens where there
sneezing, joint pains and irregular                     is no source of ventilation. Lighting the hearth
menstruation. Some of them have uterine                 and cooking is considered as women’s fate and
fibroids.                                               this issue has never been of much interest or
     According to them, women have health               concern to planners.
problems especially uterus related problems                  The first 10 years of decentralised planning
due to early marriage, use of family planning           have addressed the basic needs of housing and
methods, unnecessar y use of scanning,                  toilets. Despite having several housing
hospital delivery being more risky than home            schemes, smokeless cooking stoves and well
delivery and use of chemical fertilizers in food.       ventilated kitchens were not made part of the
Men and women equally have urinar y                     model or strongly advocated. The data from
infection.                                              this study shows that what requires urgent
     Men in the group discussion said that only         attention in the coming years is, reducing the
poor people go to government hospitals for              drudgery of women by taking care of energy
illnesses like fever, cold etc. Illnesses get cured     efficient cooking fuel as well as paying very
quickly when they have allopathic but not               careful attention to the issue of drinking water.
ayurveda or homeopathy. Old people take                 The latter cannot be addressed by
recourse to ayurveda, mainly for joint pains.           mechanically starting more schemes but by
     A group said that there are no forums for          efforts to recharge ground water and adopting
women to talk about their health problems               alternate methods like roof water harvesting.
and it is useless to give money to health                    Educationally, Kerala seem to excel but

36                                                        Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
there has been very little thinking about             organised in northern districts where this is
quality of education.There is no sex-                 a serious problem
disaggregated data to help in planning .                   Health care is easily available due to
Examples from these panchayats under study            privatisation but treatment expenses are
show that reasons such as early marriage as           increasing at a galloping speed due to
in any other educationally backward state             commercialisation, leading to debts and
can be a constraining factor in the attainment        negative repercussions of over-medication.
of education. Vocational and technical                The poor management of PHC’s and the
education are still lacking as far as women           apathetic attitude leads to its neglect though
are concerned. So several areas regarding             it is the easily available health service in
education need to be focussed in planning.            proximity to people. It is the poorest and the
Panchayats can focus on quality of education,         senior citizens who frequent the PHCs and
skill based vocational and adult education.           this is an area where the local governments
Campaign against child marriages need to be           can and need to focus in the near future.

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                              37

6.1 Work                                                  Table 6.22: Work participation rate (%)
     Women in Kerala have scored poorly in
                                                                 Gender                Census-2001
terms of recorded participation in paid
employment, both in relation to women at the                      Man                      50.4
all India level and in relation to men in the                     Woman                    15.3
state. Female Work Participation Rates (FWPR)
[in terms of usual principal and subsidiary                 There is stark difference in the work
status] in Kerala had been among the lowest             participation rate of men and women. Women
                                                        are mostly engaged in temporary and unstable
in India. Currently while over a quarter of the
                                                        kind of work like domestic workers, washing,
female population is recorded as economically
                                                        nursing, and collecting forest produce and in
active at the all India level, the proportion is
                                                        traditional occupations.
about 15.6 percent in the state. [Praveena and
Eapen, 2005, EPW] Although Kerala leads the                        Table 6.23: Men’s work (%)
rest of the states in India with regard to female
literacy level and level of education, when it           Husband’s           Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
comes to the engagement in economic                      work
activities, women’s participation in Kerala has
                                                         Professionals           0.8        0.4       0.4
been lowest in the country as a whole. The
participation of women in multiple livelihood            Government
tasks, which is essential for family sustenance,         service                 5.6        2.0      12.0
does not entitle them to any exclusive                   Private sector          5.2        2.4       4.0
privileges. Among the working women, a good
                                                         Business                7.6        5.6       5.6
proportion is accounted for by government
service and teaching but a large number of               Self-employment        5.2         3.6       0.4
women remain outside the ambit of work                   Traditional
participation. Women’s work in Kerala is                 occupation             1.2         3.6       1.6
limited to those sectors like teaching, clerical
                                                         Technical work          0.8        1.2       0.8
and nursing which are considered typically
feminine and does not question status-quo or             Coolies                44.8       35.6      40.4
disturb men’s dominance in their exclusive               Abroad                  1.2       14.4       5.2
sectors like business firms, entrepreneurship,
driving, etc. Majority of the women are in               Not Applicable         27.6       31.2      30.0
occupations that are insecure, low paid and              Total                  100         100       100
     The census data regarding work                        Most of the husbands of respondents were
participation rate in Kerala is as below:               engaged in coolie work followed by those

38                                                        Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
engaged in business and government service.                In Olavanna, most of the women had
In Vilayur, after coolie work, most were in Gulf      given up working in the traditional coir-making
countries. Though the data shows that only            sector, as there was a heavy fall in prices, lack
14.4% men were in Middle East, the                    of hygienic working environment, no
panchayat authorities said that one-third of the      upgradation in skills and problems in
men in the panchayat were working abroad.             marketing. Even when they were engaged as
The women had described their husbands as             labourers, whether in the agricultural or
labourers as they felt that this was a socio-         construction fields, they were not paid equal
economic survey by the panchayat and they             wages. In the group discussions, women raised
would lose out on the privileges, if they say         the issue of equal wages and the fact that no
that their husbands were in Gulf. Here one            trade union had taken this up. Some women
also has to break the myth that all men who           in Vilayur panchayat were engaged in peeling
work in Gulf are highly paid. Since most have         areca nut skin within their homes as a
only secondary or high school level schooling,        supplementary source of income but this was
they are in low paid occupations and hence            hardly acknowledged as work. They almost
are just able to pay back debts.                      spend the entire day working and many of the
               Table 6.24:                            women engaged in the units where areca nut
    Women’s work participation rate (%)               skin was being peeled had breathing
                                                      difficulties as dry arecanut skin emanates a
 Work                Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil        lot of dust.
                                                      6.2 Household work
 service                 3.2         1.0       1.6
 Private service         2.8         2.0       2.4       Table 6.25: Help for housework        (%)

 Self-employment         0.8         1.0       1.6     Help for
 Coolies                 2.0        12.8       5.6     housework         Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil

 Others                    -          -        0.8     Other women          30.4       44.4     29.2
                                                       Husbands             12.8        4.0      3.2
 Total                   8.8        16.8       12
                                                       Female children        8.0      14.0     10.0
    In all the three panchayats, 4% to 14%             Other family
women work outside home and most of them               members                5.6       3.6      3.6
were engaged as labourers and work which
                                                       Male children          0.4       1.2      0.4
they did within homes, was invisible. There is
stark difference in the work participation of          Not Applicable       42.8       32.8     53.6
men and women. In Olavanna, 72% men were               Total                 100       100      100
engaged in work, whereas only 8.8 % women
worked. In Vilayur, while 68.8% men worked,               Household work was clearly thought of as
only 16.8 % women worked. In Kollayil, 70 %           women’s domain. Most of the women were
men worked while 12% women worked                     helped by other women in the family and
outside homes. Some occupations like cattle           female children and not by men. Even when
breeding, areca nut peeling etc that women            there was water scarcity, men did not help in
did as part of domestic work was hardly               carrying water. Men belittled the invisible,
acknowledged as work.                                 unaccounted domestic work. There was the

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                  39
stereotypical complaint that women had no            Educated girls have no work and they take
work at all. It is in Olavanna that we find more     tuitions.
men assisting women in household work.                    In the group discussion with men, some
                                                     said that women work for 24 hours but does
Focus Group discussions                              not get adequate wages. ‘If a good mannered
      In Olavanna, in the FGDs, the coir workers     man helps woman within the house, he is
said that they have participated in strikes for      ostracized.’ Women opined that if the family
their work related rights. They have held strikes    is to be strengthened, both should work hard
in various Government offices, blocked train         within the house. Some men fetch water and
traffic, sat in dharnas and spent many days in       some look after children. According to them
jail. Most of them were above 60 years. They         only if both parents look after children,
are getting only a small amount as pension.          personality development will take place. They
      The main problem coir workers face is that     feel that caste-based discrimination and party-
if it rains there will be flooding and they will     based discrimination in the work place is
have to leave their shed. They do not get            increasing.
enough raw materials and wages are meagre.                In Kollayil, it was learnt that women were
They feel that a person who works for 10 years       engaged in weaving, work in cashew factory,
should be given Rs. 5000/- as pension. But           stitching, tea business, vegetable selling
many have not got this amount on leaving. Lot        business, etc. Women who participated in the
of solid waste dumped from slaughter houses          FGDs were engaged in weaving, tailoring and
(remains of cows, and hens) get accumulated          agriculture. In weaving, they have the same
in the river water and then it starts stinking and   wages but in construction, they have different
they find it difficult to stand in the river and     wages. Men are engaged in laborious work
soak the coconut husk to extract coir.               whereas women are engaged in light work,
      Within the house, they are primarily           opined men.
responsible for all the work. Many women now              The major issues that came up in the FGDs
go to other small enterprises like slipper           was the unequal wages, concentration of
making and bottle making companies and               women in the unorganised sector and lack of
some work in paddy fields. There is                  any stability of work or assured income,
discrimination in the wages given to man and         difficulty in accessing raw materials, linkages
woman. Women have continuous work and                with markets, lack of possibilities for up
no time for rest or entertainment.                   gradation of skills and entrepreneurial
      Women have lost jobs due to the decline        qualities. Men’s participation is almost nil in
in the coir industry, lack of work in the            domestic work and this is increasing the triple
agricultural sector and there are no unions for      burden on women.
women to raise their demands. Owners of such
enterprises have realized that women can be          6.3 Income, Saving and Debt
made to work for meagre wages. Some young                Gender based difference in wages exist
girls are engaged in tailoring. Some                 despite the laws and regulations. Traditionally,
establishments do not have basic facilities like     the earnings of men are being utilized for
toilet.                                              creating wealth, purchasing property and
      In Vilayur, women are mostly engaged in        investing in secure assets. The earnings of
agricultural work, in construction, at areca nut     women are mostly used for household
company, pickle company, as sales girls, etc.        expenses, children’s education, health, family

40                                                     Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
welfare and other recurring expenses. This            6.4 Debts
leaves women vulnerable because they are not              In Olavanna, 56 %, in Vilayur, 51 % and
in a position to acquire personal property or         in Kollayil, 75 % had incurred debt. Debts
assets to support them in case of marital             were mainly incurred for constructing house,
problems or in their old age.                         marriage, dowry, treatment, trips abroad for
     In relation to the question about the            business or seeking jobs, educational purpose,
saving of wages, 6.4% women in Olavanna,              buying tools and home appliances. In Olavanna,
16% in Vilayur and 8% in Kollayil said that they      40.4% and in Vilayur, 37.2% took loans from
were able to save their earnings. They saved          bank whereas in Kollayil, 29.2% had borrowed
mainly for children’s’ education, health              from private individuals followed by
purpose, house construction, towards old age,         borrowings from banks. In Olavanna, 6.8%
purchase of gold, etc. Most of the family             and in Vilayur, 6.4% women said that
expenses were incurred for food and treatment         repayment of debt is their personal
followed by children’s education.                     responsibility. In Kollayil, 30% considered it
                                                      their responsibility to repay.
 Table 6.26: Pattern of family expenses (%)
                                                            Table 6.27: Purpose of debts      (%)
 Family expenses Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
 Food                    51.2       57.6      46.8     Purpose
                                                       of debts          Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
 Treatment               14.4        5.2      15.2
 Food and                                              house                28.8       18.0     28.4
 treatment                8.8       19.6       8.0
                                                       Marriage             13.2       10.4     10.4
 Food and
 children’s                                            Others               14.8       22.8     25.2
 education                6.8       14.0       9.6     Not Applicable       43.2       48.8     24.8
 For repaying
 debts                    6.0         0.4      2.8         The data lucidly shows that several families
 Children’s                                           were in debt and they have even borrowed
 education                5.6         1.2      7.6    from individuals. With the advent of the
                                                      Kudumbashree programme, the tendency to
 Others                   7.2         2.0     10.0
                                                      borrow has increased as it has enhanced access
 Total                   100        100       100     to money. But this money is not being used
                                                      for income generation programmes but mostly
     Most of the family expenses were incurred
                                                      for consumer needs like purchasing gold, for
for food followed by treatment and children’s
                                                      marriages, and for daily needs. This debt trap
education. In Kollayil, a group of women              increases tension among women leading to
engaged in organic farming (Haritha Mitram)           strife and quarrels especially when they are not
produced vegetables for home consumption,             able to repay.
which perhaps reduced their dependence on
the market. Due to the large scale privatisation      6.5 Decision-making
of health and education in Kerala, a large               This study reveals that very few women
amount was expended on health and education           could take decisions even in relation to the
needs in families.                                    preparation of food or purchase of clothes

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                 41
whereas husbands decision was considerably           and being thrown into the open market to
higher in relation to purchase of home               experience the ruthless competition and
appliances. In relation to decision making           insecurity of globalisation. Household work is
about food, only 16.4% in Olavanna, 26.4%            entirely considered as women’s responsibility
in Vilayur took decisions on their own whereas       by fate. Those works, which is done at home
in Kollayil 32.4% women took decisions. With         and earns supplementary income is hardly
respect to clothes, only 23.2% in Vilayur,           accounted for. Kerala is a highly consumerist
27.2% in Olavanna and 28% in Kollayil took           society. Increasing debt is a common
decision. But with reference to gold, it came        phenomenon in Kerala even leading to
down to 13.2% in Vilayur, 16.4% in Kollayil          suicides. But this is mainly incurred for
and 15.6% in Olavanna. This was the least in         purposes like marriages, which do not, in
reference to home appliances. In Vilayur only        anyway enhance the status of women.
10% took decisions, 6.8% in Kollayil and 5.2%
in Olavanna whereas 22% men took decisions           If poverty eradication ahs to succeed, women’s
respectively. So there was a stark difference in     work participation should increase and women
decision-making irrespective of caste, class and     should have control over the income they earn.
education. Only in Kollayil, where women had         The fact that majority of the poor women have
better land rights and house in their own            only basic education and no specific
name, there seems to be an improvement in            employable skills, neither assets like land
decision-making even in relation to purchase         makes it difficult to develop entrepreneurship
of gold. It may also be due to the fact that large   and enhance income. A multi pronged strategy
amount of money was being given by banks             to update existing skills, protect traditional
to self-help groups. As women were having            occupations, impart new skills, establish
increasing access to money, their decision-          market linkages and at the same time
making position in the family may have               campaigns to change consumer habits to use
enhanced.                                            local products etc are called for.
                                                          Women’s increased work participation is
Conclusion                                           possible only if a culture is created where men
    The work participation of women,                 learn to share household work. This calls for
whether educated or uneducated is dismal in          sustained campaigns and change of syllabus
Kerala. Women in the traditional sector suffer       even from schools levels, to change age old
the most due to decline of their occupations         attitudes and mind sets

42                                                     Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala

7.1. Marital Status                                       raised, as boys were getting married at an early
    Majority of the women respondents were                age.
married in all the 3 panchayats followed by
those who were unmarried. Most of the                            Table 7.29: Age of the men (%)
deserted and divorced women belonged to
                                                           Husband’s age Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
families living below poverty line and the
Muslim community. The deserted women had                   25 to 30 years        4.8       8.8      4.4
been given a substantial amount as dowry and               30 to 45 years      38.4      30.0     26.4
had lost this immediately after marriage and               46 to 60 years      24.4      24.4     25.6
mostly this amount had not been recovered
                                                           Above 60 years        9.6       8.8      9.6
during desertion, pushing the women into dire
poverty and without any assets.
                                                              Due to the agricultural policies of the
         Table 7.28: Marital status (%)                   government leading to the fall in price of
                                                          agricultural products and the drawback of the
 Marital Status      Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil            educational system, majority of the youth have
 Married                77.6       71.6      71.2         given up paddy cultivation and agriculture and
 Unmarried              12.4       10.0      14.8         are engaged in jobs like driving. Many of the
                                                          boys also drop out from school as they believe
 Widow                   9.6       14.8      12.4
                                                          that just passing SSLC will not help them attain
 Deserted                 -         2.4       1.6         jobs. As most of the families are in debt for
 Separated               0.4        0.4        -          construction of house or marriage of their
 Divorced                 -         0.8        -          daughter, getting a bride and dowry for their
                                                          son seems to be an easy way to make money
 Total                  100         100       100
                                                          and the cycle of early marriages continues.

7.2 Marriage                                               Table 7.30: Age of marriage of women (%)
    Age of the male respondent-
     In Olavanna and Kollayil, majority of the            Age at marriage Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
husbands were in the age group of 30 to 45                Below 18 years       22.8      60.0     10.8
years followed by those between 46 to 60
                                                          18 and 25            57.2      25.2     65.2
     In Vilayur, the ages of husbands of the
respondents ranged from 21 to 88 years with               Above 25              7.6       4.4      9.2
the largest number belonging to 48 years. Only            Not Applicable       12.4      10.4     14.8
in Vilayur, the age of husband ranged from 21
to 30 years. In this panchayat, early marriages               The data for Kerala shows that the average
were raised as the major issue. It was reported           age of a woman’s marriage is 21 years. In all
that the age of marriage of girls could not be            the three panchayats under study, women got

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                       43
married at the ages of 18 whereas marriages          mode of transfer of property to daughter
below 18 was a common trend affecting the            [Kodoth 2004a]. This has occurred gradually,
adolescent girls opportunities for education         guided by changes in the institution of
and having an adverse effect on her                  marriage. Thus, women who move to their
reproductive and physical health. In Kollayil        husband’s home find it difficult to hold on to
and Olavanna, most of the women got married          property if they live at a distance and they tend
between the age of 18 and 25 years but               to sell the natal family land. Other practices
majority of this in Olavanna i.e. 31 and 29          included sale of land prior to marriage and
women got married at the ages of 18 and 19           transfer of cash and land belonging to the
years respectively. Several women had not            father, to their daughters, thereby women no
wished to marry at that age but their opinion        longer have land to pass on to their daughters.
was never sought for by the family. A woman’s             In Kerala, the practice of dowry is gaining
basic right to choose when and whom to marry         currency even among those communities,
is denied to most.                                   which had property rights. Despite land
                                                     reforms in Kerala being successful, women
Focus Group Discussions                              have even lost the land they earlier had. Many
     In Vilayur, men in FGD opined that among        of the families are indebted due to the loan
Muslim girls, the age of marriage is 13 to 15        incurred for the purpose of dowry. This dowry
years. Among Hindus, girls are married at the        is invariably converted into the names of men.
age of 20-25 years. Some Muslim organizations
like Jamait Islami are against child marriage.               Table 7.31: Forms of dowry (%)
One man said that the term husband and wife
                                                      Dowry             Olavanna      Vilayur Kollayil
were conceptually wrong. ‘Inter-caste
marriages are viewed by society in an improper        Gold                 84.8         79.2      75.6
manner. The entire blame falls on women.’             Cash                 14.8         40.8      32.8
Discussion with a younger group of men                Land                  1.6          2.0      53.6
brought out the fact that it is because men get
                                                      House                 0.4          0.8        8.4
married early that women are married early.
Girls who study and cross the age of 16 years         Vehicles              nil          0.4       Nil
find it difficult to get a partner. Men usually       Working tools         0.4          0.4        0.4
marry when they are in need of money and
this is obtained in the form of dowry. In Vilayur,       Dowry was given to women in the form of
this has dire consequences on the health of          gold, cash, house, land, vehicles and work
women. They also give birth to children at an        tools. Despite the law prohibiting dowry, this
early age and mostly undergo sterilization at        practice seems to be increasing as seen by the
the average age of 26 years. So most women           data and the substantiation of it in the FGDs.
have a short reproductive span of 8 years            Dowry given in the form of cash or gold was
during whi ch time they complete their               sold off mainly to clear off the debts in the in-
reproductive cycle.                                  laws house and very few used it for purchasing
                                                     or constructing houses and creating
7.3 Dowry                                            permanent assets in the name of women.
     There have been definitive indications over     Hence, the woman just lost her control over
the last quarter of the 20th century that dowry      the assets.
is replacing inheritance rights as the preferred         Most of the women in all three panchayats

44                                                     Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
were given in between 5 and 10 sovereigns of            Focus Group Discussion
gold, as most of them belonged to                            In Vilayur, men said that in Hindu and
economically backward families.                         Muslim religions, women have one third
                                                        property rights. In Namboodiri community,
                 Table 7.32:
                                                        there are customs like giving Ammi (grinding
     Use of gold received as dowry          (%)
                                                        stone) and Cherava (coconut scraping
 Use of gold         Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil          implement) at the time of marriage which
 Sold                  43.6    27.2     44.4            signifies denial of rights of girls in their natal
 Constructing                                           house after marriage.
 new house               21.6         6.0      12.0          They opined that it is better to have
 Keeping in
                                                        property rights than dowry in the form of cash
 the locker               4.8         4.4         2.8   or gold. Property rights give confidence to
 Dowry to
                                                        women as it would be in the name of women
 sister-in-law           3.2          1.2      1.2      but gold is used by the husband’s family.
                                                             The general observation in the FGD was
 Using                   4.0         15.6      3.6
                                                        the following. “Dowry in the form of gold is
 Others                  7.6         21.2     11.6
                                                        compulsory. Whatever is demanded by men
 Not Applicable         15.2         24.4     24.4      should be given”. Even the poorest give 25
                                                        sovereigns of gold and one lakh rupees. With
     Most of the women sold the gold; some              the increase in the age of the girl, the demand
for constructing new house, few for keeping             for dowry increases. If ‘glamour’ of the girl as
in the locker and some for giving dowry to              described by the respondents decreases,
sister- in- law. Most of the women got below            dowry increases. Most of the families incur debt
Rs. 50,000 which was used for the needs of              to give dowry. The rate varies according to
in-laws house. Very few women got land and              economic condition. The Islamic religious rule
most of this was sold off. The dowry was                is eight and a half sovereigns but dowry given
gathered from parent’s savings, by selling              is 5 times higher. “Even among the
property and through the help of relatives.             economically impoverished, mosque
                                                        committees encourage this”.
7.4 Demand for dowry                                         In the male FGDs, the main reason for
     Despite the notion in Vilayur and Olavanna         taking dowry was explained as to clear debts.
panchayat that dowry demands did not exist              Men blamed the women for being ostentatious
and women were merely given gifts, data reveals         and spending more. Dowry is demanded
that dowry was demanded from 12.4% in                   supposedly for meeting these expenses. A
Olavanna , 32.4% in Vilayur and 29.2% in                group said that dowry ranges depending on
Kollayil. This was despite the arguments of all         the economic status of the family. A
groups that in Vilayur and Olavanna women               respondent said “Dowry has no meaning.
had access to property rights. Most of the              When a woman is married, why should wealth
women respondents said that they had no                 be sent along with her? It is better if the girls’
access to property and worried about money              family was given money”.
after marriage, followed by the birth of children.           “Among the Muslims, the Mosque has a
The demands were mainly without any reason,             claim over some portion of the money which
some for purchasing land and some for repaying          is given as dowry. During Nikah, mosque
debts. Whether given in the form of cash or gold        committee takes Rs.10, 000. This encourages
or land or house, very few women could use              dowry”, said one person. An opinion was that
the dowry.                                              women are becoming fashionable and showy

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                    45
and as a result they land up in debt. The           house to clear the debts.
bridegroom has to give silk clothes to the bride.       All the women opined that property rights
Many people have to sell their house to get         are better than dowry. Dowry in the form of
their daughter married.                             ornaments is not used by women but mostly
     Women in FGD said that dowry is high in        sold off for the needs of the marital family.
the Muslim community. Even poor families ask        Women’s status would increase with property
for 50 to100 sovereigns of gold and lakhs of        rights. They also opined that violence may not
rupees. Among Hindus also, there is dowry           decrease with increase in property rights;
but this is comparatively lesser than Muslims.      violence and force will be used to take away
Dowry is demanded as marriages are held             even property.
ostentatiously and to clear off debts in
husband’s house. A group said that dowry is         7.5 Sexuality
given even without demanding. Women                       Women’s control over her body and
cannot use dowry according to their own             fertility and sexual autonomy was an important
liking.                                             determinant of the status of women. Sexuality
      In the FGDs held at Olavanna, it was          is a tabooed topic and there are no discussions
opined that among Hindus, ornaments are             about it among most of the communities. Even
being given more and they also give vessels.        adolescent children are not informed about
Even the poorest give 30 sovereigns. People         menstruation. Some women had received sex
from the Muslim community were supposed             education as part of their religious education
to be giving a lakh and 35 sovereigns gold          but menstruation was commonly defined as
minimum. They receive help from their
                                                    impure and women were mostly isolated
                                                    through practices of being isolated and
     Among coir workers, one woman said that
                                                    notions of pollution. Men received
she gave her daughter one lakh rupees and 20
                                                    information from the media but women had
sovereigns and she is even now repaying the
                                                    no sources of information. There was no
debt. Despite giving gold, furniture and vessels,
                                                    discussion within families.
the in laws are not satisfied.
     As there are marriage bureaus now, the                 Table 7.33: Age of Menarche         (%)
dowr y demanded and expected can be
known. There is competition in giving gold as       Age of menarche Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
dowry. 25 sovereigns of gold, vessels, TV,
                                                    Below11 years             0.8        0.12         0.4
washing machine and mixer are usually given.
Some said that ostentation during marriage          11 years                 1.2         0.4          2.4
and alcoholism during marriage is a serious         12 years                10.4         8.0          9.6
                                                    13 years                23.6        28.4      19.2
     Many among Muslim girls have not married
due to financial difficulty. For some women,        14 years                26.8        23.2      26.4
dowry demands have not been fulfilled               15 years                17.6        19.2      23.2
despite pledging/ mortgaging title deeds of
                                                    16 years                10.8        11.2          7.6
property. In koshava community, bride price
is given.                                           17 years                 4.4         3.6          6.8
     In Kollayil, women said that they had          Above 17 years           2.8         5.2          3.2
equal property rights whereas men said that         Not applicable           1.6         2.0          1.2
they did not have. For men dowry is part of
property rights. Dowry is used in the in-laws       Total                   100         100           100

46                                                    Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
     Most of the women had their menarche             Table 7.34: Source of information about sex (%)
at the age of 13 and 14 years. Majority of the
women used cloth during menses and it was              Source of
                                                       information           Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
only women from the younger generation who
had started using pads. Discussions revealed           Friends and sisters     10.8      10.8    13.2
that information about menstruation and sex            Religious classes        8.4       8.4     1.6
was derived only from the religious education          Sisters                  1.2       1.2     2.0
among Muslims whereas most of the children
                                                       Mothers                  0.8       0.8     0.4
from other communities did not receive any
formal information.                                    Books                    0.4       0.4     3.6

Focus Group Discussions                                    Mothers hardly communicated any
     In the FGDs, most of the women said that         information on sex and also influential persons
                                                      like teachers seem not to have played any role.
they did not know anything about their body
                                                      58% women in Olavanna and Vilayur and
or sexuality in their childhood. On the first day
                                                      33.2% in Kollayil said that they discuss sexual
of menstruation, celebrations called
                                                      matters with husbands. Very few women
‘marriages’ were held. This led to the feeling        talked about sexual problems with their
of “lajja” or embarrassment. Now ornaments            husbands and the main reasons cited were
are being given for such occasions. The girls         mutual suspicion. Though a woman may not
feel sad during menarche due to the isolation.        be interested in sexual relations due to physical
In Muslim religion there are religious classes        illnesses, she is forced to comply. In relation to
on menstruation and sex. Three rituals baths          the number of children they should have, most
are prescribed during menses, pregnancy and           of the women in all the three panchayats, said
sex which are considered as impure.                   that they took joint decisions, followed by
     None of the women had received any               women who said they conceived without any
scientific information about menstruation and         conscious decision-making. Regarding spacing
sexuality. Most of them considered it as impure       between children, around 40 to 48% said that
and unclean. The celebration of menarche was          there was no planning followed by those who
also increasingly becoming a commercialised           said they made joint decision.
practice in certain communities with
ornaments being given as gifts but at the same        Focus Group Discussion
time the adolescent also underwent feelings                In the FGDs, women said that it is their
of ritual impurity. Lack of scientific knowledge      duty to satisfy their husbands if they demand
                                                      sex. Most of the women had no information
on body and sexuality results in many women
                                                      prior to marriage about sexual matters. Now,
having an inferiority complex about their body.
                                                      mothers talk about menstruation but they do
                                                      not explain about man – women relationship
7.6 Knowledge about sex                               as they consider it as impure and embarrassing
     Very few women had any knowledge                 to talk about such matters. According to them,
about sex before their marriage. 22.8% in             husband and wife should discuss openly such
Olavanna, 10% in Kollayil and 26.4% women             matters and there is need for sex education
in Vilayur had some information on sexuality          classes.
before their marriages. Most of the women                  Men said that in Muslim communities, both
derived information from friends, followed by         boy and girl children are given sex education.
religious classes.                                    Parents themselves should talk to children

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                  47
about such matters. Some felt that sex                     In Olavanna 65.2%, in Vilayur 48.8% and
education is essential but it can also be              in Kollayil 64.8% used contraceptives. In all
misused. A group said that sex education               the three places, women mostly underwent
should be given under the initiative of Health         Postpartum Sterilisation (PPS). In Kollayil, some
Department. Boys gain information through              men conducted vasectomy whereas in
media and other sources. In a literate society         Olavanna, several practiced the withdrawal
like Kerala, even now there are myths and              method. In FGDs, it was realized that men
                                                       had conducted vasectomy due to the work put
taboos associated with sex education. In the
                                                       in by JPHNs in conscientising them about the
context of increasing sexual violence
                                                       harmlessness of the method. Family planning
experienced by children and women, this is             had succeeded due to the pressure imposed
an area which requires careful attention.              by medical professionals and the Health
                                                       department to comply for tubectomy especially
7.7 Reproductive health                                after the second delivery.
     Fertility level in the state has reached
below replacement level. Family size norms                 Table 7.36: Age of Sterilization        (%)
have changed across districts and
consequently narrowed the reproductive span             Age of PPS          Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
to around 10 years between the ages of 20-              Below 25 years         16.4       10.4      16.0
29 years. The age distribution of women is
going through a structural change with those            25 to 30 years         19.6       18.4      21.6
below 15 years declining and those above 60             30 to 42 years         16.4       10.0       9.2
years increasing. The major implication of this
change is that women will be entering marriage             A large percentage of women who
at a later stage in their lives and will be released   conducted tubectomies were below the age
from child bearing duties earlier.                     of 25 years followed by those in the age of 25
                                                       to 30 years. In Vilayur there were early
                  Table 7.35:                          marriages and women had started conducting
     Methods of family planning used         (%)       PPS from the age of 19 years. This may have
                                                       severe consequences on their health.
 Family planning                                           Some did not use contraceptives, since
 method             Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil          they did not know the appropriate methods;
 PPS (Tubectomy)        43.2       36.4     48.0       their husbands were abroad, they were
                                                       childless, their husbands dislike it, just married,
 method                  5.2         -        1.6      widows, allergic to contraceptives and some
                                                       had undergone uterus removal.
 Vasectomy               4.4        3.2       6.4          In relation to the question about
 Condoms                 3.2        0.8       1.2      knowledge of contraceptives, 50.8% in
 Copper-T                1.2        2.4       0.4      Kollayil, 25.6% in Olavanna and 39.2% in
                                                       Vilayur said they knew about it from medical
 Safe period             2.8        2.4       3.2      professionals. 2.8% to 6.8% husbands in
 Oral pills              0.8        1.2       0.4      Kollayil and Vilayur and 22% men in Olavanna
 Others                  4.8        2.4       3.6      knew about contraception. The increase in
                                                       knowledge about contraception in Olavanna
 Not Applicable         34.8       51.2     35.2       was mainly it being a suburban area of
 Total                  100         100      100       Kozhikode and access to hospital facilities

48                                                       Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
especially medical college.                           vasectomies, and they feel that it is not
     In all the three places, women ranging from      encouraged by the Health Department. When
20% to 22% had three pregnancies followed             there is problem in sexual relation, men doubt
by those who had two pregnancies and                  that it is due to tubectomy done on the woman.
around 10% had one pregnancy. 8.8% to
13.6% had one miscarriage each in all the three       Conclusion
panchayats. 5 to 6 women had one induced                   Early marriages especially in Vilayur were
abortion in each panchayat.                           a factor undermining the status of women and
     Except Vilayur, in the other two                 this has to be addressed in planning. Even in
panchayats, around 35.6% had 2 children               the other panchayats, most marriages took
whereas in Vilayur, 23.6% had 3 children              place between the ages of 18 to 20 years.
followed by those who had 2 children. 13.2%           Dowry is a social evil which legislation alone
had only one child in all 3 panchayats. There         cannot prevent. Social movements have to
was no stark difference in the number of boy          take the responsibility of awareness building
children and girl children. Majority of them          and social pressure exerted to boycott
had one boy and one girl child. Most of the           marriages in which high dowry is demanded.
women had normal deliveries. Around 8 to                   Information about menstruation and
11% had caesareans. This is in contrast to the        sexuality was extremely limited and it is an
data from areas where more privatisation of           important matter to be considered. Lack of
health care has taken place.                          proper and healthy sex education affects
                                                      health of the families and community. Safe
Focus Group Discussion                                sex is crucial in an era where sexually
    During the FGDs, women said that they             transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS are fast
use different methods of family planning. Many        spreading . The various health education
women have undergone abortions. ‘Men have             programmes need to integrate proper sex
no knowledge of vasectomy and so they do              education and awareness of healthy living. The
not go for it. According to them ’Many women          incidence of child sexual abuse is also fast
have fibroids in their uterus due to changes in       increasing and this can be prevented only by
food pattern and when they have fibroids, they        sensitizing the community, children, teachers
have severe back pain and it affects their ability    and parents. Life-skill education should be
to work. Hysterectomy is increasing”.
                                                      incorporated in the school curriculum.
    Government hospitals encourage family
                                                           Family planning is entirely considered as
planning through women. After second delivery,
                                                      women’s responsibility. Even the medical
tubectomy is conducted. It is believed that they
                                                      system covertly pushes women to subject their
do not have to suffer pain again and they would
                                                      bodies for sterilisation. In Kerala, the average
anyway get rest after delivery. Some women said
                                                      age of marriage is 22 and that of sterilization
that after PPS is done, they get pain related to
                                                      26. In the present study, it is seen that in some
menstruation. Only one respondent talked
                                                      areas they get sterilized as early as 19.This has
about how her husband conducted vasectomy
when they were in dire poverty and brought            serious repercussions on their health. It is also
food with that money. They felt that men work         important to develop responsible sexual
harder and consume alcohol, so it is not              behaviour among men.
appropriate that male sterilization is done. They          The PHCs are now institutions governed
believed that if allopathic medicines are             by the panchayats. It is the responsibility of
stopped, diseases will decrease.                      the local governments to use the PHCs to
    Men said that the trend is to have one            address issues of reproductive and sexual
daughter and one son. Very few go through             health of women and men

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                 49

8.1 Political participation                            SHGs that most women started coming out of
    Women’s access to political space is one           their homes into public spaces. But these are
of the crucial aspects of women’s status.              mostly women from families below poverty
Women are considered to belong to private              line (BPL). This is a positive factor and their
space of home and surroundings. Men are                entry into public space can be utilized for
supposed to control the public space and all           mobilization in relation to social and political
decision-making . Norms following this                 issues.
thinking influences the socialisation process of           Despite the participation of women in
boys and girls. Hence in all societies, we see         large numbers in processions and strikes
majority of decision-making positions                  organized by political parties, they did not
occupied by men and when women enter the               have membership in political parties and were
social / public space, their role is seen as one       not included in decision-making processes.
of service. An EWR said that “Reservation has          But women were divided on the political party
given us a seat but our voices are put down by         identities of their husbands. So they mostly
heavy thumping of the table when we express            cast their votes on the same lines. 86 to 89%
our opinion in the board meeting.” This is a           women cast their votes in each Panchayat.
covert way of retaining male power and
patriarchy and it shows their position. Despite        Focus Group Discussions
high level of education, the participation of              In FGDs, there were differing opinions.
women in politics in Kerala is very low. Even          Some women said that they decide their vote
regarding their franchise, women hardly took           themselves whereas several of them reticently
independent decisions.                                 smiled saying that they followed their husbands
                                                       decision. Only one woman was member of a
                  Table 8.37:                          party and had participated in party meetings.
     Participation in political process (%)            Most of them said they were not members of
                                                       political parties. Sometimes women participate
Women who
had membership Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
                                                       in public programmes but not at night. Women
                                                       are not brought to public space deliberately,
Political parties      7.6        5.2      0.4         they opined.
Self-help groups      38.0      29.2     38.8              Men said that women have just started
                                                       entering politics. As all the meetings are held
Trade unions           1.2       2.8      4.4          at night, women have restrictions in
Religious groups       1.6        -       0.4          participating. Within parties, women have
                                                       freedom of opinion. A group said that majority
Others                 3.2       7.2      3.6          of them vote on the basis of family politics.
Total                  100      1 00     100           The reason for women coming to politics is the
                                                       33% reservation in local governments. In
    Very few women were members of any                 Muslim organizations, women’s presence is
kinds of organizations. It is with the coming of       not encouraged.

50                                                       Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
8.2 Participation in Gram sabha                       standard of living has improved. Some felt that
      23.8% in Olavanna, 35.2% in Kollayil and        people are only concerned about basic
42.8% in Vilayur participated in gram sabha.          facilities like houses and toilets and not seeing
Participation decreased with increasing               the total development of the community.
urbanization of the area as in Olavanna. 14%
in Olavanna, 10% in Kollayil and 13.2% in             8.3 Self help groups (SHGs)
Vilayur used to express their opinion in gram              Women’s collectives can realize the
sabha. Most of the discussions in the gram            objective of women’s empowerment if this
sabhas centred on beneficiary selection and it        space is used to gather and disseminate
was mostly the deprived women who voiced              information and knowledge, gain entry into
their needs. Most of the women did not                public spaces, take up social issues and learn
consider gram sabha as a space for discussing         skills of negotiation and bargaining and
all the problems they faced. Women in the             working as pressure groups collectively.
Area Development Society (ADS) and                    Women could play a proactive role in the
Community Development Society (CDS) also              development process and women’s issues
felt that their burden has increased as now they      would gain legitimacy as political issues. But
have to inform women about the date and               these groups have not yet graduated to that
timing of‘ the gram sabha.                            level. They have not yet gained recognition and
                                                      acceptance as women’s space and forums.
Focus Group Discussion                                     Women were asked about the benefit of
    In the FGDs, women said that notices of           joining SHGs. Around 10% said that it had
the gram sabha are distributed through SHGs.          increased saving habits, 10% felt that they could
Earlier the ward members had to inform                go out of house and work together and 6.8%
meetings in panchayat and they used their             in Olavanna felt that they could escape from
party functionaries. But now Kudumbashree             private financing agencies and some felt that
members are supposed to do this as a service.         they could repay loans. 2.4% said that they
Work is increasing for women. Some felt that          had problems among members of SHGs.
there was no point in going to the gramasabha              In the FGDs, they said that they find it
as the benefits are given on party basis. Some        difficult to sell their products as there is no
others opined that women are given                    selling place. Women have not been
opportunity to speak and the main discussion          empowered in their Kudumbashree SHGs.
always centres on road and water.                     Even if 10 women work in a unit, they are not
    A group of Muslim women said that they            getting minimum wages for that. Discussions
do not participate in gram sabha as men in            revealed that though Kudumbashree has
their families participate. Mostly gram sabhas        enhanced their mobility and exposure to
are seen as a platform for getting benefits.          panchayats and other institutions, most of
Panchayat members insist that only if women           them had not succeeded in starting income-
participate they would get benefits; so the           generating activities. Group feeling or solidarity
participation has enhanced. Men’s                     among women had not enhanced. Their social
participation has reduced as they go out for          problems could not be addressed in the groups.
    A group said that with the advent of              Conclusion
Kudumbashree, gram sabha participation has                Despite high politicisation in the state and
increased. Since people’s planning began, the         the existence of several political parties and

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                  51
trade unions, women are hardly part of the       in taking up social issues or lead to
political process. Even People’s Plan Campaign   empowerment.
and the following decentralization efforts had        The Local governments need to take
only succeeded in increasing women’s             seriously the aspect of women’s lack of political
participation in numbers but qualitative         awareness. Politics is not about being
participation has to be enhanced. The level of   members of parties but being participants in
knowledge in terms of their local level          processes that are happening and that can
developments or political processes of the       influence their everyday lives. It is about getting
state was inadequate. The Kudumbashree           informed and contributing to solve their
programme had succeeded in bringing women        problems collectively. Increasing women’s
out of their homes and enhanced their entry      collective strength is a necessary and crucial
into public spaces but had not helped them       step in their empowerment

52                                                 Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
                                PHYSICAL SECURITY AND MOBILITY

9.1 Mobility                                                    Eve-teasing is very common in Kerala and
     Mobility of women in Kerala is restricted            it is also reported from this study. It starts in
cutting across all sections of the population.            the early age of adolescence and sometimes
Women, whether they have a job or not, finds              girls are put down by the vulgarity of the
it extremely difficult to travel alone. Women             comments. But since this is so commonly
from the dalit and adivasi communities and                practiced, protests are hardly raised.
those engaged in the unorganised sector do
have mobility in relation to work but have no             Focus Group Discussions
security or safety and can be subjected to
                                                               In the FGDs, it was said that women have
sexual harassment. Young women from
                                                          more freedom now. Women are frightened of
deprived communities have been forced to
                                                          travel but mobility is essential now. As more
take up jobs as sales girls or in small companies
                                                          families are nuclear families, if men go to work,
or petrol pumps and also travel late in the
evenings or at night but hardly have any                  women are forced to travel alone. Mostly, they
security or protection. Alcoholism and the                sought the help of friends or neighbours to
influence of bar culture changes the                      accompany them. A group said that all women
atmosphere especially after six in the evening            need this freedom but they do not have it. In
making it very risky to travel. Hence higher              evenings, they cannot travel alone. Even a
mobility in itself does not lead to higher status         district panchayat member had an experience
unless it is associated with women’s choice and           of harassment. Women hardly enjoyed the
a secure and free environment. There is always            freedom of mobility and there was constant
the risk of being taunted, teased, commented              fear of being stigmatised and sexually harassed.
upon and molested. This is worse after dark;                   Men said that women should have
as women who travel in the evening or night               freedom to travel up to 5.30 pm. But another
are considered as the prey of any man.                    opinion was that women should have the
     Women in all the three panchayats mostly             freedom to travel irrespective of day or night.
went out of homes for family matters, getting             As the panchayat President is a woman in
medicines, attending marriages and visiting               Vilayur, it has brought changes in other women
friends. 56% in Olavanna, 53.6% in Vilayur                also. A contradicting opinion was that travelling
and 40.8% in Kollayil travelled on their own.             at night is not good for women as society
Women mostly used public means of transport
                                                          portrays them differently. Some said that
and did not have vehicles of their own.
                                                          women themselves portray other women in
   Table 9.38: Problems during travel (%)
                                                          bad light. Few said that women should dress
                                                          in a manner, which is not provocative to men
                                                          and move with confidence. A group said that
 during travel         Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
                                                          women should not go out. Even if something
                                                          is essential, they should ask someone to
 harassment              19.2        11.2     19.2
                                                          accompany them. If women move out at night,
  Verbal harassment      35.6        43.2     35.6        they will experience violence from men who
                                                          are alcoholics. Most women said that they
Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                     53
should have freedom to travel. Family              place. In Vilayur 10.4% and in Olavanna it was
members consider it insulting if women travel      10.8% were physically harassed. Mental
at night.                                          harassment was the commonly used form of
                                                   harassment. 24.4% women respondents in
9.2 Violence                                       Olavanna, 23.2% in Vilayur and 34% (36) in
    Various studies (INCLEN and Sakhi) reveal      Kollayil knew of other women who are
that women in Kerala are victims of severe         suffering domestic violence. In all the three
domestic violence. This is a clear reflection of   panchayats, irrespective of the religion, caste,
the horrifying ways in which patriarchy can be     property rights, women were subjected to
exercised against women.                           violence by their husbands.
                                                        Women suffered mental torture by being
                  Table 9.39:
     Types of violence against women (%)           insulted before family and others; by always
                                                   getting angry at them, by blaming her family
 Type of violence   Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil      members, making responsible for deaths which
 Physical                                          occurred at home, blaming her childlessness,
 harassment           10.8      10.4     26.4      desertion by husband and always being
                                                   doubted. Like husbands, father, mother,
 Harassment           22.0      23.2     36.4      brother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, and
                                                   other relatives of in-laws families harass
 harassment           11.6      17.2     21.2
                                                        Women in Kollayil were most subjected
 Sexual                                            to financial torture in comparison to the other
 harassment            2.8       1.6      1.6
                                                   two panchayats. This was the panchayat,
     Since some experience multiple forms of       which had received large amount of money as
harassment, we cannot total the above table.       revolving fund and bank loan. Women were
But we can see that the incidences of domestic     not given money for family needs and husband
violence are quite high in the panchayats under    made lots of debts by continuous drinking.
study. The physical harassment in Kollayil         Women were financially tortured by husbands
(26.4%) was much higher in comparison to the       and mother-in-laws.
other two panchayats. This quite disproves the          2.8% women in Olavanna suffered sexual
argument that with increase in property rights,    violence. Forms of sexual torture were
violence would decrease. Though women in           unnecessary touching, rape and made to
Kollayil had comparatively better ownership        indulge in sexual relations that they did not
over land and better decision making capacity,     like. Women were reticent in talking about
they suffered more physical, mental and            sexual harassment especially as they were
financial harassment. It is to be noted that 97%   harassed by their own husbands. 14 women
lived in nuclear families in Kollayil. Domestic    in Kollayil, 10 women in Vilayur and 9 women
violence may also have enhanced due to             in Olavanna suffered violence during
increased decision-making which may have           pregnancy. Out of 250 women, this proportion
triggered violent behaviour in men to reinforce    is quite high and suffering violence even during
stereotypical values and keep women in their       pregnancy can be the worst form.

54                                                   Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
                Table 9.40:                           also observed that there is molestation within
    Notion about violence on women (%)                houses.
                                                           In the group discussion with men, they said
 Notion about
                                                      that women do not experience harassment at
 violence on
 women                Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil       work place. Men always get higher wages than
                                                      women. Even if man works from his own
 Husband had the                                      house(farming, basket weaving), he collects
 right to beat wife      23.6        21.6     46.4    money from his wife and drinks. Alcohol
 Do not agree            54.0        49.6     12.0    becomes an excuse for wife beating. Men said
                                                      that many cases of violence against women are
 Right to beat wife
                                                      not reported. It is increasing and girls also have
 when they make
 mistakes                19.6        21.2     12.0    problems.
                                                           In a male FGD, the following comment was
    The socialization process and conditioning        made ‘Men who have committed violence
makes many women to believe that their                against women are not punished and this
husbands have a right to beat them. In Kollayil,      leads to enhancement of violence. Even people
the rate of violence may be still higher as larger    in leadership positions are engaged in such acts
number of women (46.4%) believed that the             and go free. Then why can’t ordinary people
husband had the right to beat his wife and so         do it and get away with it. Women should be
there may be no protests or resistance against        protected.’
violence neither these will be reported                    In the female FGD, women narrated stories
                                                      of many women who face violence. Men drink
Focus Group Discussion                                and beat them up. One women respondent
     In the FGDs, women said that they are            ran away from her husband’s house. She had
subjected to teasing. Children go to                  suffered severe harassment in husband’s
anganawadi and narrate how father comes               house. She used to hide in a canal when
drunk and hits the mother. When women go              husband came home drunk. They said that
out for SHG meetings or other work, they are          neighbours usually do not interfere in
teased. Women do not react even when they             husband-wife relations.
experience violence and no legal measures have             They also said that several elderly women
been taken. Women suffer molestation in               too suffered from sexual violence by their
buses. The stereotypical view that women agree        husbands but were embarrassed to talk about
to such touch was also propagated. Some felt          it. Sexual violence within marriages was
that if women react to such molestation, then         accepted as the right of men and women hardly
men cannot do anything. If women are stay             had the space to voice their problems nor had
united, such problem will not increase.               any choice.
     They also said that there are women who
react by using pins. Such women are isolated.         Conclusion
When girl grows up, mothers bring them up in              The ‘Kudumbashree’ programme and SHG
ways that make them shy and withdrawn. They           activities have enhanced women’s mobility
are isolated from boys. Teachers also                 and their visibility in public spaces. But
discriminate girls. They said that it is the          women’s mobility to participate in cultural
parents who inculcate feeling of insecurity in        activities is restricted. In public spaces like
girls and hence they lose self-confidence. Some       theatres, parks, libraries, arts and sports clubs

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                  55
and cultural festivals, women are covertly            of the state women’s commission is a
forbidden from entering through threats of            commendable step. Elected women members
being labelled, commented upon and teased.            and the CDS leaders can take on the
Lack of physical security and the threat of being     responsibility of gender sensitizing the male
physically and sexually abused leads to severe        elected members, the community and the
insecurity for women and curtails their mobility,     larger society. Local level redressal mechanisms
creativity and growth. Exaggerated projection         will go along way to find appropriate solutions
of masculinity through the media and the              to the various types of violence faced by
patriarchal power structure holding the               women in the family, workplace and society.
institutions of marriage and family in its            Young girls can should be trained in self
tentacles demands utmost subservience from            defence mechanisms.
women and hardly allows any space for                      Women’s entry to public places and in
individuality and women’s human rights. Even          cultural locations has to be positively
if women face severe violence in the family,          encouraged. Proactive and conscious steps
they have very little option but to go on staying     have to be taken to enable this process. SHGs
with the husband. Most women do not work              offers a place for women from economically
or have any income or asset of their own.             backward communities to meet together but
Economic security and independence, in                instead of focussing only on economic
certain ways contribute to women’s                    empowerment, such forums also can be
confidence and her security.                          meaningfully used for recreational and
     In the context of the allocation for             educational activities. There should be
women’s component plan (WCP), it is                   common space for women from all classes and
important to consider how women’s physical            communities to come together and exchange
security and mobility can be enhanced. Merely         knowledge and spend time together. A
starting income generating programmes will            resource centre for women at each panchayat
not address some of this intangible yet very          level, can become such a multipurpose space
serious problems faced by women. The                  with an employment exchange, library and
suggestion by government to start Jagrtha             documentation centre, training space and
samithis (Local level vigilance cells) in the model   space for cultural activities.

56                                                      Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala

Intangible resources include knowledge, right          men, the common view was that women are
to information, enhanced capacity in relation          addicted to TV serials. Paper reading is less
to skills of negotiation and bargaining capacity.      among women. They opined that weeklies like
Control over intangible resources increases            Mangalam and Manorama are put on the
women’s self-confidence and self-image.                essential commodities list. Despite, these
Though, in Kerala, girls and women have                comments, during discussions with women, we
received formal source of knowledge, their             realized that most of the women did not have
channels to informal sources of knowledge are          the time to watch TV as they were carrying
extremely restricted. Media is the most                triple burden of work. Most of them listened
powerful instrument in the dissemination of            to radio while they worked. They were not so
information, creation of knowledge,                    much interested in political news as they felt
influencing people’s minds and carving of              that this did not have any relation with their
public opinion. The influence of media is              own life. Women have very little opportunities
increasing day by day with internet facilities         to keep themselves informed of what is
and satellite invasion. The media holds the            happening in the world around them.
minds of the youth under its sway and has also         Whereas men besides spending time in
created powerful and homogeneous images of             workplaces were also frequenting public
masculinity and femininity, which is based on          places, party meetings etc.
upper class, brahmanical and patriarchal
values. There is no scope for diversities and                     Table 10.42: Knowledge about
respect of differences in terms of colour, caste,                      decentralisation(%)
creed, sexuality, capacities, etc.
                                                           Knowledge level Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
        Table 10.41: Use of Media (%)                      Citizen’s charter   8.4      2.0      4.8
 Use of media        Olavanna Vilayur Kollayil
                                                           Component Plan      8.4     2.4       5.2
 Newspapers             55.2        36.0      52.0          It was important to understand the
 Watching                                              women’s knowledge in terms of what changes
 Television              82.0       54.8      78.4     decentralization had brought about in their
 Listening to                                          lives. WCP had been introduced to address
 Radio                  61.6        54.0      32.0     women’s strategic needs and enhance their
 Reading Books          41.6        33.2      35.6     status leading towards gender equity. 51.2%
                                                       women in Olavanna, 50% in Vilayur and 24%
    In Olavanna and Kollayil, more than 50%            in Kollayil said that there were changes in the
read newspapers. In Olavanna, majority read            panchayat after decentralization. Very few
political news whereas in Kollayil, they read          women knew about the citizen’s charter and
social news and advertisements. In FGDs of             WCP although women participate in gram

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                    57
sabha more than men and meet once a week             Olavanna and 84% in Kollayil believed that a
in SHGs. Despite a decade of WCP being               good family can be maintained if women
introduced and several panchayats claiming to        become obedient. The social and cultural
have spent large sums of money for women’s           conditioning prevents women from realizing
benefit, it had not actually brought about any       their self-worth. They themselves are brought
remarkable change in their status. Gender            up in such a way that they internalise
analysis of transferred institutions revealed that   subservient values and this then is transmitted
women hardly received information about              to their own children.
services from the panchayat. Citizen’s charter
was to be published so that it provided              Conclusion
information about all the services of the                 Use of media was mostly restricted to
panchayat but several panchayats had neither         television entertainment and women hardly
published it nor taken measures for its              used libraries. It must be remembered that
dissemination. One wonders whether the               Kerala has a strong library movement but
process of gram sabha is turning very                women who form more than half of the
mechanical. The SHGs mostly had discussions
                                                     population hardly use village libraries. The
around savings, credit and repayments and
                                                     libraries were mostly labelled as men’s spaces
other economic issues and not so much the
                                                     and even young women did not have entry
social or gender issues.
                                                     into these spaces. Perception in relation to
                                                     gender reflected the patriarchal values and
Perception in relation to Gender
                                                     societal norms. Violence was accepted as
    The data shows that most of the women
                                                     man’s right so there were no complaints on
respondents had inculcated patriarchal values.
59.2% women in Olavanna, 56.4% in Vilayur            women’s part unless the violence reached
and 77.2% in Kollayil believed that men              extreme levels.
should have higher status in the family. The              The values, attitudes and mindsets
larger number of women in Kollayil believe           inculcated as part of the socialization in
that men should have higher status should be         patriarchal society will only change if the
read along with the high rate of violence and        necessary atmosphere for questioning and re-
belief in man’s right to beat and discipline the     learning is present in the cultural realm.
wife. Around 60% women believed that if              Women and girls should have opportunities
more women came to power, it would help              for exposure and learning. Spaces for adult
other women.                                         learning is almost absent for women from
    In relation to the factors that prevent          poorer communities. After a day of hard work,
women from having a higher status in society,        thy hardly get time for even necessary rest. The
18.8% said that it is because men are                cultural activities which are being planned as
controlling society and women were                   part of the decentralised governance need to
intellectually poorer; 8.4% women said it is         think of innovative ways in which healthy
because women do not have property or                human relations are also advocated. Gender
income and some said that women’s attitude           equity should also become the focus of cultural
and character was not good. 71.6% in                 interventions.

58                                                     Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala

As mentioned in the beginning, the study of            decentralization, the cooking fuel and energy
status of women was also a process of gender           efficiency seems not to have received much
sensitisation of the entire community. Although        attention. This has to read with the fact that
this is a continuous process, a beginning has          several women suffered from breathing
been made in these three panchayats. The               difficulties. So energy efficient cooking fuel is
process of study through personal interviews,          a practical need which has to be attended to.
FGDs, interaction with CBOs, SHGs, etc.                Reducing drudgery of work and increasing the
helped to bring about a wider awareness of             leisure time of women also is of utmost
women’s issues in the three panchayats.                importance.
Panchayat president and members, with the                   Work participation rates of women
help of expert and consultative committees             especially in the traditional sector and in
supervised the study and called for a special          agriculture had reduced. In the agricultural
gram sabha to discuss the findings.                    sector, due to conversion of land for clay-
     The data clearly shows that all the three         mining, conversion to cash crops and as real
panchayats had succeeded in extending the              estate, women are losing work. The fall in
basic amenities like houses, drinking water and        paddy prices due to the agricultural policies
toilets and this is a success of the                   of the state and lack of implements also
decentralization programme. But this has not           affected women adversely. The traditional
enhanced women’s status with regard to the             industries which engaged women like
possession and control of assets. Only a small         weaving, coir-making, fisheries etc were also
percentage of women had house or land in               in crisis. Difficulty in procurement of raw
their names. Women should have ownership               materials, lack of skill up gradation, lack of
of land and housing and at least in the                improved technological support etc led to
schemes of the government, such norms like             women losing their work. This is an area which
joint title deeds can be enforced. Drinking            requires urgent attention. Support for new
water continues to be a concern in many areas.         designs, promotion of the use of materials
Very serious effort has to take place to recharge      made of natural fibres etc can help to revive
the ground water and also popularise                   these traditional industries. While younger
alternatives like roof water harvesting. Serious       generation may not opt for backbreaking and
attention has to be paid to ecological                 tedious occupations of their mothers like fish
consciousness raising regarding need of green          vending, vegetable vending, coir making etc,
cover, waste management , water                        the jobs which they get are in the totally
management etc                                         unorganised sectors which are more insecure
     Women mostly used firewood as the main            and with meagre salaries like sales girls,
source of fuel. Though smokeless cooking               working in petrol pumps, Xerox shops etc.
stoves was quite popularly known, it had not           Migration of young girls for work also into such
been widely used in the panchayats. Even in            sectors is of concern. The local governments
the thousands of houses built during                   should start collecting data of such

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                  59
unorganised sector employment and also of         responsibility of women. Most of the women
out migration of young women for work and         underwent tubectomies and there was
take preventive steps ,especially against         underlying and subtle force by the medical
trafficking.                                      professionals. It was considered the easiest
     Within home, domestic work is                method to be enforced on women after the
considered entirely women’s responsibility.       second delivery. Male responsibility in sexuality
With the advent of SHGs and related work,         and fertility is imperative for women’s health
women’s burden has increased. Male children,      and well-being. Responsible sexual behaviour
like their fathers hardly contributed to          has to be inculcated right from the school level.
household work. This was due to the strict        Life skill education programmes should be
gender division of labour and stereotypes         made part of formal and informal educational
enforced by society.                              processes. The health workers in the primary
     Livelihood remains one of the most           health centres should be reoriented to be of
important issue to be addressed by the local      assistance in sexual and reproductive health
governments as women do not own assets like       rights and issues in the broader sense and not
land or productive capital neither do they have   just in family planning matters.
sufficient education or skills. The situation          Democratic governance demands on
seems grim. Just by making available credit,      equal participation of both genders. Yet
women cannot start enterprises and carry them     political participation of women is found to
forward. They need handholding for                be very poor. Women’s representation as party
considerable time before they can continue        members or trade unions or clubs was lacking.
with an enterprise on their own.                  Very few women expressed their opinion in
     Women had never received education           the gram sabha. Knowledge about
according to their satisfaction due to poverty    decentralization, citizen’s charter and WCP
and lack of interest of parents to educate        was dismally low. The public space is
them. Very few women had received technical       predominantly a male space. Although the
or vocational education. Community                presence of women is increasingly becoming
colleges attached to important educational        visible, qualitative participation of women is
institutions of higher learning in the state      lacking.
could help women acquire skills and                    Most of the women were members of
knowledge which will help them in life. Since     SHGs. Similar products were produced by
most women in Kerala complete their               many SHGs through their micro enterprises
reproductive cycle by the age of 26-28, this      and there was a taboo in relation to direct
seems a very important initiative which the       marketing . There was no co-ordination
state government can think of.                    between the various groups as regards the
     Only some women from Muslim families         products they manufactured. Many women
knew about menstruation and sexuality before      who belonged to the poorest section of the
marriage as part of their religious education.    community could not afford to pay the weekly
Menarche was considered polluting and             amount of Rs.10/-. So in a way, a scheme,
impure and women looked upon the                  which started for women from poor families,
experience as demeaning. This engendered          excluded the poorest. Very few groups in the
hatred about their bodies. This also              areas of the study had regular meetings. They
contributed to their lack of confidence. Family   felt reluctant to discuss their social and familial
planning methods was considered the sole          issues as the SHG has not yet been formed as

60                                                  Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
a socially oriented and trusted group. There is       practical and strategic gender needs. Toilets
great potential in the SHG movement, if they          should be constructed in a manner which is
are transformed into not just an economic             not too water consuming. Kitchens should be
organisation but a women’s organisation with          designed in a manner which is well ventilated
proper orientation and guidance.                      and women do not have to inhale the smoke.
     The women were very concerned about              Girl friendly toilets should be constructed in
the squandering of wealth for marriages,              schools. The strategic needs should be fulfilled
alcoholism and husbands indulging in the              by providing younger women with skill
abuse of women but they did not feel that even        training in non-stereotypical occupations
SHGs could be used as a space for these               especially for those who have stopped
discussions. Despite the seemingly higher             schooling by 10th standard. Women, especially
status of women in relation to health and             those engaged in agricultural work on leased
literacy standards, women were subjected to           land should be provided loan with subsidy so
severe forms of violence mostly by their              that they have improved access and control
husbands. Sexual harassment within marriages          over the land and income and are able to earn
was common but women preferred not to                 profit. The services of Primary Health Centre
discuss this issue. To counter the increasing         and jagratha Samithi should be co-ordinated
rate of violence, jagratha samitis set up by the      to reduce domestic violence and child sexual
local governments need to be strengthened             abuse. Life-skill education should be
and activated .                                       incorporated as part of school curriculum and
     Planning should be formulated to achieve         efforts should be made to increase man’s
gender equity and equality by satisfying both         sexual responsibility in family planning.

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                61
                                          FOLLOW UP

To discuss the draft findings of this study,       Anganawadi teachers were provided life-skill
special gram sabhas were facilitated in two        education classes and adolescents were given
panchayats, where the Panchayat Committee,         a three-day session on life-skills. The core team
officials of transferred institutions, ADS and     from each panchayat, some of whom were
CDS bodies of Kudumbashree, women and              elected as members of Panchayat in the last
men experts and several women from SHGs            election carry forward the gender-sensitive
participated. The Panchayat president              planning.
presented the report and findings were                  In Alappad, an anganawadi cum resource
discussed in various subject groups. Several       centre was constructed and made functional.
suggestions like the issue of unequal wages,       A well-stocked library also was set up. The
compulsory registration of marriages in the        resource centre is expected to become a centre
panchayat, formation of vigilance committees       of activity for the women in the village. It
(jagratha Samithi) to counter and deal with
                                                   intends to do a skill mapping of women in the
violence, clear dissemination of information
                                                   panchayat and act as a local employment
about the services available in the panchayat
                                                   exchange, a training centre and a place for
etc were raised. These suggestions were further
                                                   cultural activities. Libraries for women are also
discussed by the representatives from each
                                                   set up in Vilayur and Olavanna.
subject group and attempts were made to
                                                        Status study of women can be the basic
incorporate these suggestions into planning.
The special gram sabha led to the realization      premise for gender planning. It can assist in
that all issues touching women’s lives could       realizing the position of women and in listing
be discussed in the gram sabha. In Vilayur, as     down practical and strategic needs. This can
a follow-up workshop and a medical camp in         be converted into projects to be included in
relation to reproductive health issues were                                             .
                                                   the general planning and WCP The status
conducted and several women were extended          report can be used for the purpose of gender
treatment. A workshop was held with experts        sensitisation and drawing solutions from the
to discuss about the possibilities of water-shed   gram sabha. The entire process can lead to
management in Vilayur. (They were linked to        grater sensitization on gender in the local
Dr. Sankar, Kerala Forest Research Institute.)     governments and it sinstituions

62                                                   Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
                                                Appendix 1

                                 Study of SHGs in Panchayats

Self-help groups are the micro-level                  four panchayats of Olavanna, Vilayur, Alappad
organizational form, where women come                 and Kollayil. Each Panchayat had an average
together every week and deposit a certain             of 100 to 200 groups. The number of members
amount as savings. Although this form existed         in each SHG varied from 10 to 47 women with
as credit unions earlier, in Kerala a pilot process   the highest in the panchayat of Olavanna. All
of linking this with local governments was            groups had not undertaken micro-enterprises
conducted in the two districts of Malappuram          or income generation activities.
and Alappuzha. Following the Alapuzha and                  The amount deposited individually by
Malappuram experiments, the state                     most women was 10 rupees per week. They
government decided to extend the process              take loans mainly for treatment and other
through out Kerala. The Kudumbasree mission           health needs, purchasing uniform and books,
of the state was started in 1998 as a                 construction of house, for other economic
participatory, community-based programme              needs in the house, etc. Many groups
for fighting poverty. Its objective is “To            deposited the revolving fund of Rs.5,000 they
eradicate absolute poverty in ten years through       received from the Panchayat in the bank; some
concerted community action under the                  used it to start various micro enterprises.
leadership of local governments, by facilitating           Various skill trainings were given to women
organization of the poor for combining self-          like tailoring, paper bag making, washing soap
help with demand-led convergence of                   and bath soap making, candle making, coconut
available services and resources to tackle the        products, incense stick making, umbrella
multiple dimensions and manifestations of             making, bag making, pickle making, fruit
poverty, holistically” (          processing, fabric painting, fish products, and
The strategy was to form Neighbourhood                fishing net (codent) making
Groups (NHG) of poor women representing                    Meetings were held in various NHGs in
15 to 40 families in area. NHGs will be               the afternoon in between 3 to 4 pm once a
federated democratically into Area                    week. Usually meetings were held in any
Development Societies (ADS) at the                    member’s residence. Very few were held in the
Panchayat/Municipality Ward level and then            public places such as Mahila Samajam office
into Community Development Societies (CDS)            or other public buildings. Topics for discussion
at the Panchayat/Municipal level. This                in the meetings were mainly about the savings
organizational structures was meant to provide        and credit and other economic activities of the
opportunities for collective public action.           group, social and family problems.
When NHGs are organised in all wards, it can               Economic activities mainly undertaken by
act as a powerful subsystem of the Grama              various groups were stitching; tailoring, goat-
Sabhas/Ward Sabhas and it is conceived that           rearing; rice cultivation; paper bag making;
the NHGs will strengthen the decentralisation         bakery; collecting coconut, converting it into
process in Kerala .                                   copra (drying it) and extracting oil; collecting
     A survey of SHGs was conducted in the            and pounding rice and selling; soap and soap

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                63
powder making; book binding; cow rearing;           meetings and money for weekly deposits.
pickle making; cleaning powder/phenol               Middle class women were neither interested
making; candle and incense stick making; coir       in economic activities or taking up social issues
making; codent (fishing net) making; running        nor political mobilization. There is no
grocery shops; fabric painting and ayurvedic        recognition of these units as forum or space
medicine (lehyam) preparation                       where gender issues can be addressed or
     The achievements which the members             raised.
perceived were that women had started                     Kudumbashree has heralded a system of
coming out of the house, involved in the            group guarantee, which can benefit poor and
banking activities that was strange to them         marginalised women. It has been observed
before, participating in sabha and public           that since these groups have been formed
meetings. The economic benefit was gained           merely for economic purpose, insecurity is
through income-generation activities, financial     strongly reflected. There is internal bickering
assistance at the time of financial crisis and      and quarrels. Women deposit Rs.10 every
increase in saving habits.                          week with great difficulty as many of them
     They perceived personal development as         were not engaged in any income generating
ability to communicate personal matters,            activities but are just housewives. They either
ability to communicate before others, ability       take it secretively from their husband’s pockets
to take initiative, increase in helping mentality   or manage to squeeze 2 to 3 rupees from day
and increased mingling capacity. At the             today household expenses (buying fish and
knowledge level, there was better exposure to       vegetables) to make up Rs.10 a week. They
the community, opportunity to learn new             are extremely panicky and nervous if they
things, acquire more knowledge, and increase        perceive something is wrong with the
participation in gram sabha. There was              accounts. This leads to internal factions and
improved neighbourhood relationship and             quarrels among women. Members of the
better mutual co-operation. The difficulties        groups have not been given management
faced by them were poor economic condition,         training in accounts keeping and they are
curtailment of mobility by family members and       handling the huge amount of money for the
increased work burden. Muslim women were            first time.
not being permitted to come out of the house              Women do not have to run to money-
and engage in economic activities. Some             lenders and their small financial needs can be
groups perceived difficulties as lack of space      met by loans from their own deposits at the
for purposes like storing grains, space for book    rate of 2% interest. However, it has been
binding, lack of market, loan not been repaid,      observed that some groups especially in one
alcoholism and drug addiction of men and            of the panchayats have borrowed from some
violence against women.                             banks at a very high rate of interest mainly for
       Kudumbashree extends credit to the           the purpose of procuring gold ornaments for
women who have no assets to pledge. This is         dowry. The purpose for which loans has been
an extremely positive aspect but it has been        taken mostly reinstates/reinforces gender
observed in all the 4 panchayats that the           inequalities.
poorest working class women are not                       The structure of economic gains which
members of Kudumbashree as most of them             Kudumbashree has been trying to enforce
work in unorganised sector with no fixed            extends threat of social pressure as ultimate
timings. They do no have the time to attend         sanction against non-repayment. In one of

64                                                    Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
the panchayats there are severe frustrations               There are very few instances of groups
among SHGs who have to give back the                  which have intervened in cases of domestic
revolving fund to the panchayat as a                  violence or suicides of women. Such issues
contribution to build a market space to sell          have been taken up only when they have been
their products. This step has created divisions       part of the erstwhile Mahila Samajams or party
among SHGs.                                           based women’s organizations
     The process enhanced interaction with                 There is a lack of co-ordination among
officials, increased mobility and resultant           various SHG groups and lack of awareness
dignity and self-esteem. But, due to sufficient       about the economic activities which various
lack of recognition for their activities and some     groups are involved in. Many groups make the
change in gender relations as women have              same things, and marketing becomes
began to move out, they are also being                extremely difficult. Due to lack of trust and
subjected to domestic violence. Domestic              interest, women withdraw deposit all of a
violence has not yet been taken up by most            sudden and leave their groups. There is a
groups as a public issue.                             dearth of women who can take on the
     Their participation in gram sabha has            responsibility of President and secretary
increased; the main reason for this being the         position in the group.
announcement by Panchayat members that                     Though ideally women’s say in household
unless women members of Kudumbashree                  decision-making could increase but in these
participate in gram sabhas, they will not             panchayats, we have seen that conflicts have
receive benefits and also to enquire about            begun in relations at home resulting in violence
revolving fund. This has resulted in the              and there has been no acquisition of assets.
increased participation of women in gram              The external control is by men even if there
sabhas. Men are few in the gramsabha. The             are acquisitions of assets. In one of the
question to be raised is that whether men             panchayats, sewing machines were given
think that important decisions can be taken           under WCP but the group was split as only
outside and is influenced by party politics and       some women knew using the stitching
the conduct of gramsabhas is merely a                 machine and the others did marketing but
formality. Women hardly feel that the                 there was resentment among those who did
atmosphere in the gramsabha is congenial for          stitching as they feel they worked harder.
them to express their needs. They have never          Finally, due to clashes within the group the
considered it as their forum to raise their           control was transferred to men completely
strategic needs. And also never felt or perceived     defeating the purpose for which it was
that their issues can have political resolutions.     conceived.
     Casteist and communal elements are also               There has been reluctance to take loans
affecting the original objective with which           due to fear of repayment, and apprehension
SHGs was initiated. Various religious and caste       of the success of project undertaken. The
organizations and institutions as well as NGOs        groups in Olavanna said that their real
have started organizing women under SHGs              problems were wife beating, sexual abuse in
and eventually poor women take multiple               schools, and ostentation during marriage,
memberships to appease everyone and receive           alcoholism of men etc. They wanted to
benefits. There is a potential danger that            address these issues before initiating economic
casteist and communal elements can make use           activities.
of these forums to pursue their vested interests.          There has been a transformation of

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                65
women’s domestic activities into commercial         resources, or market. A few skill training they
ones. If men take on tasks performed by             got from panchayats initiated by
women, it is considered ennobled and                Kudumbashree are never been reviewed.
transfigured. When men undertake cooking as         There is lack of co-ordination in the activity
an economic activity, they are lauded but           undertaken. Even though they produce for the
women are not recognized as hotel runners           community, there is limited effort on the part
but have to struggle hard for it. The location      of the panchayat to achieve co-ordination in
or site of labour has not changed and has           marketing. Whenever the panchayat conducts
remained within homestead or near it the            seasonal fairs (mela) for selling the products
nature of productive activity changed from          by SHG, it turned out to be a great success.
private production for household                    For instance, the Onam fair held in
consumption to commercial activities for sale.      Panthirankav (Olavanna) brought in good
Women are hesitant to engage in marketing           profits and this boosted up the confidence of
as there is stigma attached to it and they are      women. Harita Mitram (Kollayil) has been
subject to eve teasing.                             successful in even selling their products in
     Though there are opportunities for             Trivandrum city. Yet there is no constant
participation in training programs and              monitoring of these activities by the concerned
workshops, they can never neglect their             authorities.
domestic duties and men do not share any                 The state have seen women as ‘tools’ for
household chores. Women perceive                    poverty eradication just as women’s bodies
themselves as dependent on men. In focus            have been used as tools for fertility control as
group discussions, men questioned as to who         part of family planning and population control
would look after home if women went out for         policies. What is always perceived as needs of
economic activities. Politicisation also acted as   women are needs of the individual families
hindrance where groups are referred to as           and not the collective needs of women. There
particular party groups or caste groups.            is also a marked difference between economic
     Group feeling and social mobilization has      well being and ‘eradication of poverty.
not enhanced. There has been no change in           Kudumbasree defines Poverty as “ There has
gender relations. Issues like domestic violence     been no discussion about redistribution of
have not decreased. It has been accepted as         resources or control over assets. In the era of
husband’s right. SHGs are considered merely         globalisation, where the markets rule the
as a place to deposit money and rush back.          world, the question whether the micro level
They manage to squeeze time out of their daily      financial services without access to basic
schedule with great difficulty. The economic        productive resources would lead to poverty
activity has often become an added burden           eradication is basic question one needs to
and duties and roles within the household           explore. The Kudumbashree programs also lays
remain unchanged. Muslim women in both              down empowerment as its ultimate objective.
Olavanna and Vilayur have hardly come out           The notion of empowerment has also to be
or formed SHGs.                                     reviewed as it is understood and followed.
     Mobility which some women have gained          Women’s collective agency to address issues
through SHGs has been inspiring. They have          which enhance their status and gives them
received training at panchayat and block level      control over all aspects of their lives have to
but training has not been related to skills,        be aimed at.

66                                                    Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
                                                Appendix 2

                   Gender issues in relation to Tsunami at Alappad

[In Alappad, the study of status of women had started along with the three other panchayats
but could not be completed due to the Tsunami which struck the village. Soon after Tsunami,
the core group of animators were involved in trauma counselling and rehabilitation. After a few
months, they undertook a survey to understand the gender issues in relation to the disaster,
which killed about 180 persons, mostly women and children and left many in deep trauma.
The following is the report of this survey of about 100 women who were affected by the tragedy.
At the time of the study, they were all living in temporary shelters]

Alappad, a small strip of land in between the         together. Women who engaged in small
sea and the backwater, in Kollam district. The        enterprises also lost their equipments. Disaster
major source of income has been fishing in            relief, being very slow, people had to live in
both the sea and lake. Most of the families had       camps and tents for several months.
a good standard of living and possessed                     Most of the men were engaged in fishing
electronic items and furniture. Many poor             as source of income. Tsunami affected their
families had received the two roomed uniform          source of livelihood. Most of them lost their
houses from the famous ashram of                      work equipments. One man who engaged in
Amrithananda Mayi. The community based                auto-driving lost his auto. Some of the women
panchayat called Karayogams played a                  who had lost children and were engaged in
significant role in resolving legal disputes and      coir making earlier stopped going to work now
most of the people were affiliated to                 due to depression. Several male partners of
karayogams. There were several arts and sports        women respondents had started consuming
clubs and the youth actively participated in          alcohol as they are in possession of the money
various processes within the panchayat. There         paid as compensation. Those who were
were separate libraries for women. Though the         engaged in fishing in the sea did not know /
families lived close to the sea, women were           have the expertise to fish in the backwaters.
not familiar with the sea and were not taught               Some women who were engaged in coir-
swimming. Women had never engaged in any              making, fish peeling and drying, and tailoring
work outside the home except codent (fishnet)         had lost their work and equipments. The
making.                                               peeling shed where they worked had been
     We had begun the study of the status of          destroyed. As the canal had been filled with
women in Alappad as in other panchayats.              silt from the sea, they could not soak coconut
But, Tsunami (December 26th, 2004) forced us          husks required for coir making. Unavailability
to change the direction of the work. Tsunami          of fish has also affected their work. Some of
completely led to the destruction of northern         the women engaged in cow-rearing lost their
areas of the panchayat, where houses and all          cows. Some women who were working in
assets were washed away. It claimed about 180         cashew-nut factories had also stopped
lives mostly of children, women and elderly.          working. Some could not leave children who
Men lost most of their fishing equipments and         were frightened of staying alone and go to find
were thrown out of work for several months            work. After the SHG groups came into being,

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                67
some women were engaged in business like            surgeries in the hope that they would be able
making rice powder and selling firewood but         to conceive. A mother who lost her 20 year
they had also lost all their equipments. Most       old daughter suffers from psychological
of the people completely lost their houses,         problems and sleep disturbances. This woman
furniture, electronic items including TV, mixi,     saw her father and grand mother dead. She
fan, fridge etc.                                    also saw the wife of her younger brother die.
     When Tsunami took place, most of the           Her daughter’s body was only found on the
women were engaged in domestic chores               second day. She feels extremely guilty and
either inside or outside the house. As the sea      wishes that she had died. Lack of knowledge
receded, many of them ran to see the sight and      of Tsunami also was a constraining factor. One
before they could run back, the waves came          of the women who lost her child was
rushing with ferocity and they lost control of      constantly blamed by her husband as she had
themselves. All of them held their children         gone to see the receding waves. Old women
tightly but the velocity of the waves led to        also suffered severely due to their
children falling from their hands. Some of them     grandchildren’s death. Some old women were
escaped by catching / clasping coconut trees        taunted by their grandchildren saying that
tightly or clinging to windows till they were       anyhow they are old and would die soon and
rescued by men who took them in boats in            if they had died in Tsunami, the families would
the canal. Many of them witnessed the sight         have received compensation!
of their own dear ones floating in the water             The situation in the camps or temporary
dead. One pregnant woman ran to an                  shelters also was traumatizing. The camp run
auditorium and climbed up to the stage with         by the army was comparatively better. Here
a child in her arms. She clung to a pillar till a   some NGOs had conducted play and drawing
boat reached to her rescue. Women lost their        activities for children. Pregnant women
lives as they were not familiar with sea and        received check-up by women doctors.
had not been taught swimming. Their clothes,        Pregnant women and children received
especially women clad in gowns, had their           nutrition food. Other camps did not have
dress filled with air and they could not remove     these facilities. But privacy was limited. There
their dresses or move swiftly. Women’s lack of      is dispute among people when survivors of
knowledge about swimming, their dress code          dead receive benefits.
and their inability to climb trees were the major        The affected were immediately removed
reason for many women and children dying.           to camps soon after the Tsunami but they did
     The post tsunami trauma has affected all       not get clothes for the first 2 days. In most of
but especially the women and children.              the places, sanitary pads were not available.
Children are now frightened to go to school.        Clothes and undergarments were mostly
They had lost their concentration. Especially,      obtained after 3 days and some women only
those children who had lost members of their        changed their dress after burial rites of their
own family felt severely traumatized. Man-          children. The role of panchayat and karayogam
women relationships especially sexual               in Tsunami rehabilitation was viewed
relationships were severally affected.              negatively by all respondents. There were
Alcoholism of men had increased and some            protests against Panchayat members for not
of them used the monetary compensation for          actively participating in the rehabilitation
drinking . Women who had undergone                  process. Most of the women suffered from
tubectomy went through re canalisation              menstrual disorders mainly due to anxiety. A

68                                                    Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
woman who lost her husband had to cope up             Women who had lost children were still
with her son’s anger and disobedience. A              suffering from mental agony.
woman’s husband teases her that if she had                Our focus group discussion revealed that
died, he would have got compensation and              women especially who lost children from their
this verbatim frustrates her. A woman who lost        own arms had been subject to severe violence
both her 12 year old daughter and 8 year old          by their husbands. They had been prescribed
son has lost her mental balance. She has              psychiatric drugs for their mental agony.
undergone recanalisation operation. A woman           Counselling had been engaged in by various
who had 2 daughters, one of whom had been             organizations. The situation has changed at
affected by cancer and amputated her leg lost         present with most of the families being
her life after Tsunami. Her husband who had           rehabilitated in homes but the quality of certain
deserted her came back after Tsunami but              houses is questionable. Gender-trainings for
there is no change in his habits.                     women made us realize that women had
     Survivors of dead people received                picked up their strengths and had begun
compensation, which was deposited in the              engaging income-generating activity. Sakhi
bank, but other work related equipments had           supported the Panchayat in the construction
not been given. So most of the men had not            of Child Development Centre and Women’s
started working. The play, drawing and theatre        Resource Centre, which will extend women
activities for children had helped revive their       space to meet, conduct training programs and
spirits and in diverting attention to studies.        enhance their source of knowledge.

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                 69
                                          Appendix 3

               Indices of Parameters to Measure Status of Women

1. Women’s access and control over private             deciding tasks
   resources                                      •    Time spend on different activities, leisure
• Ownership of and decision making power          •    Whether wages are handed over or
   over private assets (land, house, livestock,        managed by self
   equipment, jewellery etc) and income           •    Control over household expenditure
   accruing from assets                           •    Proportion of income contributed to the
• Savings                                              household
• Family income                                   •    Expenditure on personal needs
• Food                                            •    Choices available for their waged labour
• Access to housing finance                            and degree of freedom to exercise choice
• Women’s position vis-à-vis inheritance          •    Wage differentials
   laws                                           •    Relationship of education, land
• Impact of globalisation on patterns of               ownership and men’s employment status
   spending                                            to women’s employment
• If women are employed, do they have             •    Access to and control over marketing
   more decision making
                                                       activities (who sells products, determine
                                                       prices, transport)
2. Women’s access to public resources
                                                  •     Integration of women into emerging
• Gender division of labour in fuel and water
                                                       market in deciding what to produce and
                                                       in consumption
• Problems with access and availability of
                                                  •    Division of labour in household and
   cooking fuel and water
                                                       subsistence production
• Nature of health problems and access to
   and expenditure on personal care               •    Participation in labour unions
   (including reproductive health)
• Food security                                   4. Women’s control over their bodies
• Calorie expenditure and nutritional level       • Decision making power in marriage
• Formal education level and reasons for          • Decision making power in child –bearing
   lack of access to formal education                and birth control (including number,
• Access to and utilization of child care            gender preference, contraception and
   services                                          abortion)
• Access to housing and sanitation, banks,        • Decision making power in sexual relations
   credit, electoral rolls etc                       with partner
• Access to technology                            • Experiences of physical violence and
                                                     mental abuse (including rape, wife-
3. Women’s control over their labour and             beating, communal or caste violence,
   income                                            harassment at workplace)
• Nature of waged and non waged work              • Social attitudes towards women’s
   done by women, level of autonomy in               sexuality

70                                                    Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
5. Women’s control over their physical                7. Women’s access to and control over
   mobility                                              intangible resources
• Key places within and outside village/              • Access to information, knowledge, skills
   town/city visited                                  • Women’s participation in the community/
• Places women can visit alone, whether                  gram sabha
   they are escorted and by whom                      • Capacity to negotiate, bargain and
• Places they can go at night                            promote own interests
• Places they cannot go because of their              • Strength of women’s collectives
   gender, caste or community                         • Whether networks, federations and other
• Places they cannot go if menstruating,                 large organizations are present
   widowed etc
• Co relations with caste, community etc
                                                      8. Women’s position in Law and Access to
                                                         legal structures and redress
6. Women’s access to and control over
                                                      • Constitutional and legal provisions for
   political spaces
                                                         gender equality
• Women’s participation in elections-as
   candidates and as voters                           • Judicial attitudes to women
• Decision making about whom to vote etc              • Women’s awareness of law and their rights
• Membership of political parties (including          • Whether any of their rights have been
   panchayats, women’s collectives, unions,              violated; if yes, actions taken; if violence
   federations, caste or communal                        experiened, what decisions were taken
   associations                                       • Access to and experience with police
• Nature of participation in these bodies             • Access to and experience with courts

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                               71
                                            Appendix 4

                             THE STUDY OF STATUS OF WOMEN
                                       Model Questionnaire

 District         :
 Panchayat :
 Ward             :
 Interviewer      :

I. Personal information
1.    Age :     1) 15 – 20    2) 20- 45         3) 45 – 60   4) Above 60 years
2.    Religion 1) Hindu        2) Muslim    3) Christians
3.    Caste     1) Upper caste
                2) Scheduled caste/tribe
                3) Other Backward Communities
4. Marital Status
   1) Married          2) Unmarried         3) Widow
   4) Deserted         5) Divorced          6) Separated

5. Age of husband
   1) 15 – 20    2) 20 – 45    3) 45 – 60     4) above 60
6. Education of husband
   1) Below 8 years     2) 8 years     3) 10 years        4) 12 years        5) 15 years

7. Husband’s occupation
   1) Professional       2) Government Service
   3) Private service     4) Business
   5) Self-employment         6) Traditional occupation
   7) Labourer      8) Technical jobs         9) Abroad

II. Family information
8. Family
     1) Nuclear family    2) Joint family
     3) Staying alone

9. Who leads the family
   1) Woman       2) Man

10. Number of family members

11. House
    1) Own        2) Rented  3) Tenancy        4)Lease
    5. Husbands family house
    6.Wife’s family house     7. With siblings

72                                                   Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
12. If house is not in your name, then in whose name?
    1) Husband           2) Joint          3) Children

13. Do the family have land not associated with the house?
    1) Yes              2) No

14. If so, in whose name?
    1) Own         2) Husband           3) Joint
    4) Others

15. How did the family get the land?
    1) Paternal ancestral property
    2) Maternal ancestral property
    3) Bought      4) Got as dowry

16. Toilet
    1) Own          2) Sharing     3) Public          4) No

17. Drinking water (Source)
    1) Own well        2) Public well          3) Public tap    4) Own pipe connection
    5) Pond            6) River                7) Rainwater harvesting

18. Electricity connection
    1) Yes               2) No

19. Cooking fuel
    1) Firewood           2) Gas        3) Kerosene
    4) Electric Stove     5) Biogas

20. Equipments at home
i. Electronics
    1) Fridge       2) TV       3) Phone                      4) Washing Machine         5) Mixi
    6) Radio        7) Heater   8) Vacuum Cleaner             9) Mobile Phone
ii. Work equipments
    1) Tractor/Tiller     2) Mechanised boat                  3) Chinese dip net (Fishing Net)

iii. Vehicles
     1) Cycle     2) Scooter/Bike       3) Autorickshaw
     4) Car         5) Truck/Lorry       6) Jeep

III. Work
21. Does anyone help you in domestic work?
     1) Yes           2) No

22. If Yes, who helps?
    1) Husband      2) Other men         3) Other women
    4) Son       5) Daughter

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                73
23. Do you work outside the house?
    1) Yes            2) No

24. If Yes, what work do you have?
    1) Professional       2) Government Service
    3) Private service     4) Business
    5) Self-employment          6) Traditional occupation
    7) Labourer      8) Technical jobs       9) Abroad

25. Do you engage in any work which adds to your family income?
    1) Yes            2) No

IV. Income/Savings/Debt
26. (Women having own income) Do you hand over your income to husband?
    1) Yes          2) No

27. Are you able to save?
    1) Yes              2) No

28. If Yes, for what do you save?
    1) Education of children     2) Health needs
    3) Buy gold      4) House construction
    5) Marriage needs          6) To buy Land    7) Old age

29. For what do you spend the major portion of the family income?
    1) Food    2) Children’s education     3) Treatment
    4) Repay debts            5) Alcohol consumption

30. Are you indebted?
    1) Yes                      2) No

31. If Yes, purpose of the loan?
    1) Treatment         2) Marriage needs
    3) To give dowry      4) Build house    5) Buy land       6) Buy equipments for house
    7) Buy work related equipments
    8) Work related trips abroad      9) Buy vehicles

32. From where do you take loan?
    1) Bank    2) SHG’s      3) Private financiers
    4) Friends  5) Relatives        6) Individuals

33. Is it your personal responsibility to repay?
    1) Yes                2) No

34. Who takes decision in relation to purchase of food items?
    1) Own      2) Husband          3) Joint    4) Others

74                                                     Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
35. Who takes decision in relation to purchase of clothes?
    1) Own      2) Husband          3) Joint    4) Others
36. Who takes decision in relation to purchase of gold?
    1) Own      2) Husband          3) Joint
    4) Others

37. Who takes decision in relation to purchase of costly electrical equipments?
    1) Own      2) Husband          3) Joint    4) Others

V. Education
38. Are you educated?
    1) Yes      2) No

39. If No, what are the reasons for not studying?
    1) Poverty     2) Lack of interest
    3) To look after younger siblings
    4) Lack of parental interest
    5) Distance to school       6) Health problems
     7) Poor in studies    8) Married
    9) Lack of other members in the house

40. If Yes, how many years did you study?
    1) Below 8 years          2) 8 years       3) 10 years
    4) 12 years               5) 15 years      6) above 15 years
41. Were you able to study as much as you liked?
    1) Yes             2) No

42. What are the reasons?
    1) Poverty     2) Lack of interest
    3) Look after younger siblings
    4) Lack of parental interest
    5) Distance to school       6) Health problems
    7) Poor in studies     8) Married
    9) Lack of other members in the house

VI. Marriage
43. If married, age of marriage………………

44. Were you interested in marrying at that age?
    1) Yes             2) No

45. What was your husband’s age when you got married?

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                               75
46. How much gold was received the time of marriage?
    1) Below 5 sovereign   2) 5 to 10       3) 10 to 20              4) 20 to 30
    5) 30 to 40            6) 40 to 50      7) above 50
47. What was done with the gold?
    1) Kept in locker       2) Pawned      3) Sold            4) Gave as dowry for sister-in-law
    5) Sold for new house   6) Gave your daughter

48. How much money was given during marriage?
    1) Below Rs. 50,000
    2) Between Rs. 50,000 & Rs. 1,00,000
    3) Between Rs. 1,00,000 & Rs. 2,50,000
    4 ) Between Rs. 2,50,000 & Rs. 5,00,000
    5) Between Rs. 5,00,000 & Rs. 10,00,000
    5) Above Rs. 10,00,000 lakhs

49. What was done with this amount?
    1) Deposited in Bank       2) Bought House
    3) Used for the needs of the husband’s house
    4) Spend for treatment
    5) Spend for children’s education
    6) Spend for dowry

50. Was house given during marriage?
    1) Yes           2) No

51. If Yes, in whose name?
    1) Own         2) Joint   3) Husband          4) After father’s death,I will get the house
    5) Only a share of the house

52. If you got a house, what did you do?
    1) Sold        2) Presently staying in it
    3) Gave children      4) Gave for rent

53. Was land given during marriages?
    1. Yes       2.No.

54. If Yes, in whose name?
    1) Own         2) Husband          3) Joint

55. If you received land, what did you do?
    1) It remains in my name itself      2) Gave to the children           3) Sold       4) Constructed
    house in that plot

56. Was vehicle given during marriage?
    1) Yes             2) No

57. Were work equipments tools given during marriage?
    1) Yes          2) No

76                                                     Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
58. How did the family managed to get money for purchase of gold, land, house, vehicles etc?
    1) Saving of parents     2) Saved through SHGs
    3) Took loan     4) Help of relatives
    5) Sold the house     6) Sold property

59. Did the husband’s family ask dowry?
    1) Yes              2) No

60. Did the husband’s family harass you for dowry after the marriage?
    1) Yes             2) No

61. If Yes, When?
    1) When children are born       2) During house construction      3) Going to gulf
    4) Time of other children’s marriage        5) For treatment       6) Buying land
    7) For repaying debt       8) When my family property was divided
    9) Without reasons

VII Sexuality
62. Age of menarche ?.....................

63. Did any one inform you about menstruation before your menarche?
    1) Yes            2) No

64. What do you use during menstruation?
    1) Clothes               2) Pad/Napkin
[65-85 questions for married only]
65. Did you get information about sexuality before marriage?
    1) Yes             2) No

66. From whom?
    1) Mother       2) Sister       3) Friend     4) Books
    5) Religious Classes          6) Internet

67. Do you discuss sexual matters with your husband?
    1) Yes             2) No

68. Do you have any sexual problems with your husband?
    1) Yes            2) No

69. If Yes, What are the problems?
    1) Doubtful/suspicious about me
    2) Doubtful about husband
    3) Forced to engage in sexual relationship
    4) Husband’s lack of interest
    5) I am not interested      6) Forced to have sexual relationship in the way I do not like

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                              77
70. Have you approached anyone to solve such problems?
    1) Yes           2) No

71. Who decides about the number of children?
    1) Husband      2) Own       3) Joint
    4) Husband’s mother     5) Husband’s relatives
    6) My relatives

72. Who decides the age gap between children?
    1) Husband        2) Own     3) Joint
    4) Husband’s mother     5) Husband’s relatives
    6) My relatives

73. Do you use any family planning methods?
    1) Yes            2) No

74. If Yes, What methods?
    1) Pills      2) Copper – T     3) Condom
    4) Rhythem period        5) Withdrawal
    6) Tubectomy       7) Vasectomy

75. At what age, did you undergo tubectomy?

76. What are the reasons for not using the family planning methods?
    1) Lack of knowledge            2) No children    3) Husband’s lack of interest
    4) Own lack of interest

77. From where did you get information about family planning methods?
    1) Own       2) Husband      3) Health workers        4) Books
    5) Television advertisements    6) Friends
78. Are you pregnant now?............................

79. How many times have you conceived?

80. How many times have you miscarried?...............................

81. How many times have you undergone abortion?

82. How many children do you have?.................................
    1) Boys    2) Girls    3) Boys-Girls

83. The type of deliveries?
    1) Normal           2) Caesarian

78                                                          Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
VIII. Health
84. Do you have health problems for which you need constant medication?
     1) Yes           2) No

85. If Yes, which illness?
    1) Diabetes       2) Blood Pressure    3) Heart illness
    4) Breathing related        5) Stomach related       6) Urinary infection   7) Cancer
    8) Orthopaedic problems          9) Sexual illness

86. Where are you treated?
    1) Govt. Hospital   2) Herbal         3) Private Hospital
    4) Homeo      5) Ayurveda           6) Siddha
    7) Nature Cure

87. Do you go to PHC for any need?
    1) Yes            2) No

88. If Yes, what purpose?
    1) For children’s immunisation
    2) For common illness like fever
    3) Immunisation       4) Check-up during pregnancy
    5) Children’s illness

89. What the reason for not using the PHC?
    1) Distance      2) Lack of medicine
    3) No doctor      4) No facility to treat
    5) Lack of necessary staff
    6) Private hospital in proximity

90. Have you undergone hysterectomy?
    1) Yes           2) No

91. Does your husband have the following habits?
    1) Alcoholism      2) Smoking
    3) Chewing tobacco     4) Drug addiction
    5) Pan parag/Shambu       6) Card playing

92. Are there financial problems due to this?
    1) Yes               2) No

IX. Politics
93. Are you a member of any political party?
    1) Yes            2) No

94. Do you vote?
    1) Yes                2) No

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                         79
95. Are you a member of any organisation?
    1) Yes           2) No

96. If Yes, in which organisation
    1) Religious organisation       2) Work organisation  3) Political
    4) Co-operatives           5) SHG’s     6) Mahila Samajam        7) Cultural Organization
97. Do you participate in the meetings of these organizations?
    1) Yes              2) No

98. Who is your ward member? …………………………..

99. Do you know your MLA/MP?
    MLA 1) Know       2) Do not know
    MP          1) Know     2) Do not know

100. Do you participate in gram sabha?
    1) Yes             2) No

101. Have you had chance of expressing your opinion in     gram sabha?
     1) Yes          2) No

102. What are the achievements after becoming a member of SHGs
     1) Could come out of the house and work
     2) Saving habit
     3) Saved from high rate of interest of private money lenders
     4) Lead to self-growth          5) Could repay debt

103. If Yes, have you experienced any difficulty while working in SHGs?
     1) Yes             2) No

104. If Yes, what difficulties?
     1) No time after house work
     2) Constraint by husband
     3) Constraint by husband’s relatives
     4) Question of leadership of Sangha
     5) No money to give every month
     6) No money to get regular income
     7) Involvement in public problems

105. Do you think there have been achievements in your panchayat after decentralisation process
     1) Yes     2) No      3) Do not know

106. Has your panchayat published the citizen’s charter?
     1) Yes     2) No      3) Do not know

80                                                   Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
X.   Mobility
107. For what reasons do you go out?
     1) Work related              2) Home related                  3) Visiting friends
     4) Attending meetings        5) Religious reasons             6) Pleasure trips
108. Do you go out alone?
     1) Yes     2) No

109. Have you experienced harassment while travelling?
     1) Yes    2) No

110. During travel, have you experienced any harassment like staring, vulgar comments, teasing etc
     1) Yes       2) No

XI. Violence/Legal Mechanisms
111. Do you know any women in your neighbourhood who experiences domestic violence?
     1) Know        2) Do not know

112. If know, who are they?
     1) Relatives       2) Neighbours                 3) Friends
     4) Colleagues

113. Have you experienced physical violence any time in your life?
     1) Yes    2) No

114. If yes, what type?
     1) Physical violence( beating, kicking,)
     2) Hitting head on wall     3) Hitting on stomach
     4) Trying to burn     5) Threaten to kill
     6) Breaking vessels     7) Destroying food
     8) Destroying clothes

115. From whom did you experience violence?
     1) Father      2) Mother     3) Brother    4) Husband       5) Sister
     6) Father-in-law      7) Mother-in-law    8) Brother-in-law
     9) Sister-in-law     10) Neighbour      11) Other relatives
116. Have you ever experienced mental torture any time in your life?
     1) Yes          2) No
117. If Yes, what type?
     1) Insulted in front of family members/others
     2) Always suspicious
     3) Children made to stay apart

118. From whose side were such problems energy?
     1) Father             2) Mother                       3) Brother         4) Husband   5) Sister
     6) Father-in-law      7) Mother-in-law                8) Brother-in-law
     9) Sister-in-law      10) Neighbour                   11) Other relatives

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                    81
119. Have you ever experienced financial torture in your life?
     1) Yes     2) No

120. WIf Yes, what type?
     1) Extravagant use of money      2) Create debts
     3) Constant alcoholism
     4) No money for domestic needs
     5) Did not give money for personal needs
     6) Did not go for work
     7) Did not permit her to go for work
     8) Takes mt whole salary

121. From whose side?
     1) Father     2) Mother     3) Brother     4) Husband            5) Sister   6) Father-in-law      7)
     8) Brother-in-law       9) Sister-in-law
     10) Neighbour      11) Other relatives

122. In your life have you experienced sexual violence?
     1) Yes             2) No

123. Nature :-
     1) Unnecessary touch
     2) Forced to have sexual relations
     3) Forced to have relation in the way I do not like
     4) Forcefully showed pornographic picture

124. Who is responsible for this?
     1) Father      2) Mother     3) Brother            4) Husband                 5) Sister
     6) Father-in-law         7) Mother-in-law          8) Brother-in-law          9) Sister-in-law
     10) Neighbour            11) Other relatives
125. Did you seek anyone’s help while experiencing violence?
     1) Yes      2) No

126. If yes, what measure were taken?
     1) Spoke to family members
     2) Spoke to relatives
     3) Spoke to neighbours       4) Spoke to elders
     5) Spoke to women’s groups

127. Have you experienced violence during pregnancy?
     1) Yes    2) No

128. Do you think husbands have right to beat wiives?
     1) Yes     2) No

82                                                      Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala
XII. Media/Religion
129. Do you read newspaper everyday?
     1) Yes     2) No

130. If Yes, which news you have interested while reading?
     1) Political            2) Social        3) Cartoon        4) Cinema
     5) Death, Marriage      6) Cookery       7) Advertisements

131. Do you listen to radio?
     1) Yes      2) No

132. If Yes, what programmes do you listen?
     1) Film songs       2) Radio songs
     3) Agricultural programmes     4) News
     5) Educational programmes

133. Do you watch television?
     1) Yes    2) No

134. If Yes, which programmes?
     1) Serials         2) Cinema          3) News           4) Other entertainment programmes
     5) Sports          6) Religious programmes              7) Educational programmes
     8) Agricultural programmes

135. Other than newspapers, do you read magazines and books?
     1) Yes          2) No

XIII. Perception in relation to gender
136. What qualities should a good woman have?
      1) Discipline    2) Humility     3) Sense of responsibility         4) Cleanliness
      5) Tolerance     6) Patience     7) Loyalty                         8) Obedience

137. Do you think that men should be given higher status and position than women in the family
     1) Yes     2) No

138. If more women come to power, will it benefit other woman?
     1) Yes     2) No

139. Why women are not given high status in family and society?
     1) God has created human being like that
     2) Women are intelligently backward
     3) Physical differences
     4) Women do not have own property or income
     5) Men control everything in society
     6) Male dominance

140. Do you agree to the statement that to maintain family peace and integrity, women should subjugate
     1) Yes      2) No

Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala                                                83
1. Status of rural women in Karnataka, Srilatha Baltiwala, B.K.Anitha, Anitha Gurumurthy,
   Chandana.S.Wali & produced by National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, 1998
2. Manaveeyam Sthree Padavi Padanam-Training Handbook (Draft) State Planning Board, July 2000
3. Shtree Padavi Padanam – State level Training Manual (draft) distributed in the state level training
   for women task force members in 2000 July & Published by State Planning Board, P     .165
4. Vanitha Survey Project report, Bisonvalley gram panchayat, 1998-‘99
5. Shtree Padavi Padanam focused on health status of women, Chembilodu Gram Panchayat, Kannur
   District, 2000)
6. Shtree Padavi Padanam, Aamballoor Grama Panchayat, Ernakulam 2000-01
7. Shtree Padavi Padanam, Pinarayi Grama Panchayat, Kannur 2000
8. Shtree Padavi Padanam, Olavanna Grama Panchayat, Kozhikode, 2002-2003
9. Shtree Padavi Padanam, Kulanada Block Panchayat, Kollam 2004.
10. Census 2001; Economic review, Government of Kerala 2002 & 2003; NFHS-2

84                                                     Gender and Panchayatiraj: Status of women in Kerala

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