Scheme to Empower Minority Women Suffers From Selection of Inexperienced NGOs, Paucity of Funds

Despite Nai Roshni facing many hurdles, a Niti Aayog evaluation of the programme has suggested it continue as 86% of the women who have participated in the scheme claim to have benefited from it.


Niti Aayog has recommended the Nai Roshni programme be continued. Credit:

New Delhi: The leadership development programme for minority women, Nai Roshni, which has been implemented by the minority affairs ministry through NGOs since 2012-13, has run into several bottlenecks that have restricted its reach.

According to the Niti Aayog’s development monitoring and evaluation office (DMEO), which was tasked with conducting a quick evaluation study of the scheme to assess its impact on minority women and identify impediments in its implementation, has revealed that one of the major hurdles to the scheme doing well has been that the experience of NGOs had not been taken into consideration when selecting them to conduct the training programme under Nai Roshni. “As per the findings, 55% of NGOs have only 1 to 2 years of experience and only 30% NGOs fulfill mandatory 3 years of experience,” the report by DMEO said.

The study, which covered 15 districts, 30 blocks, 87 villages and NGOs across eight states, also noted that the benefits from the scheme were restricted as a large number of educated and self-employed women were targeted, who would have accessed the services anyway.

“As per the study result, 25.5% of beneficiaries are Matriculates, 16% are Intermediates, 7.5% are Graduates and 1.7% are Post Graduates. It is expected that adult girls / women with good educational background should have the confidence in interacting with outside world and be aware about health, nutrition aspects as well as government programmes. Objectives of the scheme therefore may not serve the desired purpose, if these women are also included as beneficiaries,” the study said.

The study also discovered that 50.4% of the beneficiaries were self-employed and 2.1% were employed in government departments having exposure to the outside world. Thus, it said, “this could be another instance of non-deserving beneficiaries covered under the programme”.

Moreover, the study discovered that the programme suffered from paucity of funds since its launch. “All the NGOs (100%) which were selected for the study, have informed that the funds sanctioned under residential programmes are inadequate and 44% of those NGOs have also said that the present amount of funds sanctioned for each non-residential training programme are inadequate,” it said.

Another important issue related to funding, the study said, was that “93% of the NGOs have also informed that the implementing Ministry is not releasing the installment amount in time and as a result of which they are hesitating to apply for accepting further training programmes under the scheme.”

Since the period under the survey also covers almost a year-and-a-half under the Narendra Modi government, it is evident that things did not change for the better with the regard to the scheme even after a regime change at the Centre.

Despite its tall claims about working for all sections of the society, as enunciated by the slogan ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’, the Modi government was found wanting in implementing this scheme properly, even though the scheme aims to empower women from the minority communities by providing knowledge, tools and techniques to interact with government systems, banks and other institutions at all levels.

The scheme included various training modules pertaining to leadership, education, health and hygiene, financial literacy, life skills, legal rights of women, digital literacy, and advocacy for social and behavioural change.

When the scheme was launched, it was said that through empowerment it would also help fight for poverty reduction, economic growth and strengthening of civil society. “Women and children are always the worst sufferers in a poverty stricken family and need support. The effort would embolden minority women to move out of the confines of their home and community and assume leadership roles and assert their rights, collectively or individually, in accessing services, facilities, skills, and opportunities besides claiming their due share of development benefits of the Government for improving their lives and living conditions,” the programme literature states.

But, as the Niti Aayog study revealed, the benefits have been limited. As many as 46% of the women surveyed said they were not much aware about the Nai Roshni programme.

As such, Niti Aayog said that although the scheme guidelines lay down the eligibility criteria for the NGOs to be selected for the implementation of the scheme – that they should have been in operation for a minimum of three years – of the 27 NGO selected, only 30% had the necessary experience at the time of the survey.

Since 44% of the NGOs had stated that the funds for non-residential training programme were inadequate, the study has recommended that adequate funds be released to improve the implementation of the scheme. Besides, as 93% of the NGOs had stated that the minority affairs ministry was not releasing the instalment amount in time, Niti Aayog demanded that timely release of funds be ensured for better performance and to increase the number of batches for training.

The study said 515 batches of residential programmes have been conducted by the 27 NGOs in the first three year and only 4% of these were for non-minority women.

Since the training course also includes many important aspects of women’s problems that they face in their domestic and social life, Niti Aayog also suggested that the duration of the six-day programme be increased to at least 10 days. Over and above this, it said on at least two days the beneficiary women should be taken for visits to banks, police stations and government offices of public dealing to familiarise them with their functioning.

The study has also called for making women from the minority communities more aware about the Right to Information Act, especially since 69% of them claimed ignorance about it. “Training modules should be developed in such a way that they have a proper knowledge of both RTI and the laws protecting interests of women – inheritance rights including Marriage Acts, protection from domestic violence as well as any kind of atrocities against them, proper rules as to be followed by police under any kind of violence in cases of their arrest, detention, keeping them in lock-ups in police stations with full safeguards such as arrest in the presence of a woman police, etc,” it said.

Finally, while making a reference to the Persons with Disabilities Act (PwDs), that came into force on January 1, 1996, the study said the law which provides a number of benefits to the physically challenged persons in India is equally applicable to women. Therefore, it said, “in the training module, there is need to include various provisions of this Act mentioning the rights and facilities for PwDs, which are equally applicable to physically challenged women, as provided by the Act, to empower them.”

The study said there was a need to continue with the scheme as 86% of the women who participated in the scheme claim to have benefited from it. “The programme has assisted in creating confidence among minority women and developed leadership spirit among them,” it said.

Coming to the specifics, it said, 80% of the trained women have enriched their knowledge on sanitation and cleanliness. Besides this, 65% of the women trained under the scheme claimed that they are now better aware of the benefits of having a bank account, voter identity card, Aadhaar card, ration card and job card under MGNREGA.