The ‘Right’ Approach to Development

Greg Almeida sdb

In earlier times there seemed to be close to no connection between Human Rights and Development programmes. However, today, this has clearly changed. We realize that, both, Human Rights and Development programmes aim at promoting well being and freedom, based on the inherent dignity and equality of all people. In fact, this close connection between the two has led to the emergence of the Rights Based Approach to development. The Rights Based Approach is fast becoming the most preferred method to development work since it is people centred, it has large scale impacts and is sustainable.

A key element in this approach is Empowerment and Participation. Looking back at our development works in Gujarat and M.P, one notices that we only met with a limited amount of success during the past years. For example, the SHG programme had a very narrow focus: saving and lending. The group members were busy with their petty affairs and hence the groups did not make any significant impact on their villages.

It was only after we took up the ‘Governance Project’ in June 2009, that we have begun to see new life and energy in these groups. There is now much stress on the Empowerment and Participation of people in Panchayati Raj Institutions, especially in the Gram Sabhas. The Governance Project aims at empowering rural communities to participate fully in local self governance and thereby access the institutions and policies that are meant to serve them. Several steps have been taken during these past months to ensure the proper implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the villages where we are working. The next challenge is to make the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan function in these villages.

Thanks to the Governance Project, we have started moving away from the Charity model and towards the Empowerment model of development work. With the people getting empowered, village leaders and government officials like the Sarpanch and the Talatis are now realizing that they have to perform their duties and also become accountable. The Social Audits that were recently carried out in many of our villages have been a wake up call, both, to the people and the leaders. Even school children have been made aware of their rights and have begun participating in the Gram Sabhas and other village meetings.

The time has definitely come to make the Rights Based Approach the ‘official method’ of all the development works taken up in our province and the forthcoming Provincial Chapter would be a good time to deliberate on this issue. It is only when people are truly empowered to participate fully in local governance that our villages and our country will be on the sure path to development.

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