Dalit women benefitting from MGNREGS in some states is one of the few positive outcomes of the scheme

Around 14,000 Dalit women have access to work across eight districts in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, thanks to UN Women’s intervention over a period of two years. According to the evaluation done by UN Women, more Dalit women were able to get paid work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), obtain job cards and open bank accounts when compared to two years ago.

They formed unions and collectives to demand work under the MGNREGA, and some of them were even trained to become construction site supervisors at the work sites and utilised the Panchayat and the Gram Sabhas to remove discrimination against them, according to a release.

“We wanted Dalit women to own the entire process – from programme activities to the evaluation. Therefore we wanted them to participate in all aspects of the data collection and share the information with them,” explained Malini Ghose from Gender at Work, an implementing partner in Uttar Pradesh.

“When you look at the total employment under NREGA, it is true that Dalit women are benefitting, but they also face discrimination. For instance, women in general in UP find it difficult to get NREGA employment; in 2010-11, women's share in NREGA employment in UP was just 15 per cent compared to the stipulated one-third and the all India average of 46 per cent. But Mayawati was keen on NREGA, and perhaps one of her achievements was to ensure that ensure that Dalit women are able to get the statutory minimum wage on NREGA worksites,” says Reetika Khera, social activist and economist. For women benefitting under the scheme, the ability to get paid work in the village itself and that too at the statutory minimum wage seemed like a dream come true, Reetika adds. 

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