Meghalaya is one of the few existing matrilineal societies in the world and it is expected that women would have more decision making roles, however, the issue of authority and power is still a widely debated topic. The matrilineal system followed by the three main indigenous communities of Meghalaya– the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia has its share of limitations. The tribes pass their lineage maternally but when it comes to decision making, women do not have a say in issues related to local governance system.
CLLMP motivates the community to band together to find long term solutions to problems that affect them because of large scale degradation of the landscape around them; this thus mobilizes efforts from all sections. It bridges the gap between different generations who come together for a common cause. With help from CLLMP, the communities receive guidance and support, and with women empowerment being an objective of the project, we also witness mobilization of women in large numbers.
The objective being an inclusive community project, a Village Natural Resource Management Committee (VNRMC) is formed which comprises of the entire adult population of the village, and with many village communities in the state having close- knit relationships; this enables the entire community to participate in the project. There is an interactive session where the community as a whole come together and voice out all their doubts and gets clarity. It is this committee that selects the members of the VNRMC Executive Committee. The council is elected through a democratic voting process and these members are responsible to represent the community.Seven to nine members from the community are selected to be on the council, out of which there needs to be minimum 50 per cent women participation.
CLLMP team members have noticed that many of the villages they have been to are more inclusive and value women’s opinion, although there are instances where this hasn’t been the case. Although most tribes in Meghalaya are matrilineal, women still find it difficult to manoeuvre their way into decision making bodies. They are allowed to sit at meetings but important decisions are almost always made by male members. CLLMP aims to put emphasis on women empowerment by putting women in key power positions in the project. Although the head of the council is the Headman of the village, the other top positions always include women members.
During the project’s baseline survey, it was found that the majority of respondents were men and women participation and engagement in the discussions was found to be very limited. It was noted that there was a need to provide women with a formal space to attend so they could voice their opinions. CLLMP seeks to give women a platform to voice their opinion. As per guidelines, criteria was laid down for the implementation of CLLMP which included the signing of the Green Charter which requires at least 70 per cent of the adult population of the village to be present and half of which should essentially comprise of women.
Moreover, the Village Natural Resource Management Committee (VNRMC) requires one adult male and one adult female from each household as its members and the bank account signatories mandatorily comprise of one male and one female member as signatories.
Meghalaya lags behind in several social indicators affecting women which include- poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, high dropout rates and early marriage among others. However, it must be noted that women in Meghalaya are by and large free from many social taboos and constraints that affect the larger Indian population such as dowry and female foeticide among other social evils.
The project which is by and large for the community goes a long way in setting a perfect example of inclusivity and equity whereby a sense of responsibility is bestowed upon the participants that further enables a sense of ownership towards the project, thereby ensuring its higher success rate.