Gandhi envisioned a village-based democratic process in India. In 1993, this vision was incorporated into the 73rd Constitutional Amendment, formalizing the Panchayati Raj system of local governance.
Village-elected leaders form a Panchayat Council (women have one-third representation), which has a budget to reinvest state funds in locally-identified projects for health, education, and infrastructure.In the last ten years, however, this system has failed in many states largely due to lack of educated, informed, and empowered village leaders.
Future Generations Aruanchal partners with the state government to train all 6,000 village-level Panchayat Councils. Training builds skills in community-based decision-making and workplan implementation.
This work began in 1998 through a local organization, Future Generations Arunachal. Initial activities trained women in how to save their children from preventable deaths. Building from this success, women’s groups formed, and mothers volunteered to be trained as Village Welfare Workers. Men became involved through Farmer’s Clubs and Local Coordinating committees. By 2005, more than 100 villages had formed women’s groups, farmers clubs, and local coordinating committees.
To date, fifty local trainers have taught a core curriculum to 416 Gram Panchayat Members across three districts.
These Gram Panchayat Members have initiated a process of community decision-making and workplan implementation in their villages. Workplans have addressed the need for expanding income through micro-credit and savings schemes, sanitary latrines, and immunizations for children.
In concert with Panchayat training, the second phase began in 2006 to establish 10 model Panchayat communities to be learning and doing centers for statewide outreach.
In one site, Future Generations Arunachal works to transform the traditional government health clinic into a more effective community-based primary health care center that promises to be a model for the state. Similar demonstrations are being proposed for village-based ecotourism initiatives.