- India Linkage Program
The India Linkage Program (ILP) 2000-2003 promoted greater interaction and cooperation between civil society organizations (CSOs) in Canada and India. Our aim is to facilitate diverse linkages and strengthen existing partnerships between these two sectors in order to further dialogue, research, knowledge, coalition building and action toward advocacy and policy change. This new initiative of South Asia Partnership (SAP) Canada, which started in September 2001, focuses on local governance and human rights, with gender equality as a cross-cutting theme.
Why an India-Canada partnership building program?
We recognize Indian civil society’s involvement in South Asian regional cooperation, the country’s strategic importance in the region, and the tremendous growth and dynamism displayed by Indian civil society in the last decade. We believe that the sector’s cutting edge work in the sphere of human development needs wider exposure in Canada; and that Canadian civil society can gain in many ways from cooperation and exchange with Indian civil society. Similarly, Indian civil society can also benefit from the innovation and knowledge of Canadian civil society.
ILP is not a funding program. It is based in Ottawa, Canada. ILP does not have an exclusive relationship with South Asia Partnership (SAP) India. Rather, it connects and works with relevant organizations in India and Canada as needed. The India Program Manager visits India roughly twice a year to work directly with Indian CSOs and is in touch with them year round via e-mail and phone.
In Canada, besides CSOs, ILP is reaching out to the South Asian-Canadian community, the Canadian government, the academic community and Canadian media and public. In India, the target is CSOs and academics working on local governance and human rights issues.
Program activities are developed in consultation with Canadian and Indian CSOs. Activities in Canada encompass documenting information and showcasing resources on education and communication, and conducting campaigns that link Canadian and Indian civil society organizations working on the two issues. ILP plans to facilitate skills building workshops for enhanced North-South partnership and cooperation, in the future.
Gender and Governance:
Good governance is an issue of great importance in South Asia. An essential feature of good governance is promoting people’s participation in decision-making, including the participation of women in governance at all levels. Many countries worldwide are using various means to enhance women’s participation in governance. ILP has chosen to focus it’s initial efforts on promoting greater participation of women in local governance, in India and Canada.
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment that was passed in India in 1992 gave formal constitutional recognition to local self-governance units at the village and town level. Most significantly, it reserved 33 per cent of seats for women. Today, an estimated one million Indian women hold political office at that level.
In September 2001, ILP brought Dr. Bidyut Mohanty of the Institute for Social Sciences (ISS), New Delhi, on a four-city tour of Canada. ISS is a leading Delhi-based research and advocacy organization that works on local governance and democracy, among other issues. Dr Mohanty spoke of the wide-ranging impact of the reservation policy for women to a cross section of Canadian civil society as well as government representatives. She met with key organizations in Canada during her visit and returned a year later to speak at the Global Governance Conference held in Montreal in October 2002. Read Dr. Mohanty’s report.
In May 2002, ILP and ISS co-hosted an information sharing and networking meeting of Delhi-based CSOs variously working on the issue of women’s participation in local governance. Based on the learning from this exchange, ILP and ISS are currently developing a new project.
ILP participated in the Knowledge Sharing Workshop on Gender Equality and Local Governance organized by the International Centre for Municipal Development (ICMD) of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) in September 26- 27, 2002 at Gatineau, Quebec. The program brought Patricia Pinto, an elected, municipal, woman representative from Panjim, Goa, India, to speak at the workshop. She is a leading environmental activist and community leader working with the People’s Movement for Civic Action (PMCA) and the Goa Environment Federation (GEF).
ILP organized an exposure tour to introduce Pinto to innovative Canadian municipal initiatives on gender, environment and civic issues. This provided her Canadian counterparts the chance to gain knowledge about urban governance and women’s issues in India. After returning to India, Pinto talked to her constituency – local government and CSOs – about her experiences and learning in Canada. As a result, councillors in Panjim are expressing an interest in promoting schemes for women through municipalities. They are also thinking in terms of setting up a landfill site, as garbage is a big problem here. (Pinto visited and obtained comprehensive information on landfills during her Canadian visit.)
Land Rights and the Right to Livelihood: In Fall 2001, ILP ran a web-based campaign on the struggle for land rights in India. Here we highlighted the work of the North India-based Ekta Parishad (United Forum) which uses Gandhian advocacy methods to mobilize tribals, low castes dalits, the rural poor and women to work together to fight for land, water and forest rights. Their aim is to make access to land a national priority. The majority of India lives in villages; hence land is a key issue here.
In July 2002, we hosted a presentation on this topic by Jill Carr-Harris of Ekta Parishad. She is a Canadian who lives and works in India. Her talk has initiated a process of Canada-based organizations and individuals interested in this issue coming together to form a Canadian support network for Ekta Parishad.
In February 2003, Ekta Parishad undertook a campaign in the Central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, to focus on the issue of land, water and forest rights of marginalised farmers and forest dwelling tribals. These people are being forced off their traditional habitat to make way for top-down industrialization and tourism. These new interests do not address the issue of the resulting loss of livelihood for the farmers and the tribals. SAP Canada and the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at Carleton University in Ottawa facilitated a simultaneous information, advocacy and fundraising campaign on this issue. /P>
Other human rights issues in India: In March and April 2002, ILP hosted a presentation-discussion, Human Rights of Marginal Communities: The “low caste” Dalits of India, in two Canadian cities, Ottawa and Waterloo. The speaker, Arpita Anant, was an Indian Commonwealth Visiting Research Scholar spending a year at Queen’s University in Canada. In December 2002, SAP Canada brought Toronto-based, Indo-Canadian journalist, Sidharth Bhatia, to Ottawa to speak about Indian secularism under trial: The emergence of militant Hinduism and the future of Indian democracy. Both events received good media coverage. Read Sidharth Bhatia’s report. These context-setting presentations are aimed at Canadian CSOs, government, public and the media. The aim is to provide essential background information for doing effective development work in India and promoting an understanding of social issues there, thus creating a knowledge base for the Canadian constituency.
Khoj India Directory. In Summer 2002, ILP completed a directory of Canadian CSOs working on Indian development issues. Called Khoj India, it is based on the results of an electronic survey conducted among targeted Canadian CSOs, academics and private firms. (Khoj means search in Hindi, India’s national language.) The directory features 48 CGOs, 8 private sector firms and 22 academics that work on Indian development issues.