Daughters of Democracy
Canada-South Asia Linkage Program
The Canada-South Asia Linkage Program, Daughters of Democracy, promotes greater interaction and cooperation between civil society organizations (CSOs) in Canada and South Asia. Our aim is to facilitate diverse linkages, and strengthen existing partnerships, between these two sectors, in order to further information exchange, dialogue, research, knowledge and coalition building on the theme of women and local government. This is a program of South Asia Partnership (SAP) Canada.
Daughters of Democracy (DOD) is part of a South Asian regional program called SARPPP – South Asia Regional People and Policy Program – funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). This regional program is anchored from the South Asia Partnership International (SAP-I) Secretariat in Colombo, Sri Lanka. SAP Canada is the Canadian Executing Agency for this program, which runs from September 2001 to August 2004. More information on SARPPP can be had from Veena Gokhale, India Program Manager at SAP Canada.
Veena Gokhale manages DOD and is the CIDA liaison for SARPPP. She works from SAP Canada’s Ottawa office and travels to South Asia twice a year. See below for contact information.
Why a linkages program?
This program is an attempt to go beyond the traditional donor-recipient relationship between NGOs in the North and the South and promote knowledge-based linkages, learning and exchange. SAP Canada recognizes that there has been tremendous growth and dynamic change in the South Asian civil society organizations (CSOs) in recent decades. We believe that the cutting edge work of South Asian civil society 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 South Asian civil society. Similarly, South Asian civil society can also benefit from the innovation and knowledge of Canadian civil society.
Why a focus on women and local government?
Good governance is an important issue in South Asia. Essential for good governance is promoting people’s participation in decision-making, including the participation of women in governance at all levels. Many countries are using various means to enhance women’s participation in governance. Some have chosen to focus specifically on women and local government.
India is a leader on the issue of women and local government and other South Asian countries have followed its lead. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, passed in India in 1992-93, gave formal constitutional recognition to local self-governance units at the village, town and city level. Most significantly, they made the provision for reserving not less than 33 per cent of seats for women at the local government level. As a result, an estimated 5 million women have entered local politics, directly or indirectly, in the last 10 years. This policy has influenced India’s neighbours, notably Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Those governments have also initiated policies to enhance women’s participation in local government. Civil society in these countries is supporting these measures and advocating for further change.
The Canadian government and Canadian civil society promote gender equality. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) advocates “gender mainstreaming” in its international aid programs. Though there is no quota system for Canadian women in local government, other noteworthy approaches to women and local government are seen in Canada. (See below for information on Canadian initiatives.)
We believe that women’s political participation is an issue of vital importance in South Asia, Canada and globally. The Daughters of Democracy program can promote good cross-cultural learning and exchange on this issue.
The SAP system’s work on women and local government
SAP Canada works in South Asia through the SAP system. This is a network of partner organizations – SAP Pakistan, SAP Nepal, SAP Sri Lanka and SAP Bangladesh. These organizations, and SAP Canada, form SAP International (SAP-I). All of the national SAPs are working on the issue of women and local government in South Asia. Their work consists of primary and secondary research on women’s participation in local government. The SAP-I Secretariat collates this information to present a South Asian regional picture. The national SAPs also provide training on political participation and related issues to community groups and women. The national SAPs in turn work with a variety of partners – including non government organizations (NGOs) and community based organizations (CBOs) in their countries. In India, SAP Canada is working in partnership with the Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), and a network of other organizations, doing cutting edge work on this theme. The work of our Southern partners gives us a valuable grassroots connection. This connection helps us channel information, experience and knowledge back to Canadian civil society.
DOD is not a funding program. Rather, it is a facilitation, learning and knowledge-building program. The program began in September 2001 as the India Linkage Program. The two themes for this initial program were women and local government, and human rights. After a mid-term review of the program it was decided that the program would focus solely on the women and local government issue and extend it from a Canada-India linkage initiative to one that promoted Canada-South Asia linkages.
In South Asia, DOD works primarily with civil society. In Canada we also work primarily with civil society, including Canadian South Asian organizations, women’s groups, policy institutes, and with government, academia, media and the Canadian public.
Upcoming Activities of Daughters of Democracy
- Web based information: SAP Canada will showcase on their web site information about initiatives on women and local government in India, South Asia and Canada. There is a huge amount of work on this issue in South Asia; we will present the work with which we are familiar. We want to develop an on-line resource that will provide NGOs and CSOs in Canada and South Asia with an overview on this issue. This will help build a common understanding of the issue and lay the foundation for cross-cultural learning and exchange.
- E-mail: SAP Canada will develop e-mail groups of Canadian and South Asian CSOs and individuals interested in the issue and send them updates from time to time.
- South Asian-Canadian CSO maps: SAP Canada and the SAP system in South Asia plans to develop an evolving map of NGOs and CSOs who are working on this issue in Canada and South Asia. This information will be available to interested CSOs.
- Presentations: In September 2001, we brought Dr. Bidyut Mohanty of the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi on a speaking tour to Canada. She spoke of the wide-ranging impact of the reservation policy for Indian women in local government, to a cross-section of Canadian civil society, as well as government representatives. (Read more about her visit under India Linkage Program.)
- In September 2002, SAP Canada brought Patricia Pinto – an elected, municipal woman representative from Panjim, Goa, India – to Canada. She spoke about her experiences as a municipal counselor and environmentalist in Ottawa and Vancouver. In April 2003, Pinto and Gokhale (SAP Canada’s India Program Manager) spoke at the Women’s Political Empowerment Day Celebrations in New Delhi. Organized by the Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), the event was attended by 172 women elected to local government in India, and representatives from Indian civil society, media and academia. (Read more about Pinto’s visit under India Linkage Program.)We will continue to provide information on this issue through presentations.
- Resources: ISS has made two films on the Indian experience of this issue – “Daughters of the 73rd Amendment” and “Swaraj – The Little Republic.” SAP Canada can lend copies of these films, or help people order these films, to show them in their local communities and generate discussion and action. We also have reports (both electronic and print) and books on this topic, as well as some general information on South Asian gender and development issues.
- Report back from the Delhi workshop: Another activity on this theme, funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), based in Ottawa, is an upcoming workshop in New Delhi, India in October 2003 – Women’s Empowerment in the context of local government in India: An assessment. SAP Canada will bring the results of this workshop back to Canada to link the lessons learned from the Indian experience to Canadian dimensions of the women and governance issue, working in collaboration with Canadian CSOs.
- Upcoming forum in South Asia: In July 2004 SAP-I, as a part of its SARPPP program, will organize a forum on Gender and Good Governance in South Asia. SAP Canada will facilitate a Canadian delegate from civil society, including women’s groups, to attend this forum. SAP Canada will also report back in Canada from this forum.
- Linkage example: The aim of bringing the Goan Municipal councilor, Patricia Pinto, to Canada, was to introduce her to innovative Canadian municipal initiatives on gender, environment and civic issues. Under DOD, we will showcase the learning on municipal issues that Pinto took back to India, on our website, and continue to facilitate this learning and exchange.
For more information on Daughters of Democracy, please contact Veena Gokhale, India Program Manager, SAP Canada, at 613-241-1333 ext. 231 or e-mail vgokhale @ sapcanada.org
Postal Address: SAP Canada, #200, 1 Nicholas, Ottawa, ON. Canada K1N 7B7
Activities carried out under SAP Canada’s India Linkage Program (ILP) on the women and local government (September 2001-March 2003)