Department for Women, Kerala Government

Recommendations for the newly proposed Department for Women by Kerala Government.

1) The department of women will bring together all the existing gender equality and women empowerment initiatives under one umbrella. DOW will not be another stand-alone department that will replicate the existing efforts. This will ensure better efficiency by encapsulating scattered resources for greater impact (avoiding wastage of resources by duplication). DOW will ensure the continuity, evaluation, feedback and evidence based police making into the existing gender schemes and projects. DOW will be nodal to ensuring the implementation of gender policies from the central government and for partnering with international agencies in their women empowerment initiatives. Gender initiatives under the directorate of social welfare, Kerala social security mission, Kerala state women’s development cooperation. Kerala state women’s commission, Kerala state social welfare board can be unified under the DOW.

2) Collection of needs of women through, www. smartwomen.in. Data collected through this survey will be used to identify the key requirements of women that can be addressed by government. It is important to conduct needs assessment rather than developing schemes based on assumptions. The next stage of survey will focus on the preferred solutions for addressing the requirements. We have seen that women prefer serviced pay and use toilets to she toilets/e- toilets. After preferred solutions are gathered, controlled experiments can be conducted to identify the best alternative before the project is implemented on a larger scale. If the government is keen on the sustainability of the projects, it should encourage multiple service providers to be on board with implementation to ensure incentive to deliver results for continued contract. Timelines and clear indicators should be defined to monitor the projects.

3) DOW has to be staffed with gender experts and employees who have basic academic and professional experience in gender studies. Inefficiency of most of the government projects is caused due to lack of trained staff and extreme nepotism. Government projects where such failures can’t be afforded have experts as leaders and have zero tolerance for nepotism. (classic example: Rail projects by E. Sreedharan). An open and transparent procedure has to be followed for staffing DOW. This is indeed an initiative that cannot afford failure. An open database of experts who can contribute to gender issues based on their field of expertise needs to be created and maintained.

4) In order to the compact the gender inequality that is prevalent in the system, immediate action needs to be taken to implement gender sensitization initiatives from the school level. Recently, actions to curb gender inequality have been in the wrong direction (Official circular to educate girl students about the dangers of love) . We need to start working on instilling the relevance of gender equality and women empowerment among students. Tested and proven training programs (from India and abroad) should be incorporated into our academic programs. We need to avoid reinventing the wheel and avoid allocating funds for developing new curriculum. Parasparam developed by Anjali Menon and her team, is one such initiative implemented in Kozhikode and based on the results the program should be scaled to other districts (https://anjalimenon.wordpress.com/category/am-blog/).

5) Creation of sex offenders list available for background verification for employers (esp for schools). The list will have two parts. One that is accessible to public and the other, which will be accessible to the police department. Criminals convicted by law for sexual offense will be the list accessible to public. The police department will maintain a separate list (which is accessible only to the police department) of all the accused sex offenders. Employers can request the background verification for potential employees for a fee from the police department. This will ensure the revenue required to collect and maintain the list can be generated through a paid service. Background verification is a growing industry in India and the agency best positioned to address this need is the police department. Open real time data on violence against women can be added on this initiative at a later stage.

6) Instead of women-only police stations, the fund allocated for that project can be utilized for making all police stations women friendly. Arranging a room in the existing police stations that facilitate better communication and staffing them with friendly women police officers could be a great move in this direction.

7) Fast track court for cyber crimes against women as the evidence in these cases can be produced at the time of complaint registration itself. Based on the evidence, huge fines should be imposed on the spot (similar to fines for not wearing helmets). This fund must be utilized for investing in IT for tracking and punishing cyber criminals.

8) Media watch agency (Under department of Women) to take immediate action against derogatory content on women, so that they can’t get away with a mere apology. Again imposing fines along with jail time, will result in better due diligence from the media companies. An open technology platform should be created for the public to report disrespectful representation of women in media.

9) Legal Aid Agency that facilitates reporting and follow up of crimes against women. This will ensure that the victim is not penalized for reporting a crime. Legal Aid Agency (funded by the government) will be involved with filing the complaint, follow up and legal representation. Agencies can be run by lawyers and law students to assist women who have to make a complaint but are unable to go to police station. Agency will also provide support for victims in the form of counseling, rehabilitation, monetary support etc.

10) Evaluation agency that will review the progress of projects under department of women. Stringent guidelines for timelines and indicators have to set for monitoring at the launch stage. Evaluation agency will publish the outcomes every month and all media channels can broadcast reports on the failures and success of various initiatives and contribute as an effective feedback systems