All-women user committee strengthens women’s agency

Dil Maya Lamini, 47, leads an all-women User Committee that manages a project to build vegetable collection centre in Naukunda Palika in Rasuwa district of Nepal. An active member, Dil Maya motivates her team to keep the arrangements of collection centre ongoing for smooth demand and supply of local vegetables from her community.

User Committees are preferred by the local people as they get an opportunity to participate directly in the development of their communities. Such committees are preferred also for their cost effectiveness, transparent and accountable system. User Committees, by rule, are recommended to be inclusive of 33% participation of women and/or a member from a disadvantaged group in their committees. And, this practice has progressed to include all women user committees, which have strengthened the agency of women, making them aware and empowered to make informed choices. User committees have proven to increase social capital, which is important to foster the strengthening of demand side of governance in the planning process.

As a leader of her committee, Dil Maya feels empowered. “I am more aware and empowered of the rights of women and marginalized groups,” she shared. She is aware of the palika’s resources and knows when to raise her voice to demand equity for projects benefiting women and the marginalized people. “Since becoming the chairperson of the User Committee, I do not hesitate to go to the palika office to get information regarding budget set aside for our Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) activities,” she says.

One of the direct impacts of GESI Audit carried out by Purnima programme in 2020 has been the increased number of user committee formations under the leadership of women. In average, 231 women headed committees have been formed in 22 Purnima supported palikas of Gorkha, Dhading, Nuwakot and Rasuwa. Naukunda gaunpalika has formed all women user committees to implement 18 projects. There were eight such committees last year. The projects handled by the user committees ranged from drinking water schemes, irrigation schemes, vegetable collection centres and the construction of community buildings.

User committees in local governments are formed to implement projects that come through the seven-step planning process of Government of Nepal. Article 102 of the Local Government Operation Act 2017 has given the right to local governments to develop laws, acts, policies at their own discretion. The User Committee working procedure is developed through this right.

Similarly, Rule 97 of the Public Procurement Regulation, gives user committees the right to implement projects under Nepali Rupees 10 million. In palikas, such committees are formed through a tripartite agreement between the palika, chair of the executive committee, and the chair of user committee. A bank account is opened for the duration of the project. Such committees have become the mainstay of development in local governments as majority of the projects are executed through them.

Such committees have been an excellent platform for women, especially from the marginalized communities. The vegetable collection centre constructed at a total cost of five million Nepali rupees through cost sharing from Purnima and Palika with three million and two million Nepali rupees respectively, has also linked the local production with the market. The linkage has strengthened the income generation activities for both women and men ensuring economic resilience of vulnerable community people.

The construction of the vegetable collection centre has increased the efficiency of the nine members of the user committee as they purchase material, keep records and budget, maintaining accountability and transparency through public audits and an information board displaying the project activity. Systematic functioning of the centre is also leading to raised productivity amongst community people.
Women and marginalized groups are gaining confidence through such user committees and are ensuring their voices are heard in decision making for inclusive development of their gaunpalikas.

Text by Seema Rajouria and Sofila Vaidya
Photo: Mott MacDonald