Women often feel intimidated to make a Right to Information request alone. However, through acting collectively, in solidarity with other members of their community, they gain confidence and achieve results. By collectively filing Right to Information requests, women – and men – are holding local officials to account, in order to access the services they are entitled to. Below are some examples of the successes of collective action of participants in the Women’s Transformative Leadership Project.
Road to success
In the slum in Bangalore, the women were keen to find out why the road, which had been started but left in a state of disrepair, had not been properly laid so they submitted a series of RTI applications, which led to the road being built. About 60 women submitted RTI applications on 6 different aspects of the project, such as the nature of the tender given for the construction of the project.
The area has since transformed from a rubble area to a much cleaner and safer place for its residents with more businesses setting up along the main road.
The long journey to get disability allowance The women’s group in the village of Muthukapalli collectively made the decision to find out why certain members of their community had stopped receiving their disability allowance. In response, the women’s group decided to raise money to take a trip to the nearest health office, which was 65 kilometres away. Three facilitators took the five handicapped members of the village to meet with the doctor so they could be assessed and thus received the certificate needed to apply for the benefit. It was a challenge as most of them had not left the village before and it was a long tiring day. The doctor obfuscated and asked for a bribe in exchange for the certificate, but they explained that they would go to the police station if they were not each assessed in a professional manner. In the end the members of the village did receive the appropriate certificate and are now claiming their benefit. The women’s group feel pleased that they have been able to support their fellow neighbours.No toilet, no girls’ educationMany of the parents from Muthukapalli village didn’t want to send their adolescent girls who are menstruating to go to school. This was leading to higher drop-outs for young girls. It was discovered that this was partly due to their not being a girls’ toilet in the school.A request was made to the education block officer, and when no response was made an RTI request was filed which immediately led to the toilet being built and girls returning to schools.
Including men on actions – getting a bore-well
The project is directed at women but men are often interested in finding out what is being discussed. In the village of Muthukapalli, Chowrappa who belongs to the scheduled caste was keen to learn from the programme. He explained to GCI that he had applied to a scheme whereby he should have received a free bore-well for his land. A year later he was still waiting. GCI supported Chowrappa to complete an RTI to find out why the bore-well had not been provided. The department contacted Chowrappa directly to say he should take back the RTI and in return money would be offered to him. GCI advised him not to take the money and pursue the bore-well. Shortly after, another meeting was held with the local representative of the Panchayat who confirmed he would receive the bore-well within the next financial year. We were assured that this case would not be dismissed and the necessary documents were shown.