Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Award to Rashmi Singh, Director, Mission Convergence (Samajik Suvidha Sangam), GNCTD
It was a proud moment for all women especially those whose lives have been touched by Ms Rashmi Singh, Director, Mission Convergence, Samajik Suvidha Sangam, as she received the Stree Shakti Puraskar-Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Award from President Pratibha Patil at a glittering ceremony held at the Vigyan Bhavan on March 8, Sunday, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day. Other notable personalities who were on the dais with the President included Ms Krishna Tirath, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and Ms Girija Vyas, Chairperson, National Commission of Women. The Stree Shakti Puraskars are given by the Government of India to outstanding women for their exceptional work in fields related to women’s empowerment.
Granddaughter of Shri Kamta Prasad Singh ‘Kamji’, freedom-fighter and MLA and daughter of Shri Shankar Dayal Singh, noted Hindi author and MP from Bihar, Ms Singh a native of Aurangabad district in Bihar, has inherited her passion for social service from her illustrious forefathers.
A 1989 batch UTCS officer, Ms Singh has distinguished herself repeatedly through her selfless service to the masses especially the poor and marginalized women. She has also organized health camps in Deo, Aurangabad and Majhui, Rohtas districts of Bihar with the support of her father in law, late Dr. R R Singh, eminent medical practitioner.
The award came with high praise from several quarters, with all those who have been associated with her appreciating Ms Singh’s missionary zeal in bringing about social justice and empowerment through a string of reforms and innovative concepts in all her assignments. It has been her constant endeavour to sensitize the government, the policy makers and the people towards various causes concerning women.
Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia acknowledged the role of Mission Convergence, Samajik Suvidha Sangam, pioneered by Ms Singh as Mission Director, which as the name implies is an effort to reach out to the unreached the fruits of social security schemes of the various government departments through a single window platform with a special focus on women.
Currently at the helm of Mission Convergence, a unique initiative of the Government of Delhi to reach the unreached by providing social justice to the underprivileged in an integrated manner through convergence of all existing social security and benefit schemes and empowering them to seek and demand their rightful dues thereby erasing social disparities and psychological distances within society, Ms Singh has in just two years brought the Mission closer to its avowed objectives through her dynamic leadership.
The singular most significant contribution as Mission Director, Samajik Suvidha Sangam, made by Ms Singh is the development of broad based vulnerability indicators for identification of the marginalised poor of Delhi and migrants from neighbouring states like Bihar and UP living in slums and unauthorised colonies without an identity or access to welfare measures of the government. She undertook the Herculean task of leading the identification of each unaccounted poor through this unique process of door to door survey, covering a total of 42 lakh such people in a short span of six months partnering with 100 community based organizations (CBOs). The survey has laid special emphasis on the identification of widows, single deserted women, woman-headed households and homeless women staying in backward areas, slums, and unauthorized colonies under the vulnerable category. With a vision of functioning as a single window facilitation centre for reaching social assistance programmes to the marginalized community, the Mission has opened up channels for the social inclusion of urban poor through its unique model of community outreach with community participation.
In her illustrious career spanning two decades, Ms Singh has consistently strived towards giving a voice to the poor and the marginalized women she came across during her tenure. Moved by the plight of the woman sweepers while working as the Director, Welfare, NDMC, in 1999-2004, she spearheaded their mobilization into an economically and socially empowered force by uniting them under the umbrella of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) Ms Singh had 200 such SHGs formed and thereby ensured that these women were now capable of raising their voices against exploitation and injustice. These SHGs were enlisted for running Mid-Day Meal Programme in NDMC schools replacing outsourced contractors. Among the welfare measures introduced by her are the mobile crèches for children of construction workers, new working women’s hostel and old age home for women and developing a new model of day care centre/recreation centre for senior citizens.
Again, it was at her behest when she was working as the Nodal Officer, NCR for the GOI-UNDP project on National Strategy for Urban Poor in 2004-2006, that a dedicated unit on ‘Urban Poverty Alleviation and Livelihood’ was set up in Delhi to create an institutional mechanism for focused interventions and better linkages to various schemes on livelihood and poverty alleviation with the Government.
In-charge Stree Shakti Programme and ICDS in Delhi, Ms Singh set about bringing in systemic reforms to ensure better delivery of ICDS in Delhi. She set up a model whereby community woman groups like SHGs and Mahila Mandals were actively engaged in running of the ICDS centres and its supplementary nutrition programme. This not only ensured that the supplementary nutrition meant for children and lactating mothers reached them regularly but at the same time provided gainful employment and earning opportunities to hundreds of women from the economically weaker sections.
Ms Singh took the ICDS and the Stree Shakti Programme to great heights during her tenure, making them more participative and inclusive. The latter, an innovative public-private partnership programme, provided outreach services to thousands of underprivileged women of slums and resettlement colonies in the areas of health, legal awareness, vocational guidance and training AIDS counseling and testing, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene. There was a perceptible change in the health-seeking behavior of women with access to health services becoming easier. An extensive cadre of health volunteers was the result of her tireless efforts and with the involvement of 70 NGOs to bridge the gap between demand and supply, around 200 Stree Shakti health camps were organized. The NGOs and volunteers were made partners in the process to pre-register women with adverse health conditions, bring them to the camps and do follow up of those cases that needed further referrals to hospitals. Around 3 lakh women were registered at these camps during her two-year tenure in this programme.
Ms Singh received the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration (CAPAM) Award in 2006 conferred at Sydney, Australia for the Stree Shakti Programme. The programme won the Silver Award out of 112 entries received from different parts of the globe.
Ms Singh worked extensively to augment the status of more such women and create avenues for imparting employable skills to them through GO-NGO partnerships. The canteen at the Delhi Secretariat being managed by woman SHGs is a unique and successful model of her efforts in this direction.
Ms Singh has been instrumental in institutionalizing a network of community based structures called the Stree Kosh (Gender Resource Centres-Suvidha Kendras). 100 such centres were facilitated by her that act as a bridge between the government and the community. These centres act as one-stop facilitation centre for marginalized women and provide regular vocational training courses and assist in instituting SHGs. GRCs also help in building marketing linkages, organize health clinics, provide access to counseling, legal services and access to various government schemes and programmes. This structure has been adopted by the Government of India, Ministry of Women & Child Development as a replicable model for other states in India as announced at the launch of the Mission for Women’s Empowerment by Hon’ble President on March 8, 2010.
As Mission Director, today Ms Singh leads a team of dedicated women officials, social workers, specialists and community workers motivated by her vision and a shared passion to make a meaningful difference into the lives of their less fortunate counterparts.
Ms Singh has won several awards including the Woman of Excellence Award from FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) in 2009. She is also a distinguished speaker and a panelist on various national and international fora on social issues including gender and the rights of the marginalized.