Monday, 24 Feb 2020
Why SEW PDF Print E-mail

The Context

Social Equity Watch has been conceptualised in the wake of one of the worst hit natural disasters of the century, Tsunami that took lives and livelihoods of millions of people in December 2004. The urgency for addressing the question of social exclusion and discrimination emerged from many reports of exclusion or marginalization of Dalits, tribals, minorities, women-headed families and other social categories in post-disaster relief and rehabilitation measures. The earlier experiences in disaster situations like the Gujarat earthquake (2001) and Orissa floods (2001) had already triggered the debate among development thinkers, and the service and human rights organisations on the need to critically look into the exclusion process and to revisit the rehabilitation projects in terms of the visibility and participation of the vulnerable communities, the elderly, women, children, Dalits, disabled and nomads. The relief efforts post-Tsunami highlighted the fact that despite high levels of awareness, good intentions, adequate resources, and accepted standards and principles of relief operations as being universal and non-discriminatory, the marginalised and most vulnerable repeatedly fall by the wayside during program implementation. These sections are not counted for adequate relief and rehabilitation. When they are counted, they are given leftover, substandard, and sporadic relief and are most often left out of substantive rehabilitation measures.

Consultations across a wide spectrum of people from bilateral agencies, INGOs, NGOs and activists from Chennai and other parts of the country agreed upon the need for a systematic enquiry into processes of exclusion and to evolve strategies to address the same in emergency relief as well as other developmental interventions. The process began in January 2005 and was steered by a network of organisations including CARE, Christian Aid, DFID, Bihar Social Institute, Praxis, Social Watch Tamil Nadu and a few others. It resulted in the development of a framework for social equity audit. A core group was set out to analyse the causes and dynamics of exclusion and to enable the organisations and their programmes to be more inclusive. Social Equity Audit is the result of over a two-year long process initiated by this core group composed of diverse civil society representatives ranging from grassroots organisations to INGOs and bilateral agencies. This group along with trained auditors developed the tool that has been tested with six wide-ranging organisations. After the first phase of audits and reviews, it was decided to launch Social Equity Audit (SEA) at the national level. The National launch of Social Equity Audit happened in New Delhi on January 18, 2007, at the India Habitat Centre, Lodi Estate.

Social Equity Audit (SEA) has been conceptualised as a process that brought together a wide set of tools and disciplines to further the goal of inclusion. It is to enable organisations to progress systematically towards social inclusion and equity in their programming and institutional development. Social equity refers to positioning of individuals and groups on par with each other in social, economic, political, and cultural spheres without discrimination and disadvantage. In contexts of exclusion, it seeks to take up measures and programmes to actively engage the vulnerable communities and empower them to fight the oppression at multiple levels so that they have easy access to and attainment of livelihood resources, opportunities and services, and fulfilment of basic freedoms.


Why Social Equity Audit

Most often, organisations take on specific mandates and focus their attention on addressing them through designing necessary programmes. The intention is to implement the programmes efficiently and effectively. For various reasons organisations get identified with specific social groups as beneficiary groups. In identity-based social structures and systems, cutting across the existing social barriers does not happen in the natural course of events for both development actors and community groups.

SEA helps identify excluded stakeholder groups and the barriers that keep them out. It helps the organisation to take necessary inclusive steps both within its own set-up as well as in designing and implementing the programme. Within the organisation, SEA would help identify the absence or lack of equitable representation and participation of excluded social groups like Dalits, tribals, and women in various decision-making and executive bodies. It also helps focus attention on the lack of participation or equity benefit sharing by marginalised groups in the programmes. SEA particularly recognises the exclusionary nature of caste-based discrimination in the NGO context and to address it in the organisational structure, systems, policies, and programmes.


From Social Equity Audit to Social Equity Watch (SEW)

The core group meeting held on 5th May 2009 ratified the need for Social Equity Watch (SEW) and it was decided that Praxis would anchor the secretariat for the same. It was also endorsed that a greater political role for SEW needs to be envisioned. Secretariat will be the executive arm, providing the support, management, and coordination for the process. Social Equity Watch (SEW) would be a larger platform in which organisations and people who believe in inclusive politics would be able to come together. This togetherness is likely to generate fresh debates on social exclusion and ignite innovative ideas on inclusion through participatory practices that enable organisations and communities to effectively move from exclusive to more inclusive approaches and processes. In the current context SEW is envisaged to enlarge the role of SEA by providing a wide platform of diverse interests, visions and aspirations with respect to inclusiveness in all facets of development interventions.

In other words, SEW will function as a platform for sharing the equity concerns and to politically engage in the promotion of social equity in all interventions for development. Social Equity Watch does not intend to confine its focus to disaster contexts and subsequent emergency programmes. It will also look into the strategic interventions and policy initiatives that potentially contribute to exclusion in the long run. This course of action is conceived as a political process that critically looks at the power structures, systems and relations at the micro and macro levels that perpetuate exclusion and discrimination.