Indian Women Not Using RTI Act Enough, Activists Say

18 February 2013

Women in India are not using the Right to Information Act as much as they should, according to persons quoted in an article on the subject by Partha Sarathi Biswas in the Indian Express.

One indicator cited is the low registration in training classes sponsored by Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHDA).

Former Central Information Commissioner is quoted as saying that low participation of women in the RTI process is a matter of concern.

YASHDA, which conducts a three-month certificate course on RTI. It has held 17 sessions with round 40 participants each time. The largest number of women was eight and the lowest number was two.

Prahlad Kachre, director RTI cell of YASHDA, is quoted in the Feb. 6 article as saying: “Women who undertake the [training] are from a mixed background. Journalists, and women public information officers (PIO)s constitute the bulk of participants who take this course to improve their knowledge about RTI.”

The low participation, Kachre said, is caused by lack of awareness and also a general lack of empowerment of women.  “But a good trend we noticed is that homemakers, although few, are enrolling for the course,” he said.

The article also notes a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) audit four years ago that found awareness about the act was 12% in women as compared to 26% in men.

Gandhi said he had noticed that only 5-8 percent of second appeals were being filed by women. “Grassroot awareness in women, through community based organisations and self help groups might correct the situation,” he said.

Activist Vijay Kumbhar is quoted in the Express article as saying, “Women would be able to make a more sizeable contribution to the Act given the fact many civic and social issues directly affect them.”

According to the Express report, “Suniti SR of the National Association of People’s Movement (NAPM) that had repeatedly been raising the issue, said the tedious follow-up the RTI process requires could be acting as a deterrent. ‘The government should take steps to make the Act more friendly and accessible to women,’ she said.”

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