Kerala is characterized by high Human Development Index measured in terms of life expectancy, low infant mortality rate and literacy rate. These indexes are not only higher than what is observed in the rest of the country but comparable to some of the advanced countries globally. The demographic profile of women in Kerala indicates better position in terms of life expectancy, sex-ratio, literacy, healthcare regarding IMR and MMR, etc. But the achievements in social development sector do not go hand in hand with the social status of women in Kerala. The participation rate of women in the economic activities has been dwindling year after year. There is a considerable increase in the number of rape cases, dowry deaths, and violence against women. The role of women in decision making process has been very marginal.
As a part of Gender budgeting in the Ninth Plan, the Central Ministry sought to earmark 30% of the total funds in all women related sectors. In the same manner Government of Kerala instructed the local bodies to set aside 10% of their grant-in-aid under Women Component Plan (WCP) for schemes or projects directly benefiting women. Gender Budgeting is part of gender mainstreaming strategy and focuses on a gender based analysis and an equality oriented evaluation of distribution of resources. The basic concept underlying WCP is that women development is not just providing income and employment opportunities, but also better health, education, physical environment, human dignity, freedom etc. WCP ensures participation of women in all spheres of activities, be it expressing opinion, formulating project proposals, monitoring or implementation.
For the past 20 years of experience of implementation of WCP, the study reports reveals that the objective behind WCP is not fulfilled. In this circumstance to assess the performance of WCP, Institute of Management in Government proposed an Action Research project for strengthening women development projects by providing a handholding support to four Panchayats in Kerala- Manickal, Alappad, Eraviperoor and Sholayur Grama Panchayat and make Manickal Panchayat, a model Panchayat, in implementing WCP. Action research of the project has been proposed in Manickal Grama Panchayat to build up a social laboratory which can be replicated by other Panchayats.