In several states of India, Residents Welfare Associations (RWAs) have gained importance in governance at the community level. They represent the interface between the Government and the citizen.
The role of RWAs in improving the quality of life for community living, whether in apartments, colonies or gated communities is growing by the day. It is a well-recognized fact that those communities which take initiative and persevere in ensuring that common interests are met, enjoy a significantly better quality of living and have fewer grievances, than those who leave everything to Government agencies alone. At every stage, the awareness and interest of stakeholders, namely, resident citizens’ groups, is very essential for group living.
The last few years have witnessed a significant increase in women’s participation in RWA activity at all levels – from planning and administration to taking up local-level improvements which are location specific for each RWA. Until NCRWA-2014 (National Conference of RWAs) it was evident that women had proven abilities in community activities such as managing slum areas, running schools for the under-privileged, ensuring delivery of government-aided/supported schemes in the health care sector, covering all age groups from infants to senior citizens. From administering polio drops to infants to guiding young families in pre-natal & ante-natal health care, conducting adult literacy classes & organizing local finance groups, the active participation of women has been crucial to the success of programmes at the community level. In fact, their absence in RWA activity was felt.
Today, the role of women in the management of the RWAs in their own residential areas is being witnessed everywhere. Women are ready to regularly volunteer time, energy and skills for their own communities, thinking beyond all obstacles they face.
The broad stages in which women can participate as active Executive Committee Members of RWAs along with men and make a significant contribution are listed below:
- The plan approval/sanction stages for an apartment complex/colony layout – Being aware of rules, bye-laws, ratios of built-up and open spaces, common facilities required and their features (water sources & water harvesting provisions, parking spaces, lifts, illumination, greenery/parks, children’s play equipment, entertainment areas, etc)
- Laying down ground rules for maintenance and future developments – Involving legal expertise to draft the specific set of rules for a particular RWA on all aspects listed in Item 1. Ensuring circulation and display of the rules at important locations.
- Ensuring equity in the use of common spaces and facilities
Making sure that all age groups have their requirements met. Finding out interests in the community for the creation of facilities – libraries, outdoor & indoor games, cultural activities, community get-togethers.
- Identifying the different aspects of building/colony maintenance and persons who will be in charge of overseeing them
Conducting & participating in periodic meetings of the resident’s group. Maintaining regular communication of events and decisions taken on behalf of the group, through circulars, electronic messages. Encouraging participation and feedback from RWA members.
- Common amenities maintenance
Coordinating and following up with civic authorities for bringing about developmental changes as well as for routine repairs & maintenance, ex: water pipe leakages, defective street lights, organizing garbage disposal, controlling stray dogs or mosquito menace.
- Recording and documentation of all matters at a central point or office space – Creating a ready reference of ‘Area Map’ &‘At a Glance’ information of Colony/ Apartment Complex – location, population, list of occupants on date, directory of all resident members, list of important contact persons & phone numbers for all civic amenities, highlights/minutes of meetings held, photo display of important common events related to group living & celebrations, visits by local authorities, etc. Circulating brief monthly newsletter through email/social network groups.
- Group events for children and families –
Conducting events involving all age groups, to promote skills and talents, art, culture, cookery, physical fitness, sports, personality development, etc
- Identifying and disseminating best practices relevant to community living –
Highlighting conservation of scarce resources including, gas, electricity & water, solid waste management, including source segregation of organic kitchen waste & promoting local composting, maintenance of greenery, vegetable gardening, involving children where appropriate & feasible to make them eco-conscious, and any other location-specific useful activity.
- Anita Chavali takes the lead in several Sanitation activities at Hyderabad. In May 2019 her team promoted a campaign for cloth bags to replace plastic carry bags with the active support of the Commissioner, GHMC. She has also initiated the launch of the first-ever e-auto trolley in Telangana State for door-to-door household garbage collection.
- B. Ranju Minhas from Delhi actively conducts several workshops in the city to promote home composting and ‘Freedom from Waste’. She demonstrates & explains the use of a specially designed compost bin at Alaknanda Nilgiri to an attentive audience (June 2019).
Today, many women are professionally qualified, confident and competent to make valuable decisions in matters of common interest at their workplaces. The same skills can be applied to their home environments. All that is required is the will to make a beginning and to perceive that successful group living is the biggest challenge facing citizens today. Arm chair criticism and mere ideas & suggestions without action are ’passe’. The volume and variety of activities involved in running an RWA, call for multiple skills and participation of both men & women. They are a challenge for the collective effort which will benefit not only one’s own family but also the community and the country at large.