UMC understands that all city governments are faced with similar issues and concerns and believes that building their capacity can help them achieve a lot on the road to improvement. Nepal and India face similar governance issues. Some cities in India have successfully overcome hurdles to make a difference in urban governance. Nepal was looking for a hand to hold. As part of a GTZ organized program, UMC facilitated a 10-day tailor-made study tour for a 4-member delegation from Nepal. During the tour of the three mega cities of Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram and Vishakhapatnam in July-August 2006, the delegation gained practical knowledge in economic and social development, issues of squatter settlements, micro financing projects for urban poor, access to basic infrastructure services and rural governance and issues relating to Panchayati Raj.
This city in the state of Gujarat has taken many steps to improve service delivery and has worked towards improving lives of the weaker sections of the society. The Nepal delegation was appraised of UMC’s tailor-made activities and programs implemented in the field of urban governance, urban health initiatives, dissemination of best practices within and other institutions, capacity building and training of the officials and performance measurement for cities. The delegation was presented with a compilation of more than 400 best practices in Urban Management documented by UMC. The delegation learnt about housing for the economically weaker sections and how building low-cost housing for them had improved lifestyles facilities for urban poor. They were also shown how Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s (AMC) Slum Networking Program and partnering with NGOs was helping the city build urban poor communities. The delegation was informed about the financial aspects of the slum networking project and how AMC, state government, NGOs and corporate houses are clubbing together to share the financial burden of improving the slums. They were told about the importance of community based organizations (CBO), self-help groups, women’s empowerment, micro-financing and mobilizing communities. The delegates also discussed the various aspects of CBOs and slum networking within Nepal and how they could replicate some of the issues of slum networking back in Nepal. They drew from the example of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and how it has empowered women by providing them with means of livelihood, micro-finance and more importantly, independence. The delegates also visited one of the best models of micro finance banking in the world – Shri Mahila SEWA Sahakari Bank (SEWA Bank). The delegation saw the system of e-governance and tax reforms which have brought about transparency in urban governance.
A visit to Venganoor gram panchayat in Kerala helped the delegates understand the Panchayati Raj system. Venganoor is one of the most empowered panchayats in Kerala. The delegation experienced the Kudumbashree program, a multifaceted women-based participatory poverty eradication program jointly initialized by Government of Kerala and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). The program started within a small municipality to mobilize the community within the urban poor and empowering women. The success led to replication of the program state wide. Today the Kudumbashree Program is a very successful women oriented program within the urban and rural areas. The delegation was appraised of the Clean Kerala initiative and waste collection. The housing scheme at Kanjirampara under Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojna (VAMBAY) was an excellent example for the Nepal delegation to provide basic amenities like housing, water and electricity to the urban poor and those living Below Poverty Line.
The trip highlighted the Urban Community Development (UCD) Program which successfully mobilized over one lakh women in the city. The delegation was also informed about the formation of Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies Act, 1995 (MACS). They were also shown the e-governance systems set up by Greater Vishakhapatnam Municipal Corporation. The delegation visited various community centers set up for community mobilization within slums; these community centers develop skills of women from below poverty line.