Prema Gopalan

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2003


This profile was prepared when Prema Gopalan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
Prema is empowering women to influence and change government policy from inside the system, creating a "micro-macro" balance that will help stop the tremendous waste of resources. Prema has made it possible for women to be involved from the first step of the policy process: to draft a new sectoral reform policy at the Maharashtra state level to effect a transfer of power and resources relating to water and sanitation to women at decentralized, community institutions and local governments. Prema is now taking advantage of this historic policy to involve the women in promoting community ownership of water supply systems and their management by demonstrating how collaborations between gram panchayats (village administration committees) and community groups that are operated by women can manage water systems.
This is not only changing the way women participate in the planning process for development of their own community, but also creating for them channels of economic development. She and her team at SSP, Swayam Shikshan Prayog (literally, swayam: own; shikshan: learning; prayog: practical application) have been working closely with the government–and now international institutions–to realize their long-term vision: transforming the way water supply and sanitation projects are managed through institutionalized community ownership.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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