History

Our Work From the Beginning.

CHSJ was established in 2005 soon after the UPA 1 Government came into power in India. The coalition government adopted a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) with a strong focus on addressing the needs of the poor of the country. The government also established an advisory mechanism for seeking inputs from the civil society. CHSJ emerged through a series of consultations among experienced development sector professionals and public health experts for influencing public policy and services to further health and social justice. Health Equity and Governance became the first thematic focus of CHSJ along with Reproductive Health and Rights which was a thrust of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) that was being developed the government. CHSJ received support from SAHAYOG, a non-profit organisation based in Uttar Pradesh and Population Foundation of India (PFI), a Delhi based support organisation, to establish its credentials. Subsequently CHSJ started working on Men and Gender Equality, taking forward the pioneering work that the leadership in CHSJ had started while they were working in SAHAYOG, UP. In 2018 CHSJ started working on Women’s Leadership and Rights in Kolkata. Over the last fifteen years the work of CHSJ can be broadly described in three phases.

The 1st Phase

The 1st Phase extended from 2005 to 2010 when CHSJ brought together experience from the field work over the last decade or more to influence policy processes. The mission of the organisation was “to promote human development, gender equality, human rights and social justice with specific reference to the field health, in its widest interpretation”. An organisational review process was undertaken at the end of five years and the mission, operations and effectiveness were reviewed and revised.

The 2nd Phase

The 2nd Phase extended between 2010 – 2015 when CHSJ started engaging more closely at the community level. The mission of the organisation was revised to supporting community level groups and organisations to strengthen the operations of equitable, gender-just, and accountable public systems in India with a focus on health. At the same time CHSJ started leveraging knowledge learnt from community experiences to other practitioners and public policy.

The 3rd Phase

The 3rd Phase was between 2015 – 20. The overall mission of the organisation was revised after review to building capacity among individuals and organisations who work directly with communities to change unequal gender relations and support marginalised communities so that they are able to access public goods and services and strengthen governance. CHSJ initiated work on women’s rights and leadership in Kolkata. CHSJ also engaged in developing learning partnerships and communities of practice among civil society and other stakeholders, strengthening the bridges between community experiences, knowledge production and public policy.

Health Equity and Governance – CHSJ began its operations soon after the National Rural Health Mission (subsequently the National Health Mission) was launched with the promise of better health for the rural poor. Health equity was at the core of NRHM. Health equity is concerned about differences in health outcomes and access to health services between different groups of people and is aimed at bringing about a level playing field. It interrogates whether these are fair or just and avoidable and whether they deprive people of opportunities. It also suggests ways of overcoming these circumstances through systematic efforts. Governance relates to ways in which public systems are designed and delivered. CHSJ has been particularly involved in finding ways to ensure that marginalised communities are empowered and enabled to be represented in the governance process to achieve health equity.

1st Phase (2005 – 2010)

The National Rural Health Mission introduced the important concepts of community participation and accountability into public health planning for the first time in India. CHSJ undertook several initiatives to strengthen these components.

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2nd Phase (2010 – 2015)

During these years CHSJ’s focus shifted to strengthening the health equity and governance related practices at the community level. CHSJ initiated one pilot projects to understand how men could be engaged in a gendered practice of accountability in Madhya Pradesh, and in another pilot understood how communities could get engaged in health budgeting and expenditure tracking at the local level. On the other hand, CHSJ started facilitating process of learning and exchange to strengthen the field of citizen led accountability practice in the field of health. Some of the projects implemented by CHSJ during these years were as follows.

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3rd Phase (2015 – 2020)

The emphasis of CHSJ’s work in Health Equity and Governance shifted to building capacity among community-based organisations and to fostering learning collectives. CHSJ also started working more closely with organisations of marginalised communities like trade-unions and with community groups like bidi workers and manual scavengers. CHSJ continued to foster a global community of practitioners on Social Accountability in Health as it hosted the Global Secretariat of COPASAH drawing attention to the need for incorporating it into public policy and highlighting key practices.

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Reproductive Health and Rights emerged as a key health concern after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994. The governments of the world agreed that health programming would henceforth aim at providing appropriate information and services to all individuals and couples to have their desired number of children and enable them to have safe and satisfying sexual relationships. It also promised that all women would be ensured safety in childbirth and all information and services required for their reproductive health care would also be available. The Government of India accepted the ICPD Program of Action promising to change its focus on population control and provide a broader range of services keeping women’s interests and choice at the centre. CHSJ’s work has been consistently promoting women’s health rights including their reproductive health and rights in its work.

1st Phase (2005 – 2010)

The NRHM was launched at the same time as the Reproductive and Child Health (RCH2) programme. The RCH programme was formulated to move away from the earlier target-oriented, population control focussed Family Planning programme and integrated a strong maternal health component. The maternal health component of RCH 2 drew attention to the need for Institutional Delivery and Emergency Obstetric Care moving away from the earlier approach of training Birth Attendants for safe delivery at home. CHSJ along with its network of partners on the ground in several NRHM high-focus states drew attention to the need to secure women’s reproductive rights during this process of change through these initiatives.

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2nd Phase (2010 – 2015)

CHSJ’s focus remained on the fulfilment of women’s rights related to reproductive health. This meant that CHSJ in partnership with networks like the Healthwatch Forum and National Alliance on Maternal Health and Human rights kept monitoring the implementation of quality of care standards within the Family Planning programming while at the same time remaining vigilant about the adverse consequences of coercive population control policies in different states. As Institutional Delivery services were rolled out across the country CHSJ continued to review the fulfilment of maternal health related rights in the service delivery process and highlighted the gaps at various national and international platforms. This active monitoring function performed by CHSJ was appreciated by the Government of India (GoI) and the Director of CHSJ was asked to join various GoI platforms like the Advisory Group on Community Action (AGCA), the Health Steering Committee of the 12th Five Year Plan, National Monitoring Committee of the PCPNDT Act and so on.

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3rd Phase (2015 – 2020)

During this phase, the emphasis of CHSJ’s work on Reproductive Health and Rights shifted to developing capacity among community level organisations to provide feedback to public health services that they received, and strengthening the state level networks as to amplify the grassroot voices. Building on its earlier work on Social Accountability CHSJ was able to introduce social accountability practices into Family Planning and Maternal Health programming in different districts and states. At the same time CHSJ continued to host the Reproductive Health Observatory

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Gender equality is an important concern in our society which recognises the historical disadvantages that women have faced in society. Gender equality requires both women and men to take on different roles and responsibility in society. Women’s empowerment their autonomy and transforming institutions to provide greater space to women and their needs and decisions has been an area of keen interest for the women’s rights movement. However, there is less emphasis on the changes in men which are equally important for gender equality. CHSJ has consistently worked to highlight the need to involve men and focussed on practical ways of doing so.

1st Phase (2005 – 2010)

Several of the founding advisors and leadership of CHSJ were involved in community level interventions to promote the involvement of men and boys of gender equality. This work had started in Uttar Pradesh through the network MASVAW (Men’s Association for Stopping Violence Against Women) and CHSJ initiated several processes to draw lessons from this work as well as building a larger community of practice on this issue.

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2nd Phase (2010 – 2015)

During this phase CHSJ started implementing a series of Field Interventions in partnership with community based organisations in different states in India. At the same time CHSJ was involved in drawing lessons from its own practice in these states and sharing these among gender practitioners in India and globally. CHSJ played an important role of convening learning communities on the issue and also hosted the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium which brought together interested stakeholders from across the world.

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3rd Phase (2015 – 2020)

After hosting the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium CHSJ started functioning as a global resource centre on masculinities and gender Equality. It continued to implement field level interventions starting new initiatives in Jharkhand and West Bengal exploring the role of men in fathering and with the ‘gender synchronous’ approach of working with both women’s groups and with men. The Symposium had also given CHSJ to work closely with a large number of organisations across India and CHSJ consolidated the work through the EkSaath Campaign which was launched across several states to build a large network of male gender advocates in the community.

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CHSJ started working on issues related to women’s leadership and rights in Kolkata with Parichiti from 2019. PARICHITI works with a) Women domestic workers and other marginalised women in and around Kolkata, b) Adolescent girls and c) Kolkata Initiatives. Kolkata Initiatives works with elderly women through 5 drop-in centres reaching out to about 150 women. These women are provided psychosocial support as well healthcare and nutritional support. Parichiti also work with working class men because we believe that men have a role to play in establishing a gender equal world