The PRIA experience

This chapter provides an account of community education methods which Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) uses in its efforts to make development and democracy equitable and inclusive. It uses select and representative cases to provide an overview of PRIA's community education experiences. PRIA's community education and training programme is based on the principles of collaboration and partnership with local grass-roots organizations. In its cognitive role, PRIA has provided the participatory research framework for education and training. It has been the main source of information around which training programmes are built. The participatory research framework has a citizenship perspective, too. The education and training of marginalized communities in leadership, for instance, emphasizes nurturing independent, rights-bearing citizens who articulate their concerns and priorities, access resources and opportunities and, with increased capacities, make strategic life choices. Governance should be concerned with the restoration of citizenship rights equally and equitably.

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Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) initiated a project in 2008 on Women Political Empowerment and Leadership (WPEL) to address the gaps in the education and training of women leaders for political roles in institutions of local self-governance, at both urban and rural levels. The Prem Chadha Memorial Youth Leadership Programme was initiated by PRIA in memory of the late Mr Prem Chadha, a founder of PRIA. The programme Strengthening Scheduled Caste Leadership in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) aims to strengthen SC leadership by providing them opportunities for systematic learning; facilitating such learning; and supporting capacity enhancement on an ongoing basis. While women elected representatives (WERs) share a political mandate of leadership as people's representatives, non-WERs from informal associations, self-help groups (SHGs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) assume de facto leadership roles.

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University-community partner equitably contributes their expertise and shares responsibility and ownership to enhance understanding, integrate the knowledge gained, with action to improve the well-being of community members and foster sustainable development. Community-university partnerships can serve as an entry point where local community-based organizations, village communities and public (government) agencies work together in the area of community development and educational enrichment. The cases of Mountain Development Research Centre (MDRC) and Rural Extension Centre's (REC) rural library services show that partnership with community members and civil society organizations (CSOs) has a potential for valuing indigenous knowledge, and knowledge production around citizens' concerns. Rural reconstruction programmes in Sriniketan were primarily organized and coordinated by the REC. The objective of a rural circulating library was to retain acquired literacy skills after education.

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