How can women use RTI effectively?

Sushilaben from Saurashtra, Gujarat (India), after the death of her husband, found herself trapped with no resources and alone; her in-laws had taken charge of everything and pushed her out. She had no money, no bank account, and no knowledge of her late husband’s assets – which were rightfully hers. She used RTI to uncover the illegal transfer of her husband’s property to her in-laws, and right the wrong. Her journey with RTI ended with the legal and rightful transfer of her husband’s money and property to her own name.

We can see many such examples of how women across India, urban and rural, have used RTI to further their pursuit of their civilian rights, as well as the rights of their communities. On International Women’s Day last year, the online media-house ‘CounterView’ (www.counterview.org) published a series of stories about women using RTI in the state of Gujarat. This showed that RTI has been particularly empowering for rural women, and for women living with disabilities.

Another such story was that of Lataben, a principled woman, and a university lecturer in North Gujarat, who faced a lot of harassment from trustees who were pressuring her to favour specific students. As a result of refusing to oblige, she faced a lot of obstacles within the university. Lataben was also suspicious about the way the university was spending University Grants Commission funds.

So she filed an RTI, asking for details of university expenses. This revealed many scams and irregularities. Most importantly, Lataben’s courageous move emboldened others to come forward as well – after Lataben’s RTI request revealed harassment from trustees, others spoke up of facing similar harassment as well. Culprits were clearly identified and action was taken.

Another example cited is the story of Ranjanben Vaghela, who lives with visual impairment. She used RTI to learn more about schemes from which she and others like her could benefit. She used RTI to teach others living with disabilities too about the various government schemes from which they could benefit, and for helping others to earn these benefits. She is now an RTI resource person for her area.

There are many other examples, and a range of ways in which women have used RTI to empower themselves, their families and communities. It is clear that RTI is a powerful tool for citizens of all walks of life.