If India is to reach the Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality, eradicate hunger and promote gender equality, innovative policy solutions are urgently needed as economic growth and overall poverty reduction alone will not be enough. This paper evaluates an attempt in Andhra Pradesh to improve the outreach, quality and accountability of educational, health and Early Childhood Development services by involving parents closely in their monitoring and management. Participatory Education Committees and Mothers' Committees were established in the context of a growing consensus in national and international policy circles that decentralisation and community participation are critical for improved coverage, responsiveness and quality of public services.
Although there have been some clear gains in terms of greater participation among parents in child-related user committees, opportunities for meaningful participation are still mediated to a significant degree by committee members' class, caste, gender and political affiliations. These grassroots parallel institutions have had some impact on service delivery for poor children, particularly in terms of outreach and infrastructural development. They have been less effective, however, in shaping service quality and institutionalising linkages with decision makers who have the power to influence policy development.
Young Lives, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK/UNICEF, 33 pp.