Women centric stories of sewa
The notion of sewa has been the soul of Bharatbhumi since time immemorial. During our stay in Uttarakhand, we were fortunate to experience the subtleties of this notion of sewa tatva through the sewa karya being done by Sewa International Bharat.
The idea of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", the entire world is one family, can be experienced in its essence through the Self-Help Groups (SHGs) formed by rural women wherein every member not only works for the benefit of members involved but also for the benefits of the community.
"It is because of my involvement in sewa karya that I am able to develop a sense of confidence, fearlessness and learned how to interact with people in the community, and thereby allowing me to develop leadership qualities," said Ranjana Devi Ji, a community leader from Nagdhar village. She further adds that SHG members are an inspiration to her and like a big family for her, and wants to make sure that this noble cause of sewa karya reaches every woman. A SHG is a group of about 10 to 20 people, usually women, from similar socio-economic backgrounds, who come together to form savings and credit groups. They pool their savings together so that members can take loans for small interest. This process creates an ethic that focuses on savings first. The setting of rules and norms of SHGs and accounting of the loan is done in the group by designated members. They have bank linkages as well.
Kusum Devi Ji another community leader from Nail village expressed that developing a habit to save money and helping each other with their needs through inter-loaning mechanism among the members of SHG have increased the self-confidence of women in a tremendous manner, and it has allowed women of her SHGs to become self-reliant. SHGs that have gained maturity have also formed higher collectives such as federation.
They receive a variety of inputs, such as training on agricultural practices and on livelihood-based activities, facilitated by the government or NGOs. The role also has extended to involve a variety of topics, including sanitation, nutritional awareness, and other social issues. SHGs are not simply serving as agents of informal financial institutions but a social capital that can have a long term and sustainable impact on the community with the right amount of support and facilitation.
These SHGs have helped by increasing social capital and trust among women but also their awareness and understanding of a variety of subjects. SHGs can interact with other governmental organizations and other institutions to leverage various benefits.
Kumari Seema Ji from Kimotha village said, "I came to learn computer courses in the centre run by Sewa International's Sewa Yuva Jyoti program which aims at bridging the gap between the demand for skilled labour and the supply of trained technology professionals. Most of us do not grow up with access to even the most basic technology, so when and if we decide to pursue a career in this field, we have a difficult time adjusting to and familiarizing ourselves with different tools of the trade. Empowering underprivileged youth with digital literacy skills not only meets a key workforce demand but also extends much-needed access to education throughout various communities. After getting certified, I started my own training centre supported by Sewa International where more than 50 students from my village come to learn different computer courses every day." She also joined SHG in her village and helped in advancing the sewa karya through kishori samuh and bal panchayat.
“Binaya Devi Jiis a symbol of courage, confidence and sewa in our community," says the members of SHGs of Valli village. Binaya Devi Ji emotionally expressed that she developed an attitude of fearlessness and became more caring and aware towards the needs of her community. Furthermore, after completing the training program of NASSCOM in digital literacy, she received a smartphone and learned how to use it. She also taught other members of her SHGs about the same. NASSCOM Foundation works with the technology industry in achieving its goals of social transformation and impacts through technology.
For over a decade of its existence, the foundation has touched more than one million lives through its efforts towards providing digital literacy, skills for livelihood, supporting Persons with disabilities, fostering innovation, empowering Nonprofits with technology and engaging in volunteerism. She has also learned knitting work through the Sewa Mahila Jyoti program, and is willing to teach other women.
Upon asking a question that what did you get from Sewa International, Meena Devi Ji who migrated to Garhwal from Gujarat, confidently replied that sewa has given her the confidence and ability to stand firmly during chaotic situations of life. She further adds that Sewa International has given her a larger Parivar where she feels a sense of belongingness with everyone, and conveys that it is because of these reasons she is always ready for the cause of sewa karya in a selfless manner. We believe that when knowledge is shared with groups rather than individuals, the cost effectiveness and programme efficiency increase, which results in benefits in the economic, social, political, and behavioural dimensions of empowerment.
Mrs. Soni Ji, who lives in the Tapovan cluster of the Chamoli district, has been engaging in woollen handicraft work for the past 20 years. They carry the traditionally learned knowledge unscathed and want to pass it on to the next generation. Even today they have not given up this traditional work even though they have to face difficulties like financial difficulty, longer working hours and lack of access to good markets in continuing the woollen work. She belongs to a family whose livelihood depends primarily on agriculture. Now the Income from woollen handicraft work provides an alternative source of income for the family.
She said that Sewa International's ALIGN project intervention upgrades skills in local arts and crafts and empowers the women in the rural and hilly areas of Uttarakhand through training on Marketing/Entrepreneurship to migrant families and creating sustainable livelihood sources.
By raising the level of their consciousness in unfavourable circumstances of life, many such women have confidently embarked upon the journey of sewa karya in a selfless manner. Also, by being the catalyst of change in their respective communities, they have manifested the notions of inspiration, intellect, will, wisdom and creativity in a true manner.
It is with a deep sense of humility, and based on our interactions with many SHG members, we have experienced that the matru shakti of Uttarakhand has not only provided the solid foundation and force on which the sewa karya is reaching to the multitude of parivars through various programs but also spreading the essence of the subtlest aspects of the elements of Sewa by their thoughts, words and actions.
Social and Emotional Learning: A Holistic Way to Develop Skills
Our surroundings have a great influence on how we perceive and act on the challenges that we face. The constant frustration arising out of these challenges affect an individual in all aspects of their life. Still, people are less attentive to giving priority to understanding one’s emotions. The unavailability of emotional support makes it hard to cope up with these challenges and differences arise from them.
From the initial years of childhood to the crucial teenage years, an individual goes through various changes (physical, emotional & intellectual). It is evident that during this phase, most of the topics of discussion turned into an altercation between two parties. This increases the chances of misunderstanding and miscommunication. Peer pressure and societal pressure makes them insecure and burdens them with feelings of loneliness, stress, depression and anguish. They find themselves aloof from the whole society. This also has further implications such as reduced interest in learning, apathy toward challenges, and involvement in negative social behaviours.
There is no doubt that these kinds of circumstances were prevalent before the COVID-19 pandemic but they have been aggravated in the post-pandemic period not only in India but around the globe as well. Therefore, it becomes really difficult for students to get used to the new normal. In this scenario the idea of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) becomes more prominent, with its focus on helping students to understand, feel, and express their emotions.
Social Emotional Learning
The whole idea of SEL and experiential learning became really crucial in recent times. The ASER 2019 data provides quantitative evidence to assess SEL of young children in India. The study was conducted across 26 districts in 24 states and in 14 languages covering a wide range of cultural and social diversities. The results reveal both the limited skills that children acquire in SEL, therefore both the ASER 2019 report and further the National Education policy (NEP) 2020 emphasize on the need for integrating it into the education system.
Social-emotional Learning (SEL) is defined as “the process through which children and adults learn and apply a set of social, emotional, behavioural, and character skills required to succeed in schooling, workplace, relationships, and citizenship”. SEL is a method of teaching which is done through a variety of playful activities that involves full participation and engagement of the children. It keeps itself aside from the conventional methodologies which is primarily one-way (teacher-oriented) and focused more on academics. This enables them to build positive relationships with their peers and make rational decisions. SEL is not a practice in isolation; it requires involvement of a number of different stakeholders. Therefore, according to the Casel’s SEL Framework, the social and emotional skills can be imparted in classrooms and schools which requires support from families and the community. This will ensure a holistic development of the children.
Sewa International Initiatives
Understanding its relevance and the need for it to be included in the education system, we have taken up the initiative by sponsoring the program “Rise” for giving SEL lessons to the 8th & 9th standard students from underserved backgrounds studying in different schools in Pune, Sangli and Kolhapur District. These lessons are given with the help of modules focusing on:
Self-potential (identifying personal strengths & limitations)
Role Model & Time Management
Smart Study techniques
Handling of peer pressure
Creating a Safe Environment
The facilitators of this program are practicing experiential educators specialized in child and adolescent psychology. Therefore, the modules are designed to use experiential methods of learning through Task-based Activities, Presentations & Demonstrations, Ice-breakers & Group Games. Some of the activities we are doing while taking lessons are listed below:
Understanding Self-potential: Most of the time students demotivate themselves for a number of reasons mainly emerged by peer or societal pressure. The idea is to make students understand that there is more caliber in them and they just need to identify it. The activity intends the students to stretch both of their hands. Few of the students end up standing on the bench and others follow them. This signifies that each one of us has scope to improve further and that each one of us has untapped potential.
Mindset: In making students understand Carol Dweck’s theory of Fixed vs Growth Mindset, they are given different situations to explore their thoughts, feelings and behaviour under both mindsets. It gives a new lens to students to check their day-to-day behaviour. In the feedback session, almost 15/20 students mention that this module has helped them deal with failures and perceived limitations.
Here and Now Application: At the Kolhapur session, a ball hit a student and in turn he hit it back. There was an exchange of heated words. The boy insisted that he didn’t hit first and many didn’t know about the other student. We invited the other student who was not even known to us to come forward and accept the mistake. We discussed how it was an opportunity to display the quality of being honest. The facilitator discussed with the students what made an environment a safe environment in 4 aspects - Physical, Social, Emotional, and Intellectual. The discussion then led to making a list of Do's and Don'ts within the classroom and school. It was a kind of behavioural contract between the student group.
Value Based Decision Making: Discussing decision making case studies among the students by dividing them into four groups, giving them a situation and waiting for them to use their imaginations to come up with diverse solutions. The experience leads to making a list of words, understanding their meaning, and how to use them while making personal decisions.
Further after such sessions, assignments are given to them to explore their mindset daily by setting aside 10 minutes before sleep to reflect on their thoughts and behaviour. Such modules, therefore, focus on developing competencies of Self-awareness & Management, Responsible decision making and Relationship Skills among the students. Additionally, the initiative has been taken to involve parents in the development of children with more awareness. Further, the teachers can be given a new perspective of experiential learning other than their regular teaching. This will result in enabling greater engagement among teachers, parents, and students.
Our Initiative has benefitted approx. 204 students, including 102 boys and 92 girls. Our approach is to focus on building the emotional resilient individuals to promote prosocial behaviour. This corresponds to target 4.7 of Sustainable development goals. Despite these efforts, the awareness about the utility of the SEL remains meagre. There is a considerable need for the concerned stakeholders to take appropriate steps in integrating it in the education system. Apart from this, the parents and community should support and participate in taking up the small initiatives at the early stages of child development.
- Neha Sehgal (Research Associate)
India currently stands at a crossroad, facing the duality of development. While we are registering almost 3 unicorns per month in 2022, we also saw almost 7 farmers committing suicide every day in the last two years. New generation start-ups are promising to solve ‘key’ problems of the society like 10-minute grocery delivery and faster shopping experience, while other ‘key’ problems like climate change and child trafficking remain unsolved. All in all, the world needs problem solvers more than ever. This is the work domain for organisations working in ‘social impact’ or ‘nation-building’.
The last two decades have brought a paradigm shift in the social sector. There has been a confluence of opportunities in both organised and unorganised efforts for social impact, which has magnified the scope of the domain. From the image of someone working in this domain as: ‘women/men wearing khadi kurta-jeans and sandals with a canvas tote bag in their arms’, we are witnessing a shift to specialized skills, detailed job descriptions, and an organized workstream with innovations, ideas, and people skills. There are multitudes of streams in which we can work and contribute in our own ways.
However, entering the social impact space is a tough decision, primarily due to three reasons. First, the social sector is still to emerge as a conventional sector for careers. The stereotypical image of a social worker is still a volunteer and not a full-timer. Second, there is structurally a lack of awareness on how to enter and contribute meaningfully to social impact. The entire domain operates like a glacier with limited visibility to anyone new to the sector. Third, there is a lack of formal programs which train you to face the sector and make you ready to take up challenges.
For all social impact enthusiasts, we have developed a framework to help you decide on a career dedicated to building our nation. The framework rests on two pillars: one: realization of who we internally are, and two: the needs of the sector.
As a first step, one needs to reflect on their core beliefs and drives. This is important to harness our full potential and what role attracts the most in the social sector. To understand our nature, we need to ask ourselves, three basic questions:
● Do I often find myself obsessed with seeking solutions to the problems that I encounter? If the answer is yes, your personality might be of a problem-solver. This personality does whatever it takes to complete/ solve an issue. Being path agnostic, this personality is overarchingly entrepreneurial in nature.
● Do immediate results/satisfaction/benefits often are my energy boosters for my journey? If yes, then your personality might be of a satisfaction seeker. This personality would readily donate to a social cause, or gain satisfaction from doing something good for the community. From finding happiness and meaning through their contributions, this personality is highly driven by the heart.
● Do I have basic clarity on my career/life trajectory and are my decisions a way to reach the end goal? If yes, then your personality might be of a careerist. This personality understands life like a ladder or checklist with each step/item defined by them. Generally risk-averse, this personality takes a choice-based, pragmatic approach to life.
The above questions are neither comprehensive nor elaborate. There will be many who will answer yes to more than one question. This is because human beings are complex and it is difficult to clearly demarcate into one defined category. However, one of these questions may resonate more than others. This can be a good lever to define a primary trait that would drive the decision-making and actions.
Once you have identified a core personality, the next step is to identify the playing field of the social sector. This playing field is based on the sector's needs, and we can define the needs on three fronts of work: Community, Stakeholders, and Internal.
On the community front, the work requires a service temperament and soft skills to ensure the full potential. The work involves working with the community members, and building a deep understanding of the challenges faced. On the stakeholder front, the work requires a complementing combination of hard and soft skills to coordinate with a multitude of players, including Donors, other NGOs, academic institutions, government bodies, etc. Also, the NGOs are also looking for domain experts to join the sector to share their expertise in specialized domains like finance, HR, communications, legal, or even as teachers, doctors, etc.
But the elephant in the room remains, how does one decide on the career path?
To enable this, we looked at 24 various possible careers in the social impact space and tried to cluster them based on the two parameters: nature of the individual and type of work. Sharing the table below.
Hope this helps. Two good final pieces of advice for anyone thinking about a long-term career in social impact. One, don’t get stressed on the steps. The sector is very porous amongst career choices, and it’s fine to jump between roles to identify what is right for you. Two, focus on building internal capabilities by
doing meaningful work. The sector is practitioner-based rather than theory-driven. Your skills would be more meaningful and handy if they are learnt hands-on while working on the ground, with mentorship.
The matrix mentioned above might help you in understanding the ecosystem, but it is your gut which will guide you to experiment, explore and understand the ecosystem. Keep trusting it.
- Kumar Subham is Director at Sewa International. He holds a BTech in computer science from IIT Delhi and was the co-founder of Rashtram School of Public Leadership, Rishihood University. - Priyanka Sharma is Coordinator, Youth Engagement at Sewa International. She was formerly a fellow with Teach for India and holds a graduation in commerce from Delhi University.
It’s been 5 weeks since India took over the mantle of the G20 presidency.
With hoardings around G20 engulfing the public spaces across major cities and towns,this year encourages excitement as a major diplomatic milestone in India’s history. With India anchoring one of the biggest global conglomerations of leaders from developed and emerging nations, the G20 presidency gives India an important opportunity to shape the international response to pressing issues like the post-COVID recovery, global economic slowdown, terrorism, and climate change.
One of the key features of the G20 structure is its three different work streams. The first workstream, also called the sherpa track, is for the heads of state, the second is economic which brings together the finance ministers and governors as part of the finance track, and the third track is in the form of dedicated engagement groups for think tanks (T20), scientists (S20), business leaders (B20), civil society (C20), etc. While taking up the presidency of G20, our prime minister, Narendra Modi Ji set out an expansive vision for India’s G20 presidency to be “inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented”. This not only sparks hope but also sets up opportunities and vision for India, Indians, and the world. A conspicuous role in realizing the Prime Minister’s vision needs to be played by the civil society organizations of this country and the civilization. In this article, we would discuss the role of the civil20 group to expand India’s civilizational footprint.
Civil society in India has always displayed vibrancy and independence as it has been part of our civilizational identity. In RamCharitManas, Guru Vashistha says to Lord Rama to give due consideration to the views of civil society and the advice of the holy persons, highlighting the importance of civil society. During the Bhoodan Movement, (Land Gift Movement) of the 1950-60s led by Acharya Vinoba Bhave, 40 Lakh acres of land were voluntarily given away as daana to the needy. This civilizational state with the age-old rituals and practices of ‘Daana’ and ‘Sewa’ has permeated through generations and continues to impact millions of lives. Just last year, COVID-19 oversaw a multitude of social organizations stepping up in the middle of the pandemic to serve communities with food, oxygen, and essential supplies with the spirit of ‘selfless service’.
With the declaration of the theme of the G20 presidency as Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, our nation has propounded a civilizational value as the core guiding principle of the G20 Summit. In line with this, the C20 summit offers a unique opportunity for the civilizational state of India to assert the ideas of development that can guide the world. This assertion can take four different forms.
First, on the core idea of development, C20 presided over by India needs to expand from the idea of civil society from only rights-based activism to include responsibility-based localized developmental work. This is a major difference in the thought process that centers the idea of civil society on the unit of community identities, rather than only individual identities. Dr. R Balasubramanium, Member, Capacity Building Commission and Founder, SVYM says: “The responsibility-based approach followed by the grassroots communities in India is the reason for our sustained cultural diversity and decentralized nature of authority. Civil societies must design their interventions with the core of community, rather an individual”
Second, C20 needs to not just act as voices of the grassroots at the policy table, as is the dominant worldview for the role of civil society, but also to share an independent system that executes bottom-up development with community ownership. This means an actionable role of civil society for development, not just as an arm of the government but as a core system of society. Divya Singh, Consultant to the Ministry of Culture says “C20 offers a unique opportunity for Indian Civil Society to bring the experiences and needs of the grassroots of India to a global policy table for synergic action across the world in sync with local cultures”.
Third, as a nation recognized globally for diversity, India must showcase India’s social diversity to the world as an example of mutual respect, co-existence, and symbiotic existence of cultures. Civil20 needs to take lead in this leveraging all the different facets including artisan groups, social leaders, social workers, advocacy groups, activist organizations, and community institutions. Dr. Nomesh Bolia, Professor, IIT Delhi says: “Indian diversity has always awed global stakeholders, and G20 is an opportunity for the civil society organizations to demonstrate the Indian example for unity in the contemporary world order ridden with conflicts”.
Fourth, in the two main constituents of any civil society group: people and resources, India has a unique model to offer to the world. The deep-rooted spirit of volunteerism or selfless service (sewa) in Indian culture is a core component of a large number of civil society groups in India. Even in terms of resources, the majority of civil society groups continue to serve with trust-based localized fundraising efforts with the communities making selfless donations (daana) on regular basis. Venkatesh Murthy, C, Youth For Seva says: “In India, lakhs of local NGOs are completely driven by volunteer-led teams, and supported by their localized community contributions. This model is super effective as it is trust-based.”
The Indian Civilization has sustained and nurtured itself for millenniums based on a mutual dependency between samaj (society or civil society), bazaar (businesses), and sarkar (government). India’s G20 Presidency propels its role as an emerging leader in the global scenario, where India can share a vision for the future based on civilizational values. C20 needs to play an important role by being assertive, confident and prepared for a global footprint. India needs it. The world needs it. Humanity needs it.
About the author:
DM Kiran is the sous-Sherpa at Civil20 and a founding trustee for Youth for Seva. Kumar Subham is the Director at Sewa International and a member of the working group at Civil20.
Raini village of Uttarakhand has been a home of the brave. With a lot of homes being of serving/retired army men, the villagers are known for their courage and determination. The stories of the struggle for saving the trees by Gaura Devi, during the Chipko movement is still alive in the hearts of the people from Raini village.
While trees often don't figure in the development parameters of the village, Usha Negi from Raini village now credits her life to the trees in the vicinity of her village. She has pledged to never cut any tree, and actively stop people from doing it in the area.
When we met Usha Ji, she was just rescued from a tree branch on the shore of Alaknanda river, close to the dam site. She was washed with the flash floods from her farm and caught a tree branch on the banks. After 6+ hours of wait amidst heavily flowing river, she continued to hold on to the tree, while the rumble continued to bruise her legs. Later at the hospital, she cried for hours recollecting the trauma of witnessing the disaster unravelling before her eyes. She had spent years working in the real-estate sector, cutting trees for building hotels and homes, during the minutes when she had no hopes left of her life, a tree came in between and gave her a new life.
While this tree saved Usha's life, 800+ trees got uprooted in the flash floods. This is a permanent and long term damage to the entire environmental ecosystem, with implications on future floods and landslides.
Sewa International is planning an environmental rehabilitation drive in the area, with massive afforestation efforts, and replanning the village farms to reduce future damages and rebuild the lost environmental resources.
Let's plant our lifesavers and save Uttarakhand!
I just returned from Bhangyul village. It's a village which has now been cut off the road route by the glacier burst. We had conversations with multiple affected families on the ground, and their stories of experiencing the disaster have left us numb. Both mentally and emotionally.
None of us could have imagined this, sitting just few kms away in our office of what I may mean to go through the hour-long trauma of the flash floods, arising from the glacier burst. They saw the disaster unfold from the silent peaceful morning to the loud noise of glacier bursting, and rumbling distant sound of the river, and the roaring waters that took away their loved ones in a matter of minutes.
We met the family of Manoj, who like always was honest and hardworking towards his role as a safety guard at the hydro project. While he always ensured that the project remained safe, he couldn't save himself from the gushing waters. His body was recovered yesterday from the tunnel by the NDRF team yesterday. The five days of tensed sleeplessness in his home, coupled with prayers for his safety, have now turned to an atmosphere of grief, and despair.
He was the only source of income for his family of 6. His father is an old man with severe health problems, and now has just looking at the river, silent since he performed the last rites of his son. His last wish was just to see the marriage of Manoj's sister which now seems far, given the loss of their son, the small farmland, and all their savings. All washed away with the river they have played-in since ages.
As Manoj's mother describes her son, with teary eyes and trembling body, her situation has left all of us shaken for the future of their family ahead.
In this moment of deep pain, Manoj's family is one of the 350+ families which have shaken the entire area and the nation of the devastating effect of the flash floods in Uttarakhand.
Our team of Sewa International is present at the ground zero, in the Tapovan area at the 15+ impacted villages, and is continuously trying to reachout to every person in need and supporting them with all essentials from taking care of their food to health to overall livelihood.
For continuing this support ahead, we need your help.
Inducting Children Into Democracy
Imagine a landscape painted in green and blue. While you stand on the edge of the cliff, the setting so serene that you can hear the cow on the opposite hill everytime her bell rings. And as you inch upwards, every curve of the road reveals an even more breathtaking view of the Devbhoomi. I was to reach Dhankot, a village of 3000 people, around 80 kms from Karnaprayag, Uttarakhand. Tucked away in absolute serenity to meet and interact with a bunch of little children aged 6 to 13. Sewa International’s first Bal Panchayat !
Bal Panchayats or a children’s parliament is an idea initiated and supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This model, which was tried in the Bishnupur block of West Bengal a few years ago, has been implemented with gusto by two districts of Rajasthan. The aim of being simple.
Let’s engage the future of the country in today’s decision-making process. A child who, for every adult out there has always been someone who has to be taken care of, taught and disciplined. Never ever, until recent times have we engaged children in a dialogue, a conversation as an equal, as a distinct individual. This leads to children turning into underconfident, suppressed adults who do what they do because that was expected of them. Because their parents said so.
Its aptly said ‘ A child is the father of a man’, and so often it is the children who come forth with the deepest lessons in the most simplest ways. It’s the children whose minds are devoid of preconceived notions, of discrimination and inequality and hence it is them only who are the change makers.
The idea of bal panchayat is to provide a platform for children to raise a voice against issues surrounding them and affecting them both locally and nationally. A collective voice would help children to take their grievances to the adult duty bearers.
OUR BAL PANCHAYAT ( SEWA LITTLE SINGHAM)
Our Bal Panchayat in Dankot is a humble beginning towards this direction. In a village where perhaps these children would have never come across any form of technology except a TV and Radio, where education is a luxury, where connectivity, both geographical and intellectual to the outside world is next to nil, initiating such an idea is both full of challenges and opportunities.
The group presently comprises of about 16 children aged 6 to 13, spread through standards 1st till 7th. I had doubts regarding how open and receptive these little ones would be to an outsider’s presence amongst them in the first meeting itself. But that’s where kids can shock and surprise you at the same time. With my first Hello, they greeted me with warm smiles and warmer hugs, all chirping at the same time, bubbling with an infectious energy.
The next moment Priyanshu, 13, the Pradhan of the panchayat informed me of how in these Sunday meetings he would go about, door to door, calling all the other members to assemble in the nearby primary school. He laughs and adds that the latecomers are fined Rs 1 each which goes to the Gullak Mantri Tushar, who gives me a curt, coy nod, so characteristic of an accountant. The third important position is that of the Bal Mantri, Kajal, who maintains a register of the new members joining and the visitors visiting. I couldn’t help but look at her in awe as she jotted down my name in the register with utter sincerity and pride in her role.
The core group members are chosen with the consent of all the other members. Any kid wanting to be the part of the panchayat contacts the core group to become a member. The team also takes care of mobilising more children to join the panchayat.
WHAT DO THEY DO (GOALS AND ACTIVITIES)
The long term goal is to put these children out in the social space where they can identify and perceive society from an analytical perspective. Where they are able to identify the ills prevailing around, pressing issues like gender equality, waste disposal, maintaining sanitation and conserving environment. Ideally a bal panchayats has the following roles:-
TAKING THE FIRST STEPS – OUR ACTIVITIES
For them to be able to identify these problems and to stay united as a voice and a stakeholder, we have initiated them into fun learning activities to develop a brotherhood and an idea of community participation in them. The activities which as of now revolve around content focus, interactivity, critical thinking, production, problem solving and reflection are hoped to bring a behavioural change in the intellect of the kids. These activities would help enhance the interpersonal skills of the children, imparting them values and developing skills through learning. A lot of the planned activities include direct participation of parents and the teachers. Each activity is first judged in terms of the learning it imparts and the skills it helps to develop.
Music and all forms of art can help nurture and holistically enhance a person’s personality and creativity. In a world torn by war , strife and discrimination our only hope is children and it’s time we protect them against the madness of a competitive race, of feeding them our own skewed notions of religion, society, success and morality. To expose these young, inquisitive souls to art forms, to music, to literature of a qualitative nature and in that way give them a progressive thought process and an awakened intellect.
The forthcoming activities in this regard would include meditation sessions along with music listening sessions , poetry recitation and story telling sessions. From introducing them to different musical instruments to retelling them tales from our epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, it is expected to open up a whole new sky of knowledge and imagination for these kids .
At last we sincerely urge all stakeholders, the parents , the teachers and every citizen reading this to come forward, with ideas, with resources to make this endeavour a success. For it is in our best interest to pass on the best to the future generations, to develop empathetic leadership which takes the country forward onto the peace and prosperity. Your suggestions and efforts would be appreciated and are welcomed.
What is a woman’s place in the modern world?
So many have asked this question and for so long. My one such direct faceoff with this question came when my father sought my opinion on it. From a father, to a daughter . What do you think is a woman’s place in the modern world?
My response – That depends on who gets to answer this question.
I am appalled and thrilled by how conveniently everyone ignores the inherent bias in this question . And don’t take me wrong while I say this but how does anyone get to assume that a ‘place’ for women must be defined and set forth to begin with. Half of the population must somehow be reduced to the role arrived at by a single conversation. No matter how broad that role is, it will be –by-nature–a reduction from the infinite variety that is womanhood. How can a one size fit all model be applied to anyone?
There is and must not be any role for women, instead we must seek to diversify the entire discourse. Irrespective of a man or a woman there is a role for everyone, individually. But our empowerment , our strength lies , not in the role but the power to choose that role. That is the entire premise of feminism . Not equality, not empowerment, not fixation of roles . But the freedom to be able to make choices and decide your own role. The very fact that I have to make this point shows how deep rooted patriarchy is in our minds , and how subtle the control is . Allowing women to do as they want is not the point, the entire point is setting a woman free to make her own choices , even if those choices go against any one’s perception of right and wrong
The womenfolk of Uttarakhand are at the centre of our entire work in Uttarakhand , as stakeholders, managers and also as beneficiaries. The SKVK program in uttarakhand is a shining example of how women have moved forward not in fraternity, as a brotherhood but in their own unique sisterhood , lifting each other up, nourishing each other with love and support . We have been able to achieve this by the Self Help Group model of development which has found a strong footing in the rest of the country as well.
SHGs – A Brief Introduction
A self help group is a village based financial intermediary committee usually composed of 10-20 local woman. The members make small regular saving contributions for a few months until there is enough capital in the group for lending. Funds may then be lent back to the members or other villagers . These SHGs are then further ‘linked’ to banks for delivery of micro credit. It lays emphasis on capacity building, planning of activity clusters, infrastructure build up, technology ,credit and marketing.
NEED FOR SHGs
OBJECTIVES OF SHGs
SHG BANK LINKAGE – WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
According to the Status of Microfinance in India 2009-2010 released recently by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) there are 69,53,000 SHGs in the country savings linked with banks and 48,51,000 SHGs having loan outstandings as on 31 March 2010. The estimated number of families covered under this model is about 970 lakhs. The total savings amount of all the SHGs with banks as on 31 March 2010 amounts to Rs.6198.71 crore and the total amount of loans outstanding against SHGs as on 31 March 2010 is Rs.28038.28 crore. The SHG-Bank Linkage Model is the largest financial inclusion programme in the world. Following is a brief account of how SHGs
The next part of the article would discuss at stretch , specifically how our Uttarakhand SKVK project incorporates SHGs to drive change throughout the region by skill development and agriculture. It also delves into the details of how the mobilisation process and the formation of SHG happens, how the day to day activities are conducted and how the monthly meeting process takes place.
Sewa International’s endeavors in Uttarakhand began precisely with the objective of rehabilitation of these village folk and the local population of the mountains. The vision and objective of our program there, is rehabilitation of the local population after the tragedy that stuck Uttarakhand in 2013. The objective being to provide them sustainable means of livelihood leading to socio-economic prosperity.
The cradle of our rehabilitation program in Uttarakhand is Sewa Kaushal Vikas Kendra (SKVK), which is further split into 6 specialised constituents dealing with different aspects of the rehabilitation. Following are the 6 verticals under which the SKVK project functions in Uttarakhand.
The article aims at giving a view of the day to day activities of the SHG and the process followed to mobilise villagers and form more SHGs, how strengthening SHGs would help us with our larger objective of forming a Farmer Producer Organisation in the coming future.
SHG FORMATION PROCESS
The SHG formation process is a series of numerous meetings and research regarding the demography and socio economic condition of the area in question and involves a series of steps.
MEETINGS AND MOBILIZATION
Next follows a series of meetings over a span of weeks in which following pointers are discussed with the men and women of the village.
WORKING AND OPERATIONS
Apart from the monthly meetings at the end, the daily ongoing activities by the members include the following
MONTHLY MEETING PROCESS FOR SHGs
The end of the month is usually a hustle bustle. With all the SHG incharges coming over from different clusters and gathering in the Simli office the place comes to life. For me, it was a palette of painted colours in the office walls. With almost 30-40 women dressed in their traditional attires, moving around carrying a bag, their office documents, addressing the rest of the team, the sight in itself is empowering. You see that’s what women can do to anything they lay their hands upon. Turn it colourful, make it creative, break the rut and monotony, infuse humour into an otherwise boring process. If only, they are given the opportunity, the confidence to learn , to experiment and to achieve. If they are not tied to tradition, bound by expectations and limited by norms we can create more self driven women leaders and entrepreneurs.
SHG Trainings And Orientations
My first contact with the members of SKVK was the 2 day leadership training program of the Sewa Mahila Jyoti group that I witnessed. Far beyond the the hue and cry of strong, independent women, the raging debates of women empowerment , were these women. In the entirety of their lives they would have lived in and around the same village, surrounded by the high rise Himalayas, with their lives running in circles around their families and fields. With the SKVK project, while they came together, interacted for the first time , not in the gossip groups but sitting in a well furnished room , on chairs and tables, with boards and computers and projectors, it’s a new world indeed. Seeing them come up, shedding away the shyness, the hesitant voices was an interesting experience in itself. The training session encompassed a holistic learning model. The focus remains on developing the core competencies of the women namely communication skills to make them efficient motivators, equipping them with the knowledge of the subject technical knowhow and resourcefulness.
From musical chairs to ball passing games, the training is as innovative, as engaging as it can get. For a moment it seemed surreal. And why won’t it?
In a society where somehow awkwardly, young women start confining themselves indoors after adulthood, these activities bring them face to face with the child inside them, invoking in them a sense of confidence and self-expression. The activities are aimed at inculcating values such as leadership skills, performing in a team, communication skills and interpersonal skills.
Any social sector organization’s success ultimately lies to what extent it is able to make the beneficiaries independent of the organization and also self-sustainable. With the work being done in Uttarakhand we are hopeful and positive that from every family and from every woman will emerge a leader capable enough to hold the reigns of not just their family, but also the community as a large. We also believe that economic prosperity shall go a long way in uplifting the other standards of human development such as health, education and eventually culture. We would be happy to receive as many suggestions, inputs, and insights from our readers, donors, stakeholders, and citizens, in general, hoping that you would share with us the best practices that can help us build a better society together.
“Ours can be the first generation to end poverty – and the last generation to address climate change before it is too late.”
The above quote by Ban-Ki Moon, Former UN Secretary-General, aptly summarised in a line the extent of crisis that we face as a civilization and interestingly how well connected these problems are. The acceptance of this fact is the first step towards formulating an action plan to combat the dire situation we are in. And it doesn’t even have a name for it. You may disguise it as mere climate change, global warming, poverty, unemployment, migration, population explosion, but aren’t all these a part of some sort of holocaust, some sort of destruction that the mankind has called upon itself. In its ruthless ways of consumption and lust for more, it has bled the mother earth, of its resources, exploited them in the name of development and now we stand at the cusp of this destruction and the problem is, we don’t have a Plan B. We can’t have a Plan B because we don’t have a Planet B!!
The United Nations in 2015 came together and in January 2016 gave the Sustainable Development Goals to the world to follow. Uptil now 193 countries have signed the SDGs, passed by the UN General Assembly. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs, build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, cover social and economic development issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, global warming, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, urbanization, environment, and social justice, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace, and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.
Distinguished Panel to start the proceedings for the SDG Seminar,(from left – Dr. Balu, Ma. Dattatreya Hosabale ji, Shri Shyam Parande)
Sewa International at its 3 days long International Sewa Baithak starting from 6th December to 8th December 2018, dedicated the first day (6th Dec 2018) towards a Seminar on Sustainable Development Goals and what they mean for India and the social sector at large. In doing so, it was our aim to give a clear direction towards these goals to our future endeavors and projects. The event was graced by many dignitaries and delegates from over 13 countries. The event was chaired by Ma Dattatreya Hosabale Ji (Sah-Sarakaryavaah (Joint General Secretary) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS)). He began the session with the insight that one cannot ignore or deny the wisdom of the local communities in a region, communities who have been living in tandem with nature for centuries. Instead of just focussing on evolving new technologies to reverse the ill effects of exploitation of resources we might want to take a step back and consider an overhaul in our attitude that makes us compulsive consumers even at the peril of the resources of the planet.
Some of the prominent speakers included Dr. Ramaswami Balasubramaniam (development scholar, author,public policy advocate, leadership trainer and activist), Dr. Yogesh Gokhale (fellow at TERI India), Dr. Gajanan Dange (the former head of KVK, Nandurbar, Maharashtra),Shri Kapil Sahasrabuddhe (Vice President at YOJAK Center for Research and Strategic Planning for Sustainable Development), Dr. P.K Anand (Retd IAS), Atul Kaushik (Ex Additional Secretary in charge of the Speaker’s Research Initiative (SRI)), Dr. Nagesh Kumar (Chief Economist of the Macroeconomic Policy and Development Division at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)), Dr. Sunita Pandey (Professor of Agronomy, Dept of Plant Pathology, GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar Dist Udham Singh Nagar) and Prof Kaushal Kumar (Prof at JNU) .
Dr. Balu presenting his views while delivering the Keynote Address on SDGs
After the inaugural address, Dr. Balasubramaniam, popularly known as Dr Balu, began the Keynote Address, by elaborating on the idea of development and how SDGs are relevant to India. He emphasized the fact that development is not just about GDP (Gross Domestic Product) but also about other indices like HDI( Human Development Index) and GNHI (Gross National Happiness Index). Given the fact that the last 100 years have seen enormous changes, it is important to ask the question, whether SDGs are enough to combat or possibly reverse the damage done. Also, who defines development and in what measures. Development has created a crisis that is turning its head against us. This culture of consumerism has led us to an ecological and societal crisis, emanating from a crisis of the self. Dr. Balu emphasized on the point that as Indians our growth story has been incidental as our focus has always been on investing in human capital, in the physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual development of man. The Indian way of life preached contentment which is the way to sustainability.
Dr. Yogesh Gokhale continued further on the same lines by quoting examples from our ancient culture whereconservation and contentment formed an essential aspect of the Indian way of life. Traditions like sthala vriksha, tree worship, the presence of species of cultural importance to people eg Tulsi, ecosystem-based conservation practices like machiyal (sacred pools in streams), have served as last resort homes of many species of plants. He brought attention to the fact that community contribution to sustainable development has not yet been quantified by state and non-state agencies, and more should be done to recognize the efforts at grassroots and also to serve as examples that can be replicated throughout the country. In a scathing opposition to the way the western population lives and contributes tremendously in increasing the carbon footprint at the global level, Dr. Gokhale lauded the fact that the lifestyle of our local communities is their biggest contribution to climate action and conservation. Despite their limited capacity and no legal recognition, the communities pan India have been able to preserve about 200,000 natural sites owing to our robust traditions.
Moving onto the policy formulation at national and local levels towards the SDGs, Shri Atul Kaushik, spoke about the very important concept of involving perceptivity of local governments, representatives and parliamentarians in working towards SDGs. Parliamentarians are important links between government policies and the voice of the people. A top-down approach towards any policy often leads to a sort of cascading effect at the grassroots, but when the initiative comes from within the people and their representatives, it puts the impetus on the executive and the government to align their development policies accordingly in that direction. The same approach towards SDGs should come from sensitizing the local representatives and also making space for the sustainable practices that our ancestors have been practicing for centuries.
Dr. Nagesh Kumar described at length, from an economic and development standpoint, how the SDGs are interrelated and can be confined to 7 key areas. Agriculture, Industry and Services are three spokes of the economic cycle. While India was chiefly an agrarian economy in the past, it made a direct leap to the services sector, which no doubt escalated our GDP numbers but failed to generate large-scale employment which can only come through manufacturing sector; at the same time making us self-dependent in terms of production of essential goods. The dependence on imports puts a country’s sovereignty at risk if our export competitiveness is not equally strong. An important facet of industrial growth and overall development is to close gaps in infrastructure, harnessing the demographic dividend through universal access to education and health. An ardent need to invest in schools, hospitals, toilets and other infrastructure of public utility would ensure that we develop human capital which in turn can make sustainable development goals a reality. Social protection and financial inclusion for reducing inequalities poverty and other forms of deprivation are some other measures that the government is focussing on to create a sustainable human capital.
The national policies in alignment with the global SDGs have been taking active steps towards implementing a universal social pension, addressing food security issues and working towards sustainable agriculture, promoting gender equality and women empowerment through entrepreneurship, enhancing environmental sustainability through low carbon climate resilient pathways to development.
Dr. Sunita Pandey apprising about the link between Sustainable Agri-practices and SDGs
In a specific angle towards linking SDGs to Agriculture, Dr Sunita Pandey’s insights regarding the topic proved to be an eye-opener for all, when she mentioned the global crisis of food security and how the traditionally revered relationship we had with land impacted our mindsets in a way that led us to live sustainably and consume as per our needs. With massive and large-scale commercialization of agriculture, it has become yet another industry where each year the quality of the soil is deteriorated by mindless use of pesticides and fertilizers which now have entered our food chain as well. We consume poison on our plates and if this fact does not stir our conscience then what else will. Tracing the history of agriculture since Indus valley civilization, Dr. Pandey enlightened everyone on the traditional agricultural practices, that helped maintain a healthy soil and gave time for it to replenish and nurture itself back. Novel methods of water conservation and irrigation like rainwater harvesting, have been used in our country since time immemorial. Our blind aping of the west has resulted in dwindling of all such traditions like Shri Palekar’s Zero Farming, Jaivik Kheti of Tara Chand Belji of MP. The need of the hour is to have a key policy shift in not just the agricultural research and education but also in the mindsets of all stakeholders, most importantly farmers.
Prof Kaushal Kumar pertinently questioned the viability of the green revolution and how far had it actually succeeded in bringing about development. It was mostly the big farmers who benefitted from it while the nothing changed for the small and marginal farmers. He emphasized the need to learn to manage resources so that the ecological sustainability of villages and communities is maintained and that in turn can stop mass migration and urbanisation. A holistic approach towards development would mean investing in education, school infrastructure, agriculture and allied activities like horticulture, livestock, fisheries, pickle and juice making. The village economy needs to be strengthened by equipping the local entrepreneurs with modern methods of marketing and technology. He elaborated upon various Government schemes and policies that are working in the direction of SHGs. Schemes like Unnat Bharat have been doing great work in adopting villages and and transforming the economic status of farmers. Sh Kapil Sahasrabuddhe and Dr Gajanan Dange, talked about the efforts and role of voluntary and community organizations in implementing Sustainable Development Goals at the grassroots level. Following nature’s season cycle, observing the rainfall patterns, need assessment before planning development works, linking faith to resources and instigating reverence for nature are some of the things that the social sector organizations can do to make way for the fulfillment of SDGs at the local level. Speaking of YOJAK, Shri Kapil spoke about their working with local organizations especially in tribal areas and linking them with partners at various levels for natural resource-based livelihood and biodiversity conservation. The organization has been currently working on institutional development for capacity enhancement of grassroots level organizations and individuals, especially in rural and tribal areas.
Shri Devi Prasad moderating the whole Seminar and presenting his views based on his experience working at the Rural Development Ministry
The event was moderated by Shri Devi Prasad (Retd IES), who very efficiently held the gathering together while allowing a free flow of ideas and questions from the audience as well. He apprised all with his valuable insights gathered from life-long stint in different govt debts at various levels.
The event was concluded by an open-ended question-answer session where the speakers responded to various queries and questions from the audience.
We were delighted by the active participation from the audience and the enthusiasm of the key speakers who answered each query aptly. Sewa intends to carry forward insights emerging out of the discussion to lay a strong foundation for our future projects and endeavors in various parts of the country.
Sewa International encourages and calls upon all the citizens and the members of the civil society, particularly youth to join us in this journey.In the words of the United Nations, “at its essence, sustainability means ensuring prosperity and environmental protection without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. A sustainable world is one where people can escape poverty and enjoy decent work without harming the earth’s essential ecosystems and resources; where people can stay healthy and get the food and water they need; where everyone can access clean energy that doesn’t contribute to climate change; where women and girls are afforded equal rights and equal opportunities.”
Let’s be a global citizen today . Act with passion and compassion. Help us make this world safer and more sustainable today and for the generations that will follow us. That is our moral responsibility.
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