Community Empowerment in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh

Originally published on - http://thefoundations.tv/be-the-change-you-wish-to-see-community-empower...

Association for India’s Development (AID) is a non-profit, voluntary organization whose objective is to address grassroots issues in India. It is a movement that promotes social, equitable and just development, supporting causes that affect the most deprived and marginalized communities. Volunteers of AID Boston meet every Sunday from 2-4 PM at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) premises to discuss these projects, events, and campaigns. All meetings are open to the public. For more information please visit: http://www.aidboston.org. Those who wish to volunteer, contribute, learn or participate in any way please contact:  president@aidboston.org or secretary@aidboston.org.

In this month’s column we would like to highlight one of the projects supported by AID Boston with a focus on providing education to girls from marginalized communities.

The Project:  Community Empowerment and Mobilization Project

The NGO: Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (SKMS)

Location: Sitapur district, Uttar Pradesh, India

The NGO:

Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (SKMS) was formed in 2005. It emerged in 2005, from Sangtin, a group set up by rural women to enable them to be bigger stakeholders in the processes of development at all levels. Poor women and men, predominantly Dalit, came together to campaign for access to irrigation waters, employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), minimum wages and a fair and lawful implementation of the development policies made by the state in the name of rural peasants and laborers. In the ten years since they were formed, the collective has grown to a membership of around 2500 from 128 villages. SKMS has played a pivotal role in state-level networks and campaigns such as the Right to Food Campaign and has actively participated in national campaigns.

The Work:

The collective has worked on numerous issues:

  • Addressing issues of caste, class, gender based discrimination, domestic abuse, female infanticide, and dowry related problems.
  • Campaigning for employment under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
  • Campaigning for pensions for the elderly, the widowed, and the disabled.
  • Maintaining pressure on the Irrigation Department to perform the maintenance activity needed for the proper functioning of irrigation and drainage canals which is essential for farming.
  • Organizing to spread awareness on health rights issues and advocating for accountability of good quality health services.
  • Promoting good agricultural practices and reviving millet cultivation in the region due to its advantages for people, soil, and livestock.

Strategy:

  • Identifying and training volunteers to organize village, block, regional level meetings to build awareness, mobilize community, and strengthen collective.
  • Organizing protests, rallies to demand government accountability and action.
  • Provide an open stage where social issues are constantly brought up for discussion and resolution.

Impact:

  • Members of the collective have been successful in getting 100 days of work every year under MNREGA. Many can now interpret work estimates. Some have managed to get work plans passed that would truly benefit their villages and work together as a collective so that their weaker members can also complete the daily work requirement.
  • Consistent efforts to raise awareness around health rights has brought down corruption, improved diagnostics, and improved availability of services.
  • The millet cultivation project has been successful in its first year and there are plans to expand to more farmers and adopt practice of inter-cropping and use of compost and vermi-compost.
 

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