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Dr. Kawahara Inspired Initiatives (Feb. 2017)

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AHI Alumni’s Activities Following Dr. Kawahara’s Self-Help Spirit

Ms. Florence Vijaya Vani, ILDC 2009
Asian Network for Innovative Training Trust (ANITRA), India

 

The Asian Network for Innovative Training, Research and Action Trust (ANITRA TRUST), a rights-based organization, basically works with Dalits and Tribals who are marginalized and living below poverty line.The objective of ANITRA is to strengthen People’s Organizations (POs) with activities solely focused on the role of community based organizations that we nurtured all these years. Emphasis is given in preparing the communities to address the issues on their own. The POs’keypersons and the active women in the villages are given intensive and  systematic  training  to  develop  and enhance their capacities. We give emphasis on the meaningful ownership of their actions, and responsible active  role  of  PO  members  to  lead  their communities in problem solving and claiming their due rights in the absence of ANITRA. The role of ANITRA is to play as a catalyst of change. 


From ANITRA, I had been selected for the ILDC in 2009. Our training was focused on participatory mutual training. I  was  a  learner  by  learning  from other friends, members of a heterogeneous group, and facilitators to share my experience. I learned many things even by sharing a room with a Sri Lankan and a Nepali friends with different ethnic background. There was unity, friendship, sharing, caring and helping atmosphere, that is the core  principles  of  PEACE of which Dr. Kawahara shared to us. Through ILDC, I learned that volunteerism is based on commitment, dedication and compassion and that such volunteerism would enhance community participation/community mobilization for achieving sustainable development goals. ILDC emphasized for democratic and rights based participation of communities in decision making processes and sustainable development. 

 

The importance of volunteerism was emphasized in our various activities such as our constant interactions and our 4-day PEEL Exercises (Political Economic Environmental Literacy Exercise) as our entry  process in the communities  in  identifying  the problems collectively and having participatory discussions among different age groups to draw the village’s situation. After the exercise, some empowered youth members and women are identified to handle their own village problems  and  find  solutions. In addition, we motivated them and encouraged the people in the communities to provide their time and skills.  During the village level interactive meetings and training, we explained the essence and the ambit of volunteerism by showing examples of AHI volunteers.

 

There are two cases with a ANITRA’s field staff as well as a PO leader, respectively, showing that their volunteerism was maximized in the villages during our withdrawal phase.

 

ANITRA’s unique strength from the beginning was the committed staff. All of the field level staff was from Dalit Communities. For withdrawing from the villages, we carried out advocacy strategy to foster their volunteerism, for instance by imparting information to them through small skits in CD form.

After  ANITRA withdrew  from the villages in Palliapat block, Tamil Nadu, the former staff took the task of leading his village and other nearby villages and collaborated with the tribal people in getting village issue solved. For example, to solve the problem on water sewage in the scheduled  caste  colony (Dalit  communities) and house pattas (title deeds), the staff met government officials along with the community leaders, held discussions with them and wrote petitions. He also  did  follow-up work in Jamabandhi  and  Grama  sabha  meetings (government local governance meetings) with the experience  and knowledge  he gained in ANITRA. Muthamma, aged about 45 years is the president of the Village Development Council (VDC) of Bommarajpettai, a small tribal hamlet of 39 families. They moved here a few years ago from a graveyard belonging to the upper Mudaliar caste. They built their huts on 3 cents of land for each land space for scheduled caste people  provided  by  the government. She is an impressive leader with confidence of her community. During withdrawal of ANITRA, the VDC  has  struggled  to apply for house site pattas (title deeds) and community certificates. The patta or land ownership  document  is very important to protect their house sites and give them a sense of security. For ensuring the right of living of the community people, she and her team persisted and went regularly to the tax office for almost two years. Finally  they  got  pattas  for nineteen families. They are continuing their efforts to get pattas for the remaining 20 families. They succeeded in getting community certificates for 51 persons.


ANITRA has withdrawn many of its major activities from several villages in 2013. There are  active women groups and micro finance programers, value-based education centers, agricultural laborers groups and community based organized groups in many villages. ANITRA is still a resource center and continued to train and provide needed inputs through training and information sharing with the communities. 

 

Community Power On Knowing and Acting On Their Problems


Mr. Mamun Chowdhory, ILDC 2015

Jagorani Chakra Foundation (JCF), Bangladesh

 

 

 

Although I could not directly meet the great man, Dr. Kawahara at AHI, I have taken many ideas and inspiration from him. The most important idea is that the community itself has the power to identify their problems and find out the way to solve them. If we want to solve various problems in the community we need to empower people who can help others and commit themselves in solving problems by closely working with them.

 

Based on my learning on Right Based Approach and good governance practices for sustainable people’s organization building, I have applied to promote people’s ownership towards collaboration with local government to build linkages in my existing project in Natore District, Bangladesh.

 

Representatives from different self-help-groups formed a management committee to register with the Government Cooperative Department for their own women organization. For the registration of the cooperative, the women contacted the  district  and upazilla level cooperative officer requesting them to provide training on cooperative management. They also coordinated with the local Union Porishod (UP) chairman and members to arrange some seminars such as, local government facilities,  and  how  and
when they can apply to receive facilities and reform the local Disaster Risk Reduction Committee for them. Finally they got the registration in December 2015 named Aamra Shadhin Women Cooperative from the Cooperative department.

 

In the opening ceremony all members and local government officials were invited and they discussed about current problems in the community and the vision and mission of the cooperative. Now they receive different types of training and support such as a) Income Generating Activities (IGA)training and financial support from the cooperative department, b) training for the organic pesticide making from the agriculture department, c) training on tailoring from the youth development  department, d)primary health services from their own community by establishing community satellite clinic.

In  the  process  of  forming  the  women  cooperative, each self help group member is getting stronger both financially and socially through fund raising activities such as savings and credit in the organization, small agriculture business, and producing and selling handicrafts. As a member of the structural legal organization they became confident to access to various government services and communicate with local government. Now they can get involved in other community management committees  including community clinic, local UP member, etc.

The challenges I am facing are a) Less gender sensitivity among some husbands and male leaders of the community; b) Lack of trust especially financial transaction in the cooperative; c) Skill development of cooperative leaders to  manage  cooperative; and d) Lack of good governance practices in some government office staff. To solve the above challenges it is expected that the community people would realize that with the registered organization they can unite with themselves, overcome  social  discrimination  and  ensure  good governance practices in their own community. Some husbands and men need to be well informed about the activities of the women cooperative and its possibility to solve the financial  problems. 

 

Gradually, the skill of some cooperative leaders is being developed, doing all activities with transparency, inviting local government officials to discuss with the cooperative management committee, arranging training, and regularly communicating with local government personnel in each issue. So we hope that they can manage and solve the problems by themselves.

 

 

 

 

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