ngoings on

August 14th, 2007

A lot has happened at work in the past week and a half. Initially, my direct liaison to SEWA, the VRC Coordinator, had not given me much attention. This led to the ‘excelling’ and the creation of a draft of a pamphlet on the VRC program (for ISRO and potential donors). My attempts to make progress on the other ideas I had were met with seemingly inane roadblocks, such as records in hand-written Gujarati or failure to set up a meeting with someone downstairs. All of this changed last Wednesday.

I met with the Director of Rural Development to discuss what I had thus far completed and what I planned to do for the remainder of my time here. In preparation for this meeting, I had organized my work into separate projects, each with a clearly defined purpose and progress report detailing work completed, steps remaining, and roadblocks. The Director was either impressed or caught off guard and told my liaison to free her schedule completely and give me her full attention.

I was surprised by this commitment, as my liaison had a full plate. The others assigned to the VRC Program were either absent or split their time with other projects. Nevertheless, this eventually translated to less time wastage (hence, me taking so long to make this post). All of the roadblocks I identified were addressed, and I now have a schedule full of meetings with officials and field visits to last me for the next week and a half.

On a side note, last Thursday I had the opportunity to visit the first registered women’s cooperative in Gujarat. Someone from another NGO (Going to School) was doing research for a documentary, and I was allowed to come along.

About twenty years ago, SEWA started one of its agricultural campaigns by leasing unused land from a local government (panchayat) in a village in the Mehesana District. The women in this village then developed this ‘waste’ land into fertile farmland and started an agricultural collective. I got to interact with the women who helped start this collective and hear their stories.

I was amazed at the impact of this project on these women. Cooperative members went from being seasonal workers in large plantations to having the opportunity to generate their own income from their small plot of land. Women who used to be frequent victims of domestic abuse were now managing their family’s finances. They had even started their own savings collectives. Stories of this pilot project’s success reached other villages and SEWA helped create something similar in many other districts in Gujarat.

I took a lot of pictures, which I will upload as soon as I find a way to get them off of my camera. Until then, happy Indian Independence Day!

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