Monday, April 6, 2009


Savio Silveira
I heard about her long before I ever met her.

‘You haven’t met Kavli?’ one of my colleagues asked me with a hint of disbelief and disdain in her voice.

And so the next time we were in Alirajpur (Madhya Pradesh) we rode down the dusty track that leads to Bhedva, a rustic tribal village, to meet Kavli. Bhedva greets you with that depressing embrace which you encounter regularly in the Indian hinterlands – callous scorched earth, hand-pumps that have long run dry, emaciated cattle gloomily munching the crusty leaves that the summer wind occasionally blows along…

A few moments later we are seated in Kavli’s hut and I suddenly feel the depression lift as I listen to her speaking animatedly. Much of what she is saying in her rhythmic tribal dialect I do not follow. But words do not matter. The determination etched into the contours of her face, the resoluteness in her eyes, the confidence in her tone, the energetic elegance with which she gesticulates… all tell her amazing story… the story of how she has boldly walked into government offices and demanded her rights, of how she has challenged obsolete cultural beliefs, of how she has taught her children to dream of a tomorrow very different from the yesterdays she has known, of how she has become the icon of hope for the restless women in the village…

And as I sat there in that remote nondescript village, listening to a seemingly ordinary woman, I understood the most important fact about development work. Development is not about projects, it is about people. It is not about change management, it is about change makers. It is not mega projects, but motivated people that usher in effective change.

Investing in people is ultimately the best investment for development.

1 comment:

  1. Great!

    Trailblazers like Kavli remind us that we don't need to speak for the people, but simply help them find their own voices.