Monday, June 22, 2009


Mayank Parmar KAPADVANJ, JUNE 20, 2009: Venipura village is about fifteen kilometers from Kapadvanj town consisting about 56 households. About five kilometers to enter in to the village there is no road at all. This village falls into the Grampanchayat of Ambalyara which is about three kilometers. Yesterday our social worker Nikunj Parmar made a door to door visit and explained to them about the whole idea of NREGS. People were just aware of the Job Cards which were distributed but they had been taken back from them to issue it along with the snap. They had no idea of the purpose of this whole card. We had arranged the first general meeting with the people regarding this issue. We, together with Ms. Sarojben the Social worker from Kheda Social Service went for the meeting. We were taken a back that so far nobody is aware of the Gramsabha and when are they held. The date and timings are unknown to them. Ms. Sarojben explained the people about the primary importance of the act. Then Nikunj Our Project Coordinator explained the importance of Gramsabha and also expressed that without their cooperation nothing is possible. Afterwhich Fr. Mayank Parmar sdb, the Director of DRISTI enlightened the people on how one can make use of NREGS for the development of their village and at the same time guaranteed each household their 100 days of work. The meeting ended with forming the core group members which consisted ten of them from the men and women folk. Two leaders asked us to accompany them to the Talati office saying that we want to further proceed ahead with one hundred days of work. This core group together with Nikunj Parmar Our Project coordinator will follow up in getting Job cards for the people and they are looking forward of constructing the road themselves.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


16th June 2009 Mayank Parmar
I learned about Gram Sabhas as a boy in my school days and later as an MSW student, but I had never witnessed one or been part of the show. But now that we have started working with the rights-based approach and encouraging people’s participation, as soon as we got news of the Gram Sabha scheduled for Vadaali, we took charge and started mobilizing the people. We went door to door visiting every house in the village and asked people to come for the meeting.

Vadaali is a group Panchayat, and three other villages are also part of it. So, we began with a general meeting with the people of Bapajinamuvada, where we gathered a majority of the women and a handful of the men folk. We conscientized them about their right to attend the Gram Sabha, and also informed them of the date and the time of the Gram Sabha.

On the day of the meeting, our team reached the venue before time, but we realized that none of the people from the village had come yet. So, we got into our jeep and went straight to Bapajinamuvada. We reminded the people of the Sabha that was to happen that day, and managed to convince five women to come with us to the venue. On reaching there, we found that the Sabha had just begun. Since the Talati had given us permission to participate in the Sabha, and had also scheduled time for us to speak to the people about the NREGA and other issues, we were eager for people to attend. How disappointed we were when only five women showed up!

The meeting began with an official from the health department explaining the latest government scheme regarding health. After this, the TDO addressed the people, and asked them to present the needs of their village. At this point, it seemed that this Sabha would be no different from all the others in the past, with the officials taking centre stage and the people remaining silent. But just as the TDO was about to conclude, I saw a flock of women entering the Panchayat office and literally shouting at all the people present there. These were the women of Vadaali village, and they came in a group of more than 50. They insisted that their village had a severe water problem and demanded that it be solved that same day!

I could see that our efforts had been useful, that these women had come with their arguments well thought out. Ultimately, the sarpanch and the Sabha agreed that the women would get their water the next day. Their demands energized the entire assembly and within the next few minutes, another group also came out very strongly with their demand for water. These people too, were literally shouting at the officials present at the Gram Sabha.

At this point, I noticed one of the men speaking forcefully, but could not understand what exactly he was saying. However, the women at the meeting immediately pounced on him and did not let him get a word in edgeways. I later gathered that he was opposing the women’s demands, and that they silenced him with the argument that it was they, the women, who had to manage the difficult task of fetching water.

After pacifying the women by promising them that water would reach their village the very next day, the Talati ended the meeting. I heard all the men murmuring that this was the first time that the women of Vadaali and Bapujinamuvada had entered the Panchayat office. They had never before been part of the Gram Sabha.

The entire experience left me questioning myself and all that I have picked up from my books and other studies. This Gram Sabha was a new form of education, real and unedited!

Monday, June 15, 2009


Natasha Almeida MUMBAI, JUNE 13, 2009: The AV hall at the Provincial House, Matunga beamed with happy faces and fresh fragrance of mogra flowers as women from Jyoti, Virar and the slum areas of Mahim and Dharavi settled in for the Valedictory Function of ‘Skills for Livelihood through Sewing- Training’ on the afternoon of June 13, 2009. The sewing course for women was one of the activities of Don Bosco Development Society in collaboration with the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI) and instituted by the Apparel Training and Design Centre (ATDC). Besides the team from the Mumbai Development Office, in attendance for the function were Mr. Jayesh Jasani, Deputy Chairman of Corporate Social Responsibility from CMAI; Mr. Vijay Sharma, Deputy Secretary, CMAI; Mr. Sunil Talekar, Principal of ATDC and Mr. Deepak Temgere, Facilitator for the training held at Mahim. The function commenced with the opening address by Mr. Melvin Pangya from the Mumbai Development Office. After the introductory round, a prayer song ‘Gyan Mandira: Satyam Shivam Sundara’ was sung by a few women led by Ms. Surekha Pednekar. The prayer song was followed by the lighting of the diya by the dignitaries and representatives of the participants. Mr. Melvin rightly stated, “Deep jalake hamne andhakar ko nasht kiya hai aur yehi ujale ke saath aage chalna hai”. A surprise element during the function was that a group of women for the Dharavi slums sang a welcome song in English. They seemed confident and had a satisfied smile on their faces. After the women from Dharavi added more enthusiasm to the function, Ms. Shweta a participant from Mahim came to the podium and shared her experiences about the training programme. She clearly beamed with self confidence and was all praise for DBDS and CMAI for the direction given. She added that she and the others now felt independent and were not afraid of venturing further. Mr. Vijay Sharma from CMAI while addressing the participants encouraged them not to stagnate at what they had learnt but instead take it ahead and help improve the conditions of the family. Mr. Sunil Talekar too shared his views about taking the learning process ahead. To this a participant from Mahim asked for help for starting her own business and taking what she had learnt ahead. This clearly reflected her dedication and enthusiasm to improve her family’s life. Fr. Savio Silveira thanked all the participants for their co-operation and was hopeful that a tailoring unit could begin in the near future. The motivational words were followed by the most important part of Distribution of Certificates. The faces of the participants had a sense of achievement. For them they had taken a brave step ahead and wished not to stop there. The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Ms. Surekha. The participants left with certificates in their hands, smiles on their faces and memories to cherish that would surely last a while.