Vayam – annual blitz 2016

Dear friends, well-wishers, donors,

A warm sweet til-gud and wishes of the New Year! Here is the annual brief report of Vayam’s activities, initiatives, and innovations in 2016.

Gram Lakshmi – empowering women in governance

Women have taken over as Sarpanch (president) and as members of Gram Panchayat (village government) in many villages thanks to reservation. However, many women – although with ample inner strength – are finding it challenging to cope with this responsibility. Lack of training, exposure, and hand-holding support is dithering women from unleashing their best in this newly explored arena of governance and politics. Vayam therefore initiated this project called ‘Gram Lakshmi’ empowering women in governance. The project consists of a training every two months and consistent hand-holding support through our field team.

First two trainings were conducted with an enthusiastic participation of 18 Sarpanch and 43 GP members. The women – apart from knowledge inputs – got a peer group through these trainings. The participants learnt about laws governing the GP and their rights, they also learnt about the sources of funds and how to utilise the funds.

Many Sarpanchs insisted in their GPs that they wanted to read the GP daftar (records) and see the accounts. The village plans included women-specific works like building of bathing and changing rooms for women at the water-wells. One lady Sarpanch found out that the funds in GP accounts were spent by the previous Sarpanch after she assumed power. She took technique support from Vayam, unearthed all information, exposed it in Gramsabha, and made the ex-Sarpanch and Gramsevak duo explain the withdrawals.

As per Vayam’s norms, we asked the participants whether and when they wanted such trainings and what they would be willing to pay for it. Women discussed and told us that they would pay Rs. 100 as voluntary contribution and if they didn’t have the money, they would go out to work as labour and earn and contribute.
This project has thus begun – propelled by its participants.

Adi Shakti – tribal women empowerment

There is a huge number of women self-help groups formed by government (MSRLM) and by other agencies. The groups are however not involved in the decision making of village development. Vayam team has begun close interactions with these women’s groups and energized them to come together for village development.

The impact: 1083 women from 106 SHGs from 49 hamlets of 10 Gram Panchayats have participated in village meetings. 5 villages had their first-ever women’s Gram Sabha (although it is mandatory on paper) attended by more than 100 women in each case. The women also convened ‘Rojgar hami jagruti melawa’ enlightening the village on rights in NREGA. 13 such events had 853 women attending. Women from 5 villages – on refusal by GP in accepting work-demand forms – went straight to the Tehsildar and earned their right to work.

Women never going beyond the weekly bazar – have now begun approaching various government offices and officers with solid confidence. This is a small step but it is firm. At Vayam, we believe in evolution rather than revolution!

Wild vegetables and master chefs

Tribal women groups organised ‘Ranbhaji Mahotsav’ (forest food festival) bringing rich delicacies made from 70 wild vegetable species cooked and served by the participant women. The plate with maximum variety earned a prize. 350 women participated in five such events.

Government officers and our friends-wellwishers from cities graced the occasion relishing the taste of these rare forest foods.tab_b-1452

The programs served a dual purpose: 1) women had a sense of honour by organising a big program, 2) tribes have rich and independent sources of nutrition; the key to reducing the modern problem of malnutrition is within the forest – not within charities from government and NGOs – this feeling is asserted through the program.

Expanding the movement

Vayam team grew by seven this year. This young band of five men and two women have expanded Vayam’s work to 149 hamlets in 26 Gram Panchayats of Jawhar and Vikramgad. All hamlets are currently having our entry point activity; i.e. awareness about NREGA.

1982 tribal villagers have participated in Rojgar Hami Jagruti Melawa in 47 villages. Of these, 1001 people have got work. Many villages have got work for the first time in last four years. This is despite the existing law (NREGA) guaranteeing work in village. A people’s movement is therefore a necessary catalyst.

Participatory budgetary planning at village level

The Panchayat Raj envisioned by the constitution can become effective only if there are funds, functions, and functionaries at the village Panchayat level. The central government initiated a program called GPDP (Gram Panchayat Development Plan) insisting on participatory planning at village level using the funds from Finance Commission.

The percolation is a real challenge in our country with bureaucratic and socio-political bottlenecks. Vayam’s volunteers jumped in this as Master trainers recognised by the state giving training to village Panchayat members, village youth and women, and the local government staff. Seven youth from Vayam’s team served as master trainers in GPDP reaching out to 35 Gram Panchayats.

The same story repeated when these youth were also taken up by the state as trainers in village awareness about PESA – TSP 5% fund utilisation. Their passion was funded by government this time.

Bin-booka-ya-shika and Dhadpad Laboratory

The school curricula often misses out that the human child can learn from experience, by doing, and by imitating. Bin-booka-ya-shika is our project that keeps a play kit in the village – open for all children. The children govern this kit as a common resource, they elect their representatives, and form rules of use. These children – who have never seen expensive toys – have successfully preserved 90% of the kit in a good condition. We believe if the children learn to govern a community resource, they will surely govern and conserve their forests and rivers in future.

Dhadpad Prayogshala – is a laboratory provided to five high schools where children could never lay hands on a microscope or handle other lab equipment. The lab too is governed by students in the high schools. The lab consists of glass equipment and also of equipment made from trash – used bottles, CDs, marbles, straws, balls, and so on. This lab covers all experiments in the high school curricula. It’s a perfect demonstration that learning science is not expensive.

Jeevan Shikshan (Life skills) curriculum is continued in its second year with two high schools. 100 students are participating in this program; learning about many things that real life is about.

Vrikshavalli Soyrik (water and 21000 trees)

14 villages, 103 individual farmers, 2 village assemblies, and 1 primary school participated in the program and planted more than 21,000 trees. The forest department and ICICI Bank supported this program. The project has also ensured water for the trees. Farmers have participated to make 124 Jalkund (a pond layered with geomembrane storing rainwater). The total water stored is 7,75,000 liters. The phase 2 of this project shall increase the coverage further and complete 40,000 trees.

People led conservation

Doyapada villagers have near completed the construction of cattle-prevention trench and bund circumventing their 47 hectares of community forest. The Forest produce processing centre coming up in the village received fundschkdam1 (Rs .7 Lakh) from forest department. The villagers have constructed temporary check dams using gunny-bags and plastic sheets – without any external funding support. The Deputy Conservator of Forests – seeing this effort by villagers has sanctioned permanent cement check dams in these locations. The village committee (CFRMC) has continued the resolve of Kulhadi-bandh and charai-bandh. It has refused the state-owned FDCM its routine felling of trees. The management, conservation, rejuvenation rights of the forest are with the people. (as per FRA sec 3(1)(i)).

Kokanpada villagers have planted 6000 trees in their protected community forest. They have initiated a new tradition of circumventing the forest – Van Parikrama. The children, women, and men of the village playing the traditional instrument walked around the forest. This is to ensure that entire village knows its forest – the boundary and the wealth.

Both Doyapada and Kokanpada have got solar driers and have begun drying of forest and farm produce. They have already sold 120 Kg dried tomatoes, 5 kg dried lemon grass and 75 bottles of virgin honey.

We are looking for people and institutions who would support these villages in making conservation profitable than destruction.

Thank you all for supporting us throughout this year and looking forward to more from you in the next year!

– Team Vayam

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