On May 1, 2020, WOTR brought together a diverse range of stakeholders including policy makers, government officials, researchers, corporate donor representatives, and development practitioners for a half-day virtual workshop in order to reach a consensus on Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) for building resilience to COVID-19 in rural Maharashtra.
‘I was born in Satara, and grew up there. My father was a businessman; Although we own land I had no exposure to agriculture at all. I was a carefree student, and loved hanging out with friends. I was not much interested in academics. My Principal was concerned about my academic performance so he informed my father about it I studied till Class XII in Satara.
I chose to do Social Work, after class XII in Satara. I came to Pune for my higher education. It was a big culture shock especially getting used to the fast-paced city life. Even higher education institutes in Pune were quite professional in their approach. I later did my Masters in Social Work from Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune in Personnel Management.
During my Masters, I had an internship at Vanaz Company. This proved to be a major turning point of my career, as I came to know about the concept of CSR and how NGOs rely on donations from companies. I went and met representatives of different NGOs and learned at an in-depth level the key issues being faced at the grassroots. Through this internship and my thesis, I also became interested for a career in research. The various kinds of surveys, different ways of collecting data, framing a hypothesis and research question—all these fascinated me. While at BVU, one of my papers was on child labour which was selected for a presentation at a conference. I realised that research could lead to careers as well. In 2009, I graduated from BVU and got placed at Intervida.
At Intervida, my primary area of focus was working with women, in the Velhe taluka of Pune district. This is a tribal dominated area and lacks the basic amenities. We did PRAs in 50 villages and identified needs of the women there. The main needs of the villagers were electricity, basic health and education services, sanitation and even roads. The villagers told us they needed solar powered lamps and we got funding for the same. We created groups like the bachat gats, tribal melawas and helped them get documents. I worked in Intervida for 2 years before joining WOTR in 2011 as a Research Assistant.
At WOTR, my work has spanned in diverse areas like gender, climate change adaptation, food and nutrition security, vulnerability assessment. I have learned something from every area of study but my favourite has been the resilience study, with Abraham Samuel in which actually I learnt so many practical things simultaneously I got motivated from Dr. Marcella D’Souza, Crispino Lobo, Sandeep Jadhav in various aspects like leadership, day to day working style and so on. Being a researcher has many plus points. One comes to know how to conduct FGDs, different kinds of surveys, interact with diverse kinds of people and thus enrich one’s knowledge base. One negative aspect is we can’t always balance out the different points or use all the skills we have. It is also true that a researcher can’t implement all the findings that we come about.
A key project that I am currently working on is the Food and Nutrition Security study, in children of 0-5 years at the districts of Ahmednagar, Jalna and Dhule. Our study shows widespread malnutrition in the children there. This is mainly due to the shift from agriculture system and food habits. People have shifted to cash crops, weakening the local patterns of consumption. Millets are going down in popularity. Children especially are eating more and more junk food. To correct this situation, we are promoting local agrobiodiversity and educating people on the need to revive traditional food recipes. This is the only sustainable way to promote nutrition.
On a lighter note, I like to travel , meet new people and talk to them on different issues. As a mother I have learned how to make nutritious food appealing to my kid, and mix them with the other food items. I am good at that now. As a person from Satara, I enjoy non-veg food like pandhra rassa, tambda rassa, mutton sukka and so on.
In conclusion, my advice to those who want to join the NGO sector is that they should be genuinely passionate about this sector. They shouldn’t join just for money. For those who want work-life balance, then this is a good option.’