There is an urgent need to create mechanisms to empower widows in Yavatmal and Vidarbha, and give them the support they need to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward. However, such initiatives are rare. One of the few such projects for the welfare of the helpless women is run by Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) and its sister organization Sampada Trust.
‘I grew up in a colony of the Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd. (HAL), which had all the facilities that one could ask for like a school, sports ground, shopping centre, health centre and so on. I had a wonderful childhood, growing up with boys and girls from different states of India. As HAL was a PSU, families from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bengalis and Maharashtrians all lived together happily. We celebrated dandiya, Ganpati and all community festivals. I got a cosmopolitan outlook from that time itself.’
I did my B. Com from BMCC and worked in accounting department of a Pvt. Ltd. company. I saved up money and decided to do an full-time MSW from the Karve Institute of Social Service, Pune (KInSS). My choice of MSW was motivated by the fact that it offered campus placements and that I had the desire to do social work of some kind. I studied between1994-1996, and was the topper in both years.
After graduating from KInSS, I got an opportunity to join a Research Organisation called Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS) as a Research Officer. I enjoyed the atmosphere so much that I stayed there for more than 2 years, and learned a lot about social development and the way research is done. I later got a good offer at Chordia Food Products Ltd (CFPL), and worked till there 2001. At CFPL, I supervised the Personnel and HR functions at their factory premises in Shirwal. But slowly, I came to realise I needed something new in my life and when I learned about WOTR, I decided to join it. In 2002, I joined WOTR as a Social Development Officer and was supporting trainings.
In 2005, Marcella D’Souza, the ED, offered me an opportunity to go to Rajasthan for a consultancy project. I started going there more and more often and felt that WOTR needed to work in Rajasthan. In 2008, WOTR opened an office in Udaipur, and me and Prakash Keskar (currently Director) went to oversee the office. I stayed in Rajasthan, for seven years between 2008 and 2015. My years in Rajasthan were very challenging but I enjoyed them thoroughly. It wasn’t easy to adjust to a new state; the climate, lifestyle and attitudes and so on were very different from Maharashtra but I took up the challenge. In particular, Dungarpur was the district where we initiated our work and then moved on to Udaipur, Barmer and Pratapgarh districts.
In 2015, I shifted back to Maharashtra for personal reasons and have been living here since. I am currently Manager, and involved with the Water Stewardship Initiative Program. I am also actively engaged with trainings.
I have been in WOTR for the last 17 years; at a time when job hopping is common, the question arises: what makes a person stay for a long time in one place? There are 2 factors in my opinion. One is the match between my own values and WOTR’s values. The second is the opportunity to keep learning new things. Every few years in WOTR, I have been moving to different opportunities. So life never became monotonous. I feel a sense of satisfaction when I look back at these years of service. Mentoring by Crispino Lobo, Marcella D’Souza and Prakash Keskar, besides many more, has also shaped my work ethics and made me the professional I am today.
Over time, several challenges have come up for WOTR and the non-profit sector in total. Funding has become a challenge, and the expectations from people has changed. Instead of thinking about how to maintain projects even after an NGO stops working there, the demand is that the NGO should do continue doing everything. In some villages, villagers do not accept that they have any responsibility. These two are major and continuing challenges.
‘I can say that non-profits are professionalizing themselves and a corporate touch is coming in. But going forward, we need to use technology more effectively. NGOs often do not use technology. Many NGOs are in a very precarious position, in terms of funds, resources and personpower. There needs to be hand-holding.’
My vision for WOTR is that we should build stronger research-implementation ties, i.e. applied research. W-CReS is definitely a step in that regard, but more can be done. We also need to expand in Africa and north and eastern India, where much needs to be done. I hope these things can happen in future. Health and peri-urban areas also should be focused on in the times to come.
At a personal level, I want to be associated more with agriculture and livelihoods of the marginal and small farmers. I would like to contribute in whatever way to help farmers, now and in the future. This is my vision.’