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 was born in 1985 in the town of Satara. My father was a controller in the MSRTC and my mother a homemaker. My father spent more time in Mahabaleshwar, due to its salubrious and pleasant climate. At that time, as a child, I realised that a difference in climate could make such an impact in someone’s life. My father was used to the cool climate of Mahabaleshwar and so never liked to spend too much time at his hometown due to the climate.
There were many engineers, doctors and lawyers in our family but I did not want to go down that road. I came to know about the TISS in Mumbai, and the idea of doing a degree in social work was appealing to me. After doing my class XII, I felt I should do social work and I realised that there was a school of social work in Satara itself, the Yashwantrao Chavan School of Social Work (YCSSW). I did my BSW (2004-2007) there.
While at college, I came to know much more about TISS and how good an institute it was. But the idea of facing an interview and GD at TISS was intimidating; so we decided to prepare for it. We broke into groups and in the vacations we prepared for it. We identified the key topics of the year and different groups would make presentations on it. Thanks to all this, I managed to get a seat at the TISS in the MSW course in 2007.
There was a huge cultural difference between the TISS culture and my college environment previously. Initially, the adjustment was a challenge but my professors at TISS helped me to adjust to the same. Professors like Swati Banerjee and Dr. Bodhi were an inspiration for me then and even now. After graduating from TISS in 2009, I worked there from 2009 to 2015 as a Researcher. From 2015, I am at WOTR. I am also currently pursuing my PhD (Social Work) from TISS.
Like any other field, the research field has its plus and minus points. The plus points are that there are constant learning opportunities. At TISS, and at WOTR, I have got the chance to explore new areas like climate change, heat stress, agriculture, natural resources management and so on. At WOTR, we have an inter and trans-disciplinary approach. Compared to others, this is one of our strong points.
If take a look at the areas of improvement, there needs to be greater grassroots connect. The question we should ask ourselves is: How does a community benefit from our research? In general, in this research field we need to see how best the village residents can benefit from our work. We need to reach out more.
Rising temperatures are becoming more common now. Emphasis should be given to coping mechanisms which are cheap and easy to implement, like subsidising water coolers or painting tin roofs white. Community halls should be set up where villagers can go and take refuge from the heat. Traditional building techniques can play a role. I am proud that WOTR is the only NGO in India focusing on rural heat stress planning.
If I talk about my vision for the future, I want to remain in research and present it at the national level. I want to pursue my career in research in Climate Change. I would like to do a vast, international-scale research project in the field of climate change.
In terms of my vision for WOTR, we should expand in Marathwada and Vidarbha more, especially Vidarbha. As of now, our reach in Vidarbha is very limited. There is scope to work there. We also should look at urban areas and not limit ourselves to rural areas. Let us aim to expand there in the next 10 years.’
In conclusion, the non-profit sector in India is going through changes. The employees have to stay updated by learning new technologies and skills. A lot of young idealistic people are interested in joining this area, but they must be ready to keep themselves skilled and ready for the future challenges. If you fail to adapt to the challenges, and be aware of the new technologies, you will fall behind. This is my one message for the non-profit sector.’