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 working as a guest teacher in Partala village in Madhya Pradesh (MP), when WOTR had started work there in 2009. Later, I was among the 11 students from MP who got selected for the 3rd batch of ‘ECO Course’ conducted by WOTR under its ‘The School for Sustainable Living and Livelihoods’ initiative. We got to learn about climate change, ecosystems, systems thinking and of course, watershed development (WSD). I think this course was the defining moment in my life. The most important takeaway from this rigorous two year ‘ECO Course’ was that we had the confidence and the ability to do something for our villages. After the successful completion of the course, I started as rural resource person and was assigned to Barbati village in MP. In the beginning, it was very challenging to convince people about the need of shramdaan (voluntary labour). Later, while working on a Royal Bank of Scotland Foundation project, I gained expertise in both the technical as well as social parts of WSD. With the encouragement of seniors, I completed my graduation as well as my Master of Social Work (MSW) in 2016. Now that I have become Team Leader and working in eight villages of Chhindwara district, I encourage my team members to continue their education. What I like most about my work is the clarity and directness with which we interact with community. On the flip side, when we implement the project in the villages we do not have specific working hours and life becomes very hectic. However, when I see the happy faces of people because of our work, I feel we are doing something worthwhile,” says Rajesh Bairagi.