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 and brought up in the city of Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Odisha. Though hailing from a small remote village in Jharkhand’s Gumla district, the village of Rampur, I grew up in an urban environment till my graduation. So my upbringing was very urban, and like any typical city kid. However, being originally from a small village I had an idea from a young age about the issues and challenges of the rural areas of the country.
My graduation was in sociology and through this I got insights into the gender issues in our country. After my graduation in sociology, I was not sure what to do but I was advised by my seniors to take up a Masters’ degree in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. I did my Masters’ in Social Work in Family and Child Welfare in 2004-2006 batch. Though my specialization was in Family and Child Welfare, I did my internship with the Foundation for Ecological Security in the Angul district, Odisha. There, some grassroots watershed development was going on and I observed closely the water problems there. Over there I could very closely observe the village level caste and gender dynamics around the water usage and how it affected the village community at large. I started developing an interest in the concept of NRM, which has stayed with since then.
In 2006, the WOTR HR officials came to TISS for campus placements, and I was selected, the only female candidate among 4 candidates. In my interactions with the WOTR staff, at Sangamner and other parts of Ahmednagar district, I realized how much emphasis WOTR gave to gender mainstreaming and women empowerment. I felt that this was the right choice for me and decided to join. In July 2019, it will be 13 years.
Over the last 13 years, I have had the golden opportunity to implement natural resource management projects, agricultural projects, women empowerment, skill development, basic healthcare and many more in the tribal areas of Jharkhand and Maharashtra. I also got hand on experience in capacity building of watershed dwellers, NGO partners in Maharashtra and Capacity building of staff in IWMP projects in Jharkhand. Over time in WOTR, I always got the chance to take up new opportunities and learn new skills like disaster management as well as work in different geographies. I have worked in Amravati in Maharashtra and now in Jharkhand.
Working in the development sector is both rewarding and challenging experience. It is rewarding as it is not just a typical 9-5 job but instead we get to see the impact of our work on the common people of the project area. This gives me a lot of satisfaction. Besides, a major reward is that the work rarely becomes boring.
However, there are challenging aspects of this work. The NGO sector is changing; finding both talented personnel and funding options is an increasing challenge. The newer generation is increasingly looking at the development sector as a career option, but they must be prepared to work with dedication and sincerity. There are many fellowships now which give youth a chance to see the grassroots for themselves, but I want to say it is not enough to have a ‘passion’ but one must also try to build up one’s skills and work towards making a difference. You have to work with dedication.
‘My goal for the future would be that the rural people should be aware of all the schemes the government has created for them and make the best use of it. Even now, so many villagers are not informed of these programmes and miss out on them. I want to play a role in linking the two.
Speaking about WOTR, I wish that WOTR could introduce a ‘fellowship’ programme for bright, passionate youth. This could be on the lines of the many fellowship programmes in our country. This will not only create awareness about our work but bring in new talent to the organisation. My wish for WOTR is to become a centre of excellence in everything that we do.’