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AID BATON ROUGE. About Saathis and Jeevansaathis Presentation by: Murtaza Gandhi. Who is a Saathi?. AID recognizes certain outstanding social and environmental activists in India with “Saathi” awards. Why is saathiship important?.
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AID BATON ROUGE About Saathis and Jeevansaathis Presentation by: Murtaza Gandhi
Who is a Saathi? • AID recognizes certain outstanding social and environmental activists in India with “Saathi” awards.
Why is saathiship important? • Freedom to operate without the constraints of a specific time bound project. • Saathis are AID’s functioning body in the heart of action. They provide insight into the developmental dynamics. • Helps in deciding future projects by providing the required data from field.
How does AID support a saathi? • Monetary stipend • Non monetary involvement in the form of volunteers. • Strategic and logistical help.
How different is a JS from Saathi? • Jeevansaathis are the people who have been typically been associated with AID U.S before they go back to India to work at grassroots. • Jeevansaathi program began in 1998 to enable and encourage AID volunteers return to India. • AID Jeevansaathis make a long term commitment to work with AID on development issues.
Adivasis Agriculture Campaigns Children Disasters Economy Education Environment Governance Health Human Rights Media Peace Poverty Women What are different fields they work in?
Saathi – Madhavi Kuckreja • Noted women’s right activist. • Founded Vanangana, an organization dedicated to ensuring human rights for Dalit women in Bundelkhand region. • Group has worked on innovative training techniques, development of gender sensitive language and violence against women. • The group provides paralegal support for issues of domestic, dowry related and cast related violence.
Saathi- Anand Mazgaonkar • Based in Rajpipla, Gujarat and a senior activist with Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) and National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) • Postgrad from Baroda moved to Rajpipla after Emergency.
Saathi – Anand Mazgaonkar (contd) • Active in : • Forest Land Issues: -> Member of AMG. Lands of advisasis were procured illegally by govt. saying it is illegal due to lack of written proof. Created meetings in 150 villages. -> Submitted draft to NAC for regularization of forest lands without written proof. • Umergaon Port Struggle: -> In 1999 govt put a proposal for Rs. 12000 cr to develop a port in Umergaon. -> Largely fishing community affected. ->Suggested using Mumbai and Surat ports to full capacity.
Saathis – Swati Desai & Michael Mazgaonkar • Social and environmental activists staying in Juna Mozda, Bharuch, Gujarat. • Founding members of PSS • Members of the coordinating committee of NAPM
Saathis – Swati Desai & Michael Mazgaonkar (contd) • Women’s Co-operatives: • 3 women’s co-operative of about 150 women • Processes locally grown toor dal • Buy it at Rs. 14/kg and sell it at Rs. 32/kg. • Helps illiterate farmers from being exploited.
Saathis – Swati Desai & Michael Mazgaonkar (contd) • Watershed Program • Area gets 60 inches of rain each year but due to the water flowing down hill, soil gets eroded. • The saathis create discussions amongst villagers to create bunds and check dams. • Employ local villagers to make these dams and help make soil cultivable.
Saathis – Swati Desai & Michael Mazgaonkar (contd) • Environmental Issues • Golden corridor of Gujarat has 275 industrial estates. • They regularly dump waste into Damanganga and Vapi rivers. • PSS interacts with govt and NGOs to make them aware of the repurcussions.
Saathi – Shibu Nair • Program co-ordinator for Zero waste center in Kovalam, Kerala • Main aim is to create employment and upgrade the standard of living. • This is done by using organic farming over chemical farming and producing materials that are environmentally suitable. • Organized the Kovalam cleanup program.
Saathi - Revathy • Dynamic leader for organic farming in TN • Found that contemporary farming made the farmers resource-poor and debt ridden • Researched about alternative technique of organic farming. • Plans to train 1000 trainers in a year. • Aims at complete organic farming state by 2010 • Member of “TN Organic Farmers Association”
Saathi – Leo F Saldanha • Co-ordinator of ESG (Env Support Group) • Forefront of questioning large infrastructure projects like Cogentrix power plant in the Bangalore-Mysore corridor. • Wide ranging experience in env law & policy, decentralisation and urban planning for over a decade
Saathi – Richa Singh • Works on issues affecting women in Sitapur dist, UP • Was an employee of Mahila Samakhya funded by WB and Dutch govt • Formed an organisation called Sangtin that culminated in a book “Sangtin yatra: Saat zindagiyo me lipti naari vimarsh” • Working towards the independence of Sangtin from funding organizations and to develop concrete interventions to issues like violence against women • Additionally working towards increasing the income of farmers and workers in ‘Chikan’ industry.
JS – Chandra Anil • AID Chennai volunteer who has worked with TNSF to set up primary education support centers in Chennai. • Has 60 centers catering to 1000 children • State level coordinator to expand these to 1000 centers. • Coordinator in AID Chennai; Tsunami relief efforts etc.
JS – Rachna Dhingra • Currently working in Bhopal with the victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy • Moved to Bhopal from Ann Arbor in 2003 • Works towards getting compensation for victims, procuring clean drinking water, generating employment and mobilizing global and local communities. • In Ann Arbor, she and other AID volunteers set up the Bhopal Action Network to echo the concerns of victims of industrial disasters worldwide.
JS- Rachna Dhingra (contd) • She says : “I truly believe in the power of ordinary people because they simply are capable of doing extra ordinary things. I see it in Bhopal everyday and that is what keeps me going and inspired”
JS - Aravinda • Brought up in USA, founded a like minded set of volunteers interested in sustainable village development. • Improved AID’s publications by writing about unfair global trade practices, govt policies and destructive projects
JS – Aravinda (contd) • Co-ordinates social workers from NBA an NAPM to indulge in dialogue with AID. • Marketing of livelihood and ecologically sustainable products such as khadi from all parts of India. • Works to promote cultural and educational materials in local languages.
JS – Ravi Kuchimanchi • He founded AID in 1991 while working on his PhD in physics at the Univ of Maryland. • He initiated the weekly chapter service hours to promote volunteerism and democratic decision making; India Beckons- AID’s cultural program • Has served as the editor of Dishaa, AID’s newsletter since 1993. • Returned to India in 1998 and has been working on developmental projects.
JS – Ravi Kuchimanchi • Work: Active in Narmada movement; local community development efforts in villages near Rajamundri, Srikakulam etc in AP; visiting several AID Projects and providing in-depth reports; • Coordinating with AID Chapters in India and active link between India and AID U.S. • One of his innovative ideas has now resulted into the development of the Pedal Power Generator, which has the potential of being used in village level as an alternative source for energy
JS – Balaji Sampath • He was one of the first group of people in AID. Was associated with the Maryland chapter for 3 years. • Instrumental in providing a strong infrastructure for the expansion of AID work to 20 different chapters in the US. • After completion of his PhD in 97, he went to India for good. • Based in Chennai, he works in collaboration with TNSF, AISPN (and various other organizations) • Work areas: community health, education initiatives, women’s savings groups etc. • Was instrumental in organizing the national level workshop of the People’s Health Assembly in Nov- Dec 2000 • Key coordinator - of the HBP; Tsunami Relief efforts.
Great Folks • We as AID volunteers are proud to be a part of a team of selfless workers and researchers who have put social service in front of their careers. I salute all of them and vow to myself that even if I can do work equivalent to a drop in the ocean of their legacy, I shall consider myself blessed.
Before I complete I would like to narrate to you a story I came across today. It befits the timing, so will share it with you. -Thank you
By Shoba De This is a Diwali story. Every year, for over 20 years, I follow a Diwali ritual that means a lot to me. I retrace my steps to the heart of the city - an overcrowded area known as Thakudwar. There, at the busiest intersection, sits a woman with sad eyes, selling humble mud diyas to the well-heeled who stop by. With each passing year, her eyes grow sadder, her voice gets lower. She didn't always look or sound this way. The quiet desperation I had sensed so long ago, had gradually changed to something far worse - deadness. It was as if she'd given up, surrendered.
And I was afraid to ask. As always, we chatted briefly. She complained about the traffic snarl getting worse by the year. And the tiny strip of a pavement that was her 'shop' shrinking further with the arrival of younger, aggressive sellers of shinier, pricier diyas. ''I still sell mine for one rupee each,'' she mumbled, staring at the large, unsold heap lying on a torn gunnysack. ''Sometimes, people kick my diyas and break a few. They don't mean to, it's the lack of space . And people are in such a hurry these days.'‘ I reached out and touched her lightly on the shoulder to indicate I'd made my diya purchases and was ready to pay and leave. Suddenly, she grabbed my hand and asked in a highly excited, conspiratorial voice, ''Do you have a mobile phone in your handbag?''
Somewhat startled by the unexpectedness of the question, I nodded, ''yes''. She looked over her thin shoulder and whispered, ''Be careful. People in this area are always stealing mobile phones.'' I thanked her for warning me and was about to leave when she grabbed my hand again. ''Will you give your phone to me?'' she asked with the eagerness of a kid. Unsure of how to handle the request, I reached for the phone uncertainly and handed it to her. She held it in her hand like it was the world's most precious jewel. ''It is so beautiful,'' She gushed. ''Your diyas are far more beautiful,'' I responded with complete sincerity. She laughed and muttered, ''What? These mud diyas? Who wants them? Everybody wants a mobile phone.''
Then she asked softly, ''Can you make one call for me?'' ''Whom do you want to call? Your husband?'' She replied flatly, ''He's dead.'' I continued, ''Your son?'' She shook her head, saying, ''He's not dead. But I'm dead to him. Call my brother, he's the only one who talks to me.'' She reached into the deep recesses of her worn-out blouse and produced a chit with a number scribbled in Marathi. I rang it and gave her the phone. She was overjoyed just holding the instrument and hearing the ring-tone. Soon, I heard her shouting, ''Hello? Hello? Hello?'' over the roar of the peak-hour traffic. I watched as her face fell. She held out the phone. ''Even he does not want to speak to me.'' I tried to console her by saying, ''Maybe, he could not hear your voice... after all, there's so much noise here.''
She shook her head emphatically. ''He heard me all right. Maybe he thinks I'd ask him for money.'' She sighed, and those empty eyes brimmed over with tears she hadn't shed, perhaps for years. ''My son beats me because I'm poor. He's afraid he might have to support me.'' A burden? This woman? With so much pride evident in that set jaw? And a Spine that was ramrod straight? But it was the spirit that had been broken. And a heart that was irreparably damaged. Just like those mud diyas that shattered with a single careless kick. '
'It's of no use. I have nobody who wants to hear my voice...'' My mind instantly recalled all those upbeat, Cheerful commercials featuring the latest ring-tones and peddling the sexiest new phones in the market. I thought sadly about my desolate diya-seller with nobody to call and nothing to say. For no one's there to listen. I wish I could sign off with a jaunty 'Happy Diwali'. I can't. Her betrayed, stricken eyes won't let me.