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I visited Sewa International’s projects in Uttarakhand and this is what I have found

12 Jul 2023 12:10 PM | Anonymous

Women of Uttarakhand take part in agricultural activities using tools and techniques.

Women centric stories of sewa

The notion of sewa has been the soul of Bharatbhumi since time immemorial. During our stay in Uttarakhand, we were fortunate to experience the subtleties of this notion of sewa tatva through the sewa karya being done by Sewa International Bharat.

The idea of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", the entire world is one family, can be experienced in its essence through the Self-Help Groups (SHGs) formed by rural women wherein every member not only works for the benefit of members involved but also for the benefits of the community. 

SHGs of Sewa International

Women make bamboo baskets and other bamboo products to earn livelihood in Uttarakhand.

"It is because of my involvement in sewa karya that I am able to develop a sense of confidence, fearlessness and learned how to interact with people in the community, and thereby allowing me to develop leadership qualities," said Ranjana Devi Ji, a community leader from Nagdhar village. She further adds that SHG members are an inspiration to her and like a big family for her, and wants to make sure that this noble cause of sewa karya reaches every woman. A SHG is a group of about 10 to 20 people, usually women, from similar socio-economic backgrounds, who come together to form savings and credit groups. They pool their savings together so that members can take loans for small interest. This process creates an ethic that focuses on savings first. The setting of rules and norms of SHGs and accounting of the loan is done in the group by designated members. They have bank linkages as well.

Kusum Devi Ji another community leader from Nail village expressed that developing a habit to save money and helping each other with their needs through inter-loaning mechanism among the members of SHG have increased the self-confidence of women in a tremendous manner, and it has allowed women of her SHGs to become self-reliant. SHGs that have gained maturity have also formed higher collectives such as federation.

They receive a variety of inputs, such as training on agricultural practices and on livelihood-based activities, facilitated by the government or NGOs. The role also has extended to involve a variety of topics, including sanitation, nutritional awareness, and other social issues. SHGs are not simply serving as agents of informal financial institutions but a social capital that can have a long term and sustainable impact on the community with the right amount of support and facilitation.

These SHGs have helped by increasing social capital and trust among women but also their awareness and understanding of a variety of subjects. SHGs can interact with other governmental organizations and other institutions to leverage various benefits. 

Digital Literacy Initiatives of Sewa International

Women learning to use mobile phones to run their business, use UPI payment, and facebook to market their products

Kumari Seema Ji from Kimotha village said, "I came to learn computer courses in the centre run by Sewa International's Sewa Yuva Jyoti program which aims at bridging the gap between the demand for skilled labour and the supply of trained technology professionals. Most of us do not grow up with access to even the most basic technology, so when and if we decide to pursue a career in this field, we have a difficult time adjusting to and familiarizing ourselves with different tools of the trade. Empowering underprivileged youth with digital literacy skills not only meets a key workforce demand but also extends much-needed access to education throughout various communities. After getting certified, I started my own training centre supported by Sewa International where more than 50 students from my village come to learn different computer courses every day." She also joined SHG in her village and helped in advancing the sewa karya through kishori samuh and bal panchayat.

Binaya Devi Jiis a symbol of courage, confidence and sewa in our community," says the members of SHGs of Valli village. Binaya Devi Ji emotionally expressed that she developed an attitude of fearlessness and became more caring and aware towards the needs of her community. Furthermore, after completing the training program of NASSCOM in digital literacy, she received a smartphone and learned how to use it. She also taught other members of her SHGs about the same. NASSCOM Foundation works with the technology industry in achieving its goals of social transformation and impacts through technology. 

For over a decade of its existence, the foundation has touched more than one million lives through its efforts towards providing digital literacy, skills for livelihood, supporting Persons with disabilities, fostering innovation, empowering Nonprofits with technology and engaging in volunteerism. She has also learned knitting work through the Sewa Mahila Jyoti program, and is willing to teach other women.

Upon asking a question that what did you get from Sewa International, Meena Devi Ji who migrated to Garhwal from Gujarat, confidently replied that sewa has given her the confidence and ability to stand firmly during chaotic situations of life. She further adds that Sewa International has given her a larger Parivar where she feels a sense of belongingness with everyone, and conveys that it is because of these reasons she is always ready for the cause of sewa karya in a selfless manner. We believe that when knowledge is shared with groups rather than individuals, the cost effectiveness and programme efficiency increase, which results in benefits in the economic, social, political, and behavioural dimensions of empowerment.


Promoting local crafts of Uttarakhand

Tribal women of Uttarakhand working on indigenous crafts for livelihood.

Mrs. Soni Ji, who lives in the Tapovan cluster of the Chamoli district, has been engaging in woollen handicraft work for the past 20 years. They carry the traditionally learned knowledge unscathed and want to pass it on to the next generation. Even today they have not given up this traditional work even though they have to face difficulties like financial difficulty, longer working hours and lack of access to good markets in continuing the woollen work. She belongs to a family whose livelihood depends primarily on agriculture. Now the Income from woollen handicraft work provides an alternative source of income for the family.

She said that Sewa International's ALIGN project intervention upgrades skills in local arts and crafts and empowers the women in the rural and hilly areas of Uttarakhand through training on Marketing/Entrepreneurship to migrant families and creating sustainable livelihood sources.

By raising the level of their consciousness in unfavourable circumstances of life, many such women have confidently embarked upon the journey of sewa karya in a selfless manner. Also, by being the catalyst of change in their respective communities, they have manifested the notions of inspiration, intellect, will, wisdom and creativity in a true manner.

It is with a deep sense of humility, and based on our interactions with many SHG members, we have experienced that the matru shakti of Uttarakhand has not only provided the solid foundation and force on which the sewa karya is reaching to the multitude of parivars through various programs but also spreading the essence of the subtlest aspects of the elements of Sewa by their thoughts, words and actions. 

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