Alumni Story: Kena Holkar

Kena Holkar [MA Development 2013-15]

Organization Name: Rural Urban Development Research and Action-RUDRA

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace”

John Lennon

Journey so far

When I completed my engineering in 2013,my idea of social work was quite limited. Two years that I spent at Azim Premji University played a critical role in shaping my understanding and decisions. During the programme I did summer internship with Adiwasi Mukti Sangathan, a grass root organization working for tribal rights in western Nimad region of Madhya Pradesh. One month of extensive village stay

Kena_Fig1
The formation of first Matru Mandal in an aaganwadi in the village; Kena explaining the mothers about their children’s’ nutritional requirement and early childhood care

with the tribals, exposure to their culture, way of living gave me a whole new understanding of people and life. After the programme I got placed in Srijan.

I was there for few months but was not feeling like I was using my whole potential.  Through the work experience that I gained in Srijan, I realized that working on a single theme is not going to change lives. Many themes are inter connected, therefore,  removing the root cause holds the utmost importance. Sanjay was also working in Srijan. We met, became friends, got married and that’s when the idea of Rudra was born. We have founded a Society named RUDRA – Rural Urban Development Research and Action. At RUDRA,we work to achieve holistic development.  Presently, I have received Wipro Sustainability Seeding Fellowship for RUDRA which helps young people working for environmental issues.

Nature of work here

Kena_Fig2
When we formed our first tippy tap setup for regular hand-wash, with the help of SHG women

Nature of work here can be broadly categorized under the ambit of Rural Development. We began our work with a dream of creating a model village, a society which has achieved holistic development in all spheres of life. A society which is intrinsically linked with the laws of nature and believes in community effort. Our small projects spread over all spheres of human lives i.e.  Health, sanitation, livelihood, community institution building, women empowerment and Environment.

Impact

In February 2016 we came to the Darha village panchayat. Darha village is situated in Chatra district of Jharkhand. It is around 130 Kms from State Capital Ranchi. Village’s total population is 3017 and number of houses are 543. Female population is 48.1% and the literacy rate is 28.2%. The village had very low development indicators such as lack of livelihood, high migration, diminishing agricultural opportunities, poor awareness level, patriarchal mindsets, poor education etc.Without any funding, with 2 professionals and one field staff, we successfully created 13 SHGs in Darha, Sel, Baidag and Bairiyo villages of the panchayat.They formed rules to save 10 rupees and one handful of rice every week. In every meeting, the women had discussions on subjects such as education, health, livelihood, rights, duty, farming, small industries, working together and doing various tasks related to life. The culture that developed in the group, proved to be effective. Talks on issues, regular visits to school-Anganwadi-Panchayat started. Women began to understand their rights, started questioning and made decisions.

Kena_Fig3
A SHG formation meeting with women belonging to SC community

Today women of every group have savings of 5000-8,000 rs, with enough rice that they can sell or use in time of need. Every woman experiences self-reliance and self-esteem.

 

Recently, the Didi Café scheme was implemented by the government in every District collector’s office in Jharkhand. Didi cafe is managed by the best self-help group of the district. For the café creation in Chatra district, the selection process took place among approximately 15,000 SHG (according to the data received from NABARD), located in the district and the highest qualified SHG on all the parameters was “Jai Sarna Self Help Group.” The District Government found RUDRA’s self-help group to be the best group and entrusted the responsibility of Didi cafe.

Kena_Fig4
Women working in the Didi Canteen

10 tribal women of one of our SHGs now run Didi canteen at the collector’s office, spend the day talking to Government officers, listens to every development plan, talks about it, and earns 15,000-20,000 ₹ monthly.
Women of the remote villages have become independent, have gone ahead, and are the inspiration for other women.

We have also intervened in organic rice cultivation with women farmers by introducing System of Rice Intensification (SRI). It is an organic method of rice cultivation where minimal input is required to give three-fold output. In the first year we worked with few farmers and one of our farmers got amazing results; with only 2 kgs of seeds he received an output of 1 and a half quintal rice. We continued our SRI project this year as well and implemented it with 50 farmers. The produce turns out to be 482 quintals for 30 acres, improving the income of each farmer by 9000 Rs. on an average.

Model Toilet construction under SBM scheme in Darha village, Chatra, Jharkhand. Our model toilet consists of two soak pits, space for having bath and the waste water being used for kitchen garden

Learnings

There is tremendous amount of learning that one will obviously gain out of this insane step of leaving everything and working in a remote village in a naxal hit region without any support. I was moved by the issues of Tribal rights and was deeply motivated to work for them but my experience in this village in Jharkhand tells me that the SC community is living in even more pathetic conditions than the tribal. They do not have lands, they are daily wage laborers, they are migrants, their children are malnourished, child marriage is rampant and many other issues. In development profession you will always find newer issues and different conditions affecting them. There is a beauty of diversity. Finding the root cause of every issue is important. Then only you can bring real change. Otherwise, you will only have to satisfy yourself with pseudo change.

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