Friday, November 27, 2009

THE HINDU: Rural empowerment through recognition


Rural empowerment through recognition

Priti Narayan

In the form of Fellowship to ensure sustainable livelihood for rural people

Photo: T. Singaravelou
A Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy (NVA) Fellow sharing her experiences on rural community leadership with this year’s awardees. —

PUDUCHERRY: Ten persons from rural Puducherry will be recognised for their work in a few days from now. They have been selected for the Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy (NVA) Fellowship this year, by the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), for their contributions to the rural people. The recipients of the award hope to serve their communities better, after the fellowship on December 4.

As revealed by the awardees at the orientation and experience-sharing session on Thursday, their contributions to the rural community so far, cannot be ignored.

One of them is an innovator in agriculture, while another has been rendering veterinary services for over 20 years. Others include presidents of successful women self-help groups in their villages actively involved in social mobilisation and ‘knowledge workers,’ disseminating information at the Village Knowledge Centres set up at various villages by MSSRF.

Since they have been selected for the services they have already rendered to the community, what are their expectations from the Fellowship? “When I tried to educate people on the ills of chemical fertilisers, no one took me seriously, because of my lack of proper education. This will give us the authority we lack in education,” said Pargunan, one of this year’s awardees. “The Fellowship will fetch us recognition, and spur us to do more things, better things,” believes another awardee S. Navamani.

In order to empower them to do better, the foundation will undertake need assessment for each of the awardees, and provide training in whatever they lack, such as accounting skills, communication skills, computer skills, marketing skills, and so on.

Going by the experiences of awardees from the past, the Fellowship has certainly helped. Thanks to the training given by the foundation, Sumathi, a 2005 Fellow now edits using the computer, ‘Namma Ooru Seythi,’ a village level information-disseminating newsletter. Sundari, another Fellow, said that she has now become a Ward member in her village Panchayat. Others have conducted surveys and compiled scientific reports for the government.

Of the 54 Fellows Puducherry has produced between 2004 and 2008, some have participated in the World Summit on the Information Society conferences in Geneva and Tunis, and others are involved in constant information and skill sharing with rural communities in Puducherry and Tamilnadu.

“The aim of the Fellowship is to ensure sustainable livelihood for rural people,” explains Thiagarajane of the Village Resource Centre in Pillayarkuppam.

“But we see that confidence is boosted, and livelihoods created. If opportunities are given to people with potential, they will certainly rise to the occasion.

And the Fellowship certainly makes these opportunities available. Can you imagine an uneducated housewife editing a newspaper on the computer?” he asks.

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