Towards Gram Swaraj: Gangakhedi village in Jhabua leads with decentralised planning
Gangakhedi village has recently won the Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar 2022 for the collective work done by its residents along with their panchayati raj institutions and community based organisations. Non-profit TRIF is training villagers, including rural women, in decentralised planning and execution of schemes.
Jyotsna Richhariya 2 May 2022 8:05 AM GMT
Seema Garwal, the 33-year-old farmer from Gangakhedi village believes her life found a purpose when four years back she started to work as a 'Badlav Didi' (change agent) for the education of children in her village in Petlawad block of Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh.
"I chose to be a Badlav Didi for education because my children – two boys and one girl – used to work with me in our fields but I decided to send them to school. Being an education worker, I felt I could help in sending other village children back to school," Garwal told Gaon Connection.
Garwal is one of the eight Badlav Didis in Gangakhedi gram panchayat of Jhabua who have been trained and work to ensure better education for the children of their village. Before becoming a Badlav Didi, Garwal used to farm her land and grow crops. Now, apart from respect from the fellow villagers, she also has a purpose in life.
Since 2018, Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF), in collaboration with MP State Rural Livelihood Mission, village panchayats and NGOs like Samarthan, is running a programme in 800 villages to train rural women as 'change vectors' who are commonly known as Badlav Didis. The grassroots organisation TRIF is also working to empower women who are part of the local self help groups and gram sabha to collectively construct a village development plan (VDP) and execute it for overall development.
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Gangakhedi village in Jhabua district, where this project is being implemented, has recently won the Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar 2022 with the collective work of Panchayati Raj Institutions and Community Based Organisations (PRI-CBO).
One of the main roles of the cadre of rural women being trained under this programme is to help community around health, education and governance issues. Due to the COVID pandemic, children dropped out of the schools and got engaged in farming and animal husbandry activities, which drastically impacted their education.
"We started five learning centres in the village for children and asked government school teachers to join us," Garwal informed Gaon Connection.
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These Badlav Didis for education also help teachers and panchayats to provide better mid-day meals in the schools and to make clean toilets accessible. "Earlier the toilet in school was locked, a teacher told me villagers make it unclean, so I requested them to open the toilet during the school hours so that our children will not suffer," she added.
Badlav Didis for education, health and governance
"I help in the training of Badlav Didi, maintain loans for SHGs and attend state-level meetings to facilitate the planning and implementation at the village,'' said Jamuna Katara, head of Gangakhedi Gram Sangathan. The women who work as Badlav Didi are divided into three main domains – education, health and governance, she added.
"We work to provide information and guidance to the villagers towards various schemes of the government," said 40-year-old Mira, the Badlav Didi for governance in Gangakhedi village.
Apart from working on education and health issues, these Governance Badlav Didis also work to provide support for job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), benefits of pension schemes, village sensitisation, etc. "Last year we organised a camp where we informed and applied for pensions and successfully achieved the target of providing benefits to 30 villagers," said Katara.
"I get six hundred rupees a month with badlav Didi's help but we're barely able to survive," a 55-year-old resident of Gangakhedi village, who lives with her sick husband and has no source of income, told Gaon Connection.
Collaboration with Panchayati Raj Institutions
Under the TRIF's Mission Antyodaya through Community Leadership Programme, panchayati raj institutions (PRI) members are trained in operationalising village planning. They undertakes participatory appraisal of situation through social maps and conduct gram sabhas to plan a future strategy for the village. "Initially only few members used to make village plans, but with training and regular gram sabhas, more people have started participating," says Neha Chawda, non-profit Samarthan's head of governance in Petlawad.
"I make sure to invite people to gram sabha and listen to them patiently. We decide our immediate and long term goals together based on the needs of the village," Prakash Solanki, Gangakhedi's sarpanch, told Gaon Connection. Before holding a gram sabha, rallies with banners and beating thalis are carried out to inform people about gram sabha and ask them to attend it.
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"Each group in the village, like youth, women, and men bring up their suggestions during the gram sabha and we jointly plan to implement them," informed Solanki.
Working with SHGs
Illiteracy is rampant in this adivasi area, meanwhile basic health facilities and quality education facilities have not yet reached them. Female members of the village play a crucial role in empowering themselves and their families.
"SHGs are the safe spaces for women to share their personal issues, they even save money and lend it to the male members," Jitendra, Senior Manager, TRIF, told Gaon Connection. "We involve youth, government workers, ASHA workers, and Badlav Didis together to work towards division of work to increase efficiency," he added. Youths are trained with computer skills to help their elders with required digital assistance.
To remove the middlemen and directly link farmers with the markets, the village youth have formed 'Agricultural Cadre', who directly sell the farm produce in the district market. During the lockdown, Badlav Didis (health) carried out vaccination drives and helped enlist malnourished children and provide them with nutrition support. Activities like regular weight check and diet plans are initiated for the well-being of a child.
Badlav Didis work as a medium between villagers and anganwadi schemes for the better healthcare of the women and children.
"I have been working as a Badlav Didi for the last four years. I regularly conduct surveys in the village about health issues. I work on various anganwadi health schemes like iron tablets, vaccines, etc.," said Savitri Solanki, a 30-year-old Badlav Didi for health from Gangakhedi village.
The TRIF's programme of PRI-CBO linkage for village development, in collaboration with the local government, has helped in the decentralisation and segregation of work, where each village community works to implement their desired vision for the village.
This story has been done as part of a collaboration with Transform Rural Indian Foundation.