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  Archives » Clarification regarding Newspaper Headline concerning SEWA
 
SEWA’s Statement
 
The devasting earthquake in Gujarat in 2001, shattered the lives of more than 80,000 members of SEWA. SEWA responded by organising the economic rehabilitation of its members. Livelihood security was central to this effort. SEWA is a trade union committed to economic and social development. From its inception it has always worked with the government and has kept away from party politics.
The International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) approached SEWA to undertake economic rehabilitation of earthquake affected families in partnership with the Government of India and the Government of Gujarat for 7 years. IFAD selected SEWA as the lead implementing agency because of the strength SEWA brings to the partnership and the project. SEWA brings a strong membership base, and holistic and integrated services with its sister organizations such as SEWA Academy, SEWA Insurance (VimoSEWA), SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre, SEWA Health Cooperatives, SEWA Housing and SEWA Rural Marketing Network and the credibility it has built up over the year. “Jeevika” is the livelihood security programme for these households which has been running since November 2002.
 
 
Jeevika aims to cover 400 villages and 40,000 households in the three earthquake affected districts of Kutch, Surendranagar and Patan. Jeevika focusses on the poorest of the poor and involving them in the planning, execution and monitoring of the entire programme
In the Jeevika project, the village committees, district associations, sister organizations and the Project Management Unit (PMU) of Jeevika prepare the Annual Work Plan and Budget (AWPB) which is approved by the Project Review Committee of the Government of Gujarat. All the expenses are made as per the Annual Work Plan and Budget, and the project document.
Over the past three years, Jeevika has succeeded in giving direct work and employment to 14,645 families, out of which 5,316 are the poorest of the poor. Jeevika has strengthened local employment which has resulted in higher earnings for 1200 artisans and about 1000 salt farmers. SEWA designed and implemented a storehouse of tools, related to livelihood in agriculture, building and salt making. These tools were available for borrowing by the members. Jeevika has successfully developed 836.54 hectares of land as part of its watershed development activity. The project has pioneered the forging of private sector partnerships in the marketing of agricultural products’ marketing to strengthen rural livelihoods. In addition, it has provided financial services and social security, including insurance, to thousands of households. One of the major components of the programme is disaster preparedness. IFAD invited the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI), established in 1994 and training NGOs in the area of disaster preparedness nationally and internationally, to conduct training in this project, based on its professional expertise. Jeevika not only ensures livelihood security, but also guarantees work and employment security, with social security, thus directly addressing the issues of poverty.
   
 
SEWA’s approach to rural organizing has been to identify the needs or issues of the local communities and develop linkages with existing government programmes and schemes. SEWA has not created parallel structures and, has always been working in co-operation with the Government of Gujarat.
Since ..........2004, the Government of Gujarat, one of the project partners, did not release project funds. It has not even reimbursed the funds for payment to women for work already completed. A special audit has been commissioned, although the project has a statutory auditor selected by the Government of Gujarat from its own panel of auditors. This statutory auditor conducts quarterly audits. Audited financial statements have been submitted regularly for the last three years. No financial irregularities or even queries were raised so far. Though the special audit is a cumbersome and time-consuming exercise, SEWA is cooperating fully with it.
 
Since no funds have been released for more than six months, adversely affecting 12,000 of the poorest of households in the three districts have been adversely affected. Loss of work and income, and non-payment of wages due to lack of funds, has resulted in starvation of these families. In order to survive, the families were compelled to sell their hard-earned assets such as vessels and cattle. These families are now heavily indebted and have been pushed back into poverty. Hence, they have started migrating. This has halted the entire process of development of the three districts.
All earlier governments and officials were fully supportive of Jeevika. We have always cooperated with the government and share common goals for development in these districts. We are open and transparent in all our accounts and activities. We continuted to approach our government for the early release of funds.
SEWA held a press conference on 14th September, 2005. The next day an order from the Finance Department, Government of Gujarat dated 1st September, 2005 was received. Out of a total amount of Rs. 4 crore due to SEWA only Rs. 1.66 has been received on September 19th, 2005. We are requesting the government to release the total amount due to us. We are also requesting the government to call for the convening of the Project Review Committee which has not been held for nine months. This Project Review Committee will approve the further funds. Meanwhile, the 12,000 poor women are without employment.
In support of their sisters, SEWA members have collected and distributed 18,000 kilogrammes of foodgrains for distribution among the affected members. Many have also contributed a day’s income for members in the three districts.
 
Jeevika’s Rocky Road (from Anasuya, 22.5.05)
 
Awal is a small village eighty kilometers away from Santalpur taluka headquarters in Patan district of north Gujarat. Located far from the main highway, this village was untouched by developmental programmes of any kind. Eighty per cent of the people in this little village are poor and eking out a living at the edge of the desert.
Lack of employment and water are longstanding issues for the people of this village, forcing them to migrate for eight months of the year.
SEWA included this village in its Jeevika programme to promote livelihoods and overall development.
Despite considerable opposition, but with the support of the people of Awal, it was decided to begin work on deepening and repairing the village pond. Through this activity, both employment would be generated and water harvesting would be achieved. Plans and estimates were prepared together with the villagers
 
There was one difficult issue: where would the village obtain drinking water for all those to be engaged in this watershed work? The village people identified the lack of drinking water as a major drawback. They decided to work towards extending the water pipe-line from the neighbouring village of Dhokawada, two kilometers away
SEWA’s organizers met with officials of the government’s water supply board, requesting them to extend the pipe-line from Dhokawada to Awal. The officials explained that they did not have the funds required for this, but if this activity could be undertaken as part of Jeevika, they would extend support and gave an assurance that water would indeed reach Awal village.
The digging of the land to lay the pipes was initiated after an auspicious offering by a Rabari woman of Awal. There were some delays as the village folk did not have the tools to start up the work. Besides, they had never done such work before. Another problem was that there were not enough hands to do this work. Half the families in Awal had already migrated in search of work. Others wondered whether they would get paid if they undertook this work. Finally, the village leaders, the “aagewans”, decided to recruit workers from the Jakhotra village nearby to supplement the local hands available in Awal
 
 

Everyday we had to walk through the fields for about one kilometer to get water. And the women of our village could not go on their own everyday. Some time ago, a voluntary organization came here and helped us make a tank to store water. They pumped out water from the well and led it into the tank. But then the machine broke down, and nobody bothered to repair it. Fifteen years ago, another three-metre high tank was made and filled with water. But that did not work out either. So we all thought that our village would never get water! When the Jeevika programme started in our village, once again our hopes were raised. And we were not disappointed!

Lallabhai Thakore, resident of Awal village
 
   
 
After the work started, there was a new obstacle. To lay the pipe-line, the workers had to cut through a hillock. This was a very tough task indeed! SEWA’s district coordinator encouraged them to persevere, and suggested that more money be paid to the workers for this difficult undertaking.
The villagers looked into hiring a machine to cut through the hillock, but soon found that it cost ten thousand rupees! They resolved to do this work themselves. The site of these earth-works was about two kilometers from the village. But the village people did not lose heart.
Working day and night, cutting through the rocky hillock and laying pipes carefully, the workers completed their task. And the total cost was just Rs.2250.
They carried large 15 to 20 litre containers full of water, along with their food and 10 to 15 feet long and three-foot wide pipes which had to be laid at the work-site.
 

Once this work was done, the village people found a leak in the tank which was to supply the water. The tank had sprung a leak when a crack developed during the earthquake. The village mason soon took care of this new problem. Now all that was left was to fit the pipes into the tank which stored the water. The local team of SEWA organizers asked the water supply board for help to connect the pipes and the tank, and soon this was done as well.

“We got water in our village for the first time ever! We got another lease of life—and all thanks to SEWA,” said Jeevuben, an aagewan of Awal.

The people of Awal village fully understood the importance of contributing towards the work undertaken. Recognising that any work or service given free of charge has little value, the village development committee called Jeevika SEWA Mandal, decided to collect people’s contribution. As most of the villagers of Awal are poor, it was decided to contribute a matching amount towards the labour costs, but not the material costs.

 
 
A unanimous resolution was passed to this effect by the leaders or Aagewans of Awal's Mandal, supported by the SEWA-promoted district association responsible for the Jeevika programme in the district.Through this work 20 workers obtained employment. Twelve of them were the poorest of the poor in the village. These workers got between Rs.1800 to 2200 each as income, and an additional 960 kilogrammes worth of foodgrains. This was like a dream come true for these families. They used this income for household expenses and paying off their debts.
Today the village people are happy to have piped water supply at long last. In order to maintain this water supply, the Awal Jeevika SEWA Mandal’s three members, two other aagewans from the village and one panchayat (village council) member have formed a Water Management Committee. Women of the village will take the lead in this committee.
Inspired by the example of Awal village, the neighbouring villages have begun to ask for such livelihood support from the Jeevika Programme.
 
  Where village people make their own development plans
   
 
Development action requires much patience. This is true of the Jeevika programme as well. One department or agency cannot do “development” single-handedly. Jeevika ‘s work needs faith and trust. There is a world of difference between the government constructing a well or an organization doing so, and local, village people doing this themselves.
Village people’s needs cannot be addressed through schemes. Water reached the people of Awal from nearby Dhokawada through their own efforts. Attempts to replicate this effort through a similar” scheme” for 100 villages will not work. Each village has to develop its own plan, according to its own needs and reality. It has to be decided on a “case-by-case” basis.
   
 
When village people make their own development plans, it takes time to see the impact of this. But the effects of such village-based and locally developed plans is more likely to last in the long-term because the plans have been prepared in a democratic way. Women and men, direct beneficiaries and others, those with water sources and those without, those with land and those who are landless, all groups and communities—involving all in the planning process for their own village is essential. And both patience and faith are required in large doses!
 

The plans made should be such that all sit together and put the needs of the poorest in the forefront. They should be finalized by consensus and owned by one and all in the village. These plans should be made carefully and according to the village community’s speed. There is no room for haste. Whether it is IFAD or our own government, all need to understand that if we actively support development plans made by the village people themselves, then the chances of effective action and development are greater. In Awal village, the water supply board supported the village people’s attempts to obtain water, and as a result, a longstanding dream of the local people came true.

There are many different concepts of “development” world-wide and many ways of measuring “development”. But few would have developed ways to measure and evaluate the development plans of villages like the local people themselves have. The “experts” development plan and that of the village people would most likely be quite different. How long must we wait before there is congruence between the plans of both “experts” and local people? Jeevika tried to involve both…when will the state’s administrators recognize this?

 
And when such jointly made development plans are actually implemented, differences of opinion and approach are to be expected. Indeed, they are part of the process which will eventually lead to a structure and plan acceptable to all.
While implementing any development plan, so many issues crop up. Priorities may even change. This was the case in Awal village. The priority was to get water in the village. But as attempts to obtain water were made, technical people to assist were not available. Once such persons were located, then workers to lay the pipe-line could not be found, as many village people had migrated in search of livelihood. One has to deal with so many different issues and factors when undertaking village development work!
   
 
And once the villagers of Ahwal began the work, they ran into a new problem: that of cutting through a rocky hillock. This required more work and funds, resulting in the revision of the original plan estimates. The books of accounts reflect this increased expenditure. But this does not mean that there has been some fraud or leakage or malintent. It does not take long for “experts” to declare that there are “financial irregularities”. And this then leads to delays at the village level and the withholding of funds. Doubts and questions are raised by those who administer development programmes. No one seems to appreciate the overall small amount of resources required to bring the kind of changes experienced in the small, remote desert village of Awal.
   
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Self Employed Women's Association
SEWA Reception Centre, Opp. Victoria Garden, Bhadra, Ahmedabad - 380 001. India.
Phone : 91-79-25506444 / 25506477 / 25506441, Fax : 91 - 79 - 25506446, Email :mail@sewa.org
     
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