Chhattisgarh is one of the poorest states in India with majority of population depending on agriculture and forest based livelihoods for their sustenance. Agriculture in the state is not a reliable source of income as most part of the agricultural land does not have any source of irrigation apart from rainfall. This leads to a large number of population opting for migration to distant places in search of employment willingly or unwillingly. When these people go to other places in search of livelihood, there is no security about their place of stay, food, security or other living conditions. On the other hand, quality of life at their homes also suffers due to emotional baggage that their family members have to carry due to separation.
Samarthan in association with International Labour Organization has been running Work in Freedom project in rural areas of two districts of Chhattisgarh namely Surguja and Jashpur. The project tries to address the issue of safe migration in these areas and providing opportunities at local level so that frequency and incidences of migration may be lowered. These opportunities are provided in terms of skill development training’s to young boys, girls and women, facilitating the linkage with various government schemes and ongoing programs, strengthening the local institutions like self-help groups, meeting with line departments to take their support and inputs. The overall idea is to enable people to generate their livelihood at local level or in case they have to migrate, it should be in a safe and dignified manner. Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs) and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted in the initial phase of the project to ascertain the baseline status and accordingly design village specific intervention strategies for the aforementioned objectives.
Bansbahar is a village located in Kansabel block of Jashpur district in Chhattisgarh. It is situated 8 km away from the block headquarters and 41 km away from the district headquarters. It is a medium size village with major chunk of the population depending on seasonal agriculture for their sustenance. In the remaining time, they work as wage labourers in nearby areas or migrate to cities with the hope of better livelihood opportunities. Bansbahar is one of the forty villages where Work in Freedom project is being implemented by Samarthan. When volunteers from Samarthan reached the village, initially they started working with local self-help groups of the village which were formed by the anganwadi worker of the village under Chhattisgarh Rural Livelihood Mission. It was apparent that though these groups existed and did have sufficient memberships but in reality they were not fully functional. Regular meetings were not held and documentation of these meetings was also not there. In a sense, they were being run merely to fulfill the formality or to abide by the instruction from the authorities. To overcome the situation, volunteers from Samarthan explained them the importance of holding regular meetings and record keeping. To motivate them, they too attended some of the meetings of these groups and taught them how to keep proper records of these meetings and their proceedings. Gradually with the continuous efforts, these self-help groups started becoming functional and proactive. Now members of these groups showed willingness to start some small businesses or take new initiatives apart from just meeting and saving regularly.
Volunteers from Samarthan, put the idea of skill development training before themand asked women whether they would be interested in taking such trainings. Here the catch was such trainings were usually conducted at formal training centres only which were located at block or district headquarters. The problem with rural women was that they did not want to leave their homes as it would take a toll on their family responsibilities. The project staff from Samarthan discussed the feasibility of conducting the training programme in the village with Rural Self Employment Training Institute (RSETI) located in Jashpur. The Director of the institute expressed his concerns about the practicality of the plan. Later on, the project staff met the block CEO and CDPO of the block and briefed them about the development. They got convinced and assured their support and finally with putting up some conditions like availability of space, training materials at local level, the training institute also became ready to organize the training in the village itself. There were various options available for training like mobile repairing, computer (hardware and software), electrician, welding, tailoring out of which the consensus became on tailoring looking into perspective of women and availability of sewing machines in the village.
The project staff did all the paper works related to registration of the participants for the training. The Sarpanch of the village Mrs. Mahima Jyoti Toppo herself was involved in the whole development and extended her support in organizing the training in the village. She arranged the community building of the village as a training hall. The training was supposed to be 21 day long affair so there came the question of arranging food and refreshment for the participants, trainers, other supporting persons and guests. An SHG in the village named as Rani got ready to take the contract for the same as it was a new initiative for them besides routine meetings and savings. Further they saw the opportunity of taking up similar works in future also.
The training went very well with all the support from officials of different departments, project staff from Samarthan and Sarpanch of the village. 34 women from the village participated in the training and got certificate also for the same. The same certificate could be used by them to take small loans to start their businesses from the State Bank of India. Some of the women who performed well during the training were felicitated by Samarthan team also. The manager of State Bank of India Jashpur who was present on the concluding day of the training gave an assurance of providing contract of school children dress stitching in the coming year to willing participants of the training. In the meantime, he urged them to continue the practice and master it by taking up available works in the same or nearby villages.
The project staff kept on doing continuous follow up with participants of the training and 14 women are regularly engaged in tailoring work. They are earning around Rs. 3000 to Rs. 5000 per month by taking up locally available works. This can be considered a significant development in comparison to previous situation where they had to go to distant places for the same or even lesser amount of money that too in harsh and challenging situations. The case shows how local interventions according to requirements of the community can bring sustainable solutions to their inherent problems.