Introduction: Community development through innovation and enterprise are the key elements of Adivashi Krishak Mahila kalayan Parishad.It is a not for profit organisation engaged in capacity building of underprivileged tribal communities and other marginalized group of society by spreading education, skill development and communication development in the tribal area of Jharkhand.
Vision: Creation of an environment where the marginalized people of the society get equitable opportunity for overall growth.
Creation of opportunities for tribal people and other marginalized people to lead a self dependant life with dignity.
Ensuring sustainable livelihood
Background: It was found by one Mr. A. Hussain in 2002. Initially it was formed to educate the tribal women in the tribal belt around Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. Its head office is in Mandar at about 20 Kms from Ranchi. In 2000 Govt. of Jharkhand started a program to rehabilitate many tribal communities in the tribal belts of current Jharkhand. These tribes were mostly hunters and gatherers and had a very less degree of civilization. Most of them were into snake charming and some into poaching animals. Government realized that their activities were creating danger to the already fragile ecosystem of the forests of Jharkhand which were already getting dilapidated due to activities like mining. And also it was the government's responsibility to do something for people who were even today living in prehistoric conditions. So the government was trying to rehabilitate them and engage them into agriculture. While it was men who were trained into agriculture the women looked into household activities.
The training to the tribal men was provided by the local farmers under the supervision of local school teachers. It was then that Mr. A. Hussain, a middle school teacher saw the need to make these people literate. But the question was that where to start from. The men were too busy with the training and in earning their living. So he thought that he should focus on women. He also believed that it is women who stay most of the time at home with family and children when the men are away earning, so educating these women meant educating the children as well. Education would help them to adapt to the new environment as well. They would have a better understanding of the world and would be able to judge what is wrong and what is right in a better way.
It was then the "Adivasi Krishak Mahila kalyan Parishad "was formed.
Initial Struggle: Initially when Mr. A. Hussain started his program he had the following problems -
How to convince the tribal women to come for studying
How to convince the husbands to send the wives to learning centres
How to arrange volunteers to teach at the centre
How to arrange for funds
How to procure a suitable location to run the centre
Opposition from the local people
The tribal women thought that it was not possible for them to study. They didn't even know the language (Hindi) let alone reading and writing. They thought it was very difficult for them. They said they had their household choirs - cooking food, getting wood from jungle, looking after livestock and most importantly looking after their children. Even the husbands thought the same. They were also reluctant to send their wives to study. For them every sahari (anyone from town) was a flesh trader who would abduct their wives and sell them to brothels.
Mr. Hussain and his wife went to each family and spoke personally to the women and men. They told them about the importance of education and how it could change their lives. They also explained them that how important it was for their children as well that at least one of the parents was educated. They were also told how they could not be fooled by the shopkeeper and middlemen once they were literate. Thus somehow they could convince some people.
Now the major trouble was in arranging volunteers for teaching. These volunteers were also required to know their language. There were some fellow teachers at the school who themselves belonged to the tribal community and they could speak their language a little bit. They agreed to take some classes.
Then the fund was required for buying books and stationery. This was when the local BDO pitched in. He was a close friend of Mr. Hussain and agreed to allocate some fund from his block development fund. The BDO even spoke to the school principal to allow Mr. Hussain to use the school premises for this noble cause, to which he readily agreed.
But the biggest problem came in form of opposition from local people once the classes for these women started in the school. The people in this part of the world are very superstitious. They believed that these tribal women were involved in witchcraft and black magic. They did not want these women to go to the same school building which was used by their children. There was a strong protest and the people even threatened to not to send their children to school. Some of them also threatened Mr. Hussain of dire consequences. Mr. Hussain asked the local Maulavi (muslim priest) to intervene (this was a muslim dominant area). The maulavi spoke to people and was able to convince them that it was not dangerous for their children to let the tribal women go to the same school building and in case there is some problem he will take care of it, they need not worry. This is how this organization came into existence. Today it consists of 30 full time employees and volunteers from amongst the villagers and tribal and is working in 15 villages of Mandar block. Currently this organization has expanded its horizon from educating tribal women to many different interventions.
The intervention areas include -
Education for tribal and other marginalized section's children and women and skill development program for tribal and poor youth.
Providing skill towards writing and communication on issues related to their area to local social activists and volunteers.
Encouraging people to participate actively in local, state level and central governance activities by participating in election and casting their votes.
Development Communication: Today we are in an era of communication revolution. The development communication involves application of communication system for human development. The information can be used for opinion forming and decision making on matters of common interest, resolve conflicts and vent grievances. But the majority of poor still don't have access to communication facilities and media and they are not able make their voice heard. AKMKP tries to achieve its objective by -
Training local social activists to enable them to write on local issues for mainline media.
Highlighting the local news in the mainline media to make people aware of the issues and garnering support for them.
Scanning the newspaper for contents related to people's issues.
The different initiatives started by AKMKP for Development communication are as follows -
Communication Radio - Today the communication technology is at the peak of its advancement and societies are connected as never before. But still there is large chunk of people who are isolated from this communication revolution. They are deaf to the happenings of outer world and their voices are not at all heard in the external world. For these marginalized and neglected group of people community radio is the means by which the gap between policy makers and policy implementers and the people at the grass root level can be minimized. Radio is the most cost effective method to communicate to large number of people who are located in far flung and remote areas and possibly illiterate. AKMKP's initiative of community Radio has been quite successful in making the voice of the poor heard. It is one of the first organizations (with the support of some other organizations) to experiment with the idea of community radio in Jharkhand.
AKMKP has initiated the program of community radio in 10 villages of the Mandar block of Ranchi district.
As part of this initiative 15 men and women are being trained on the technological skill to operate their own radio services. These men and women although belong to the local community and are from the same poor and marginalized group but are comparatively more educated than others. The community leaders are very hopeful and believe that they got a perfect vehicle for development. They believe that people are going to become more and aware of their rights and duties and will be able to expose malpractices and corruption.
Health and Media - For any development initiative usually the focus is health. The health status in Jharkhand is far below compared to other states. There is definitely a need to raise the awareness level of people about health. Media can play an important role in doing so but one research suggests that only one percent of the news in the newspapers is related to health. This is not a healthy trend. AKMKP has been taking initiatives in this direction. It has organized workshops for local journalists and media people to sensitize them on local health issues and build capacities to write on such issues. These programmes have encouraged some journalists to carry out research on some of the health issues and results have actually begun to show which is evident from the success of different child immunization initiatives run by government and NGOs.
Making people aware about their political responsibilities - The different activities performed by AKMKP in this respect are -
Encouraging people to participate more and more in Panchayat election, state assembly election and parliamentary election.
Training the gram sabha functionaries on capacity building and leadership.
Initiating research related to grass root level democracy and social action.
Pre election campaign - Recently Panchayat elections were held in Jharkhand after 28 years. AKMKP conducted a pre-election campaign to make people aware about the importance of the Panchayat election. They conducted various road shows (or chaupal shows) and told the local people about the importance of a electing a capable local government. The Gram Panchayat is the form of government that is supposed to be most closely related to people. They are from the local community and have the knowledge of all the local issues and concerns so it is very important to choose the most suitable people for the job. This campaign has been a great success and there was a 90% voter turnout in their area of intervention whereas the average voter turnout in Jharkhand has been 75% for the Panchayat election.
Education Related Programs:
AKMKP came into existence for educating the tribal women. Education still is its flagship program but the horizon has extended to include everyone specially the deprived children. The literacy level in the state of Jharkhand is very low especially in the tribal regions. There are a large number of children who are either school dropout or never went to school at all. Many children have to drop out of school due to domestic obligations. AKMKP has started many programs which include courses for dropouts. Many primary education centres for the deprived children have also been started. It started tuition centres as well to assist the children who are already going to schools. There are currently 15 primary education centres, 2 centres for school dropouts 2 coaching cum guidance centres and vocational training centres for students. At the primary education centres locally specific and innovative educational methods are used to teach the children.
Primary education centres - This is one of the most important initiatives of AKMKP. The volunteers of the organization are in constant touch with the Gram sabha members who give them update on the kids who need to go to school and are not going to school currently. These volunteers then go and speak to the parents of that child and ask them to send their children to school. Many parents do not need any coercion they readily send their children to school but there are some parents who are reluctant to send their children to school. They say that they don't have money to buy books for the children even though the school fees is not charged. For such kids the NGO provides books for others books are provided at very subsidized rates. Some parents have another excuse for not sending their children to schools. They say that their children are too small to be sent to school alone. For such cases the organization has gone to the extent of encouraging the parents to form groups who take terms in escorting the children to the school. Due to the efforts of the organization the primary school enrolment rate has increased from 55% to 80% in 5 years. Even the people are much more aware about sending their children to schools.
At the school many innovative methods are used to make the teaching interesting for the children. Many playful methods have been innovated to teach the children. Children are able learn while playing.
Program for Drop outs - With the 83rd amendment primary education has become a right for every child. But little is done for students who drop out after few years of formal education. Every year many students drop out of school without completing even class 10th. There are many reasons for this but mostly due to domestic compulsions. The families are so poor that they cannot afford to wait for their son to complete the education. They are compelled to send their son to earn bread and butter for the family. And the girl students, before they pass class 8th it's time for them to leave school and get married. And also most of the parents find no point in sending the daughters to school when they have to get married and sit back at home. AKMKP has tried to arrange for such students to complete their education even after the break. Most of them have also gone ahead and completed university education. The centres of AKMKP are also accredited centres of NIOS since 2006. NIOS was started was by Ministry of Human Resources, Government of India as an autonomous organization. The focus of NIOS is to ensure quality education. Most of the students have also taken admission in better schools and colleges after getting back on track and in fact they are encouraged to do so, so that they can make way for other students who want to come in. Another important feature of this program is that most of the students who join the centres are usually brought in by their friends. One student joins the centre and then after realizing that it's not so difficult to start studying again he recommends this to his friends. And now more of them are willing to come and restart their education. By now they are much more matured to understand the importance of education so they are more eager to restart studying.
Coaching cum guidance centres - The students who are going to government schools they need further help with their studies. The number of teachers at the government schools is not enough as there are around 50 students for every 1 teacher so most of the students are not able to get enough attention from the teachers at the school. So at these coaching centres doubt clearance sessions are held by teachers and senior students. Preparatory classes for competitions for railway and banking exams are also held. The students who join these preparatory courses and do well in competetions are given a stipend of Rs 200/- These centres are in constant touch with the employment exchange as well. Apart from this these coaching centres also coach for engineering and medical entrance exams. Every year around 20% of the students are able to qualify different competitions.
Vocational courses - The centres for vocational courses train for short term computer courses for a very reasonable fee of Rs 150/- per month. This is free for students from below poverty level and for those who belong to SC/ST community. There are around 20 functional computers with internet connections at the centre. The centre received subsidy from government on purchase of these computers. Even the internet connection is at a subsidized rate. Courses on typing and shorthand are also provided here.
A possible area of intervention
Government has been trying to rehabilitate the tribal for last 10 yrs. They have been efforts to train them and engage them into agriculture and allied activities. But this effort is not showing any result. A lot of fund has been pumped in by the government but nothing substantial has come up. The tribal men are still engaged in to hunting and poaching. Most of the men in these tribes are snake charmer. They catch the snake and defang them and perform road shows to earn their living. But this takes a toll on the snake. The defanged snake is not able to live for more than one month. These activities have caused ecological unbalance. The rodent numbers have risen and there are heavy crop losses to poor farmers in the locality. Now something needs to be done in this regard. The tribal men need to be engaged into livelihood activities which they are interested into and is sustainable for them and also the ecological aspect should be taken into account.
I happened work for a couple of months with AKMKP some years back. Mr. Hussain is a family friend and on his request I was there to train the volunteers who taught the tribal women and children. It was then that Mr. Hussain had pointed out towards this problem of the infeasibility of the rehabilitation and livelihood programs of the government. He believed that these people had been hunters for thousands of years so it's not possible for them to switch their occupation and become farmers so easily. Now there has to be a way so that these tribal are able to earn their livelihood and as well as there is no adverse impact on the local ecosystem.
There is one possible solution to this problem which would actually solve one another problem as well. There are a lot of snake bite incidents in this area and hundreds of people die due to this every year. But a lot of lives could be saved if enough anti venom would have been available. The anti venom that is available is very expensive and they are not effective enough. When I spoke to the local doctor he said that they have to give anti venom for a cobra bite even in case of a krait bite because anti venom for krait venom is not available. More over the anti venom for the Russel Viper (which happens to be the largest killer of human in the world) and Pit viper is not available at all. Now to make anti venom for particular snake venom a lot of venom of that snake is required. So the solution to dual problem of procuring livelihood for these snake charmers without affecting the ecological balance and finding way to procure enough anti venom is that a venom extraction centre should be set up in the locality. The snake charmers who used to catch the snakes and defang them, they need not do so and neither should they stop catching snake. They could catch the snake and bring them to the venom extraction centre where the venom could be extracted from these snakes and after that these snakes could be released to the wild again. The venom apart from being used in making the life saving anti venom fetches a lot of money as well. This money can easily take care of the livelihood issues of the tribal snake charmers. But it is easier said than done. When I shared this idea to Mr. Hussain he said that this is a brilliant idea but he thought that there will be lot of hurdles in accomplishing this task. The problems that he stated are as follows:
Finding wild life expert and technicians to handle the venom extraction centre - Extracting venom from a snake is one of the most risky jobs in the world. There are very less people who actually know how to extract the venom from a venomous snake. This is not easy even for the snake charmers also. But Mr. Hussain has already written to some leading herpetologists of India and he had so far received some responses as well. He says that he is hopeful that he will be able to convince someone to come to their rescue.
Arranging fund for setting up the venom extraction centre - Although this operation is not very expensive but some significant amount of initial funding is required.
Convincing the snake charmers to get into this business - These snake charmers are usually reluctant to accept any offers from these people. They already consider these people their enemy who are after them trying to snatch their sources of livelihood.
Getting relevant approvals from government - This would be a very radical approach and is definitely going to invite a lot of attention but knowing the level of red-tapism in the state getting approval for the project is going to be a very tough task.