Women working in village cleanliness drive initiated by youth volunteers in Dhunashi village in Akkalkuwa block in Nandurbar district
By Vidya Kulkarni
Come rains and Mhasawad village in Nandurbar district gets cut-off from the rest of the world. Life comes to a standstill and people barely manage to survive with limited means, even as health hazards loom large.
However, the youth of the village has stood the test of such trying times and managed to carry a pregnant woman to the hospital, located 35 kms away, to ensure a safe delivery.
And all this has been made possible by the Village Planning process initiated in Nandurbar district in 2002 by the District Administration with support from UNICEF. So far, this community level exercise has been completed in all 934 villages and over 1000 padas in six blocks of the district.
The Village Planning process is a five-day exercise initiated to bring people together enabling them to reflect and analyze their own problems and collectively chalk out a plan of action. During this process, the community nominates volunteers, both male and female, who are provided intensive training to build their understanding, capacities and more importantly to boost their confidence. At present, over 6000 trained youth have emerged as a strong motivated force, actively engaged in facilitating a change process in their communities. They are working closely with the community groups, Panchayat members, and government functionaries to ensure effective implementation of programmes and schemes.
In Dhunashi village in Akkalkuwa block, one comes across young boys and girls determined to keep a clean environment . So, once in a week, the youth come together to clean the roads and have even constructed and maintained soak pits to manage household waste
Likewise, in village Navnagar Mutha, a few kilometers from Dhunashi, youth volunteers have succeeded in bringing about several behavioral changes amongst villagers like using iodized salt. Having understood the health benefits, every household now uses iodized salt even though it is slightly expensive. Besides this, the children regularly attend Anganwadi for pre-school learning and nutritional supplements. In addition, the youth volunteers focus on malnourished children and ensure that they receive nutrious food and medication.
Youth volunteers of Jeevandisha in Dhadgoan block sharing their work plans
The process has helped explore the potential of the rural youth and channelize their energies in a constructive manner. The youth themselves have also experienced and realized the changes taking place at the individual, family and community level.
Anil Walwi, a youth volunteer from Bhawani Pada village in Nandurbar block feels that the Village Planning process has created a platform for people to come together and think collectively for the common good. Labhya Pawra from Kamod Khurd in Dhadgoan block, instrumental in stopping liquor sale in his village through the process of Village Planning, says, “Now people participate in village meetings in large numbers and they also ask questions seeking accountability of government officials and elected representatives.”
The local youth network lends full supports to the District Administration in ensuring wider coverage and quality implementation of programmes meant to address issues specific to their community. For instance, the youth groups played a significant role in the Jeevan Rakshak Abhiyaan (Campaign for Protection of Life), conducted by the Health Department from June to September 2006. Following the campaign, institutional deliveries have increased by over 30 per cent. And now, the volunteers are ready to respond to any emergency situation, be it the recent floods in Shahada or the outbreak of bird flu in Navapur.
Quite interestingly, village boundaries have also become blurred once the youth began to understand the real spirit of volunteerism. Young people from Tembhurni and other nearby villages in Dhadgoan block have come together to form Jeevandisha, a group that reaches out to support communities situated in interior areas.