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Empowering Civil Society for Social Change in Jharkhand is an initiative to enable and empower diverse Civil Society Organizations in Jharkhand through capacity-development processes and support. As a part of the project, two organizations, Gender at Work (G@W) and Civil Society Academy (CSA) are working with more than 30 grassroots organizations from Jharkhand which include individual organizations, Samvad, Ekjut, Maitri and two networks – Ibtida (a network of about 17 women-led grassroots organizations working on women’s rights and gender equality) and Jharkhand Anti-trafficking network (JATN),  a network of about 13 organizations). The project is supported by Oak Foundation.

About the Project

Jharkhand roughly translates to ‘Land of Forests’. It is a state in the eastern part of India. It was formed in 2000 by separating its territory from Bihar. Jharkhand is a mineral-rich state with a high indigenous population. It accounts for about 40% of the country’s mineral resources. The indigenous identity of Jharkhand contributes to its uniqueness. It is one of the few states that still practice local methods, customary laws, indigenous structures, and use their traditional knowledge and experiences to lead life. They are proud of it and value their traditional practices that have always been based on holistic and sustainable development and livelihood. Despite its uniqueness, Jharkhand has been a rather vulnerable state. The state has struggled with issues of land alienation, deepening poverty, unstable political conditions, exploitative investment in mining and industries, exploitation of minerals and resources, displacement, unemployment, migration, and an overall human rights deprivation due to various factors. The civil society in Jharkhand has to continually step up and support the state with the local and specific issues that the heterogenous Adivasi groups and communities have to face. With continued shrinking civic space, violation of human rights and without a consistent ruling  government, it has been difficult to demand and meet those needs.

Therefore, civil society became a crucial foundation and support for the state that has struggled with extrinsic and intrinsic issues. Empowering Civil Society for Social Change in Jharkhand is, therefore, a project aimed to support CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) engaged with diverse issues with capacity development, organizational and network building skills. The project also aims to bring these organizations involved with complex and multi-dimensional issues to come together to create and expand the fabric of civil society in Jharkhand. The aim is to encourage active and interdependent involvement with each other. This would enable a human rights-based approach that would benefit the larger community and society along with the individuals and organizations involved in the process. The project aspires to enable local CSOs and people’s movement to voice the needs and demands of the communities.

Role of Gender at Work

Most of these civil society and Community-based organizations tackle structural or normative issues that are deep-rooted. It requires strength and skills to handle such issues. Therefore, it is important for organizations to constantly upgrade their skills and competencies to continue their work. Capacity Building is a cross-cutting phenomenon that helps organizations work more effectively and efficiently. Organizations that invest their time and energy in capacity building often tend to succeed and stand strong in the face of difficulties.

Capacity Building is a journey. It is not only undertaken by an individual but also by the organization. Gender at Work practices emergent and action learning process. It is participatory, collaborative and empowering. We tailor the processes according to each network or organization’s requirement. We also believe that to internalise the learning, it is important to adopt an experiential approach wherein participants draw on from their lived experiences, apply their knowledge and conceptual understanding to real problems /situations facing them in the current socio-political climate in Jharkhand.

The Capacity development process intends to empower groups and organizations to affect social change in their areas. We keep in mind the context and culture in which they work. Capacity development is so much more than just exercises and training. We use multiple processes such as conversation, storytelling, strategic planning, collaboration, etc. to implement the Capacity Building program. Organizations often face challenges that undermine their effectiveness. Our Capacity Building process focuses on matters related to leadership, coaching and mentoring, communication, funding, governance, strategic planning to name a few. Our workshops and sessions are aimed to provide participants with the space to discuss different organisational processes, such as defining roles and responsibilities and creating an inclusive workplace environment through better internal coordination, mutual respect and healthy communication.

In addition, despite being from the same region, some of the participants or organisations have either had no chance of meeting each other earlier or interact in a safe space.. This process creates a platform for interaction among partners and fosters peer-learning. This helps all the partners to get introduced to each other, and for some, it further strengthens the bond. CSOs working together have greater chances of success in influencing progressive public perception and policy reform on important issues. Network building is more than collaborative partnerships. It is a deeper, long-term process that brings together different and sometimes unlikely partners in a focused way to foster a shared vision and values.

The entire process has led to organizations and networks identify the change areas they need to work on. Ours is a process-driven capacity building rather than a standalone training. We have been supporting the organizations with more strategic and long-term objectives which have led to the overall strengthening of their organizations and networks, as you will observe in the videos below.

For Samvad, the G@W workshops have helped them review their own vision for the organization, and strategic plans.  It helped them look back on their own history, which in turn has reinvigorated them to chart a way forward. The aim of the project is to continually support them when they struggle or express the need for something. It means that supporting them to find different ways of continuing their work. Based on our recent Resilience Workshop and regular meetings on Zoom, they reflected ‘we have learnt how to communicate and work during such a crisis. The workshops have helped us to understand the situation. It was amazing how we could do group work through such small screens of our mobile phones. There has been a significant shift in our approach towards technology. Earlier there was reluctance to use technology for our work but now we have learned to use a lot of things. Taking a page from our books, we have also started doing online meetings internally. Our last progress meeting was organised on Zoom. This is a great shift and achievement’.

For Ibtida members, there has been some transference of learnings to the rest of the organization, especially in their way of working. However, the focus with them has so far been on Capacity Building enhancements at the individual and network level. During one such exercise, one of the members shared how as a secretary of her organization she was struggling to organize their executive meeting every month. With the help of the facilitator, and discussion with her peers, she was able to come up with an alternative and proposed it to their board upon her return. She shared, ‘it was so difficult for us to organise this meeting every month, but since I got the idea during the workshop with G@W, I proposed it to our board… now, we have amended it to happen quarterly. This has been really helpful for me and my organization’. Similarly, for JATN, it has opened up a process of reflection –scope of the network, reach, the internal functioning of the network. But we have not really focused/supported and transference of learning at the organizational level. One of the JATN participants reflected how some of the learnings from this process has led to community level intervention. She shared, ‘during the workshop in Kolkata I learned about leadership, coaching and the importance of listening. I have used some of these learning in our programs. We work with girls and now I prefer to hear what they have to say because they are the central stakeholders. It is important to have their voice in the program. It adds a dimension and makes it more effective. I wasn’t so patient and willing to listen earlier, but after the workshop I try and make these changes’.

We prioritize stories to be at the centre of our work. They are powerful, they help us identify needs, challenges, alternatives. In fact, stories lead to the principles that we work with.

Throughout our journey, we have continually tried to collect feedback, stories and snippets from the participants and facilitators. It helps us evaluate our work and at the same time understand our partners better. Here are some stories that we were able to collect with a few of our partners.

Our Work with the CSOs

Samvad

Samvad is committed to promoting sustainable community-based resource management and is involved in participatory action and research for Self-Rule and Self-reliant society. It is an initiative for collectivity, gender equality, community rights on Natural Resources and establishment of  people’s democracy through collective action. Samvad  strives for a self-reliant and self-respectful society based on equality, gender-equity,  and self-governance by strengthening the communitarian lifestyle of the indigenous and downtrodden people. They focus on empowering Gram Sabhas and traditional governance systems in the villages of Adivasis, Dalits, Minorities and the poor as a whole. Samvad also provides a platform to the identity, Art and Culture of Jharkhand.

IBTIDA

Ibtida is a network of 17 women-headed organizations based in various districts of Jharkhand. It began as a leadership development programme. It aims to build self-confidence, leadership, and knowledge of women and girls about their sexuality and human rights and creating feminist platforms to challenge oppressive norms and power structures that will enable women and girls to make their own decisions, exert control over their bodies, and demand their rights. Various partners of Ibtida work on issues of microfinance, health, gender equality, education, vocational skills, livelihood, anti-trafficking, environment, and Violence Against Women in 16 districts. The organisations work with marginalised communities, including Dalits and tribals, and young girls and women. They actively work on building the leadership of Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) to ensure awareness on women’s rights, public distribution system, women empowerment, advocacy for self-governance, and promotion of women’s rights.

Ekjut

Ekjut works in various districts in India for the improvement of maternal, new-born, child health and nutrition of partnering underserved, marginalised communities, through their empowerment, community-based interventions and influence good governance for improving access and quality of services. It is done through collaboration with leading agencies for building our research capacities to strengthen the evidence base, dissemination of findings, engagement with government and networks and supporting scaling up of effective interventions.

Maitri

Maitri NGO has over eight years’ experience in the field of Health, Education, Income Generation and Skill Development Training & Awareness programme. They run a 100-bedded super speciality Hospital “Brindavan Hospital & Research centre” in the rural area of Jharkhand, India having well-equipped departments, specialized Doctors, well-trained nurses and paramedical staffs. Their hospital is the only one in this area which provides such facilities where the people come from around 45 to 50 miles. Apart from that they also work with vulnerable and tribal people who live below poverty line (BPL), and also to widows, orphans & old-aged people.

JATN

Jharkhand Anti Trafficking Network (JATN) is a state-level joint network of 14 grassroots NGOs working in the different parts of Jharkhand. JATN and its anti-trafficking campaigns diverge from the existing trend. Unlike the widespread approach of stop migration to prevent trafficking, this network promotes the approach of safe migration to help prevent human trafficking and raise the issue of trafficking as violence against women and girls in the public domain. JATN presently works in 13 trafficking prone districts of Jharkhand, namely: Giridih, Godda, Gumla, Dumka, Chatra, Deoghar, Koderma, Khunti, Hazaribagh, West Singhbhum, Simdega, Lohardagga and Ranchi. It covers 19 blocks, 79 Panchayats, and 257 villages.