The people of India recently celebrated the 67th Independence Day, an important holiday for all of us that work for the empowerment of rural communities in. The celebrations highlight that every citizen’s participation in government affairs is valuable for sustaining a vibrant democracy. Kites fly high on this day.
President Pranab Mukherjee gave a speech to the nation on the eve of Independence Day 2013. To development workers, the speech seemed to draw connections between the celebration of democracy and rural development. When the President spoke of India, there were moments when the concerns of Bharat (marginalized rural India) loomed large. Key concepts in the speech resonated with the mission and values of the Sehgal Foundation. As a civil society organization, the Foundation serves a key role in building the capacities of citizens, panchayats and local school and health committees so that they can plan village development and access the necessary resources.
We have selected five important topics from the President’s speech and will reflect on their relationship to the work we conduct with rural communities.
People’s aspirations: In Sehgal Foundation’s work with rural communities in the states of Haryana and Rajasthan, our experience has taught us that development can only thrive in the long run if it based on the aspirations and needs of the local communities.
Poverty alleviation: Sehgal Foundation is dedicated to helping rural communities create better lives and brighter futures for themselves. We work to achieve this by building the capacities of citizens, communities and community institutions. When communities take development in to their own hands, development is much more likely to be sustainable and can provide citizens with better livelihood options. To further help alleviate poverty, Sehgal Foundation promotes increased access to government schemes and enhanced income from agriculture.
Respect for women: Communities thrive when all citizens participate. Every woman in India should have the right to reach her individual potential. Neglect of women’s safety poses a threat to the whole society. Sehgal Foundation engages women’s participation and promotes women’s leadership in every aspect of its work.
Access to entitlements: It goes a long way towards empowering the rural communities of India. The Indian Constitution guarantees a dignified life for all and mandates that the state create programs to reduce poverty and empower the poor. Laws are the basis for social welfare schemes. Sehgal Foundation, through its rural governance program, teaches citizens about their legal entitlements and steps they can take to ensure they are provided. Citizen-led rural governance contributes to robust service delivery and institutional accountability.
Sustainability: Sustainable development results when citizens take ownership of local development solutions. Sehgal Foundation sees evidence of this in village after village.
Soaring and struggling kites symbolize our uneven efforts to initiate paths to development for rural communities in India. In order to bring about sustainable change in rural India, there must be concerted effort taken on the grassroots level, and this must continue and accelerate.
Civil society organizations like Sehgal Foundation contribute to citizen participation in rural India. We establish rapport and credibility working in communities over time. This trust is essential in the constantly evolving atmosphere of rural development.
The kites that celebrate freedom inspire us to work to achieve democratic participation and to further the well being of rural communities.