Village Development Committees (VDC)VDCs are the centerpiece of GRAVIS' work and therefore one of the first interventions in the development of a village. Founded through local election these groups are comprised of representatives from all castes, genders, religions, and social groups and are found in every village where GRAVIS works. These groups work as an intermediary between GRAVIS and the rural community and are responsible for village funds, selecting development initiatives, supervising projects, and allocating wages and materials. Through VDCs, community members are able to voice their opinions and organize for the improvement of their village. Currently we work with 902 VDCs.
GRAVIS believes strongly in the right and ability of these women to live with dignity and freedom and to pursue education and economic stability. Many of our projects give women a voice in public gatherings where for the first time they can participate fully in the development of their community. GRAVIS also organizes trainings on traditional crafts and facilitates micro loans and group funds which allow women to start small income generating units or buy livestock.
These all female groups meet once a month to discuss a variety of social justice issues that affect their community. GRAVIS field staff attend meetings and bring learning materials on subjects of the women’s choosing. Topics range from nutrition, to organic farming, to watershed techniques. These groups also form a community fund which is used as a micro lending facility by women who wish to start entrepreneurial projects.The aim of these SHGs and their community fund in particular is to empower women economically and develop leadership in them. Each month, members deposit between 25 and 50 Indian rupees and individuals can take out loans for various projects as members see fit. GRAVIS has helped establish over 1,860 self-help groups.
This group facilitates training on traditional crafts to give women access to livelihoods . KRIYA helps rural women develop financial independence through the sale of handicrafts. Additionally, KRIYA has joined the effort to better the lives of women prisoners. Imprisoned women are given the opportunity to learn the crafting skills and stitch clothing or uniforms to sell. Members of KRIYA also have regular meetings with prisoner administration, local NGO’s, and police. The program also holds motivational lectures and meditation classes for female prisoners.
During vocational training women are trained by GRAVIS to acquire skills that enable them to set up their own small salary generating ventures. These skills include the making of spices, sewing, embroidery and more vocations linked to economic self-reliance and increased self-dependence. In the past year GRAVIS trained 950 women in 50 of these trainings.
These cooperatives allow women to communally produce organic spices and wheat porridge. Grains and spices are prepared in villages around the GRAVIS Field Centres and are then sold to GRAVIS for a fair price.
Exposure VisitsThese visits allow women in rural communities to see the work that GRAVIS is doing around the Thar. Women are able to see project sites and field centres to learn how they can be involved the similar projects in their own community. So far, GRAVIS has led over 100 exposure visits.
The elderly of India comprise of approximately 7.6% of the population. This number is expected to grow to 10% by the year 2021. Those over the age of 60 have unique needs and are often marginalized due to cultural norms. Many live in poverty in rural areas and are unable to work or provide for themselves. As a result, 65% of the elderly depend on others for their day-to-day life and only 20% of elderly women are economically independent. We supply them with the health care needed and support them in obtaining benefits and programmes for elderly.
Village Older People’s Association (VOPA)As part of GRAVIS’s commitment to the aging population of the Thar, these groups help the elderly voice their opinions in the community. In cooperation with our partner Help Age International, we ensure that the elderly are respected in their village and are able to contribute to the development of their village. These groups also help to ensure that projects are serving the needs of those over the age of 60. There are currently over 152 VOPAs operating in villages around the Thar.
Farmers AssociationsThis network of farmers from all castes plays an important role in the agricultural stability of the community. As farmers are the most vulnerable to drought and soil erosion, their voice is vital in planning development projects. Together, they work to develop and disseminate drought resilient farming techniques in order to increase yields in low rainfall. Farmers Associations have monthly meetings to spread their best agricultural practices like sowing and irrigation. GRAVIS has helped establish 75 Farmers Associations.
Village Education Committees (VECs)
Alternatives for Women and Children Working in the Mines