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Value of patience: Why It took SEWA all of 13 years

Published: Sep. 29, 2023
Updated: Oct. 28, 2023

COMPLEX problems need time to solve. Voluntary organizations in a hurry to deliver outcomes tend to end up nowhere. Our cover story on creating livelihoods for women in districts on the Line of Control in Kashmir reveals how much persistence is required. Before providing skills and work, there are social attitudes in multiple layers that have to be addressed. SEWA went into this project with decades of experience behind them. Yet for the first three years they could make no headway in the villages of Kupwara and Ganderbal districts. Results took another seven years.

SEWA’s work in Kashmir is a great example of how voluntary organizations and the government can collaborate in the interests of development. It is the Union home ministry, much reviled for making life tough for NGOs, that has brought SEWA in and provided unstinted support. Undoubtedly this should lead to the realization that NGOs are required to deal with community issues. The government can’t succeed on its own.  

It is complicated working in conflict zones like Kashmir. SEWA’s success is based on their long record of good work and maturity in approach. But they were also not averse to new learning and accepting where they were getting things wrong. The result has been a vibrant sisterhood of Kashmiri women. But, more importantly, it is sisterhood connected with the rest of India and in particular Gujarat, which is SEWA’s base.

Helping women earn liberates them and improves their status. It transforms families and whole communities. The women of Kupwara and Ganderbal are already bringing about peace in their districts and promoting integration with the rest of India as being in Kashmir’s interests. Politicians and security forces have not been able to achieve this.

A committee has been set up by the Central government to explore the possibility of one nation, one election. Is such a thing at all possible for a country as large as India with an enduring federal structure? Our opening interview is with Prof. Jagdeep Chhokar, who has closely examined this issue and has some forthright opinions on it.

We also bring you the findings of a landmark report on the birds of India put together through a wonderful collaboration among 30,000 birdwatchers. The message is that birds in general are under threat. And if you find increasingly that it is impossible to walk about freely in most Indian cities, there is good news — walkers’ rights have become an issue in Pune. A PIL has been filed in the Bombay High Court and the Pune municipality has been held to account. Could this be the trigger for more cities?


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