The Sadbhavana Trust organised this programme for the partner organisations of AJWS (American Jewish World Service) which had been working with adolescents and young men and women in leadership roles. Around 25 youth leaders received training on feminist organisation-building. The objective of the programme was to strengthen these leaders’ contemporary socio-economic and political understanding. At the end of the training, they were given an action plan to help them apply their knowledge in their respective organisations.
Between 2009 and 2011, the Sadbhavana Trust implemented the Dalit Women's Leadership Initiative (DWLAI) in partnership with Gender at Work and four community-based organisations working in eight districts in rural Uttar Pradesh. It was led by a group of independent resource persons (Arundhati Dhuru, Praneeta Kapoor, Madhavi Kuckreja, Malini Ghose). The project’s objectives were to increase Dalit women’s participation, information levels and community leadership with regard to the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The project designed and piloted four innovative gender-transformative intervention projects led by Dalit women.
Key achievements of the project:
8,000 Dalit women were reached through awareness-raising activities regarding entitlements under MGNREGA; 94% of the women became conversant with the wage rates. Dalit women's participation in MGNREGA activities as workers and supervisors (called Meths) increased substantially. At the start of the project, of the Dalit women surveyed, only 2,811 women accessed MGNRGA; by the end, this figure increased to 14,174.
Many Dalit women were unionised, which gave them a collective voice to raise concerns. There was a nearly 49% increase in union membership and a 95% increase in union membership of Dalit women. Dalit women were more visible, gained greater respect, and were more recognised as a force that cannot be ignored.
Each location piloted innovative training of women as site supervisors (previously an all-male domain), all-women worksites (with guaranteed provisions such as child care) and an increase in the participation of women in Dalit MNREGA workers’ unions. These pilots formed the basis for advocacy with the Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, which responded by setting clear deadlines. It made the following commitments to ensure the inclusion of women in the MGNREGA scheme:
~ Strong efforts will be made to capture demand for work.
~A nation-wide study will be undertaken on the gender impact of MGNREGA.
~An annual consultation on “Women and MGNREGA” will be organised every year.
~There will be convergence with the Ministry of Women and Child Development for the construction of Aanganwadi centres and expansion of child care services.
~A national rule that ensures that delays in payment are automatically compensated to the worker will be explored.
Farah Naqvi, activist, writer and public policy expert, led the project for the Sadbhavana Trust. Her book, titled Working with Muslims: Beyond Burqa and Triple Talaq: Stories of Development and Everyday Citizenship in India, was based on a two-and-a-half-year-long research study, which took place between 2011 and 2013 in eight states under the aegis of the Sadbhavana Trust. The objective of the study was to locate NGOs working with Muslims, identify the issues that they worked on, and examine, specifically, the role of women in these organizations. The multiple layers of working in the grassroots development space were explored through a feminist lens in order to derive an overall understanding of the work being done in India with a marginalized section. An annotated directory was provided with information about the founders, leadership, sectors of work, location, budget, and contact details of each of the NGOs working with the Muslim community.
This study focused on understanding the leadership roles of women in grassroots organisations under the broader Indian women’s movement. The methodology for the research was to first identify women in leadership positions; understand their NGOs and work; and finally conduct interviews, workshops, and quantitative and qualitative research. The study examined the leadership practices of women leaders from rural, peri-urban and smaller cities in North India. It looked at the socio-economic backgrounds of these women leaders, how they came to occupy positions of leadership, what factors impacted their practices and shaped the vision of the organisations they lead, and how they managed to correlate feminist practices with their leadership roles.
A research study on early and child marriage in India was conducted by Nirantar and the Sadbhavana Trust in 2014. Primary data collection and focused group discussions were held with workers in NGOs working on the issue across 19 states in India. The heads of 38 organisations across the country took part in a discussion on the various challenges of working on early and child marriages in India. The aim of the study was to create a report that would provide insights into the nuanced issue for funders, NGOs, individuals and civil society organisations who were invested in creating a gender-just future and securing the future of the girl child.
A collectivisation study was conducted to understand the evolution of working with adolescent girls in India. Dipta Bhog, an independent researcher, feminist educator and trainer, led the project for the Sadbhavana Trust. The challenges and potential of collectivising young girls for social change were also highlighted in the study. This helped understand how international funding agencies and their agendas align with Indian grassroots work on issues concerning adolescent girls. The study eventually led to the creation of a graphic novel titled Beauty, Bebo and Friends (illustrated by Ikroop Sandhu and Samita Chatterjee) and an art installation titled Birdbox (by Baaraan Ijlal) which addressed the gap between national-international discourses and the ground level work done by NGOs. To know more, click here.
The audio on the Birdbox installation was translated into English and the Beauty, Bebo and Friends graphic novel was translated into Hindi. Four dissemination workshops were conducted in 2018 in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Gujarat that drew on the learnings from the collectivising study and these two tools (the installation and the graphic book) to create a critical learning space for grassroots workers engaged with work on adolescent girls and women’s empowerment. Some 29 organisations and six leaders from Mahila Samakhya Federation of Bihar and Assam participated in these workshops. A total of nearly 100 people attended the workshops. The groups brought forward a mix of perspectives that allowed for discussions on different approaches to working with adolescent girls, youth and women and the inter-connections between these categories. Participants also undertook a critical look at their strategy of working with adolescents. In addition to the four workshops, some audio and video footage of the sessions were used to make three short animated films that were again disseminated in the community that the Sadbhavana Trust works in. The films that were created based on the project were shown at the OBR Travelling Film Festival in 2022.
The Sadbhavana Trust was approached by some individuals who provided financial support for the education of 23 children who were being raised by single women. The scholarship programme covered the cost of books, uniforms, school fees and travel. The organisation also supported various individuals from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who could not afford healthcare. Some were part of the team and some were associated with the Trust’s work.
In 2012, Sadbhavana collaborated with NFI (National Foundation for India) on a project to raise awareness around access to basic human rights in marginalised communities and building leadership skills. This project was implemented on the ground level through the government’s 15 point programme for the welfare of minorities based on the Sachar Committee report. Actions that were taken as part of the project included providing pre- and post-matriculation scholarships to students, pursuing legal casework for VAW, building awareness of the 15-point programme, building relationships with stakeholders, providing mentorship to community paralegal consultants and lawyers, and setting up mobile information desks called Rehenuma.
Sadbhavana Trust worked in Kumhrora village in Barabanki district, UP between 2014 and 2017. A leadership-building programme was conducted with young men, women and other stakeholders such as the local panchayat and district courts. The objective of this programme was to build awareness among the youth and empower them to become community leaders. They could then identify the needs of the people in the village, find solutions jointly and pursue advocacy at the local level by demanding their rights from the stakeholders. An entitlements centre was also established to help villagers access information related to government schemes and avail of them. Regular sessions with young men and women were organised, such as creating a Filmistan Club for film screenings, the participation of the youth in the government’s Kaushal Vikas programme, perspective-building sessions, and advanced technical skill development courses. Fun competitions, such as sack races, were held regularly with the youths and discussions on various social injustice issues were held with the women. After a period of working closely with the youth for three years, an action plan was drafted and the work was handed over to the leaders there to take the work forward independently.
This project was conducted with survivors of violence whose legal cases were registered with the Sadbhavana Trust. The focus was to provide economic, social, legal, educational or medical support to them. A committee was set up to analyse the needs of the survivors of each case for Sadbhavana trust to respond accordingly. Psychological counselling services were provided to the survivors along with some of the staff members who followed up with casework.
In Nari Bandi Griha, Lucknow, the Sadbhavana Trust worked on cases of 17 women who were facing trial. They were given legal awareness and linked with lawyers and paralegal consultants. Their cases were represented in court with the consent of the survivors, which gave them the opportunity to be directly involved in their own court appeals and appear in front of judges. At the Bandi Griha, a literacy camp was organised with 40 women for six months and multiple sessions were conducted in relation to livelihoods. Computer courses were also held along with feminist perspective-building sessions. The women who were granted bail were provided rehabilitation by the organisation.
Long years of militancy in the Kashmir valley had left many orphans and widows without social security. The Sadbhavana Trust decided to meet the people there and created a space that enabled locals to do some constructive work. A group of young Kashmiri men came forward to form a team to work on education and livelihoods issues. CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) supported Sadbhavana Trust initiative of facilitating work with children and women. Sadbhavana Trust also facilitated a crowdfunding initiative independently so that the work didn’t depend exclusively on external funding and also help the community to build a sense of collective accountability. The Sadbhavana Trust also worked with the Kashmiri Pandit community at the time.
Sadbhavana Trust believed that restarting education for orphans would help them develop independent and critical thinking. Sports and other community events were organised to encourage harmony between the locals. The programme was very successful, as 2,000 children were educated and the group acquired great credibility. This group later took the form of the locals-led Human Aids Society.
Widowed women and women abandoned by their husbands were collectivised for embroidery work. Local artisans and craftspersons were involved in this. The Human Aids Society continues to work in the region independently, moving on to more intensive skill development.
Between December 2014 and July 2016, a rehabilitation initiative was taken up by the Sadbhavana Trust in Muzaffarnagar, UP. Shamli and its neighbouring district saw massive violence in 2013, which resulted in the death of around 60 people and some 1,00,000 marginalised citizens fleeing their homes. Post this, a few independent organisations and individuals came together to start the Joint Citizen Initiative as relief work. This relief work took place in Muzaffarnagar district, Loi, Shahpur, and Basikala village. The families who were displaced and needed refuge approached the organisation through this project.
After the earthquake in Bhuj, Gujarat in 2001, the Sadbhavana Trust raised resources and worked with local NGOs to provide immediate relief. In Kashmir, too, relief work during the 2005 earthquake and floods in the region was conducted. Emergency kits containing medicines, utensils and dry ration were distributed among affected families.
Between the years 1993 and 2000, Sadbhavana Trust incubated the establishment of Nirantar, now a well-known education organisation.
This unique initiative, which forms an important part of the Perspective Training Programme, aims to empower women through the educational tools of film and dialogue. One of Sadbhavana Trust biggest achievements has been the establishment of the film studio composed of young women leaders from the community. They have been a resource group for the community where they have been actively present since 2013. Sadbhavana helped these young women leaders become independent and run their own business in a technical world dominated by men. Today, they are finding opportunities to showcase their work at national and international levels. They also work in the communities as digital trainers.
Gender at work
Leadership Journey Films