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Jul 29, 2019

Making Life Better for Farmers

Dear Friend,

Your support has enabled us to help poor farmers get a fair price for their produce and avoid exploitation of the retail chain. These farmers are from one of the remotest villages of the region where we work. However, this area is famous for its lentil production. Since it’s a tribal area, farmers still practice indigenous farming hence they produce lentils which are free from any harmful chemicals and pesticides. However, having said that- farmers face a lot of problems in many ways. Firstly-the local dealers whom they sell does not give them a fair price for their produce. They just receive one third of the retail price (in which the lentil is actually sold in the market). Secondly – since they are very poor, a lot of farmers sell lentils in distress conditions ending up selling their produce in loss.  Thirdly- if they consider going to the main markets to sell the lentils, it involves a huge transportation cost, state taxes and requires a lot at-least a day which means loss of one productive day.

In this context, in 2008, Seva Mandir set up a community enterprise- “Lentil Processing Unit” in the village. This unit procures raw lentils from the farmers directly (thus cutting the middle man commission), hence providing them fair price for their produce, process the lentils, and find a niche market for the processed lentils.

Kundan (name changed), a farmer who sells his lentils to the Unit says “I am selling my produce at this unit since 2010. It has made my life much easier.” Like Kundan, around 10,000 farmers benefit from the lentil processing unit. This all would have not been possible without your support. Thank you so much for your trust in Seva Mandir.

With Warm Regards

Atul Lekhra and the Seva Mandir Team

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Jul 22, 2019

Reuniting a Family

Dear Friend,

As part of the Indian government’s Swadhar scheme, Seva Mandir runs a Short-Stay Home, located in a secure facility in Udaipur. Currently, 27 women with 17 children who have fled from domestic violence are housed in the facility. Women come here due to our staffs extensive outreach activities spreading across the area. Our staff attend village community meetings, go on door-to-door visits and post information to ensure women are aware of our work. This work is essential to combating the domestic violence epidemic across India as only 14% of women who have experienced physical or sexual violence have sought help to stop the violence.

According to Government data, in India, 30% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 years old have experienced physical violence and 6% have experienced sexual violence. This statistic rises to 33% for married women as 83% reported violence been given by husbands while for unmarried women violence came from mothers (60%), fathers (32%), brothers (26%) and teachers (15%).

Yet, not all cases involve domestic violence at the Short-Stay Home and require our employees to cooperate with state officials on a case by case basis. In one such case, a woman was seen begging for food and living on the streets for 1 month in Badgaon, an area next to Udaipur. Locals noticed, and as they were aware of the Short-Stay Home, they brought her to the centre. However, communication was difficult as she spoke no Hindi. The staff found a number of translators that could identify her spoken language, finding that she was from the distant state of Bihar – nearly 1,500km away. It became clear that the women had some mental health problems that prohibited her communication and memory, as she couldn’t remember how she had left her home village. After many counseling sessions with a translator she was able to convey her home address and asked the staff to call her husband and bring him to Udaipur. Our employees called the local Bihar police station, who looked through their reports and found a report for a missing person fitting her description. The police called the family and talked to the village Sarpanch (elected head) who confirmed they were searching for a missing woman who was also suffering from mental-health problems. Her husband and family came to Udaipur and happily reunited with the lost women.

Seva Mandir and the local state police were able to coordinate this search safely in order to return her home while keeping her housed and fed within the Short-Stay Home. Due to the wide variety of cases, the Short-Stay Home requires constant staff commitment and extensive use of its facilities. With the help of your donation, Seva Mandir will be able to continue to provide these women with security, medical treatment, counseling and legal as well as financial advice. They will learn new skills and it will also help them gain self-confidence.

Thank you so much.

Regards

Atul Lekhra & the Seva Mandir Team

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Jul 2, 2019

Strong Federations Advocating for Social Change

Dear Changemaker,

Seva Mandir has always believed and worked towards empowering communities to take accountability of social transformation as the most sustainable way of moving ahead. Seva Mandir has nurtured its village development groups into spaces where people are able to actively participate in the decisions which directly affect their lives.

To further empower these village groups, the groups have been amalgamated into federations. These are multilayered, self-governing community institutions created by Seva Mandir to resolve larger-scale issues. The federations work on the social as well as financial issues of the region and liaise with various government as well as non-government agencies.

Jhadol is 50 kms away from Udaipur and is inhabited by mostly tribal population. Seva Mandir has been working very closely with village communities in Jhadol for over 40 years and that has resulted in strong village groups and federations in the region. The federation meets every month to discuss issues pertaining to their zones (each zone comprising 10-15 villages).

In May 2019 , Ogna zone in Jhadol proactively worked on an issue that helped not only the daily wage laborers of their zone, but for the entire region.

In order to ensure employment in village, government had launched a programme called Mahatama Gandhi Employee Guarantee Act (MNREGA) under which 100 days of guaranteed employment is ensured in villages. However, along with labor, the act also ensures other conditions like availability of a shady area for rest, toilet, crèche for children and first aid kit should also be ensured at the work site. 

While working on one of the construction sites for a road, a woman got severely injured on her head. There was neither a first aid kit available nor a resting place on the work site and she had to be immediately rushed to a hospital. Despite terrible blood loss, the woman could be saved but the incident was an alarming situation for the federation. The federation collectively wrote a letter to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) appraising him about the situation and demanding a medical kit at each work site for the region. The CMO also responded immediately to it and within a month, medical kits were made available at all MNREGA work sites in Jhadol.

In another effort by Phalasiya and Madri zone federations, a very old and regressive social ritual was collective discarded. During the festival of Holi, every year for a period of 15-20 days vehicles on highway used to be stopped by women and children to demand money from passengers. It was very risky and exploitative for people to travel during these areas. The federation members launched a campaign against this practice and discussed it with every village group. This year the number of cases reported dropped by 80% and the federation have committed to uproot this tradition completely by next year.

The federations are slowly transforming to highly active and responsible action groups which are challenging social norms and demanding quality in government services. They will be very instrumental in ensuring development remains ‘by the people’ and ‘for the people’ in the region. The localized understanding of these federations about grass root challenges is multi faceted and empowering them to take collective action can bring profound changes in the lives of people.

We would like to thank you for letting us meet our commitments in the field. All this has been possible due to your consistent support and trust in us.

Regards

Atul Lekhra & the Seva Mandir Team

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