Fellowship Programme for Tribal Community Leaders

by Seva Mandir
Fellows at a bi monthly meeting
Fellows at a bi monthly meeting

Dear Friends,

Happy Holiday Season!

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season. This year the winter started a little later here but it is pleasantly cold right now. We hope it is also nice weather where you are.

Thank you for supporting the fellowship program. As you know the Fellowship Program sponsors community members with drive for change and a desire to contribute to the community to take up leadership roles. Since they are from within the villages they are in a better position to identify development issues, aware of social norms and could facilitate a change. In this view the fellowship helps the selected fellows gain knowledge through workshops, study tours and trainings. They are paired with a mentor who provides necessary guidance, an opportunity to discuss concerns and brainstorm ideas.

The meetings with other fellows and their mentors offer a platform to learn from peers about the social problems of surrounding areas. They gain an insight into different approaches their peers are adopting to handle development issues.

Currently there are 16 fellows working and all of them addressed many social and development issues in their respective regions. You can find more details about the progress made by the fellows in the half yearly report enclosed herewith.

In one of the review meetings conducted with the fellows and their mentors, it was inevitable that the issues addressed by these fellows in their local communities have made some impact. A short story given at the end of my letter will explain how the fellows’ intervention has created more awareness among the local communities and they are taking ownership of their social and development concerns.

Thank you for supporting this program and being with us in this journey. It is exciting for us to share the progress of these fellows with you at the time of holiday season.

Many thanks once again. Happy Holiday Season to you once again from all of us here.

With warm regards,



Tracking services at the ICDS (Government run Preschools) centers


The fellow               : Ms. Radha Devi


Address                   : Village Madri, Jhadol, Udaipur

Name of Block          : Jhadol

Working Area           : Madri, Balvi, Mini Runwadia


Mentor                     : Mr. Ummed Singh


Problems in tracking services at the ICDS (Government run preschools) centers


A Survey was conducted in the Aanganwadi Centers at Madri I, Madri II and Balvi. It was discovered that the children of these villages were not getting a sufficiently nutritious diet from the Aanganwadi centres.  Also, the parents were not willing to send their children to Aanganwadi as they were providing them with smaller meals. Local watch committees were formed to inform the workers of the Aanganwadi centres about their responsibilities but they were not provided with any kind of details regarding the accounts and purchasing of nutrients. The workers only took signatures on the bills from committee members but never informed them about their work responsibilities. The workers of the centres used to work for only 10 days in a month and for the rest of the days provided lame excuses about being busy in some other work. Whenever they were questioned about their absence, they claimed that they could do whatever they want. The nutritional food packets were packed at Madri cluster and supplied to the centres via the worker’s home. The workers used to keep most of the packets for their own use.  On being asked about the reduced supply, they stated that there was no one to carry all the packets. If there would be shortages then they would bring more packets again. In Madri centre II, laddoos (sweets made of wheat flour with nutritional ingredients) were not provided before the meals to the children.



Raised issued and Steps taken by the fellows


The fellow of the respective block visited the Aanganwadi centres and instructed the workers to provide sufficient amount of food with adequate nutritional values, which are essential for the children. Fellows went to the families and discussed with them the importance of a balanced nutritional diet for the growth of children. The parents were provided with the information about various diseases, which are commonly found in children due to nutritional deficiency. The fellows told the parents to send their children regularly to the Aanganwadi centres which would provide their children with proper nutritional meals. The watch committee members were called to meet with the fellows where they were made to understand their work and responsibilities towards the Aanganwadi centres. The fellows told the parents about the actual timing of opening and closing of the centres.  The families now aware of the correct schedule warned the workers to be present at the centre at the actual time. They also made it clear that if further irregularities were found then it would be immediately reported to the office in charge of Aanganwadi centres. When it was found that the workers do not supply all the food packets to the centres properly, the fellows decided to establish a direct supply of the food packets to the centre and a rickshaw was fixed which directly supplied the packets to the centres. The helper maid who prepared the laddoos and meals was strictly told to provide these nutritional based laddoos before meals to the children


Impact of fellows work


With the help of the Samaj Shilpi fellows, the workers of Aanganwadi centers provided proper nutritional diet to the children regularly. The workers are regularly opening the centers at correct time schedule and have become more responsible. They provide meals timely to the children and the laddoos are also provided to the children before meals. The parents have realized the importance of a nutritional well balanced diet and have become more aware of their children’s health. Hence they are more interested to send their children to the Aanganwadi centres. The watch committee members are now regularly taking accounts of the billings, purchase of nutritional ingredients and various other issues. The cooking maid has also started to come to the centre regularly and again the centre is providing meals to the children.


The fellows have worked hard and with keen interest on the issue of Aanganwadis and nutritional diet, which has improved the health condition of children to a great extent.


meeting in village
meeting in village

Dear Friends,

You must be happy to see all the fellows you are supporting are engaged in a variety of social issues. Before you could find out the recent progress these fellows are making, I would like you to know some news about our monsoon. The monsoon has been great so far. It rained almost every day this year which is unusual to this region. Usually we receive 20 rainy days in the monsoon. Just yesterday one of the most popular lakes in Udaipur city – Fatehsagar has got filled up fully with lots of rain water. Hundreds of people are gathering around the lake to enjoy the water spill over. In villages too some of the streams are flowing and everyone is very happy with the monsoon and greenery everywhere.

My colleague Heerendra has written a very comprehensive report to share with you about the Fellowship Program. He is also shared two stories which you would enjoy reading. You can find his report below my letter.

Some snapshots are given below for you to scan quickly – 1. There are 16 fellows. We started with 19, but 3 left the program. 2. The second review meeting was held on 30th June 2010. 3. The main themes Fellows have taken up include women empowerment, social issues, illegal encroachments, financial restitution for a death, corruption etc. 4. Two cases of witch accusation and financial restitution are presented below. These cases were being solved by the Fellows you are supporting.

With your support these fellows are keep going with the social struggles in their respective regions. Thank you so much for bringing about the change in rural Rajasthan. We are highly grateful to your continuing support. It would be very encouraging if you could provide us with your comments on our feedback reports that we post on Global Giving in addition to your continuing support. It would help us improve in our communication with you. Thank you once again.

We will keep you posted on our progress.

With warm regards,

Deepti ------------------------------------------------------- Vikas Mitra Fellowship:

As you know there are 16 Vikas Mitra Fellows (friends of development). They are working in the blocks of Kotra, Kherwara, Badgaon, Girwa and Jhadol. At the start of the program there were 19 members, though three dropped out or were asked to leave for a variety of different reasons. This year the fellows worked on a number of different issues pertaining to the local areas like: mautana (financial restitution for a death), daakan (witch accusation), forest protection, illegal holdings (encroachments), tree plantation, the responsibility of citizens, NREGA (the Government employment guarantee program), legal rights, women and youth participation in panchayats (local village councils), women empowerment, violation against women, Below Poverty Line (BPL) list and right to information.

Second Review Meeting

The Vikas Mitra Fellows have been working hard and have achieved successful results over their areas of working. The second fellowship performance review meeting of the Vikas Mitra fellows was conducted on 30 June 2010 and the fellows presented a presentation of the work done over the past one and a half years. The participants of the meeting were the chief executive, fellowship program advisory committee members, and all mentors of the fellows and some of the fellows from the Kherwara block. In this meeting, the mentors shared the work done in the various villages and whether they were successful or not. The committee members were very appreciative of the work done by the fellows and discussing the work of the fellows and asking about the upcoming problems as well as their expectations from Seva Mandir in these areas.

1. Story: Issue of Mautana solved by the Fellow Heera Lal Pargi:

Seli bai (name changed) was from the village of Sawan Kyra and was married to Rata of the Mahadi village, where she lived with their three children. Rata suffered from an unknown mental illness and had been seeing a bhopa (traditional healer) for treatment, One-day Rata’s mother went to the forest to collect wood and Rata went after her with a sword to try and kill her. When Seli came to know about this, she tried to protect her but instead Rata attacked and killed her with the sword. After this, Rta hung himself to death. Upon receiving the information about their daughter’s death, Seli’s parents and some people from her village came to Mahadi to assess the situation. They then later returned with more people and started fighting and arguing over the mautana amount. They demanded Rs.10 lakhs (USD 22,222) for mautana. Upon becoming aware of the situation the Vikas Mitra fellows along with police held many long discussions with Seli’s parents to try and negotiate a lower settlement of the mautana amount. Initially her parents were not ready for any kind of negotiations as they had just lost their daughter but the fellows made them realized that Rata also died making his parents equally helpless. Finally the fellow was successful in solving this problem and the mautana amount was reduced to Rs.4 lakhs (USD 8,888). At the time of the agreement Rs. 25,000 (USD 555) was paid, while the rest of the amount was to be paid back in installments. Even though the financial demand wasn’t brought down too significantly, the intervening of Heera Lal and the Police helped in making sure that the physical violence was avoided.

2. Story: Issue of daakan (witch) solved by the fellows Savita Devi:

Through their work, the Vikas Mitra Fellows are able to address local social issues, raise awareness about these issues and make the local people aware of their rights and responsibilities. One of the important issues the fellows work on is daakan pratha (being accused of being a witch). Hari Bhai (name changed) and his 55-year-old wife, Muni Devi, lived in the village of Kalasua Phala with their 9 children. Their neighbor Gatam, used to verbally abuse and harass Muni Devi and call her a daakan (witch). He would spread rumors about her to the village, trying to destroy her reputation. He even went as far as too enter her house at night and verbally harass her. Initially Muni Devi would just ignore his insults and the rumors but over time as the harassment continued she sought the help of the Vikas Mitra Fellows. The fellow went to the panchayat Sabha (local village council meetings) to present Muni Devi’s case and seek justice. Through the help of the fellow and their collaboration with the panchayat, it was agreed that Gatam would be fined Rs. 1000 for abusing Muni Devi and calling her a witch. Furthermore any other villager found participating in similar behavior would be fined and punished as per the panchayats laws.

Right - A fellow at village meeting
Right - A fellow at village meeting

Dear Friends,

Many thanks for your continuing support to this program. I am writing to provide you with a description of the progress we made in the Fellowship Program. A detailed report has also been enclosed herewith for your reference. However, in this letter, I would attempt to give you a short summary of the progress we have been making with your support in this program. Thank you so much for being with us in this journey.

As you know the Fellowship Program sponsors community members with drive for change and a desire to contribute to the community to take up leadership roles. Since they are from within the villages they are in a better position to identify development issues, aware of social norms and could facilitate a change. In this view the fellowship helps the selected fellows gain knowledge through workshops, study tours and trainings. They are paired with a mentor who provides necessary guidance, an opportunity to discuss concerns and brainstorm ideas. The meetings with other fellows and their mentors offer a platform to learn from peers about the social problems of surrounding areas. They gain an insight into different approaches their peers are adopting to handle development issues.

Each fellow receives a sum of Rs. 25,000 (USD 625) for two years in installments, upon completion and submission of progress reports to his/her mentor. The funds serve as compensation for the wages a fellow loses by giving his/her time towards leading their community, and covers basic needs, including local travel expenses

There were 64 applications received from the applicants. The 19 fellows were chosen after having been interviewed by a selection committee, consisting of five Seva Mandir staff. Mentors are assigned to each fellow to guide, support and engage in dialogue and discussion with fellows as challenges arise, as well as provide direction and training.

The interview process enabled Seva Mandir to learn from the aspiring community leaders themselves what development challenges they faced. It emerged that each block (administrative unit for the area) had specific issues to tackle. In Kherwara, accusations of witchcraft (Daakan) were limiting women’s empowerment, and candidates were keen to learn more about govt schemes relevant to them, whilst in Badgaon, affiliation to the traditional caste-led village level institutions (Jati Panchayat) were an issue. Applicants from Girwa expressed concern over forestry and protection of common land, whilst in Jhadol, the government-run pre-school centres and nutrition emerged as priorities to address.

Ms. Preeti Shaktawat, a staff member who worked closely with the Fellows shares her views as follows - “The objective of the Vikas Mitra Fellowship Programme is to encourage conscientious people to assume leadership roles concerning the integrated development of their village and nearby surrounding areas. In addition, it is also intended that such leadership from the fellows will be instrumental in disseminating the values of community work within the surrounding society.

During my 19 months overseeing the fellowship programme, I was truly inspired by the thorough and determined efforts of the fellows. They proved to be strong leaders within their communities and diligently focused on pertinent issues that had emerged in their areas. To alleviate longstanding, deeply rooted issues at a grassroots level proved difficult and challenging because there is often resistance to change. Yet, with perseverance the fellows continue to bring reform to Anganwari Centres (Govt early chidcare centres), challenge local mautana (described below) issues, fight against NREGA corruption (Govt Employment Scheme), conserve the local environment and forest, and combat harmful village traditions.

With the generous support of donors like you, I have seen the Fellowship Programme empower and assist these community leaders in building the confidence, skills, and knowledge needed to successfully overcome local issues. With continued support, I truly feel the fellows can alleviate the issues of their villages and significantly change and impact their communities”.

What fellow does –

'In order to understand the following story, we need to understand a tradition of tribal community. In tribal villages, if a woman dies (un/natural death) in her husband’s village then her parents (including people from her birth village) demand for a compensation from their son-in-law and his family. Usually it becomes a matter between the two villages the bride and groom belong to. The tradition is to protect any physical violence on daughters when they get married but over the years the tradition has become an opportunity to ask for big compensations. Now-a-days, sometimes the compensation is also asked for other kinds of physical harms. The compensation is called ‘mautana’ in local language while the act in which the entire village comes in a mob to ask for the compensation is called ‘chadotra’. Chadotra often includes the mob breaking the houses to pieces, setting fire and cause physical harm to the members of the opposite party'.

“Somi (changed name) was born in an ordinary family in one of the villages in Kotda block. She was one of the five children. She never went to school but looked after the house and farms. After her marriage with Ladu she was happily living until her husband became an alcoholic. She persuaded her husband to give up on alcohol but to no avail. Gradually, their arguments became quarrels and her husband started accusing her of having extra-marital affairs. Somi left her husband twice to live with her parents but every time Ladu would bring her back convincing her of improving his behavior from now on. In late 2009, one day Ladu was drunk when he came home. Somi has a fight with him and he killed her. Ladu took her dead body to a nearby jungle and hung her to a tree. He sent a word about her death to her parents.

When her parents saw signs of physical violence on Somi’s dead body they refused to cremate the dead body. Their entire village came to his village (chadotra) in anger and asked for Rs 5 lac (USD 11,000). The Fellow Heera Lal along with other village leaders in Sada village brought Police to intervene. They tried to encourage the daughter’s parents to bring down their ‘demand’ and requested not to cause physical harm to anyone. Heera Lal successfully persuaded Somi’s parents. The compensation (mautana) was finally fixed at Rs. 1.75 lacks (USD 3889). On the spot Ladu’s family gave them Rs. 5000 and Somi’s dead body was cremated peacefully.

Heera Lal has been educating people in his region about the pros and cons of this tradition. He chose this issue for this Fellowship because he considers this is a big social problem of his region. He has done very good work in solving such cases and spreading awareness about such issues and involving the Police to resolve these issues”.

There are a number of cases like above whereby the Fellows have identified the social problems on their own and have attempted to bring a change in the society. In this process they themselves have learnt a lot about these issues and their enthusiasm encouraged us too. As we look at the future, we are exploring the possibility of extending application to the Fellowship Program to everyone and anyone in the region, not just those working directly with Seva Mandir. With your help, we want to keep supporting enthusiastic and driven individuals give their communities the leadership and help they deserve.

This progress would have not been possible if you were not with us all this time. We would like to extend our gratitude to your support and faith in this program. Please have a look at the report enclosed herewith; it will give you an idea of the overall program and future plans of this program. We hope you will enjoy reading this update.

Thank you once again for all your significant support. We truly are grateful to you for all your investments and support to us.

With warm regards,




January 1, 2010

Dear friends,

New Year Greetings from Seva Mandir!

We hope this year brings you all the happiness, peace and prosperity to you. We also hope that we together help reduce the sufferings of our planet this year.

We would like to thank you for all your support that you extended at various points of time to each of our programs. The progress we have been able to make would have not been possible without your support.

A quick update about our fellowship program –

There were 19 fellows selected but 2 of them withdrew from the program because of personal reasons. Now we have about 17 fellows. In May this year a group of 6 students from Nourish International, USA made a documentary on ‘Jati Panchayat’ (caste council) issues in Badgaon Block, which is one of the themes a couple of fellows are working on. A review meeting was held in October along with regular monthly meetings where fellows share their work with mentors and other staff members.

In November on 26th and 27th a two day training on ‘Report and Case Study Writing’ for the fellows was organized. A total of 15 fellows and 8 mentors attended the same.

Since the fellows lack good writing skills; this training was very useful for them. The sessions focused on best practices of report and case study writing. The session was followed by a group exercise. The fellows also received instructions for punctuations, forming new sentences, paragraphs etc. The trainers explained to the fellows to keep a record of their work on a regular basis so as their report and stories cover the significant points of the work done. All the participants enjoyed participating in the training and found it very useful.

We will keep you updated about the progress of this program as often as we can. Do let us know if you any feedback to share on this update. Thank you once again for supporting us.

With warm regards,

Deepti deepti@sevamandir.org

December 7, 2009

Dear Friend,

Greetings from Seva Mandir!

Many thanks to all of you for responding to our call of support during ‘Give More and Get More’ Challenge. We did quite well in the challenge and you would be happy to note that we stood third with receiving over $35,000 across various projects.

The funds are always helpful in continuing our work but that we can write to this community of supporters and rally support is very morale boosting. Thank you for your trust in us. We are truly grateful.

With best regards for the Holiday Season,




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Organization Information

Seva Mandir

Location: Udaipur, Rajasthan - India
Website: http:/​/​www.sevamandir.org
Project Leader:
Priyanka Singh
Executive Director
Udaipur, Rajasthan India

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