Listening to the People to Learn from the People
It is about listening to the people, meeting them where they are and helping them to find the best path to take them where they want to go.
CONTEXT - India is home to the largest democracy in the world and voter turnout among the lower socioeconomic segments of society is impressive by world standards. Yet, even the best-crafted policies often fail to be effectively implemented. The lack of education and civic mindedness that would enable the people to vote on the basis of their needs and interests, to discriminate between policy options, and to understand potential consequences. Instead they fall prey to divisive party rhetoric and false claims, and accountability remains low. When it comes to implementation of well intentioned government programs, what succeeds in trickling out to remote areas is frequently inadequate or at best put towards development projects that the people are often ill- equipped to effectively utilize.
DESIGN PROCESS - PIDT has sought to understand what people need in order to effectively govern and develop themselves. Bringing people together to listen to each other and build consensus motivates them to claim their stake in the higher level decision making processes that affect their lives. Starting at the grassroots level with local samities and self help groups, we were able to see these collective bodies form into CBOs, federate and integrate with panchayati raj institutions, so that their voices be heard through formal channels. The connections and collaborations need to be sustained.
Changing Minds, Changing Societies
It is absolutely essential that the oppressed participate in the revolutionary process with an increasingly critical awareness of their role as subjects of the transformation. – Paulo Freire
CONTEXT - This millennium has seen a rising tide of terrorist violence around the world, a deepening of religious and communal tensions, and a continuation of war, oppression, and genocide exercised by the powerful over the bodies and lives of the marginalized. Women continue to routinely face deprivation, denial, repression, coercion and abuse, both physical and mental. There is a pressing need to go beyond tolerance to embrace human difference in our communities and to find ways to nurture peace even in the midst of such a violent environments. Growing up in an environment of violence and deprivation affects the development and functioning of crucial social and mental processes. People increasingly live in a state of trauma, their behaviors and decisions governed by fear.
DESIGN PROCESS - Operating from a holistic framework, PIDT understands that change cannot happen in society unless it happens in the minds of the individuals that comprise these societies. PIDT crafts strategies that aim to foster productive interaction between individuals and segments of society and to engage men and women, upper and lower castes and members of different religious communities together in development work, so that the people learn to see the added value in combining social capital and integrating diverse perspectives. Healing requires nurturing open communication and abiding by the time it takes to change. PIDT focuses substantial effort on children, as they are the change agents of the present who carry the hope of a more humane way of being in the world.
Bringing Together the Best of Both Worlds
“People are fulfilled only to the extent that they create their world and create it with their transforming labor”. – Paulo Friere
CONTEXT - Too often, development is considered primarily in macroeconomic terms, with large industries and commercial enterprises trampling local livelihoods and leaving the ruins of cherished customs, traditional skills and other relics of a broken culture in it’s wake. It is this world-shaking impact that breeds suspicion amongst people toward new ways of thinking, driving them into a defensive stand that collapses into self defeating protectionism. Yet, neither is the answer to simply accept the destruction of worlds and ways of living with thousands of years of history and embedded knowledge within them to embrace the contemporary commodity driven modernity. Rather development is the evolution of something already in existence. Thus it stands on the shoulders of giants.
DESIGN PROCESS - It is PIDT conviction that everyone has something to offer and everyone has something to learn. PIDT has sought to integrate local traditional systems into global often technology driven models, drawing from all sources to create what is positive in people’s lives. This is a strategy we routinely engage whether bringing the latest technology, research and development to local crop proliferation or the delivery of herbal medicines, scaling up traditional handicraft production for increased market value or consulting local child rearing practices to create an appropriate tool for healthy development and acculturation of the child to schooling. Over the years, we have seen this approach reduces the alienation that has been experienced at prior interfaces of local populations with development schemes, instead building trust and self-confidence and ultimately bearing fruit.
Healing the Land, Healing the Hand that Feeds Us
Trees are the Earths endless effort to speak to the listening Heaven.- Rabindranath Tagore
CONTEXT - Environmental degradation and the demands of global capitalism have placed severe strain on ecosystems, disproportionately affecting those in the developing world who inhabit areas already suffering from poverty, disease, seasonal fluctuation and relative scarcity. Consequences such as drought, flooding, soil erosion and deforestation, impact the livlihoods of the traditionally hunter gatherer tribal populations in the areas where PIDT works. Once resource-rich lands have been depleted, the spoils extracted by an elite few, leaving the toiling villagers struggling to eke out their meager subsistence in conditions of the single crop marginal yields inadequate to meet their basic alimentary needs.
DESIGN PROCESS - We have the tools to heal the land and the people who draw sustenance from it. Water management and the confidence to recreate sustainably are important. Using organic farming techniques, watershed development, afforestation, local crop production and diversification, irrigation and sanitation systems. PIDT has overseen local efforts to re-green entire land areas that have been found arid and barren when we first began our work.
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of silver and gold – Mahatma Gandhi
CONTEXT -While the rise of HIV/AIDS and other global pandemics in India have drawn increasing international attention to health and health care challenges in resource-poor areas, in the remote villages in North India, it is often far more mundane and eminently treatable conditions that take the greatest toll on people’s daily lives. Malnutrition compounded by poor sanitation, environmental hazards, and back breaking labour, place severe strain on the body’s resilience and mental well being and leave people vulnerable to all manner of ailments. Government run primary health centers in these areas are not operational and people are forced to travel long distances to hospitals they cannot afford, turn to local quack doctors who exploit their desperation by prescribing wrong medicines or placebo treatment at inflated cost or go without treatment altogether. When the health of the primary wage earner is compromised, whole families are driven into deeper debt and poverty, forced to make difficult decisions constrained by their lack of resources and options, it is most often the woman and children who are affected the most and go without care.
DESIGN PROCESS - At PIDT’s resource cum training center in Lokshala, Jharkhand, where lack of access to any infrastructure was most acute, model alternative health care centers and services have been developed. In consonance with our missions, these services draw on local knowledge base and resources and remain in dynamic exchange with the people and the environment, encouraging preventive and home-based care through Ayurveda whenever possible and constantly seeking innovative ways to meet needs with minimal external inputs. PIDT also works through holistic integrated methods to affect the causal factors of ill health in the villages by introducing sustainable organic vegetable farming for local consumption, developing sanitation and water purification systems and creating work opportunities to stem migration, exploitation and unemployment that increase exposure to multiple health risks.
Building a Global Movement
CONTEXT - Over the last several years, PIDT has built a growing network with other local NGOs and international organizations to promote voluntary civic engagement toward social justice and empowerment of the oppressed, with the ultimate aim of creating a more humane, egalitarian, peaceful society through the IAVE – International Association for Volunteer Efforts.
DESIGN - PIDT and it’s partners seek to provide space for the convergence of local, national and international players from all sectors of society who are working at the forefront of advocacy, research, community building and development initiatives to enable strategic exchange between development actors, bringing together governments, NGO’s, corporate entities, professionals on one platform to formulate and most effectively implement policies that transform the world into a more just, humane and peaceful place.