Development Alternatives is transforming the lives of the youth and in particular the feminine gender in Madhya Pradesh's Bundelkhand region. It is a pioneer in sustainable development and the first social enterprise in India with a proven record of strengthening the economic and social structure of the rural economy.
Development Alternatives, which has worked towards sustainable development for the poor and the marginalised and the regeneration of the environment ever since its inception in 1982, organized the 2012 TARAgram YATRA here with the focus "Sustainable Development in South Asia - Women Driving Change".
There was deliberation upon relevant issues of sustainability and exposure to scalable solutions at the grass roots level during the event.
Basic needs fulfillment, clean technology promotion, skill development and employment creation, enterprise development and job creation, strengthening of institutions and natural resource management are the key areas that Development Alternatives focuses on in Bundelkhand, which is one of the most backward regions in the country.
This semi-arid region suffers from severe drought, which has been aggravated by climate change.
Development Alternatives, which works with the participation of the village community at every level to ensure ownership of the initiatives has come up with a concept of 'Hamara Gaon' (Our Village). 'Hamara Gaon' symbolizes the unified steps of the community members towards creating a model village level, where the people take charge of their lives while simultaneously realizing their responsibilities to themselves as well as the environment.
Madore is one such village where the initiative of Development Alternatives has brought a ray of hope for the common people. There are around 53 'pucca' eco-houses with toilets built. It was in 2004 that Development Alternatives and CAPART started the Rural Housing Programme here with the purpose of creating replicable livelihood and housing models.
"Life was very tough for us earlier. Then people from Development Alternatives came to us with some suggestions. We followed their advice and now I have a house of my own," said Parvati Devi, a middle-aged entrepreneur here.
Parvati, who is also the chief of a strong community institution Self Help Group, also talked about the transformation her village has gone through ever since the Development Alternatives came to their support.
Slogans such as 'Murgi Palne Ne Diya Aadhar, Swachh Sundar Ghar Mile Aahar' and 'Hum Sabka Hai Sapna Nyaara, Sundar Ghar Ho Sake Hamara' written on the walls of the villages here seem to be providing a ray of hope for many other women like Parvati aspiring to have a house of their own.
It was in 2004 that Development Alternatives and CAPART (Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology)-functioning under the aegis of the Ministry of Rural Development-started the Rural Housing Programme in Madore with the purpose of creating replicable livelihood and housing model.
There are many other villages in Bundelkhand, which are now into a transformation phase. Moreover, this particular initiative of Development Alternatives has also helped in reducing migration from the villages here to major cities of the country for work.
Gopalpura, Rampura, Bagan, Pipra, Rajpura, Rajapur and Dhikoli are some of the other villages that have also moved ahead on the developmental path because of the programmes of Development Alternatives.
Awareness among the people has gone up considerably and a number of village women have now become part of the 'Sankalp Swashakti Mahila Mandal' (a woman federation of self-help groups).
Talking about the initiatives being taken to guide the people of Bundelkhand region to a better future, Development Alternatives Vice President Zeenat Niazi said: "Development Alternatives focuses on people and environment. We serve those who do not have a voice of their own. Our vision is that every citizen can live a secure, fulfilling and healthy in life in harmony with nature. Development Alternatives aspires to create sustainable livelihood. We focus on employment generation and skill development."
Development Alternatives Programme Manager S. Kishore also echoed similar sentiments, saying 'working with the poor to provide them the basic needs that itself is self-satisfaction'.
Kishore further said that there has been a drastic change in the mindset of the of Bundelkhand region now.
"Husband used to stop the wives from moving out and working earlier, but now they either accompany her or leave her till her workplace," he added.
Another remarkable initiative of Development Alternatives is the 'Tara Akshar+ Literacy Programme', which enables the rural women become literate. This programme teaches completely illiterate people how to read, write in Hindi and basics of numeracy in 98 contact hours. Over 60,000 students have graduated till now under this project. This initiative has also been launched in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. 32-year-old Maina Devi of Uttar Pradesh learned to read and write with the Tara Akshar Programme in just 35 days.
Moreover, for the first time in the history of Bundelkhand the rural women, youth and other community members are using a mass medium to tell their own story in their own language by using Radio Bundelkhand-their community radio.
It would be befitting to say that Development Alternatives has in true sense made a difference to the lives of the poor and the marginalized here with its various constructive programmes. By Amit Shankar