Transforming lives through democratic and participatory development.
This ethos and practice, the underpinning philosophy of Seva Mandir’s work, was first introduced to me when I joined the organization as a volunteer, less than a year out of college in 1995. It has deeply influenced my career in education and economic development, here in the U.S. I’m humbled by Seva Mandir’s unflagging commitment to collaborative change for the communities of greater Udaipur.
Whether supporting youth education, women’s health, or agricultural sustainability, Seva Mandir’s programming underscores that participation of the entire community is key.
• For nearly 50 years Seva Mandir has carefully built its alternative village governments into spaces where people are able to participate actively and ethically in the decisions which affect their lives. The 532 Village Development Forums and 618 Village Development Funds manage local development projects, co-fund projects and act as pressure groups on the State. At a deeper level, they build community ownership of the development process and unite communities.
• The Women’s Resource Centres (WRCs), set up and supported by Seva Mandir in rural villages, give women a structured space for conflict resolution. Women are trained in the laws relating to domestic violence, the role of the police, the process for reporting crimes, and counseling. Dialogue with men as well as with caste panchayats, traditional community councils dominated by men, has been critical to the success of these WRCs.
• Education, too, ensures community involvement, with regular parent-teacher meetings, monitoring by Village Development Forums, and, in some cases, local contributions to teachers’ stipends and school rents. It is understood that everyone is responsible for the next generation of community leadership.
Strong village institutions are the nucleus for all of Seva Mandir’s work and bring disparate communities together for collective change. This is the enduring legacy of Seva Mandir’s work.
With increased divisiveness marking both local and global relations, this grassroots work is more important than ever. Please join me in supporting this critical work with a contribution to Friends of Seva Mandir today.
Seva Mandir volunteer, 1996