Empowering marginalized communities with technology, education and skill.
Mythology suggests that Mudgal was the name of Lord Ganesh’s teacher. Mudgal taught Ganesha righteousness, gave him the vision to listen to the one who needs help and blessings. Continuing in the legacy of the name, the small historical town of Mudgal in Raichur taught me a great deal about empowering communities. Mudgal being one of the Taluk in the drylands of Karnataka seems to be taking its baby steps to match its counterparts in terms of education & skill building.
It taught me that small steps taken to bring prosperity to one’s community today can result in a prosperous future for thousands.
On February 3, 2018, I traveled approximately 438 KMS for 12 hours from Bangalore, along with the GAP Intensive team lead by Siddharth V and Vali to visit the GAP Intensive Changemaker Ashok Bhati. This was my first trip to a rural town of Karnataka, different from what I had seen in the movies. This town was flush with mobile connections, digital media penetration, and small colorful thrift shops.
Bringing technology to the marginalized community
Ashok Bhati founded Navajeevana Grameena Abhivriddhi Samsthe (NGAS) to empower the marginalized and deprived sections of the society. Our first stop was to the inspiring ICT center. NGAS conducts ICT training to bring digital literacy to the most marginalized community. They conduct training for 7 batches of children and youth in a day. The center provides computer literacy, basic accounting, and typing skills to more than 120 students. This ICT exposure improves their chances of landing in a job. Lakshmamma, the Computer Instructor smilingly said, “I got my computer training from the NGAS ICT Center. After completing the training, I was offered the job of a Computer Instructor in this Center”.
After interacting with the students, I understood that local job placements are hard to come by as there are very few lucrative job opportunities for trained students. However, some prefer to get a job locally even if it does not pay very well.
The Center also has a dedicated room to provide beautician and tailoring courses to women and girls. Currently, there are about 20 girls/women who are being trained. This training will give them an opportunity to be self-employed with a little investment.
From lifting construction material to lifting books
The most touching part of my visit was to the Bridge School for rescued children, who once worked as laborers at construction sites with their parents. Around 40 children are given education along with accommodation in this unique school. These children are trained for a year on various subjects like mathematics, Kannada, science and arts. Post the training, they are admitted to other government schools based on their aptitude and age. Majority of the kids are from the Lambani community (nomadic/tribal community) and are first generation learners.
I interacted with Shivappa, a 11-year-old boy who discontinued his education as he along with his parents were migrating to different places for construction related jobs. He now stays at the school run by NGAS and loves studying.
Each kid here has a story and each kid now dreams of good education and becoming successful. We left the place hoping & wishing that their dreams come true.
The power women of Mudgal
We concluded the day by meeting the women’s Self-Help Groups of Mudgal. One of the group prepares homemade rotis and sells more than 100 rotis in a day to earn some income. Another group sells milk and other milk-based products. Though these ladies have a strong will to expand their work, what hinders their expansion is the fact that supply is more than the demand in Mudgal.
They stressed the need for a strong support system to help them market their products. One of them strongly urged for providing them jobs in the garment sector, where they can do stitching, weaving etc. at their home and be part of a garment company to fulfill their orders.
Inspired and moved
My heart was filled with inspiration. I was moved to see these communities; they have so little in their lives but have a desire to do something, to contribute to their family income and have a strong ability to voice their opinion. What I felt was that there is a strong need to bridge the gap between the opportunity and its marketability. We need another cooperative movement like Lijjat or Amul here to change their lives.
A lot needs to be done here, but it is commendable to see how NGAS is working and contributing to build a capable community through its interventions.