By Suzanne York, HowMany.org, Feb. 21, 2012

Recently I had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Prakash Tyagi, a medical doctor and director of Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS), a rural empowerment organization based in the state of Rajasthan, India. Dr. Tyagi was visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, courtesy of the International Development Exchange (IDEX).


The mission of GRAVIS, grounded in Gandhian philosophy, is to promote sustainable rural development via capacity building, community and women’s empowerment, social justice, and protecting the environment. I am familiar with the work of GRAVIS, having written previously on how the organization empowers rural communities through employing traditional knowledge of taankas, a water storage system.


GRAVIS works in the Thar Desert in western Rajasthan. It is the world’s most densely populated desert ecosystem, with 23 million people. Life is tough, with unpredictable rainfall, environmental degradation, climatic extremes, resource scarcity, few health clinics, and oppressive social standards for women. GRAVIS incorporates a holistic approach, focusing on water security, food security, health, and education, and reaches approximately 1 million people.


Dr. Tyagi explained how GRAVIS works to overcome the difficulties facing women in the Thar Desert by making them equal partners. They are guided by the idea of “sitting on one carpet”, meaning equal voice/equal rights for men and women. Much of this work is done through Self-Help Groups, which aid women in life skills and economic self-reliance. Projects include support for seed banks, micro-credit lending, and nutrition.


Overall, GRAVIS takes a life-cycle approach to meeting the needs of girls and mothers, and promotes leadership development, health education, maternal health, and girls education. Currently, the organization has set up 90 primary schools to help increase girls’ enrollment.


We discussed family planning, a sensitive issue in rural areas. GRAVIS has put much effort toward prevention, capacity building, and the training of village health workers. I asked Dr. Tyagi about the “mother-in-law” effect, as this particular family member has culturally had much influence on births in India (with a preference for grandsons). Though still an obstacle, Dr. Tyagi said they were slowly changing deep-rooted beliefs, especially by involving men in family planning, and by improving literacy. GRAVIS states on their website that village health workers, who come from rural areas, have the trust of their respective communities, which enables them to overcome some of the village skepticism regarding modern medicine and health practices.


Another cultural barrier to overcome is that of child marriage, a still-too-common practice in Rajasthan, and one rooted in social poverty. Official government figures show the percentage of girls getting married before the age of eighteen is 68% in Rajasthan. Dr. Tyagi said that their Self-Help Groups work in villages to change attitudes and beliefs. GRAVIS has been able to reduce rates of child marriage by empowering women, educating girls, and improving economic opportunities.


Lastly, our discussion touched upon overcoming desertification, overgrazing, erosion, and other environmental problems. GRAVIS works with communities through locally-based organizations to create community forests and pastures. The forests – called orans – are considered sacred, dedicated to a local god or goddess and protected by ancient laws in each community. According to the social entrepreneurial group Ashoka, the land is sacred because it provides villages with grazing land and pasture for livestock, produce and medicinal plants such as berries, roots and herbs, and also fuel, timber and water. Traditionally, orans allowed for equal access of all people to resources. GRAVIS is working with communities to protect more orans in the Thar Desert region.


The short time I spent with Dr. Tyagi gave me hope and inspiration that by taking a holistic, traditional, and empowerment-based approach to the critical issues facing not only Rajasthan, but also much of the world, we can create positive change.


Suzanne York is a writer with the Institute for Population Studies / HowMany.org

Views: 10

Tags: Community, Development, Family, Health, Planning, Sustainable, Women's

Comment

You need to be a member of Transition California to add comments!

Join Transition California

Latest Activity

Stephanie Jo Smith updated their profile
Friday
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Fundraiser ( Poem )

Fundraiser ( Poem) Best Christmas idea fundraiser Send donation request letters A festival of trees to raffle You’ll get more then a tree of raddles Companie...
Dec 9
Victoria Armigo posted events
Dec 8
Joe Almirantearena updated their profile
Dec 4
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Christmas Parade ( Part-7 )

From human reindeer pulling to an amazing Mr.& Mrs.Santa Clause on the sleigh float.
Dec 4
Will Sherwin updated their profile
Dec 2
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Magnificent Group Of Christmas Tree Videos

I created this video with the YouTube Video Editor (http://www.youtube.com/editor)
Nov 24
Yuri Smirnov posted a video

Jeeptrack to dolmens: Russia off-road!

Russia off-road! Sacred Russia retreat, explore the dolmens, Shetinin's school (Kin's school) and ecovillage of Kin's domains Sinegorie (Vedrussia) - for singles, couples and groups of three or more people. For details and to submit a request for a…
Nov 11
Kali A updated their profile
Nov 7
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Creative Christmas Tree Videos

I created this video with the YouTube Video Editor (http://www.youtube.com/editor) Share my three youtube channels with family and friend for hours of viewin...
Nov 4
Tammy Davis posted an event

Potluck Social at the Grange & Discussion on Climate Change at Fort Bragg Grange, Inglenook

November 12, 2014 from 6pm to 9pm
I will be giving a talk about Climate Change at the Fort Bragg Grange in Inglenook. There will be a potluck social beginning at 6pm and the discussion starts at 7pm.Hope to see you there.See More
Oct 30
Tammy Davis updated their profile
Oct 30
Tammy Davis added 2 pages to the group Transition Mendocino Coast
Oct 29
Tammy Davis added a discussion to the group Transition Mendocino Coast
Thumbnail

We The People - Asserting Human Rights & Rights of Nature

How can we as a community work together to draft, adopt and assert our natural human rights? What ordinances do we need to draft in order to protect the Rights of Nature, specific to our coastal environment? See the Community Rights Toolkit, created and shared by Global ExchangeWe are taking steps right now to establish our Community Rights in…See More
Oct 29
Tammy Davis posted a group
Thumbnail

Transition Mendocino Coast

As people are waking up to the warning signs of the challenges facing our planet, there is growing recognition that together, we can be a part of the solution. Many have abandoned old habits to embrace more sustainable ways of living—from “buying local” and using reusable bags, to joining bike-to-work challenges and shopping second-hand.Still, many people say they would like to do more, but they don’t know where to start. If we want to continue to shift sustainability from education to action,…See More
Oct 29
Yuri Smirnov posted a video

Journey to Sacred Russia...

Come and see sacred places of Russia, astounding dolmens, visit fascinating Shetinin's school (Kin's school or Forest school as they call it) and explore the life in ecovillage of Kin's domains! For details, map and tour itinerary please visit…
Oct 27
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Model A's ( Poem )

Model A’s ( Poem ) Vintage cars that are so old Classic beauties with stories told Some with Rumble seats in tow Owners of these want to show Antiques from l...
Oct 23
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Pumpkin Carriage Cake

Learn the do's and don't of making this cake as I tell you about every step needed to make this cake for Birthday or a Halloween Party.This is for one of my ...
Oct 15
Yuri Smirnov posted a video

Sacred Russia retreat (September 2014)

Sacred Russia tour (10 days retreat and short tours: 5 and 6 days), explore the dolmens, Shetinin's school (Kin's school) and ecovillage of Kin's domains Sin...
Oct 13
Yuri Smirnov commented on Yuri Smirnov's blog post Sacred Russia retreat, September 2014
"Please enjoy the video from the recent Sacred Russia retreat! ))) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8rroJdCA8M"
Oct 13

© 2014   Created by Dandarius.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service