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Gram Shakti projects lends new identity to Thatha village

© UNICEF/India/2006
Attending Gram Shakti planning meet

The Gram Shakti project has imparted a  new identity to village Thatha of Panchayat Samiti Bassi, Tonk, Rajasthan.

The project coordinated by UNICEF, Jaipur has enthused a renewed will and fortitude in the local villagers. Clean, mud free roads and garbage free surroundings greet you as you enter Thatha.

Then you meet the Anganwadi Worker Bhanwari Devi amid curious onlookers, followed by the village youth volunteers – Ramkishan and Sita Devi; Chairperson PSG (Panchayat Support Group) Laad Devi and ward members - Ramswaroop Jain and Mooli Bai, the village midwife (Dai) and several others.

 Laad Devi begins speaking, “This Gram Shakti Project is our very own baby facilitated by UNICEF - and it has taken us 5 days to conceive it. It was during the 5 days of village planning exercise that we could understand the pathetic state of our women and children, wherein only ten children were immunized while adolescent girls did not bother to take iron-folic acid tablets."
 
Then Sita Devi comes forward with her achievement. "The village's old midwife was the only aid during deliveries and we were not aware of the importance of breastfeeding.” But then we formulated an action plan and started working it out!"- quips Laad Devi with a glint in her eyes.
 
These people are visibly and positively brimming with confidence and feel proud to tell an outsider how all their women are now taken to hospital to give birth, although Mooli Bai is still retained to assist with 'granny's ideas'. The transportation required for the purpose is pooled in by the villagers who own tractors.
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The men here are equally vocal about such the changes. Ramkishan says- "Many girls in our village, prior to Gram Shakti, remained uneducated. But now we have realized education is a must for all boys and girls". So, village Thatha has now ensured that all the children are not only enrolled in the school, but are 100 % retained too.

© UNICEF/India/2006
Members of Gram Shakti project

The village lads earlier faced problems while seeking admissions in schools due to the lack of birth certificates. But now the village has realized the importance of birth certificates and accordingly the ward members and anganwadi worker, have started facilitating the parents to get their children registered to obtain a birth certificate from the local Panchayat authority. Every child can now boast of the birth certificates. Rajendra Garg, student of Class V, triumphantly shows his birth certificate and announces- "I shall go to the Kankarwada (a neighbouring village) for 6th class. I have a birth certificate and if the school asks, I shall show it to them". 

Earlier the villagers purchased salt sold loosely in sacks from the gypsy vendors. But today, everybody buys packed salt and that too only after confirming the symbol of 'Smiling Sun' (the standard logo for iodised salt) on the pack. It is tested at the Anganwadi Centre to verify that the salt is iodized.  Villagers are now aware of how the salt is to be tested and what the “ baingani” (light purple) colour signifies.
  
The village along with the PSG has undertakes regular cleaning activities in the village. Now the PSG members and the villagers manage all the developmental activities and health related programs. The village, as one integrated unit, is able to put forth successfully their demands generated through the village development microplan to the government service departments.

The village planning exercise and its follow-up has brought about a synergy as evinced by the interest shown in the repeat household survey conducted last month.

 The Social Mapping activity during the 5-day planning exercise has brought to light  that there are pockets of houses being left out of all services and that they also should be included in all developmental programmes.. There is a palpable commitment to the Village Action Plan developed and evolved by them to be followed up and monitored by themselves.

Thatha is indeed set on a journey aboard the wings of community initiatives; the day it earns the laurels of being a Model Village is not far off.

 

 

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