I am a trustee of GEN, the Grassroots Empowerment Network, which is a small UK based non governmental organisation that supports villagers, mostly from the Meo community in Rajasthan, in taking charge of their own lives and the development of their communities. GEN works with a local partner ngo in India called End Poverty www.endpovertyindia.org . The GEN website tells you more about our work, our news and our activities: www.gen-initiative.org
The Meo people of India are an interesting group. Most live in the remoter corners of rural Haryana and Rajasthan, in villages that lack basic facilities such as clean water, power, access to good schools and health services. They have Rajput origins, and follow a form of Islam that until recently has incorporated many Hindu practices. Today external influences are pressing the Meos to pursue a more pure form of Islam.
I have been a trustee of the GEN since it started in 2003. I invited Sue Burke, the Chair of the GEN, and Moyna Aicken, another trustee, to come along to the Enterprisers networking session on 13th January at the University of Warwick. They braved the snow on a journey from London and talked to quite a few of you.
Getting involved with the GEN and End Poverty
All three of us were impressed at the level of interest shown by participating Enterprisers and have been thinking about ways in which we could build on that interest and engage with you more actively. Here are some ideas. Please let me have your thoughts and suggestions about them, or any other ideas you may have.
• Contribute to focus groups (London) to discuss and explore practical and sustainable ideas on rural development for the kind of villages where GEN and End Poverty work, bearing in mind the ‘empowerment’ philosophy we hold
• Come to a think tank session with trustees of GEN on creative ways of stepping up our fund raising capacity
• Help develop our project for an ‘Echoes of India ’ city walk (or walks) in London, Birmingham and elsewhere that will promote east – west understanding and publicise and raise funds for the GEN. We need help with creative research and investigations to generate the content, innovative ideas on different ways to take the idea forward, help with testing the concept in practice, help with getting others involved. It promises to be very interesting and potentially a lot of fun.
• Undertake a self funded but GEN- EP supported study visit to the villages supported by GEN and End Poverty on the Haryana / Rajasthan border and let us have your thoughts and feedback on the experience, particularly about overcoming the challenges the villagers face
• Take on a 1 – 3 month internship in the villages to assist End Poverty with its work with village development groups. Might include: – needs analysis, business development analysis, offering specific skill development possibilities to children, young people, women and girls. (You pay your fare, we cover your basic local expenses - food, accommodation, transport)
• Come to the GEN – EP stakeholder event in a rural area nearish to Delhi when we will meet villagers from the village development groups, visit the villages, hold joint planning sessions between GEN and EP on how to take our partnership forwards – 11th – 13th March. (Sorry it will have to be at your own expense)
• Help us – GEN, EP and another small Indian ngo, the Satya Jyoti Trust (www.satya-jyoti.com) , that is based in our area – to work through ways in which we could build on a small SJT women’s project that has already contributed garments to the international Fair Trade Fashion Event in Paris (September 2009). Can you help us to develop a business plan on: – how to expand on the initiative, involve more community based women, increase production, bring items to UK etc? You would have to spend some time in the area to do this.
We would like your ideas, great and small, on what would really appeal to you, and how you think you could make the kind of contribution that would make best use of your skills and expertise. I will pass anything you send me to Sue and other GEN trustees who will then continue the dialogue.