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Bridging the Divide: I, You & We

Youth brigades catalyze social cohesion & harmony using common ground of improving Water, Sanitation & Hygiene in their community & villages

Photo of Shikha Dixit
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

“Madam, my people think only about themselves. They are only worried about cleanliness within their homes. You can see the entire village is filled with filth but nobody sees it.” – laments Abbas Mohammed (name changed), the village head of Andhrola in Palwal, Haryana (India). We ( have been in 51 villages in this region for a decade trying to explore the synergy between health, economics and environment for harmonious development. We observe that these communities live in complex contexts of uncertainties. They • are divided on lines of caste, class and religion for social, political and individual benefit • lack collective consciousness for pressing issues of vulnerability • lack the will and encouragement for development planning and its execution • are often individual or group agenda driven and development is a ‘victim’ in the process Water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) is a pressing issue in this community but is not perceived as a problem at large. However, we see this as an opportunity for community integration and development. Our experience on identifying and handling WaSH issues through local youth (Eco-Eyes) has been encouraging. We inducted 98 local youths (including 11 girls) from 84 villages. This youth brigade within two years catalyzed establishment of 24 community monitoring committees; 6 villages received cleanliness award. We propose a social re-engineering initiative in 51 villages that would leverage the energy of the youth and our experience with EcoEyes Program to bring about harmony, peace and social cohesion using WaSH as an entry point. We propose to create youth (boy & girl) brigades drawn from different castes, classes and religions. These brigades will form the fulcrum for initiating a series of nexus planning workshops at village level in partnership with local self government and the influential community members and co-create culture and context sensitive and feasible solutions for improving sanitation.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our direct beneficiaries are 199706 residents of 51 SOMAARTH villages in Palwal district, Haryana (India). The surveillance area has: Hindus (68%) & Muslims (32%); Castes - scheduled castes (16%), other backward classes (48%) and forward castes (36%); with 1/3rd population illiterate. We are using nexus planning approach to involve all sections of local community in decision making and to refine implementation. Thus, the proposed project strategy of raising youth brigades comprising of members from all communities segments are expected to enhance meaningful interaction for a common cause i.e. skills to map local resources and addressing the challenges of their dirty environment. This in turn should bring greater harmony and cohesion across the social divides.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Segmentation (caste, class, religion) particularly in rural Indian communities is an age-old scourge adversely affecting societal cohesion and peaceful co-existence. This has compromised human and economic development, and made communities vulnerable to sociopolitical exploitation and inequities. We are addressing this long-standing challenge with the application of advanced social science tools for community engagement and collective decision making (nexus planning). Youth brigades comprised of members drawn purposely from different social groups as 'agents of change' will address the common problem of poor sanitation and water hygiene in their villages employing modern technology. The methodology is widely feasible if the organization(s) have the trust of local communities. INCLEN-SOMAARTH is working in the area for almost a decade and has made concerted efforts to win over the trust and confidence of the local population through community relevant and culture sensitive projects.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The INCLEN Trust International is a unique multi-disciplinary network registered as a “not-for-profit” Trust in India dedicated to attainment of equity in health for development through community engagement.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Palwal villages are considered among the most backward though situated just 80 KMs south of Delhi and so SOMAARTH was established in 2009. In 2016, I went for a community meet. The elected village chief of the local self government (a lower caste person) came and sat on the floor while I was sitting on the sofa; the house belonged to a forward caste person. Event hit me hard. The enthusiasm and negotiating ability of a young girl in 2017 to get her village cleanliness award re-kindled hope.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace: SOMAARTH villages are heterogeneous and divided on lines of caste and religion. Communities are disengaged in local decision making and unsure of their capacity and willingness for collective action for common causes. In context of rapid economic transition, values are changing, and individual greed and mistrust has spilled over to societal levels. Fissures in social cohesion have widened and vulnerabilities are exploited by agenda-driven individuals and groups for vested reasons. Planet: Our geo-spatial analysis reveals that WaSH is consistently poor across the 51 villages. Density of waste dumps per 1000 inhabitants varies between 24.2 and 29.1 across caste strata. Difference in median distance of the nearest dump between lower and upper caste houses is just 3m. Dump density was 33.2 in Muslim and 32.9 in Hindu villages. Our EcoEyes project experience suggests Youth-led WaSH initiatives can touch every inhabitant of the area and stimulate collective action for social peace.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

1. Village Youth (male & female; drawn purposely from all castes & religions): Catalyze cohesive community action for common cause - WaSH. 2. Village leadership and influencers: Decision makers for participation, planning and implementation through nexus planning 3. District Administration: for alignment with Government initiatives and resources 4. Academic and technical support (GIS & waste disposal) from Department of Geography, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi and Centre for Environmental Education, Gandhinagar, Gujarat 5. Concordia LLC, New Orleans, LA, USA for organizing Nexus Planning meetings Result: Stakeholder engagement and organizing collective action for a common cause (WaSH) that is also co-aligned with national development are likely to promote community harmony and cohesion despite prevailing social divides. Example (community engagement in SOMAARTH for EcoEyes):

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Despite inter-generational social divide & occasional strife, people in the area have lived together for over 1000 years. Community accepts heterogeneity when engaged in decision making and implementation for common causes. One fifth of the village chiefs are from lower castes. In SOMAARTH villages, individuals in the age band of 15-29 years (defined as "Youth" by Government) constitute over 20% of the total population. In all our community projects local youth are involved and appointed.

Geographic Focus

51 villages of SOMAARTH DDESS, District Palwal, Haryana, North India.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

DURATION-36 MONTHS Village wise stakeholder mapping Series of Nexus Planning meetings for the community: buy-in, planning, mapping of resources for local intervention & implementation Communities identify members of Youth Brigades Training Youth Brigade & stakeholders discuss cleaning their respective villages; responsibilities assigned Stakeholders meet district administration for leveraging government schemes Initiation & monitoring of WaSH drives Baseline & Endline WaSH spot map (GIS)

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Hannah Tsadik

Hi Shikha Dixit - what a great project to integrate WaSH and peace building!

Our contribution to this challenge - Y-now: A global youth approval certificate for local impact  - presents a way that governments, companies but also NGOs like my organization and yours INCLEN trust can get a youth-approval stamp to certify that indeed their policies or projects have been reviewed and endorsed by a broader set of young people that the project/policy seeks to serve. There are similar certifications for Fairtrade, eco and organic products - but no certification for inclusion and diversity standards. Since your contribution seeks to engage young people in these youth brigades, at the level of an idea, what do you think of a globally certified "youth approval" stamp? At present, we are testing the idea with various organizations, to see if the idea itself resonates with those who work with young people.

All the best in the challenge and your work in SOMAARTH!

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