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The value of a life

The story of Sanyasamma from CO Swagathi Sneha Sangham, Anakapalli

Sanyasamma has been an active member of CO for over 5 years now. In 2015, she opened a bank account at Vijaya Bank, Paderu branch with the help of the CO. On suggestion of the Field Worker she decided to apply for insurance under Pradhan Mantri Bima Suraksha Yojna (PMBSY) scheme for herself and her family members in the month of May 2015. Thus, she got a cover for Personal Accidental Insurance Scheme meant to offer protection against death or disability due to accident. A new scheme, this had her move from not having a bank account to having both a bank account and an insurance cover! And this helped unexpectedly, when her father-in-law passed away in August 26, 2015. Since he was also insured under the scheme, Sanyasamma was able to place a claim. The Field Worker met the bank manager and assisted Sanyasamma with the process. Within a week of their loss on September 1, 2015, her husband, who is a nominee received the cheque from bank for Rs 2,00,000/-.


Saving for a rainy day

How one community member turned around financial planning for everyone in Navya Shree Mahila Welfare Society(NSMWS), Warangal, Telangana

NSMWS is a community organization in the Warangal district of Telangana working with marginalized women in the region. Kavita is one of the many community members and an outreach worker working under Avahan. During her outreach and upon dialogue with the members in the field (MECT analysis) Kavita realized that there was a general lack of awareness about various government schemes that the community members were entitled to. There was also no felt need for bank accounts by the community members or their families. In May 2015, Kavita decide to take matters in her own hands and started her battle against the apathy of the members towards their own lives.

Kavita started visiting the members and educating the members on the benefits of a bank account. She enquired about their current bank accounts and answered all their queries regarding the same. While some members were willing to visit the bank, some members were reluctant to travel to the bank in Warangal to apply for bank accounts owing to travel expenses and loss of wages for that day. Under the guidance of the Regional Impact officer, she calculated the opportunity cost for the members and even devised a cost-benefit dialogue to convince the members of the efficacy of their effort. She addressed the members personally, in groups, during her working hours and even outside. She mobilized 3 more women from within the community to help her amplify the effect. Simultaneously, she requested the Raj Shekhar, a Financial Security mentor under Avahan to initiate dialogue with the bank officials at Warangal for opening new bank accounts.

Kavita started helping the members in filling of the forms and documentation process in batches. She helped over 20 batches of 5 members each in this process and visited the bank with the members who needed support. The applications under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna were successfully submitted at the bank after one and a half month of hard work.

In July 2015, 120 members were given bank account numbers and by October 2015 these members were handed passbooks too.


Breaking barriers through the SHG route

The story of securing a 7 lakh loan by a TG SHG - Coimbatore Mavatta Thrunangaigal Nala Sangha, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu

CMTNS is a community organization comprised of 13 Self Help Groups. One of the 13 SHG is the ‘Lily’ SHG that comprises 6 TGs as its member. Lily SHG has a group account in the Cooperative Bank, Coimbatore, which it maintains for all the financial activities of the group. It is a group of ambitious and motivated members who strive to move ahead in life.

Previously, having identified the group’s ambition, the group was trained by the Financial Security (FS) mentor from Vrutti for 6 months on various financial and managerial aspects like conducting meetings, bookkeeping, processing loans and its distribution, etc. The FS mentor worked with the group for 6 months helping build capacities of the group members and strengthening processes and systems within the group. At the end of these 6 months this group of ambitious members applied for a loan of 7 lakhs from the local bank to venture into local business.

Lily group was now equipped with sound financial knowledge and confidence to demand services from the bank. They were duly guided in the process of approaching the bank officials for loan and were hand-held during follow-ups with various bank authorities.

The combined efforts of the mentors from Vrutti and the Lily group bore fruits when the loan was successfully processed and sanctioned by the bank. It was a proud moment for Lily group when the cheque of 7 lakh was duly handed over by the state Social Welfare minister in Coimbatore.

The SHG is successfully functioning within the CO and has initiated 4 small entrepreneurial activities of undertaking cooking contracts, renting utensils , masala powder making, and undertaking events at local temples.


Taking ownership; 1 Month. 100% members reach. New leaders.

Stories from COs in Andhra Pradesh

The Community Organizations in Andhra Pradesh have traditionally been offering subscriptions for membership to groups and individuals for INR 5 to 10. Recently, many COs renewed (and hiked) their membership fee to INR 50 and made amendments to the group membership rules. These new rules and the changes in the membership fee led to reduced membership from the community. This worried the COs and RIOs alike.

The above was tackled beautifully by clearly communicating the significance of membership and the importance of being a paid member through rigorous membership drives. The members were actively educated on active membership, and the value of being a member. Member education was prime in all the membership drives and outreach.

All this was conducted with the help of second line leaders like the community champions, consultants, etc. Unlike previous membership drives, the second line leaders superseded the efforts of the CO staff. The membership drive thrived on the second line leadership. The senior leaders were actively involved too- geographical divisions were decided amongst the senior leaders and each took responsibility to drive the membership in their respective zones. The membership drive was conducted in a planned manner where targets were set and by the end of the drive these were successfully achieved too.

One of the key outcomes of this activity was that the second line leadership proved their mettle. They took the initiative and were actively involved throughout the process. A graduation in leadership was observed where the second line leaders came to the front line and there were new leaders coming in place at each level. The old leaders were seen taking a shift in their leadership role too- they were now moving from taking responsibilities of the activities to mentoring the new and emerging leaders. The senior leaders were now forming part of the advisory boards.

The onus of the successful membership drive also lay on the fact there was a lot of interaction between the different layers of members and leaders. The leaders re-identified themselves and be into the board, to be a part of the community.


Negotiating systems

69 TGs receives homes in Salem Thrunangaigal Nala Sangha, Salem, Tamilnadu. 144 in process

STNF is a community organization in Salem district of Tamil Nadu which works on the issues faced by the transgender community. In 2014, the state government announced allocation of homes to the TG community under one of its schemes. Many community members showed their interest and applied for the home allocation under the same. Despite requests being submitted, there were few applications from the members that were accepted and processed for the request.

This was due to the communities inexperience with the government system. The community had rarely ever applied for schemes and was thus unaware of the documentation process and preparation of the documents that were required. They also lacked understanding of the working of the government system and were hapless in approaching the government officials for submission, clearance and other duties in the process.

The RIO, TG mentor and the Financial Security mentor under Avahan decided to take charge of the situation. The RIO helped the members prepare the documents that were required and also trained them on approaching the government officials. The mentors along with the CO staff helped build the capacities of the members and instill in them a sense of systematic approach to the government system.

The results are as follows- 69 TG community members have been allocated homes/plots and another 144 requests are under process. The 144 members are likely to be allocated land before early 2016 and housing will follow thereafter.


Going the organisation way

23 Community organization conducts an AGM without funding support, Andhra Pradesh & Telengana

Avahan phase III aims to strengthen the leadership, systems and other areas of a community organizations to empower them to ensure they are strong and able to effectively represent their members. Financial sustainability has a bearing on all the facets in an organization and thus ‘Standing on Own Feet’ is a step towards removing dependence on grant funding and start to help the COs address their vulnerabilities especially related to mobilizing resources.

All the COs, at the end of each year, conduct organization related activities and events like Annual General Body Meetings (AGM) and elections for the smooth functioning of their organization and for renewing the leadership. Till June 2015 all the expenditure for these activities on travel, lodge, food, management and other miscellaneous expenses, ranging from INR 50,000 to INR 1,00,000 depending upon the size of the CO membership, was funded through the project and grant funds. A step towards ‘Standing on Own Feet’ and ownership of the organization was taken by 23 COs in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana when AGMs were conducted without grant funding from the project budget. All the expenses were borne by the CO by strategizing and mobilizing resources locally- in cash and kind. But the process of transferring the ownership of the activities previously funded by the project was a grueling one. One of the major challenges was explaining to the COs the reasons for withdrawal of funds by the project for the AGM. The RIOs spent time with the CO staff and the board members explaining, categorizing and marking a distinction between project and organization activities. A sense of ownership was slowly developed amongst the CO members and membership involvement in the AGM was encouraged.

The next step was helping the COs strategize resources for conducting the AGM. The RIOs mentored the CO board by guiding and helping chalk out resource mobilization plans. Various financial activities of the AGM were duly categorized as the activities that could be done without liquid cash and the activities that required money. Major cost heads based on projections and estimations was done to identify major cost heads. In the absence of external funding, travel and food was identified as the largest cost head. The COs came up with solutions like renting local community halls, low cost meeting space, identifying key discussion points, reducing excess, etc. Local mobilization spearheaded by the COs was done by contacting tent houses, asking for kind related help, etc too. The success came not only in terms of 23 AGMs that were conducted without project funds but it helped the COs look beyond AGM and take informed decisions about their expenditure in the future.


Bringing together the stakeholders

Inclusion committee formed - Pune Region – Yavatmal, Sholapur, Kolhapur and Nandurbar

Community Organizations and DAPCUs TIs both work with the common goal of providing services to empower the community members and provide services for risk reduction. Though both the organizations from the government and non-government sphere work in the same social domain there have inherently been coordination issues. There have been reported issues of reluctance in data sharing, reaching the key population in each others areas of influence and exclusion of the members from the key services by other government and non-government departments in sector. The community members were also denied entitlements due to the excess documentation required and the lengthy processing time due to inter-departmental clearances in the government offices.

The Regional Impact Officer in Pune region decided to bridge the gap and bring various stakeholder in the ecosystem on the same platform and creat a forum to openly discuss the problems. There was a dire need of cross-learning and transparency between the departments like Women and Child Development, Targeted Interventions, NGO partners, etc. for the larger good of the community members. The RIO initiated the discussions with the stakeholders and relentlessly followed up with DAPCU to bring all these stakeholder together, thus leading to the formation of ‘Inclusion Committees’. These Inclusion Committees have a representatives from WCD, Social Welfare, the District Collector, NGOs, community organizations, etc.

This novel imitative gave the COs an opportunity to raise their concerns and to demand resolutions. The various stakeholders, present in the same forum, now offers active participation, lesser loss of communication and instant resolution. One of the classic examples of the swift action and the impact of this committee can be read below. The CO in Kohlapur had been trying to provide its members the benefits of the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojna for over 2 months. The applications were immediately cleared from one departments to another to due to the ‘Inclusion Commitees’ collective decision to reduce the number of supportive documents required. The COs and the local residential bodies were also given legal rights to attest and verify the community members in absence of any civic identity cards for other IDs like voter IDs, etc.


Plugging gaps to meet community needs

Condom availability ensured by CO in absence of TI - Chaitnaya Jyoti Women Welfare Society, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

CJWWS, a FSW CO in the Vishakhapatnam region of AP, was one of the 5 organizations that was recently terminated as a TI by SACS under its evaluation process. CJWWS, earlier supported in the activities related to condom distributions, referrals to ICTC, STI and HIV testing came to a standstill. There were problems not only for the CO to continue providing TI-like services but also to the key population in the region.

CJWWS soon realized that the community members faced great problems coping with the fund withdrawal. In face of such difficulties the CO took charge. The CO took the responsibility of collecting condoms from DAPCU and making it available to the community members. But given the COs human resource strength it was soon realized that distributing the condoms and reaching all the members would be impossible. The CO thus came up with the idea of identifying common and accessible spots where the community members could come and collect the condoms. An immediate small mapping was done by the CO to identify places which were accessible to the Peer Educators and the CO members, like Peer Educators home, a pan-shop, etc. The CO ensured that the condoms were refilled at regular intervals and monitored the distribution. Also, the CO manager would take the information from the Field Worker and the same would be updated in the NACO CMI at a weekly basis.

They have now started reaching the key population and started have successfully been continuing these services. This has not only helped the CO in ‘standing on their own feet’ but is also helping the population both in (previously) TI and CO intervention areas. Along with condom distribution, the CO was able to increase its membership as it now had access to the TI areas which were previously beyond its operating areas.


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