There is an urgent need to create mechanisms to empower widows in Yavatmal and Vidarbha, and give them the support they need to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward. However, such initiatives are rare. One of the few such projects for the welfare of the helpless women is run by Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) and its sister organization Sampada Trust.
Wasundhara means “caring earth”, and for WOTR it also means WOTR Attentive to Social Unity for Nature, Development and Humanity in Rural Areas. Wasundhara represents a paradigm shift, putting the responsibility for development in the hands of not only NGOs and agencies but of the villagers themselves. Only in this way can the projects sustain themselves organically over time. Taking a socio-technical approach, WOTR demystifies technology and puts it into the hands of the farmers so they can use it long after WOTR has left.
It creates a development partnership between NGO and villagers based on regeneration of the resource base, transparency, equitable distribution of benefits, and gender equality all components of eradicating poverty. Each village program is tailored to that particular locale’s quality and quantity of natural and human resources. On the ground, this starts with supplementing watershed development by incorporating the poor and the women into decision-making processes by establishing a Village Watershed Committee (VWC) and Village Development Committee (VDC). The VDC, though independent of the Village Panchayat, works along with it. The Village Panchayat thus becomes much more accountable to the villagers, making them more responsive and democratic in their decision-making.
Along with better government, Wasundhara uses micro-loans to help villagers create better livelihoods for themselves. Over 50 percent of the families in these villages jumped to a higher economic category.
WOTR provides the capacity building, organizing, efficiency and technical expertise; the villagers must put in equal time and effort to better their communities.