I started my career as a Skill Development Facilitator with the CSR of one of the reputed Indian MNCs. The reason to work in this sector i.e. CSR/Social development sector was my passion and especially to work for the rural sector. I am from pure rural background. I did my undergraduate studies from Loyola College, Chennai which has fostered in me the spirit of service to the society. I used to take part in CSR activities while I was in the campus. It was at that point of time, when I gained theoretical knowledge about various social issues. After completing my undergraduate studies, I thought, it would be good to have a professional degree and then to work full time in development sector. During the time of working as a Skill Development Facilitator, I have gained enough knowledge about various social issues in my frequent visits to the rural areas (villages and blocks). However, my work as a Skill Development Facilitator did not provide me enough space for doing things on the ground.
When I applied for PMRDF, I thought it would be great for many reasons but primarily, it will help me to work in some of the much difficult areas of the country, which in a way is the best place to learn about challenges involved in development. Secondly, it would be a golden opportunity to work with the government without being a part of the system i.e. working out in the field than from working in an office and more to be in touch with people directly and addressing their needs promptly. PMRDF would also allow me to work flexibly and think of solutions creatively, I thought.
During the period of my training, I was trained on various aspects of development, ranging across gender, poverty, health, rural and urban etc. and various tools like Participatory Rural Appraisal, GPS Mapping and SPSS. Besides, there were people like academics, activists, NGO functionaries, bureaucrats who took interactive sessions and presented their perspective of development. After the classroom training, I was placed in a village as a part of field immersion (called village immersion) and asked to do a household survey to understand socio economic conditions and various other dynamics of the village. It was very helpful and I am able to apply most of the tools and concepts, which I have learnt as a part of training in the field.
I was placed in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh after finishing my village immersion. In Andhra Pradesh, State Government allocated 3 interior Mandals (blocks), predominantly tribal, to each PMRDF and he was to stay in any one of the Mandals during the period of fellowship. I am staying at Eturunagarm Mandal of Warangal district. It is the headquarters of the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) which is closely associated with AOB (Andhra – Orrisa Borders) and Chhattisgarh where frequent intrusions take place and majority of Koyas, Nayakpods, Gonds constitute the original inhabitants.
I am interested in working on livelihoods especially community based and managed small enterprises in which I have competence. At the same time our District Collector and the Project Officer were also planning to initiate some livelihood activities in the interior part of district and I was asked to involve in preparation of livelihood plans. I with the help of local youth did resource profiling of 3 Mandals through qualitative (FGDs) and quantitative (Village Survey) means. After doing data analysis and series of discussions with community and SHG members, some projects were finalized considering local resources, skills and market feasibility. By making it transparently with community and SHGs I alerted them that I would not be there forever and they themselves should be the stakeholders and learn to be self-sufficient. Then we helped the community to use their resources more efficiently and took them to exposure visits in order to get a practical knowledge before they entered the venture.
The plans included establishment of mini apparel unit, sanitary napkins unit and poultry unit. These are all organised by SHG women groups and managed by themselves which strengthens livelihoods of all the stake holders who are dependent and trained by the District Administration in collaboration with ITDA (Tribal Welfare department) under livelihoods program. All the projects were started in the beginning of 2013 or the end of the 2012. These projects also aim at eliminating middle men and providing local market to the people. The apparel units will serve as a platform for the women to utilize their tailoring skills. The units are provided with orders for school uniforms to begin with.
I have been staying for almost one year in the district and my experience in working with community is very learning and enriching for my life. One thing that encourages me a lot is that I am a ‘Reason for someone’s smile’. Besides, I am able to work on areas where I have interest and the platform of PMRDF provides ample scope to me in doing that. The villagers greet me as “Chinna Saaru” which shows that the villagers accept me and make me more responsible – I need to do a lot and plan for the next.
D. Shyam Sunder Rao is based at Eturunagarm Mandal of Warangal district (Andhra Pradesh). He has done his B.A.(Hons in Sociology) from Loyala College, Chennai and Masters in Management from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad. Shyam Sunder was a Skill Development Facilitator at Dr. Reddy’s Foundation for 10 months before joining PMRDF.