Inaugurated by Hon’ble Minister of Social welfare Ms . Rekha Rani Das on 8thJan 2000 Blessed by Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil. Woman of the Millennium of Asia Pacific Dr.Ms. Juiti Boruaha Lighted the lamp .
Life and Growth of Women Development Centre (WDC) in the Archdiocese of Guwahati.
WDC started to function from 8th March 1999 with International Women’s Day celebration. RESIDENTIAL TRAINING in 2000 followed by NON RESIDENTIAL TRAININGS.
We started with “Community Based Training” (CBT) for the women from North East India, it is the first of its kind and attracted many women who were in the remote villages of N.East. WDC has already trained about 300 women leaders till 2005. One of the first things to do with this women was to instil a sense of discipline in them and how to go about with adult education. This was followed by the need to work as community to work together for common causes, how to form SHGs, how they can link them with banks and government departments. This was to pool their own existing resources, to keep their houses and families healthy and motivated. Motivation and awareness on education encouraged them to send the children to school and for higher education. We did it almost 10 years and majority of these trainees have become torch bearers in several parts of North East India.
Residential Vocational Training (VTC)is meant for school dropout young girls. Women coming to the towns in search of job without formal education and skill training are in plenty. To give them skills to equip them for life, we began formal training, cutting and sewing along with ornament making, hand machine& embroidery. Every year a minimum 100 of them are trained and most of them start their own centre and others work from home and earn average of Rs. 8000/- to 12000/ per month. Those in the town area earn a good money which is adding to the income of the family and they are recognised in the family especially in the decision making in the family’s education of children, medical care,health and nutrition . In the year 2019 we trained 240 women under ‘’Pradhan Mantri Kawsal Vikas Yojana’’ (PMKVY) with Government of India approval and certificate.
A regular programme at WDC is the Certificate course under “USHA International’’ which has a valid certificate .
High school completion through
WDC began school dropout completion course in the year 2005 with 5 students and gradually the number increased to 64 students in 2019-2020. They come from every nook and corner of North East India ,as far as Indo China border of Mechuka,Maniong, Tutin of Arunachal Pradesh, from Manipur valleys, Matrilineal society of Garos from coal mine areas and Khasi hills who are different from other hill tribes of Meghalaya, Kokboro Speaking girls from Tripura hills and from plain lands and tea gardens of Assam. All of them stay with WDC with different challenges like languages, food habits and cultural background. Gradually with motivation and systematic accompaniment they become smart and excel in their studies, with respect of other tribal customs . Till date 472 students have passed out and among them 90% of them have perused higher studies. Outstanding among them are ten girls who are working in government departments like agriculture, fishery, Public health, while others are employed in private sectors. One of our past students is a trainer in Tata Company and another excel in the Pingeton represented Assam though she is from Arunachal Pradesh. Among our students majority who lacked financial back up did not stop their studies but continued their studies. A sizeable number of them also did teacher’s training and are teaching in various schools of North East India. Together with training modules we also give them moral and spiritual instructions, as many of them say if they were not trained by WDC they would have ended their lives either in their villages or migrated or trafficked to some cities with the routine way of life without much hope and ambitions in life.
NON RESIDENTIAL ACTIVITIES OF WDC
WDC has field offices in 6 Districts of Assam;Chirang, North Lakhimpur, Udalguri, Morigaon,Jorhat and Dhemaji in :-
Collaboration with National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)
The father of India, Mahatma Gandhiji, believed that India’s soul is in the villages, he sought to serve the teeming millions of this country in the villages whose redemption he believed, lay in harnessing their full potentials. We at WDC endorse this philosophy of Gandhiji.
With the support of NABARD, we have formed Farmers Clubs and nurtured as Farmers producers Organization (FPOs) through which we are taking forward more than 1000 farmers to a better production and marketing, while another 300 are in the Non farm sector. This is a very enriching experience to see how the rural farmers are able to get the bargaining power for their bulk products. They are able to influence and even capture the market. In Bordoloni Block &Narayanpur Block in N. Lakhimpur district of upper Assam, Machkhowa Block in Dhemaji Dt and in Mayong Block in Morigaon dist, production of paddy and other allied activities had a good impact in terms of increased production and sustainable income. The FPO’s no longer have to spend time in the forests, their time and energy could utilize it for better health and children’s education. The scheme is implemented in three Districts. Their income at present is Rs. 6000 to 8000 monthly. Besides NABARD, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Fishery ,Veterinary Department & handloom sector are also empowering these farmers to increase income and improve living condition.
We had water campaign in 700 villages in 2 districts ., “Per Drop ,More Crop “to use water efficiently and effectively. This was to make our people aware of the climate change impacts, encourage water saving habits and watershed management.
Women Self Help Group (WSHGs)
In the year 2012 the Government of India declared 250 districts of India as most backward districts of India. Among these, the district of Dhemaji was declare as one of the most backward districts of upper Assam. To overcome the problems, WSHG scheme was launched and WDC was selected as the Nodal Agency by NABARD to implement the project in the district.
The main Goals& objectives of the schemes were to promote saving among the rural women and help them to realize their entrepreneurial and business management skills through training and access to capital. It was aimed to saving and teach financial management skill which is finally to economic self reliance. In the social scenario it was to encourage communities and finally to resolve their own problems.
WDC created, nurtured and linked with banks 550 WSHGs that is 7100 women in five blocks of Dhemaji. 478 of these WSHGs are having credit linkages with more than a crore rupees from various banks. Groups and members had set up different Income generation activities (IGA’s) where they were trained with NABARD, D.C Handicrafts and Export promotion Council of Handicraft (EPCH) for their sustainable livelihood.
To get around 7000 women, 13 in each groups and lead them to become independent was a demanding task. It was not only challenge but time consuming task as women were never in a group who could ever think to leave the house, land or livestock. They were farm or field experts. Without interfering in the structures of existing self help groups, we had to form new groups. At that time people had no idea of credible NGO ‘ dedicated staff and people were recognised by the government of India. During the Republic day celebration of India WDC was awarded for our proficiency. In the year 2016-17 WDC was awarded in Dhemaji& North Lakhimpur as the best and dedicated social worker &state level as the Best NGO for successful implementation of WSHG scheme in Dhemaji District. .
In 2004 Flood in Morigaon we came with a Humanitarian support from Caritas India. In the last quarter of 2012-17 we reached out to 3 different districts in Assam during flood and worked for community and family based Disaster Preparedness (CFDP) supported by European commission &Community Based Disaster preparedness (CBDP) &Disaster Risk Reduction(DRR)supported by Caritas India . In this case WDC was awarded during Republic day celebration in Morigaon and N. Lakhimpur by District Authorities for humanitarian support in most difficult places. Whole hearted support of Archbishop John Moolachira OF THE Archdiocese of Guwahati and Bishop of Tezpur Rt. Rev. Akasius Topno helping much for the growth of these mission
Flood Relief and Accompaniment
WDC is a member of the Inter Agency Group (IAG) which is an active body in the state of Assam during human or natural disasters. In the contexts of emergency IAG come together to give their expertise to plunge in to action with the Government of Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA). In this case the support of CRS and CARITAS India are worth mentioning.
At present ,we are in MANAHA Panchayats in Morigaon district for recovery and rehabilitation with 10 revenue villages. Recovery of 2529 house in the flood affected Panchayat is done intensely so that the people could bounce back to the normal life at the earliest. We distributed 2000 solar lamps and 4000 mats to support children’s education, 5 boats for the transportation and 5 hand Pumps for safe drinking water. WDC connected them with agriculture,Fishery and veterinary Department Farmers have been trained, supported with flood resilient paddy seeds which has been a very good support .
One of the most significant impacts of flood and erosion in Nowboicha block in N.Lakhimpur is uprooting of people from their homes, fields, and settlements. This makes them natural disaster/Environment-induced Internally Displaced Person (IDPS). Many prefer to call them Environmental Refugees. In this condition Caritas India is helping 1500 families in 17 villages.
Teaching them In the disaster situation, ’’Live with flood’’- through mobilizing local capacities- to plant flood resilient paddy cultivation,Raised platform for vegetable cultivation, leading them to sustainable livelihood which are leading successful intervention through the help of Caritas India.
Saving animals through Cattle vaccination is a regular feature and thousands of animals are saved though these help in these districts.
People in these area mainly the ‘Missing Tribal’ has a unique weaving skill which has a great demand in the National and International Markets. This gives them much hope to get back to their money and status in the society. Along with farm products WDC has attended 3 International Fares where they got an exposure and demand for their Tribal products.
PERSONS WITH DISABILITY(PWDS) -non residential programmes
Another area we are working is with differently able people in Bijni in the diocese of Bongaigaon & Changsari in the Archdiocese of Guwahati in Assam helping about 600 PWD’s . It is a community based Rehabilitation programme. Our staff goes to the villages, family to family for the Physio therapy and personal assistance. We helped to get disability certificates for 500 people in Bijni which gives government support for their movements, transportation, medicine etc, Beside these more than 50 people are entitled for disability pension, helped them to get tricycle for 100 people for free movements is a great gift for those persons always depends on others,. During COVID 19 , 304 PWD’s received Rs6000 from State Social welfare dept . Our staff Nimesius Islary worked hard to get benefits to these people .I am indebted to BTAD Chief Shree Hagrama Mushahary who took personal interest to give certificates and other assistance to these vulnerable people . In Changsari we are giving physiotherapy in the centre and homes helps 65 children and slowly 30%started to stand on their feet and manage their own personal life without dependency.
KEY RESOURCE CENTRE (KRC) – Government of India has identified few organizations as Key Resource Centres ( KRCs) at the National level .Government of Assam has recognized WDC as a KRC to strengthen capacity of field level functionaries in community mobilization ,. To make Assam as open defecation free (ODF) state. We worked in 4 districts Nagaon, Sonitpur, Golaghat, Morigaon and have achieved the specific goals, a credible citation of our work with the people.
Mission Directorate, SBM –Government of Assam has engaged ‘Key Resources Centre’ for supporting districts in Capacity Building Social Mobilizing activities to orient and train up the various Implementers and stake holders of the programme at various levels in the districts along with Public Health Engineering Department.. We have trained Panchayat Presidents and Block officers and their staff to achieve the goal. We joined hand towards clean India, 195 officers from 30 Districts of Assam to disseminate the message of Health& Hygiene, Water and Sanitization.
TEA GARDEN ACTIVITIES supported by Misereor Germany
Like Abraham and Moses in the Bible with faith and courage WDC entered into 15 Tea Gardens in Jorhat district. Normally tea garden owners and managers are reluctant to allow any outsiders in tea gardens for various reasons. With number of meetings and discussions, we started our work to motivate, empower, and give an alternative livelihood for the tea garden women. Tea garden workers, especially women were given motivational training to improve their living standard. The programme was to teach them the importance of healthy habits, dangers of alcoholism, water sanitation and hygiene, hand wash and kitchen garden.
In order to revive their weaving skills, youth were sent for vocational trainings and 2 wheeler and 3 wheeler repairs, cutting and tailoring thus were given in a different outlook into their life. It was a good exposure to the outside world. Youth started to learn and earn in their off season. Temporary workers were formed into SHGs and encouraged them in saving habits as this habit was not a habit among most of them. Through small amount deposited in the bank accounts, boosted their morale, self confidence and dignity. Saving habits began to be looked up with much joy as they loved to see a better bank deposit than their neighbour. 58 Self Help groups have their money in the bank. It is a step towards reducing alcohol consumption. Drinking habit is reducing at least among the women as they see money in the account; they love to save in order to increase the money.Now their health has improved and the expense for medicine has reduced.
School dropout in tea garden is a big issue. There are 9 remedial tuition centres with 450 students around these gardens. Due to this support, given an interest to learn and excel in the schools which is helping to reduce school dropouts. Besides academic studies they are also given coaching for sports and games encouraging them to move forward. For a dance competition 2 students from tea gardens received 2nd prize in the district level. Now school dropouts are much less.
We have also addressed the issue of infant mortality through prenatal& postnatal care besides nutritious food intake of mother’s have helped. Through our efforts 58 of our people are availing old age pension. Five of our ladies were trained in North Lakhimpur and have started weaving as a profession, their income is much better than the tea workers. These people are earning Rs. 10000-12000/gives a great joy.
Better health, better education with a reduction in drinking habit in their families is very encouraging as most of them are Christians. A total of 76000 people in 15275 families are helped through this project.
520 widows and senior unmarried ladies and their families are also helped under this project in Ambagaon and Harmutty in Tezpur Diocese and Mariani Parish in Dibrugargh diocese This has given them human dignity and social feeling that they are our mother and grant mothers to be cared.
Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI)
Since 2012-13 WDC has conducted trainings and Financial Literacy programs for the Women Self Help Group (WSHG) members in North Lakhimpur District in 3 blocks with support from NABARD and Development Commissioner of Handicrafts under Ministry of Textiles Government of India. As a result they were linked with banks for opening of bank accounts and get credits and more than Rs17, 800,000/-I Crore seventy eight lakhs) are with them towards business .
WDC‘s working area was mainly in flood affected and was very remote, hardly any means of communication. The Missing Tribal Women who were the most sufferers because they were inhabited in river banks. WDC imparted various skills trainings on Handloom and Handicrafts. They have Formed into clusters named Gorchiga Traditional Handloom Cluster where 550 women joined together to work collectively and develop their traditional handloom weaving with upgraded technologies in making them women entrepreneurs for their economic growth. In 2019-20 WDC formed a Company named ‘’Golden Gingers Farmer Company Ltd’’ to carryout activities. In May 2020 WDC got sanctioned SFURTI project with support from Export Promotion Council for Handicraft (EPCH) and Indian Institute of Entrepreneurs (IIE) as NODEL Agency under and medium small Enterprises (MSEs) Government of India for Nowboicha block in District of Lakhimpur of Assam.
The SFURTI scheme aims to strengthen the traditional industries which mean produce products for marketing from locally available raw materials, skills and technologies. This would instil hope among our people, promote products by artisans and service providers like traders, suppliers of raw materials. The scheme aims to make a massive growth and development in this ﬁeld by proper exporting by making employment opportunities. Through this project WDC would organize artisans of Assam into clusters for better competitiveness and enhance various employment opportunities in the National and International markets. This would benefit a minimum of 550 families and about 30000 persons.
Interventions during COVID 19
WDC with the young in the neighbouring areas of Kharghuli who have completed tailoring and some of the domestic workers who lost their jobs made 6700 masks and distributed free but we paid stitching charges which was a great support for the girls who had no work.
With the help of different Agencies we helped 1200 Tea garden people specially widows and temporary workers along with around 500 school going children with Rice, Dal, Mustard Oil, salt ,Dettol soap in Mariani .
In Lakhimpur we helped 230 widows also with dry ration and sanitary items. 850 Tea garden temporary workers most vulnerable old and handicapped people were helped with dry food and sanitizer.
Jorhat District Administration requested us to help with Dry food for 430 Quarantined people in Mariani and we helped them with 10 kg Rice, Dal 1 kg and Mustard Oil 1 kg, and 1/2kg soybeans and they were very appreciative of our efforts. They sent a teacher to our convent in Mariani to learn the art of mask making, 12 of our staff also learned and we provided free mask for our 500 students and 120 widows.
In Morigaon district, the administration asked us to help not only with food items but other necessities as well. Towel, chapel, tooth brush, Tooth Paste, wash soap, bath soap, sanitary items for ladies. We were able to help 300 people who were put up in quarantine in Morigaon.
In Joypur, Kharghuli, Uzanbazar we helped 28 Auto drivers , 86 Domestic workers , 168 widows, 250 old and vulnerable people with dry ration,5 kg Rice ,2 kg Dal, 1kg Mustard oil, soap, 1kg Atta, 1kg sugar, Dettol soap ,wash soap and MASK. A total of 5770 families about 29150 persons were supported.
Jesus our model and Guide
I have been associatied with WDC from its very inception. I stepped into this unfamiliar work as a social worker with no previous experience, there was no road map, no time table however God has been gracious with us and our work. As Jesus walked through the sea shores and lofty mountains and villages to heal the sick, to feed the hungry we too have moved with Jesus in His footsteps.
Women development centre generally known as WDC, is the brain child of Archbishop emeritus Thomas Menamparampil of the Archdiocese of Guwahati. He had a vision to empower the women from the remote areas of North East India with the method, mind and heart of Jesus. He saw the strength of our people and we continue to journey. Sr. Mercedes, then provincial accepted this Challenging Invitation later Provincial sisters Cessy Scaria, Jeya Ambrose and Gracy Sunder from Kolkata and Srs Deepa Mundadan, Sherly Chako, Gracia Antony and now Sr. Annie Varghese continuing the Hard work. I gratefully remember Sr. Lizy Thomas who was the Pioneer and later Sr. Agnes Antony who paved the way in a firm ground for WDC
Sr.Betsy Devasia SCC