Self Governance Programs & Their Impact
Rural Communities—Village Development Forums
The first action Seva Mandir takes in a community is to form an elected Village Forum in which all citizens can regularly meet and act to address local challenges. Men and women from differing castes and backgrounds in the same community come together, often for the first time. Currently, 45% of elected members are women. Seva Mandir then helps create a Village Fund, managed by the Forum and audited by Seva Mandir, which collects financial contributions from the community to finance and manage development projects selected by consensus. Once projects are completed, Village Forum members may also advocate to the local government to consolidate and protect accomplishments. Over decades, the Village Forums have grown into self-reliant democratic institutions that facilitate more equitably shared responsibility for and ownership of community development.
Semi-Urban Communities—The Delwara story
In 2004, Seva Mandir and the people of Delwara, a town of approximately 4,500 residents, founded the Citizens’ Development Forum, a system of 18 neighborhood-based committees and a central Executive Committee charged with directing development across the town. Over ten years and three democratic elections, the Forum has transformed the town’s infrastructure and brought revolutionary social change. Its main accomplishments include: a system of town-wide waste management; clean drinking water for hundreds of the town’s poorest households; toilets for half the town’s residents; and a slow but revolutionary breakdown in caste and gender discrimination. One of the most innovative Seva Mandir projects has been the creation of a Heritage Walk led by local guides, which offers visitors a tour of Delawara’s thousand-year-old Jain Temples and thriving tradition of crafts, as well as a view of the transformative social and development changes that have come about with the help of Seva Mandir.
In the rural villages and urban slums where Seva Mandir works, young adults have few organized opportunities or spaces to socialize, get involved in activities, receive job training, or participate in their community. Seva Mandir runs 21 youth centers that enroll more than 2,000 young people every year and organize educational, cultural and sports activities for young people. The youth centers link to livelihood opportunities, serve as hubs for sexual health & gender training and have been extremely successful in motivating young people to tackle their community’s problems, including challenging discriminatory and often violent gender norms. The sexual health curriculum includes sessions on HIV/AIDS, STDs, contraceptives, and changes in the body during adolescence, while the gender curriculum focuses on violence against women, socialization, and building healthy relationships. Seva Mandir also offers vocational training in fields ranging from mobile phone repair to tailoring to hotel management, and connects students with vocational institutions in Udaipur.