Introducing the Community Led Approach to the Sangathan Leaders
Forming women’s collectives (Sangathans) and working towards changing the nature and direction of systemic forces which marginalise women has been an integral component of ANANDI’s work in Gujarat. ANANDI engages with women from low income groups such as the tribals, migrant families, salt pan workers, marginal farmers, farm and construction labour and fishing communities. ANANDI supports these women to organise into collectives to become active agents of change to improve their living conditions and develop sustainable livelihoods. The movement lays a strong emphasis on collective processes, and an empowerment approach to achieve safety and security rights of women and gain greater control over their livelihood security.
On a warm and humid day in mid-June 2018, soon after the heavy monsoon rain had provided much-needed relief from the searing Gujarat summer sun, a group of people gathered on a raised platform in a tree covered opening. Sangathan women leaders, members of the ANANDI team and myself had gathered to a) complete a series of participatory exercises and b) plan the roll out of the cascade collection of statements by the Sangathan leaders. The day started with a song which described the power of women coming together to overcome discrimination and improve their lives; a fitting set-up for the day.
We started by breaking into smaller groups and discussing the question, what does a good life look like? Groups brainstormed on this question and drew pictures and developed statements on what they viewed as a good life to aspire to. Their answers ranged from topics of women’s mobility, choices and decision-making, opportunities for new experiences to topics of basic needs such as food, health, clean water etc. After discussing the different views they had for a ‘good life’, we again broke into groups and each group acted out a scene from their lives from over ten years ago and then a scene from their present day lives. In just the one day, these exercises resulted in the capturing of almost 200 statements about women’s past lives, their current lives and their aspirations for better lives. We ended the day with discussing different strategies for achieving their priority aspirations and identified how the Sangathan could play a role in supporting individual women with their aspirations.
Over lunch, I asked a few of the Sangathan leaders how they had found the morning’s exercises of discussing what a good life looks like, they replied “nobody has ever asked us about our aspirations and our dreams before”.
Following this set of exercises, the Sangathan leaders have replicated the process with women in four villages and will continue to roll out the process in the coming weeks. More statements from the different villages will be captured and brought all together to develop CLA indicators for change. See our next blog post for how the process was rolled out at the village level
Annette Fisher, Associate Consultant, Empatika