By T. C. Hota
Mahatma Gandhi stated that the future of India lies in its villages. The sentiment holds true even today as 70% of our population lives in our villages. Despite that, there is a lack of basic facilities such as healthcare, education, tapped drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene in rural areas. Bansidhar & Ila Panda Foundation, a foundation which has its origins in Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys Limited’s (IMFA) community service work and CSR mandate, believes that the corporate success is incomplete without the social welfare. Since its inception, IMFA and later on, BIPF have been working towards capacity building and integrating life skills in rural and tribal areas of Odisha.
Gitanjali Dehuri, mother of a one-year-old toddler, lives in the remote village of Banjhiamba in Odisha. She had never been to a school or had any formal education. No literacy skills meant that so far, she relied on thumb impressions to sign official documentation. A few months ago, Gitanjali joined the ‘Gramin Pathshala’ (Community Adult Education Centre) – a basic literacy program conducted by BIPF, along with 29 other women of the village. This has been a major turning point in her life. Just a few weeks into the program, Gitanjali was able to read and write basics in Odia language.
She has started keeping a track of her son’s immunization dates and his other healthcare needs. Basic literacy also means that her husband has started consulting her in the family decisions. But perhaps most importantly, this literacy-driven confidence has empowered Gitanjali – making her a productive decision-maker in the family and in the community.
Further, BIPF-led Gramin Pathshala has also struck partnerships with the government health programs and initiatives like Anganwadi workers and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) to visit these far-flung villages at regular intervals. This created a holistic transformation across education, healthcare, and water & sanitation practices in the village.
Project Unnati – an integrated capacity building project aimed at social and economic empowerment of women in rural Odisha through a self-help approach by capacity building in savings and credits, livelihood, education, health, nutrition, sanitation, and hygiene – sets another virtuous cycle in place. Through Project Unnati, till March 2018, 95 Women Self-Help Groups across our operational areas have been developed that has empowered 1,500 women. 48% of these women are from tribal communities and the rest from Other Backward Classes & Schedule Caste communities. In 2013, this project was recognized by UN Foundation & GBC Health, New York as one of the Best Case Practice in ‘Women’s Empowerment.’
Gramin Pathshala under Project Adhyayan-a comprehensive approach to enhancing literacy at the grassroots level and Project Unnati are just two examples of the holistic programs BIPF undertakes. Thus far, BIPF’s programmes in healthcare, education, and water & sanitation have benefited 655,596, 71,805 and 155,499 people respectively and with the right partnerships, BIPF aims to scale these while developing additional programs.
(T. C. Hota is the Executive Vice President at Bansidhar & Ila Panda Foundation (BIPF), the CSR arm of IMFA, transforms people’s lives by designing and executing holistic programs through education, health, sanitation & hygiene, and livelihood projects. While the Company’s Act mandated CSR programs by corporates in 2013, IMFA has been deeply engaged in community development work since its inception in 1961. The Odisha-based company has been significantly contributing in the segments of community transformation, education, village healthcare and sustainability through its CSR arm.)
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