Change in Mindset for a Better Society : Neelima Khetan, Seva Mandir, Udaipur,Rajasthan, India

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Please tell us about the philosophy at Seva Mandir.

Self reliance is our core philosophy. We, at Seva Mandir look at the developmental aspects of the society where citizens can actively participate and take up collective responsibility in the process. The idea is to encourage people to deal with problems themselves and not to depend on state. It is in tune with Gandhiji’s notion of Swaraj which says that it is important for the community to wake up, become stronger and empowered for to take up the responsibility.

In the context of education, can you reflect on your methodologies to cater to people at the grass-root level?

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We plan and work closely with the community. We also intend to inculcate responsibilities among the community population. Issues like agriculture, education and teachers training needs to be resolved in that context and for that a two way communication withthe people is essential that helps to identify problems and the solutions to it as well.

Could you please share with us about the funding aspects of Seva Mandir that help you in implementing the programmes.

Seva Mandir is completely aided by private bodies. We take care of several areas including livelihoods and education, where the total contribution of the government is less than 10% of our total budget.
I guess, the government assumes that role of NGOs is restricted to implementation. But I feel an NGO can work in a much wider spectrum in a democracy.

For a widened democracy like India, we are trying to change the social base, values and social norms. Only putting up of laws will not change it, we need to reach out to the families. The mindset of the people needs to be changed. If not the government, we need to work to change the mindset of the society as a whole.

The idea is to encourage people to deal with problems themselves and not to depend on state.

Any other initiatives you would like to highlight or any other collaborative partnerships that Seva Mandir is holding presently?

We are working in collaboration with Private sector and Foundations set up by corporates. Some of them are ING Vysya Bank, Monsoon Accessorize (a UK based fashion brand), Target (a US based Chain of stores) etc. Now the terms and conditions are a little different in these collaborations. Let me explain it in my own words. For instance, if the partners want development only in water harvesting,  they will not consider anything else. But fortunately for us, our donors have been very cooperative.

Please give us a brief description of the teacher training system Seva Mandir provides.

We research a lot on teachers training and capacity building over a long period of time, along with the  pedagogy which is equally important. We train our teachers to take decisions according to their observations. As far as monitoring and evaluation is concerned, we wanted to monitor and evaluate performance of teachers through cameras to evaluate his/her effort and decency and carefulness towards the children. Young adults who have passed the 8th standard are required go through the first training which is for 15 days, after completing which they can go back to school. This certificate course is for two to three years with tutorials, classes and on-job training.

What are the special efforts your organisation to bring in children to schools, especially in Rajasthan where girl students ratio is far behind the normal standards, and do away with gender disparity?

We run several programmes for women through the women’s empowerment projects. We also put in efforts to sensitise the community population including, men, women, girls and boys. Within that overall efforts, I don’t think there is a deep resistance that they don’t want to send the girls, or there is a special preference for boys over girls. When they have the confidence that it is a safe place and there are facilities enough, they do send girls to school.

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