Written By: K.O Mathai, Manager, West Zone
IGSSS and Suzlon Foundation formed a partnership in 2008 and started the livelihood focused programmatic implementation for the most marginalised communities in Waghodiya block of the Baroda district in Gujarat. The intervention played a critical role in developing active community based women’s groups which created a platform for the women to actively participate in village development issues. Change initiatives were undertaken with regards to livelihood, health and hygiene issues, spreading awareness on legal rights and social welfare benefits. The local women’s collective also successfully addressed issues of girl child education and stood up firmly on issues of violence against women.
As development strategies and community participation gradually transcend conventional boundaries, there is an emerging need towards sensitizing the corporate bodies towards effective implementation of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. One such step towards making the corporate sector more responsible towards the communities is Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013 which mandates every list company to spend 2% of their net profit to spend in CSR activities.
Essentially functioning from the premise of upholding human rights, the CSR approach must assure environment protection, safeguarding the health and interests of all its stakeholders (primarily, the labour force) and ensuring socio-economic development through strong community participation. Keeping all this in mind the Act lays down the list of activities in its Schedule VII which can be taken up as a CSR activity.
CSR activities call for close cooperation between corporate bodies and the not for profit organisations to work together and mutually gain from each other’s expertise. The civil society organisations have a relatively deeper understanding of the grassroot issues and community needs, whereas structured systems, technological expertise and result oriented approach of the corporate agencies can help the non-profits to better implement projects through enhanced monitoring and impact – assessment techniques.
With the same perspective, in 2012, IGSSS and Apollo Foundation came together to work on the issues of livelihood in the villages adjoining their factory in Waghodiya block with the currently ongoing interventions. The emphasis was on strengthening agriculture through traditional farming techniques, protecting livestock, promoting income generation and alternative livelihood opportunities through women Self Help Groups (SHGs), adolescent girls group and farmer’s committees. Further on, the plan is to link these groups with various service providers such as agricultural universities, banks and various line departments of State Government.
The experience of this corporate partnership with Suzlon and Apollo enabled IGSSS to form a women’s collective – Shree Waghodiya Women’s Savings and Credit Cooperative Society at the block level, which presently boasts of 900 members and caters to the credit needs of the women folk of the entire block. Many women have initiated their own income generation activities such as poultry farming, phenol, detergent and broom making and also got employed as nurses and in housekeeping departments after getting leadership and skill based training. Apart from that, a Bio-gas plant was constructed in one village and the process of starting demonstrative unit in other four project villages is currently in progress. Being a part of this change has given the women of Waghodiya block immense amount of confidence. Even the perspective of the male members of the families has changed. They now encourage the women in their families with the SHG related work and also to participate in other community development works.
During the implementation of these programmes under CSR, IGSSS also gained valuable insights on developing effective monitoring and evaluation tools which ensured desirable and tangible outcome along with significant lessons on cost effectiveness through optimum utilization of locally available resources.
IGSSS had a fruitful experience of working with corporate bodies in implementing development projects that promoted positive growth and significantly changed the lives of the marginalised communities As a way forward, IGSSS also enlisted itself in the National CSR Hub which will pave the way for better opportunities to engage with varied corporate agencies and exploit its rich history of implementing development projects to create constructive models of NGO – CSR partnerships.