The methods Manavodaya apply in developmental processes recognise that every human system has a context: tangible elements such as the pressures, policies, and power dynamics that governs people’s behaviour. It also includes intangible forces such as perceptions: what people believe or assume to be true about the system they are a part of. To facilitate change and development one needs to understand this context, and to connect people through dialogue to try and gain knowledge about their difficulties and challenges in life.
Power of Self Awarenesss
The change must come from within, from within every individual and from within every group of people. In the quest for sustainable social change, fundamental importance lies in evolving human consciousness and relationships. This differs from the conventional paradigm of development, where experts implement strategies from the top-down, without taking into consideration the vast variety of complex underlying influences and powers within a community.
SOME OBSERVATIONS ON SELF AWARENESS
Development needs to evolve in its own cultural context. And, in the context of rural India, I believe it is important to remember that development doesn’t have to mean modernity, a western way of living - this should not in any way be a goal or something to aim for. For one, it will contribute to society´s drift towards further unsustainability, by supporting the prevailing consumption-driven economic model. Secondly, we need interdependence, rather than hyper-individualism, to promote for universal social safety.
In many villages in Uttar Pradesh, the caste system is the main barrier for social mobility, which keeps people segregated, and is tightly linked to corruption. To bring about change one needs to empower people to challenge this hierarchy, and this is the main purpose of the self-help-groups (SHGs). Another important purpose is of course the economic model, but as Dr. Amla Vidyarthi put it:
One needs to remember that a village is not a community, it’s a place where different people live together
And for the village women, when I asked them what the most significant change in their life has been since joining self help groups (SHGs), they have all said it was the social aspect
Strength is much more important than money
We discussed how we, in a global as well as a local perspective, need a shared set of values and a common goal. I think that attaining a good life is one of the universal desires of human beings, something everyone connects to. This entails ensuring the basic needs for all people: food, shelter, clean water, health care and education, in a way that is ecologically sustainable for the planet earth. And I truly believe this is achievable if we collectively strive for it. But for people to work together we need changes in attitude and behaviour. We need to make room for discussing values. And I will allow myself the positive belief that human beings still value our shared humanity more than economic growth.
How do we connect to other people for social change?
This has made me think a lot about how, in the West, the individual identity is emphasized at the expense of the communal. Our individualistic culture, I think, makes us lose our sense of a citizenship, of community. I fear that the extension of this is that we lose trust in other people, the trust which we need to bring about collective change. And although the powers of hierarchy are more hidden in Norway, they still create the same barriers to social mobility.
Through this program we have been given a set of tools to evolve mechanisms that enable people to empower themselves, and by that, overcome injustice, suppression and others' power play. This has made me realize that, for any complex problem to be solved, everyone needs to recognize how we, often unwittingly, are a part of the problem. Once each one of us recognize our own responsibility for the present, we can begin by changing the part of the system over which we have the greatest control: ourselves. Development work through individual development enables each contributor to see their part in relation to the whole. It honours their individual efforts, and therefore motivates and enables people to work together to redesign the whole.
To come together as a group and to end being isolated in their homes
My perception is that every living being is interconnected, and that I have a responsibility towards others. Because helping others is a way of helping myself as a part of the greater whole. I try to keep this in mind whenever I feel like a small and insignificant part of a very large system. It has been very encouraging for me to see the result of the tremendous work done at Manavodaya: that a few persons through lots of hard work and determination, can bring about change with so many people. I have come to realize that increasing self-awareness is an intervention in and of itself, and the precursor to making any other changes.
How to bring about change in oneself?
Why do you want to help people?
The emphasis on the development from within concept is just what I needed most, having been exposed to development work for a couple of years now. Development and social change without focus on issues that effect you as a person within is useless.
This course had made me think about myself, how I act, how I talk and my actions. From now on, it will be very important for me to be sincere, real and truthful to my values and my beliefs and I am going to stand up for what I believe in. I will let my values be reflected in my actions.