From advocacy to youth development: Meet the Northeast India Social Impact Award winners
The Northeast Development Foundation launched the Northeast Social Impact Award (NESIA) in August this year, along with a conference and expo held in Guwahati, Assam. Close to 300 innovators and development practitioners gathered at the event to learn from one another, network, recognise best practices and exchange innovative ideas for social change.
A total of 66 nominations were received across ten categories: Advocacy and Empowerment, Education, Environment, Health, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Technology for Development, Women Empowerment, Youth Development, Culture and Heritage, and Social and Financial Inclusion (see my earlier photo essay). In this post, we provide profiles of the winners and special mentions in these categories.
Advocacy and Empowerment
LIS Links developed by Dr. Badan Barman is a portal for Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals. The forum provides first hand solutions of their problems on professional, technical and other issues. Members take part in group chat, discussion forums, groups for problem solving and can share the information via blogs, photos and videos. As of June, 2015 there were 17,881 members and 254,138 pageviews a month.
Avataran from Assam is a sci-fi feature film which looks into a bleak future and danger of extinction, but uses this narrative to teach children and youth about the risks of global warming and the importance of conservation. The aim is to reach out to all communities irrespective of religion or race through the interactive audio visual medium. The film also lends itself well to workshops and media campaigns.
Culture and heritage
Folk databases by Dr Dolly Das captures the traditional folk culture of Northeast India through a range of digital means. The rich folk culture and heritage of Assam and the North East is not adequately documented, and this project was launched in 2009 to bridge the gap. It provides transcripts of folk songs, study materials and videos.
Xondhan.com is an e-magazine platform for the younger generation of Assamese to express their creative selves. It publishes articles, poems, stories, interviews, letters, cultural news, movie reports, tourism, and career related articles. In 2015 the site’s traffic crossed 19,493 page views.
Farmpreneur by Farm2Food Foundation has been launched in Jorhat and Golaghat in Assam as a project for school students in government schools. Through low cost organic farming, students can establish their own school nutrition gardens. Students sell their products to the Mid Day Meal authority in the school and also earn money by selling their vermicompost. The activities are linked with the science and maths textbook chapters. In over 104 schools, 90 gardens have provided 5,000 kg of fresh nutritious vegetables and herbs, and 2,000 students have picked up basic life skills and financial awareness.
SPARK Children’s Home of Learning was launched in Meghalaya in 2010 to offer slum children access to learning materials. Coordinated by Shima Modak, the initiative offers skills and training in reading, writing and even film making as well as exercises in team-building via sports and games. Over a thousand underprivileged children have benefited over the last five years.
Youth development and women empowerment
Golden Weavers’ Project (Sunali Shipinir Prokolpo) was launched in 2007 by Grameen Sahara in Assam to improve the quality of life of families associated with Eri silk spinning and weaving activities. It includes linking the women in tribal SC/ST communities with markets, technology and services like insurance. It thus helps generate productive employment and sectorial strengthening of local enterprises. Over 5,000 women spinners have benefitted from the programme.
‘Impact 5000 by 18’ by YouthNet in Nagaland aims to positively impact 5,000 young people by getting them involved in the private sector by the year 2018. Those impacted would have enhanced their business skills, employability skills, self-employment skills and developed entrepreneurial mind-sets. The programme market provides capacity building as well as linkages for local businesses such as carpentry, handlooms, bamboo and piggery.
The Community Mental Health Programme by SATRA is a health initiative that addresses the problem of mental health in Assam. SATRA is a non-profit that works in 14 Gram Panchayats under Sipajhar Development Block in Darrang District. Its volunteers are trained by Ashadeep as caregivers and motivators to make people aware of mental illness via monthly psychiatric review camps.
The Children’s Health project by Makon Bala Dutta Memorial Children’s Cancer Trust was launched to provide financial support to poor children suffering from cancer. Attached to the Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh, it covers costs for chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, and provides counselling and rehabilitation services. So far, 85 paediatric cancer patients have benefitted from the Trust.
The Clean Mizoram Movement launched by the School Education Department, Govt. of Mizoram aims to address cleanliness and waste management. It aims to change the mind-set of the younger generation and inculcate a sense of importance for personal hygiene and cleanliness. It envisions eradicating water, air pollution and restoring natural resources. The project covers all the eight districts of the state. The project extensively uses social media as well.
Livelihood and skill development
The Division Based Irrigation Project in Nalbari, Kamrup and Baksa districts of Assam by Gramya Vikash Mancha targets 400 villages for restoration of natural water bodies like canals and creeks in the north plains of the Brahmaputra Valley. It has directly benefitted more than 60,000 farmer families by effective use of diversion based irrigation system and strengthening community level institutions.
The Meghalaya State Aquaculture Mission by Department of Fisheries, Government of Meghalaya, spans one lakh fish ponds of 0.1 hectares to create an additional water body of area 10,000 hectares. Meghalaya, with its vast inland fishery resources in the form of rivers, reservoirs, lakes and ponds, offers tremendous scope for developing the fishery sector. Ponds are developed through a credit linkage with the banks, and awareness is increased via mobilisation campaigns and media promotion.
The Garo Hills Community Conservation Project Areas in Meghalaya by the India Foundation protects the biodiversity-rich community forests which provide village communities invaluable benefits like drinking water, firewood, timber and bamboo, medicinal plants and wild vegetables. The project worked with the project villages, concerned line departments, the District Council, schools and local NGOs to spread environmental awareness and facilitate the formation and strengthening of community institutions. The target area includes the Baghmara Reserve Forest and Balpakram National Park.
The community-based conservation project in western Arunachal by World Wide Fund for Nature, India targets the Kameng districts which constitute most of the potential red panda habitats. It aims to incentivise communities to create reserves to secure wildlife habitats and promote sustainable natural resource management.
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