Tag Archives: Maharashtra

OLPC India Tidbits

For those who are tracking the progress of OLPC in India, here are few tidbits gleaned from the web: A fairly in-depth description of the OLPC pilot and a recent update on Nick Negroponte’s visit to Mumbai in August.

Here are some interesting photos from the wiki of thier initial pilot in Khairat village, in Raigadh district, Maharashtra. It is on the OLPC wiki and makes for interesting reading.

One room school house at Khairat (from OLPC wiki)

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Vigyan Ashram – A Hidden Rural Education Jewel

I had the opportunity to visit Vigyan Ashram in February. Vigyan Ashram is a residential rural education center founded 25 years ago by Dr. Shrinath S. Kalbag in a hamlet outside of Pune. I was fortunate to have gone to school with his son Ashok Kalbag, who took me on a tour of the place. Over the years, Vigyan Ashram has significantly changed the local economy, providing livelihood to many in the region while training scores of youth and making them self sufficient. More importantly, it has now been formalized as a regular course on Rural Technology and taught at 25 schools in the state of Maharashtra.  An article I wrote about the place appeared in Lokvani in March.  You can see more photos about the Ashram by clicking here.

Vigyan Ashram – A Hidden Rural Education Jewel, Raj Melville, Lokvani.com, 03/17/2008

Three hours from Mumbai and an hour off dusty side roads from the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, lies the tiny village of Pabal. Here, twenty five years ago Dr. Shrinath S. Kalbag ventured forth to setup Vigyan Ashram an experiment in teaching rural youth through a curriculum of non-formal education. Today, Vigyan Ashram stands as a shining example of an organization that is helping revitalize the rural Indian economy through appropriate training and education.

After completing a Ph. D from the University of Illinois, Dr. Kalbag returned to India and pursued a successful research career eventually heading Hindustan Lever’s Engineering Sciences Department. In 1982, hoping to apply his scientific training to help India’s rural population, Dr. Kalbag quit his job and began to look for a place where he felt he could make a significant impact. He chose Pabal as it was a drought prone village lying in the ‘rain shadow’ of the Western Ghats. He hoped by living and working with the villagers, he would be able to understand their needs and to help them improve their livelihood. When he first moved to the area in 1983, the village consisted of a dirt road and a few farm houses. He setup Vigyan Ashram on a barren hillock on some land donated by the Government of Maharashtra.

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Mann Deshi Mahila Bank – a Women’s bank

Recently micro-finance has caught the attention of the public specially after Prof. Yunus was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006. Worldwide there are thousands of these institutions providing micro-credit to hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women.

One of the challenges that micro-finance faces is that beyond providing its borrowers with credit, it needs to make sure that they also have marketable skills and training that will increase their income generating capacity and the required business skills to help them manage their enterprises. One of the innovative organizations that has attempted to tackle this issue is the Mann Deshi Mahila Bank, a women owned cooperative foudned by Chetna Gala Sinha. They not only put a business skills program together, they also provided a mobile mechanism to bring the training out to the rural villages where it would have maximum impact.

I had written an article about my visit to the Mann Deshi office and their unique Business School on Wheels for Women in a column for Lokvani that is reproduced below. You can see some of the photos I took here.

Mann Deshi Mahila Bank and Its Business School on Wheels for Rural Women Raj Melville, Lokvani.com, 05/15/2008

Over two dozen expectant faces turned in our direction as we walked into the small crowded room on the second floor of a storefront office in downtown Hubli. These women had come from surrounding villages, some a half a day’s journey by bus, to attend the final graduation ceremony of their rural business course. I was introduced to the group by our guide, Sheela Munro, Program Officer with the Mann Deshi Mahila Bank.  Over the course of the past month, these graduates had learnt basic computer skills or sewing skills from a mobile training center in a converted school bus.

The Mann Deshi Mahila Bank, a women owned co-operative bank, was started by Chetna Gala Sinha, an economist, farmer and activist in the drought-prone Mann Desh region of Maharashtra. Its goal was to help empower the women in the area and to enable them to achieve financial independence and self sufficiency.  Due to the poor agricultural conditions, many local men wound up leaving the area to look for employment in urban centers. The burden of responsibility at home fell on the women who were left behind. With a high illiteracy rate and low level of basic skills, most women worked at meager jobs on farms or as street vendors. By providing women with both basic vocational training and the ability to save and borrow money, Mann Deshi has created thousands of budding rural women entrepreneurs.

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