Varun Vidyarthi & Pete Richmond of Manavodaya met with members of the UK Parliament at Westminster to raise awareness of the work of Manavodaya in India and in the UK. MP’s were interested to hear why the name of Manavodaya is not more widely known.
One of the major challenges facing Manavodaya India is recognition of its work, as the organisation is not self-promoting and by design it seeks to leave a minimal footprint. Over the last 25 years Manavodaya in India has been facilitating self-help groups at a village level to become established and in turn to help these self-help groups come together to be self-help federations. It is estimated that millions of families have had their lives touched by Manavodaya, yet relatively few people have heard of Manavodaya. This is because self-help groups are self-identifying and are not known as the Manavodaya group of this or that village. In districts where federations of self-help groups have formed again, they are not known as the federation of Manavodaya self-help groups, more likely they are just know by the district’s name federation of self-help groups.
This brought the questions from MP’s as to what is it that Manavodaya does? The direct answer is that it trains facilitators and gives hands-on fieldwork support where necessary. As groups develop, it advises and where necessary, helps facilitators to establish local federations of self-help groups. It goes on to help facilitators to identify new village-based facilitators. Other than in the earliest stages of development, where a little financial assistance may be available, facilitators are paid a small fee by the groups themselves or, as is becoming more often the case, other local institutions are funding the facilitator role. Manavodaya operates on a shoestring budget with funding coming from either small grants, local organisations seeking facilitator training, or in a small part from organisations overseas such as University of Lilliehammer in Norway who annually send a cohort of students to learn about the methods of Manavodaya.
Cathy Jamieson, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun and shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury commented:
‘I can now see how the work of an organisation such as Partners for Inclusion, which supports people with disabilities in my constituency, is influenced by Manavodaya, with its strong commitment to human rights for people with disabilities and providing a very successful model of support which is genuinely directed by the person in receipt of that support.’
Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South and Chairperson of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, commented that she was aware of work in her own constituency proving very successful that was inspired by the work of Manavodaya. The infohub is a project set up and run by people with disabilities. The infohub seeks to help groups of people with disabilities come together to find their own solutions..