I have recently joined the enthusiastic team of MAM movies, Ahmadabad as an intern for two months, for Yes I am the Change film project. My main role is to identify local groups here that work on social causes, and help them share inspiring stories from within the community, through films. And since I love listening to people’s stories, enjoy working with the camera, and hope to do something in the social space, I couldn’t have asked for anything better J
The idea behind the project is, that at the heart of it we are all storytellers; each of us has something to share that will resonate with someone else. And in every community there are so many stories to be told; all they need is some encouragement and a few technical skills!
As part of my research visiting various local groups, the first person I met was Jyotsna, who heads the Rudra Centre – one of the projects of Manav Sadhna – a community centre unit built within Ramapir no Tekro, the largest slum in Ahmadabad. Various projects operate out of the centre and Jyotsna supervises all of them, and also mentors a group of adolescent girls at another centre.
I walked down from my workplace at Safai Vidyala, with Heena who took on the role of my guide for the day; it is quite difficult to navigate around the Tekro alone! I reached a little before Jyotsna and waited while I watched young girls make paper bags from old newspapers, and others sew earrings out of waste fabric. Jyotsna arrived a short while later and we sat on the steps outdoors, she with her bandaged hand and sparkling eyes as she told me about the centre, the work she does and her association with the organisation that dates back almost a decade.
Jyotsna grew up in the Tekro herself and always wanted to work for the upliftment of her community. She began by enrolling herself in the adolescent girls programme at Manav Sadhna, went on to work in health programme and from then on has worked in almost all of Manav Sadhna’s projects, and today heads the Rudra Centre. Jyotsna was also one among the first batch of Lokdarshan (the same project I will be working on) where she received training in video production and when on to make several short films on the community.
As she spoke about her personal journey, and the projects she currently looks into, I couldn’t help but notice the immense sense of pride and gratitude she exudes. Pride at being instrumental in helping so many women to don roles outside of the home and earn a living for the family; grateful to have the opportunity to make this contribution.
She is so glad to have made it to where she is today, to have overcome so many obstacles along the way, and to be able to develop programmes that benefit the community she has grown up in. She has big dreams, not just for herself but for all the women like her in Ramapir no tekro.
Her modesty painted such a contrasting picture to that I have known of social development so far. At a personal level I’ve always felt that there is something in my thoughts that I can’t quite put a finger on. And now I know what it is. Most organisations and most of us who work for social development have this underlying sense of superiority at putting aside our material goals for the sake of contributing to the bigger picture. I take the liberty of making this assumption, though it may not be true for all. We take pride in the so called ‘sacrifices’ we have made in order to work for the less privileged, and it is in doing this, that we lose sight of the real picture. They say you should give your best without caring too much about the outcome. If one foregoes the material benefits that come along with a ‘typical’ job, only to bask in the glory of altruism, isn’t that called worrying about the outcome.
As I meet Jyotsna and so many other women like her, I realize there is so much to learn from them. The manner in which they work is completely devoid of pride or self praise. It is the life they have chosen, to work for the community, from within. Their only focus is on the projects they run and they constantly think of ways to empower the women around them, they way they have been empowered.
I might have come here to facilitate and to share some technical skills but there is so much to be learnt from everyone I meet; I hope I can absorb all they have to teach.