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Securing Sustainable Livelihoods

Harmony is the elixir that keeps the communities in the non-descript Mattanar village in Chhattisgarh going, and the secret behind their all-time triumphant minds, irrespective of the vexed situations they are in. The village, untouched by modern development, is home of marginalized communities, Dalits and tribals. 

The inhabitants of the village truly stand testimony of time-to-time campaigns in the social media that age is just a number. The unlettered elders here are always ready to admit that we need education. This realization dawned on them since the TCS’ Adult Literacy Program (ALP) made its maiden visit to Mattanar. 

The harmony and inclusivity—despite the existence diversities due to presence of heterogeneous communities and their traits---is to an extent the fallout of the awareness on social issues that ALP seeks to create. It stresses on collaboration of resources among communities.

At the behest of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), a 10-member Self-help Group (SHG) was constituted in the village. It originated out of need for basic education of the villagers, and age would be no bar. The Anganwadi Centre which had Mattanar in its jurisdiction was also on the same page with the thoughts of the SHG. They needed an institution that would be the enabler for this literacy mission.

This pursuit and search for an enabler led them to home in on ALP. In July, 2018, the ALP went live at the Anganwadi Centre. The composition of the attendees was an assortment: Men & women, irrespective of their age. Only those below fifteen years of age were not eligible to enroll for the program.

The ALP harnesses the potential of the Computer Based Functional Literacy Solution (CBFL), a software developed in-house. A learner is taught to read through a combination of graphics, sound patterns, language structures…It works on the premise that the adults know the sounds of words and the things that they denote, and they need to connect spoken words to written graphics.

They sat through the three-month-long program and achieved functional literacy. These members now started learning the alphabets, joining them to make words and writing their names. They no longer needed ink-pads to press their thumb impression. Instead, they navigated writing instruments to inscribe their signatures. Eventually, a stage came when they started writing the minutes of the meeting of the local ALP alumni.

Many among the ALP alumni were experienced farm workers. The functional literacy opened up the door for them to avail of assistance from the state agriculture department. As a group, they took up a lucrative piece in the cultivation sector to work on--- mushroom farming. Now that they had acquired the ability to do basic calculations, they started selling their produce to the markets which would fetch them highest profit. 

Apart from the fundamentals, those who enrolled for the ALP were also introduced to various government departments and schemes: Ration Card, pension, availing irrigations facilities, housing schemes, Integrated Child Development Services etc. They were even encouraged to register in Rural Livelihood Mission and open bank accounts under mass banking mandates. 

In fact, the progress of first SHG created a ripple effect as two more SHGs were formed by the ALP alumni. “We not only do the needed calculations for marketing mushroom, but also manage reports and documentations by ourselves independently,” an ALP alumnus-cum-cultivator waxed eloquent.

“Education attained through ALP has transformed the occupation of the villagers to a respectable and profitable profession…We cite this as an instance when we motivate parents to give basic education to their children, even if they have to make some sacrifices,” an SHG member said empathically.

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