Even as India completes 75 years of Independence, many parts of rural India still need to get access to basic amenities such as healthcare, education, access to clean water, uninterrupted electrical connectivity and better livelihood opportunities. We find differential levels of growth and development across various states and even between urban and rural areas. Considering 2/3rd of our population is rural there is a need to work towards holistic development of our villages with a community-led approach.
With an aim to create permanent, positive change in villages, Ronnie and Zarina Screwvala co-founded the Swades Foundation - a non-profit organization that empowers rural communities working with a holistic model of development, and has impacted over 2,700 villages in Maharashtra so far. Swades employs a unique 4 E strategy - Engage, Empower, Execute, and Exit - and engages rural communities with corporates, other NGOs and the local administration to create sustainable, irreversible, and scalable transformation in the rural landscape.
The Swades Foundation envisions a poverty-free rural India and has now taken this model to the next level of building not just a few "model or Adarsh Grams" but creating thousands of "Swades Dream Villages". These villages focus on not just initiatives under Water & Sanitation, Health & Nutrition, Education, and Economic Development but work towards rural empowerment and social transformation.
Swades Dream Village initiative is built on creating a strong foundation of village volunteers who lead the transformation of a village by committing themselves to village development. This group of volunteers form a "Village Development Committee" (VDC) comprising of women and men in equal representation. VDC members are trained by Swades Foundation on governance and about various government schemes for rural development. The biggest success factor for a VDC is the "unity of thought and action" among villagers. With this unity, entire village works together to develop Village Development Plan aiming for both physical infrastructure and individual aspirations for better quality of life. A VDC represents local community members who take charge and oversee the village's development activities and are a crucial cog in the process.
With the help of donors, local administration and the community themselves, Swades has ensured access to an individual toilet, potable drinking water through taps at home, access to healthcare, quality education and opportunities for a diverse range of livelihoods around agriculture, animal husbandry, youth skilling and women entrepreneurship.
Each Dream Village checks 40 parameters around thematic areas mentioned above, bucketed into 5 "Sa"s - Swachh (Clean), Sundar (Beautiful), Swastha (Access to Health Care), Sakshar (Educated), and Samruddh (Prosperous). Dream Villages also focus on plastic waste management and is empowered to leverage government schemes to achieve their Village Development Plan. A systematic monitoring and reporting mechanism ensures that each parameter is tracked and met before a village earns the title of a Dream Village.
With India celebrating 75th year of India's Independence, Swades also decided to celebrate first set of 75 Dream Villages this year. Already, 51 villages in the Raigad district of Maharashtra have been declared as Swades Dream Villages and celebrations are underway every week to reach the 75 Swades Dream Villages target for the year. Besides, work is already in full swing in 200 more villages in Raigad and Nashik.
These celebrations bring out high degree of pride, confidence and ownership among village communities to take charge of their own development, truly demonstrating Swades Foundation's philosophy of "Swa Se Bane Des". The change over last 3 years since this journey started should be seen to be believed. Each village offers inspiring zeal and positivity.
Regarding the initiative, co-founders, Zarina and Ronnie Screwvala, said, "through the hard work of our Swades team, the village communities, donors and the local administration our vison of creating DREAM Villages at scale is coming ture. These 75 Swades Dream Village in the 75th year of India's Independence is our first step towards this initiative, and we look forward to scaling this up and building another 750 dream villages across Maharashtra and beyond in the next few years."
Over the years, Swades has provided 37,310 homes with potable water through taps ensuring 1,84,831 people in the underserved communities have access to clean drinking water. More than 25,000 individual household toilets have been built impacting the lives of more than 1 lakh people. More than 200 schools have received access to clean water and sanitation facilities, encouraging more female students to pursue basic education. Swades has impacted more than 136000 children in schools and anganwadis to ensure joyful learning in rural schools. In health, eye care for all age groups and diagnostic care to children under 18 years, suffering from cardiac disorders is provided free of cost.
The Logical Indian lauds the efforts and journey of the Swades Foundation for strengthening the backbone of our country - rural India. The principle and the process to build Dream Village is scalable and replicable. It is the manner in which Swades Foundation has been able to create Dream Village is something which needs to be adopted by each district in India. Let's all join this journey towards making our villages self-reliant.