Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Thursday, June 04, 2009

retraction -> growth ?

till some time ago, i strongly believed that one needs to be a 'local' to work in community development.
this is as opposed to 'imported' workers. it was made in the context of americans doing development work in india.
the following passage was perhaps be my simplistic justification.

Quoted from Bapu Kuti by Rajni Bakshi

The following passage was written by Aruna Roy (IAS officer and then NGO founder at Tilonia and then moving to Devdoongri)
In case of both the government and Tilonia, I saw my role as that of the initiator. I was the ‘catalyst’, the ‘agent for change’, the one who ‘intervened for change’. In other words, the perception was that of myself as the leader,in so much as the action that followed was ultimately traced back to a set of actions for which I was responsible. It may have been an idea or a set of ideas. Gradually I began to understand that the perceptions and ideas exist in different forms in people minds already. What is really needed is the time and space and opportunity for putting them into action. My role was not severely limited in my mind.

If leadership was to be different, then the organisation would also have to be so defined so as to enable the people to manage things themselves. The leadership in people’s organisations has to come from the local areas. The issues, the direction, the priorities must be decided by them. So what in this scheme of things was Aruna’s role?

I was going to an area where I was an outside. I would never be able to understand the area quite as well as a local person. But I also had a special set of experiences and a critique of development processes born out of varied experiences. I was born in to a class which still remain powerful and dominated decision making. I provided links with an understanding of that class. So I was useful to the local people.

I had developed a personal preference for simple ascetic living. I felt that one could not work with the poor unless one lived with them as one of them. It was important for me to share the lifestyle physically too. It was important for me to lead a life in harmony with myself. So see the work and living as a continuum. This kind of lifestyle facilitates a different communication, where the people see you as more accessible. Finally when the people who you work with see the mutual dependencies for living and security there is a much greater sense of equality that permeates relationship.
i entirely agree with aruna roy. she simply states that the 'import' has to assimilate themselves into the locality to start being meaningful.
it is possible.
it has not happened very well in the past and even in the current contexts i used. but that cannot be any justification for the earlier stance.

so in a progression of sorts(!), i have retracted my earlier position and believe that anyone, irrespective of their race and religion and language, can be meaningful in any community, as long as they are able to follow aruna's example.

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