To be a social activist in a place where there is so much poverty and suffering is very challenging. In my past blogs I have shared many of those challenges. Today, however, I want to say that despite all the challenges, being an activist is also very rewarding. It gives me a great chance to understand my community better and to highlight their problems to the world. Above all, it fills my heart with joy when people consider me as one of their own and put their trust in me.
Sometimes, they share with me impact stories that I was previously unaware of. For example, a year ago the state police fired at a group of suspected Maoists inside a village called Manpur. A teenage girl was caught in that exchange of fire and was badly injured. We fought for proper compensation for the girl and her family. Recently the government paid for that compensation, and it was the villagers who told me this. The news has increased my faith in people’s fight for justice; if we stay organised and oppose any wrong, it is indeed possible to right that wrong.
In a conflict area like my state Chhattisgarh, this trust is very important; without it, villagers will never be ready to make an extra effort to bring real change. Because, they will view the social activist or the group he/she represents as outsiders.
Let me explain:
There are several NGOs working in our state. But most of them stay active only when a specific project is on. After the project is over, the NGO members seldom visit that area again.
On the other hand, villagers love it we also meet them outside our work schedule; it makes them feel cared for. So, just a visit once in a while, sharing a cup of tea or asking after their families can go a long way to help us earn the love and trust of the villagers, which, I think, is key to our success as change makers. So, we must be consistent in building relationships with the community members. I have been, despite financial struggles, taking turns to visit each of the 156 villages in my district. The villagers know that I am not there to provide any financial or technical support. Yet they welcome me and share with me whatever problems they have.
As told to Stella Paul