The Sehgal Foundation is one of Nourish International’s partner organizations in India. Nourish students have partnered with the Seghal Foundation for two summers now. Students from NC State, Vanderbilt, University of Tennessee-Knoxville and University of Florida have traveled to India to work alongside this organization. This past summer a group of three interns from the University of Florida traveled to rural India to implement toilets, promote good sanitary practices and assess the impact of previous projects.
The organization aims to create community led rural development initiatives to “achieve positive social, economic and environmental change across rural India.” Seghal Foundation has five key areas of focus that they believe can lead to a better life for rural Indians: good rural governance, water management, agricultural development, rural research and community media.
The organization’s “Sushasan Abhi” initiative helps citizens understand their rights and the services available to them, empowering rural communities to engage with local government officials about problems. Since its implementation, the initiative has reached 428 villages and trained over 8,600 community leaders.
The organization’s Agricultural Development program promotes sustainable farming practices, helping farmers to be more efficient and productive. Farmers learn to improve their irrigation techniques and are taught about soil nutrition management. Through this program, the foundation has conducted over 640 training sessions in 124 villages.
The Seghal Foundation also recognizes the importance of local voices and started a radio show, “Rural Voices of Mewat,” to foster discussion and raise awareness about issues facing the Mewat district. The show airs 7 days a week and reaches a community of 225 villages.
Upon arrival, the Nourish interns first surveyed 530 households in the Mundheta village to find out how many did not have toilets. A majority of households reported having one – a positive indicator that owning a toilet was becoming more of a norm within the village. The interns then invited individuals without toilets to attend a workshop during which they discussed the benefits of owning a toilet and taught citizens sanitary practices.
The group then traveled to the villages of Gebhar, Baroji and Bajheda to assess the impact of the previous year’s project. They surveyed residents about their usage of toilets, their sanitary practices and how much information they had retained from workshops they had attended the previous year. Results indicated that the implementation of toilets had increased in all three of the target regions. The previous year the percent of households without a toilet was 73% in Gehbar, 34% in Baroji and 36% in Bhajeda. The impact assessment performed by the University of Florida students found that a year later those percentages had dropped to 27% in Gehbar, 2% in Baroji,and 8% in Bhajeda.
Sehgal Foundation representative Padmavathi S. felt that the work done by the University of Florida team was incredibly valuable:
“Students bring a fresh and unique perspective to some aspects of our projects. Community members also take a lot of interest in interacting with students despite the language barrier. Students are a positive force and leave a lasting impact on the community through their work.”
Learn more about the Seghal Foundation here.
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