Who We Are

By , August 17, 2009 7:09 am

Genesis & Evolution

The year was 1975. A devastating flash flood hit Ajmer in the desert state of Rajasthan, submerging the holy city which, more used to chronic drought, was totally unprepared for the deluge. Mr Sagar Mal Kaushik, a railway employee and staunch Gandhian, was among the first to extend help to the distressed families in and around Ajmer city, rallying support from friends and neighbours to assist in reaching food, medicines and clothing to the flood affected.

A small man with a big social conscience and even greater determination, Kaushik soon organised a group of women volunteers for the flood relief work, taking care to see that their efforts did not go to waste. Subsequently, when 1976 was declared as the International Year of Women, with the late Prime Minster Indira Gandhi championing the cause in India, Kaushik took the opportunity to launch further initiatives for women in Ajmer, beginning with the distribution of sewing machines as a prelude to income-generation activities. At the workplace too, Kaushik was instrumental in lobbying for and ensuring the employment of women workers in the Railways.

Encouraged by the success of the first income generation initiative for women, three tailoring units were established to provide vocational training, benefiting more than 90 women. Along with this a masala (spice) production unit was set up and the products were supplied to railway canteens and consumer cooperatives. The turning point in Kaushik’s efforts to alleviate the sufferings of women came when in 1987, Rajasthan was struck by drought. A Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh)-based NGO, Gram Niyojan Kendra (GNK), stepped forward to provide drought relief in the semi-arid regions of the state and needed help to monitor and sustain its efforts. In the absence of any other NGO working in Ajmer at that time, GNK’s search led them to Kaushik, who was actively promoting cooperative ventures among deprived communities. GNK representatives encouraged Kaushik to formulate an integrated community development approach and thus was born the Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal (RMKM), a registered non-government organisation.

Starting with meagre resources and a helping hand from Helpage India and GNK, the initial work started in five villages of Shrinagar block of Ajmer has today grown into a holistic integrated development initiative. With the community at the core, RMKM’s activities today are multi-pronged aimed at women empowerment, inclusive education, livelihood enhancement, health-care and human resource development through addressing the needs of the disabled and elderly. The fruits of Kaushik’s labour are showing by way of women taking the lead in breaking social barriers and finding a voice in governance, their newfound self-esteem driven by financial freedom. RMKM’s work in the sphere of disability is also commendable. In Kaushik’s words ‘RMKM’s vision is to take basic facilities and services to the last disabled child of Rajasthan and make him/her a productive citizen with access to equal rights’.

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