A Young Man With Entrepreneurial Mission And Social Vision Is Changing Lives Of Hundreds Of Tribal Women In Odisha
Vat Vrikshya is a social enterprise that works with marginalized women and communities who have been traditionally neglected and under resourced.The VV Team works with tribal communities across eastern India , often travelling at some risk to rural areas where outsiders may not be welcome for political and religious reasons.The founder,Vikash Das, was born and raised in Odisha – the tribal predominant state and this is precisely the reason that got him started. Life is even tougher for tribal women who often face discrimination because of their gender and tribal status. Since most men are prone to indulging in various forms of addiction, women are at the helm of family affairs , compelling them to seek formidable choices to make their ends meet. In such undesirable situations , so as to provide some solace for their social, economic and civic empowerment in tribal dominated region of Odisha, Vat Vrikshya was formed. Vikash’s philosophy has always been to encourage women to be in charge of their own change process.In a small town of Odisha, generations are brought up ingrained with the belief ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which translates to ‘The world is one family’. Yet, social discriminations exist in the same vicinity. In order to overcome such social discriminations and help the underprivileged,Vikash decided to quit his corporate job and work with underprivileged and marginalized tribal people. “The root causes of persistent poverty in India lie at the complex intersection of structural factors and paterns of socio-economic exclusion.“The goal of our work is to address persistent poverty by empowering socially marginalized groups by strengthening networks across the tribal communities in the company.These tribal belts are the country’s clusters of poverty”– says Vikash.
Vat Vrikshya encourages the development of a number of alternative livelihood options among tribal communities to diversify their sources of household income.The most successful activities promoted included large-scale vegetable cultivation , vermi composting , backyard poultry farming ,mushroom cultivation, handicrafts , weaving etc. The direct results include income raised by the women selling their products at the local markets.Now they maintain their own records , market their products and manage their business.The most important outcome is the change in mindsets and behaviour of these women.They grew more confidence in themselves and in each other , developing their decision making capabilities and learning the value of co-operation. They are raising voice against obsolete societal norms.
Vat Vrikshya’s work in rural development is guided by its 4-pillar approach:Research and needs assessment , Networking and partnerships , Educating and marketing & Transparency and involvement. The model is instrumental in bridging the gap between tribal artisans and customer groups. “By fostering social business among women, we create role models in tribal community who further encourage other women belonging to the same community, thus creating chains of role models and champions,” adds Vikash.
He concludes, “Development doesn’t mean bringing in the urban culture and incorporating the tribals into national mainstream agendas. Tribal culture is rich and unique but is facing serious threat of extinction, and must be preserved. Vat Vrikshya is strengthening their roots, their unique culture of living in harmony with nature, which has sustained them for 3,500 years on this land.”