By Panchali Kar
As a mentoring organisation, aiming to develop survivor-led model in the anti-trafficking ecosystem, Sanjog aims towards the development of leadership, autonomy, recognition of the survivors and the survivor led collectives as one of its key focus. One of the most important intervention in creating opportunity for the survivor collectives’ autonomy is by connecting them with important partners, who would support them in building capacity and leadership.
Essence of leadership through the collaboration
The collaboration between SAANS and Haqdarshak is an example of one such alliance, where the leaders obtained recognition, self reliance, financial support through the process of training and implementation. SAANS (Shramik Adhikar Aur Nyaya Sangathn) is a Chhattisgarh based collective of the survivors of labour trafficking & forced migration. Haqdarshak is an organization that provides digital solution for easy access to welfare services, and provides sustainable livelihood to the rural youth. Four leaders from SAANS namely Atmaram, Dhananjay, Naina, and Rama have undergone a training with Haqdarshak. The training subject is the usage of a mobile application based solution to link the people from the community with different schemes, policies, opportunities, document linkage, etc., provided by the state and the central government. These leaders of SAANS, who have undergone training with Haqdarshak, has shown brilliant growth along important indicators of leadership.
Role of Sanjog
As the training proceeded, the exchange kept happening between Sanjog, SAANS and Haqdarshak regarding the learnings, challenges, expectations, etc. This resulted into a transparent, trustworthy, and fulfilling partnership, where the role of Sanjog were to facilitate a successful conversation between the trainers and the trainees. The dialogue ensured that both parties make the best of the opportunities, monitor growth and development of the SAANS leaders who were being trained, give and receive feedback, and thus strengthen partnership as well as providing mentoring support to the survivor collective.
With the successful completion of the training, SAANS leaders did manage to gather significant amount of accolades from the trainers of Haqdarshak for their mindfulness, hard work, and presence of mind, at the same time there were challenges with SAANS not filling up all the screening data digitally. With the tendency of chronicling down the information physically in a diary, SAANS continued with the same practise. They reached out to hundreds of citizens and linked them with welfare schemes, however only a few percentage of that has been shared on Haqdarshak application. They refer to the application to find out the procedure, eligibility criteria, and the documents needed for each scheme, however the digital screening part often got neglected. Several discussions have been facilitated between SAANS and Haqdarshak to ensure the best practise of doing the screening digitally, however SAANS is yet to be convinced because a) the digital screening is a relatively lengthy process and if they follow the process it would take more time to fill up data for one beneficiary, and they would be able to reach out to lesser number of people, and b) occassional technical glitches in the application and internet issues that sometimes causes data loss.
What has worked well
Digital screening or not, with the opportunity of scheme linkage SAANS leaders have managed to create significant impact within the community, recognition wise. People from far & wide are coming to the leaders for services like e-shram card, Ujjwala scheme gas application, Aadhar linkage, ration card application, and so on. People with pending application status are seeking help regarding expediting the processes. Each of the leaders have processed around a hundred applications so far. The information of the availability of the leaders to provide linkage services have reached to distant villages beyond immediate localities. Even strangers are approaching the leaders to check their eligibility criteria for certain schemes.
Benefits to the community
The change has been helpful for not only the leaders but also for the community people. For instance, with the introduction of digital screening solution pension schemes could be prioritised for those who are 60 years of age and above. Previously people above 50 used to frequently apply. E-shram card is a card that ensures welfare benefits under social security schemes to any worker, aged between 16 and 59 and working in the unorganised sector. With the intervention of the SAANS leaders, the application for e-shram card has been easier and quicker for the people in the community, as many of them did not have the skills or means for self-registration over the government website. With the exact procedure, eligibility criteria, documents needed for a particular scheme being accurately mentioned over Haqdarshak app, the chances of application rejection has reduced and the process gets expedited as the leaders are precisely aware of what to do. The people do not have to go to common service center by themselves. Also SAANS members charge nominal fees from the beneficiaries, as opposed to the CSS and the other service providers. People here pay as per their affordability. They even pay as less as twenty or fifty rupees. Previously numerous individuals used to charge higher from the people who could not fill up their own forms unlawfully. Added to that people fell victim to the agents from the black market who used to charge lump sum in the name of expediting the process of scheme/ benefit application.
The rapport building with the stakeholders & duty bearers
The name of SAANS gets significantly identified both in the community and amongst the duty bearers in the linkage process. SAANS leaders have made a significant presence and reliability amongst the stakeholders and duty bearers like the Sarpanch, the Block Development Officer, etc., through this intervention, which is an important indicator of leadership building. The leaders were already in touch with the stakeholders and duty bearers for the community centric intervention that they have been doing, the rapport however has notched-up with respect to the credibility of the leaders due to their work with scheme linkage. The people in charge of these processes often make sure to speed up the process; and often time agree to process the applications even if the beneficiaries did not submit the exact required processing charges, and would need some more time; if the leaders take responsibility of the money to be paid. This is a huge instance of trust and credibility that SAANS leaders could have build for itself.
Change at home and financial empowerment
The families of the leaders are able to recognise the change that is happening with this intervention. Often times neighbours are asking the family members whether the leaders are at home, so that they would come to discuss the eligible schemes that they could apply for or the application status for those who have already applied. The leaders are able to earn some money, albeit a smaller amount, as they are charging lesser to the community. However this additional income has helped them gain some financial support. Rama says that he has earned around 2500 rupees that he has used to buy vegetables. The money earned so far are going into the account for smaller expenses like buying groceries, immediate medical support etc., till now. The family members of the leaders often insist that they also do scheme linkage for themselves however the leaders have been postponing the process because the whole process of application is lengthy and needs significant amount of physical intervention.
Expectation, reality, and aspirations
SAANS leaders got into the training with an expectation that the entire form submission process would be digital. In reality however, the screening is being done digitally, and the entire procedure flow is available digitally. The rest, i.e. the actual process of submission of the application to any respective office is to be manually done by the leaders filling up the forms. Even with the shift of expectation v/s reality significant amount of work has been done by SAANS which has enhanced them as leaders in multi-faceted ways. Dhananjay mentions that he wishes to open up a common service center as his business venture in future, so that he doesn’t have to go somewhere else to submit the applications physically, and thus would be able to reach out to more people and link them with the necessary schemes.
The collaboration between SAANS leaders and Haqdarshak has been a brilliant platform for leadership building, economic empowerment, community sustainability, and Sanjog had the opportunity to lead the process of partnership linkage for this change to happen. This in return has provided learning opportunity, collaboration opportunity, and a way forward towards survivor-led leadership actions in the community. Through this collaboration Sanjog has learnt that:
— A digital intervention has its own limitations and may not always suit the immediate preference and the situation of the leaders. The mindset and proficiency for choosing a digital solution, if and when available, needs to be developed amongst the leaders.
— Economic freedom and recognition motivates and enhances interest of the leaders to do better, reach out to more people, be consistent in the work they are doing.
— The understanding regarding the importance of documentation is lacking amongst the leaders, reason why they are screening for hundreds of citizens, however are not documenting the data flow through the mobile app, even when the citizens have received benefits. The leaders think that is is a wastage of time, and they would reach out to more people in the given time, instead of documenting. Thus no matter how much work they are doing, it is not being recorded anywhere.
— The sincerity and consistency, with which the SAANS leaders function, have been the key factors to enhance their accountability, both in the community, as well as amongst the duty bearers.