Human and Institutional Development (Community Based Organizations)

The department of Human and Institutional Development (HID) plays an important role in the sustainable development of the people of the operational area of SAFI by forming and supporting Community Based Organizations (CBOs). Community Based Organizations are the backbone of any social work agency as they operate at the grass root level and support the agency in various ways. The objectives of the department are: i.) to enhance human capacity through grass root level organizations ii) To develop, strengthen and augment aspirations of empowerment and self reliance in women in order to attain gender equity. iii) To develop strong relationship within families for social enrichment.

1. Village (Parish) Social Action Units

The most important of the CBOs under SAFI is the Village level social action units (Parish Units). SAFI works through these 134 social action units which are led by the parish priest as the director and supported by the coordinator and the executive. The coordinator represents the social action unit in the General Body of SAFI. These units support the agency to identify the problems or issues at the community level and to plan, implement and evaluate the projects. The beneficiaries for various charitable and developmental activities are being identified by the units in collaboration with the central office. Also these CBOs undertake various activities of their own.

2. Self-Help Groups (Gramashree)

The formation of Women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) was a major paradigm shift in the working of the SAFI. SAFI moved from the charity approach to development approach through empowerment and participation realizing that development can be achieved only by strengthening the community at the grass root level and ensuring the participation of the community in this process. With this vision in mind SHGs were formed in the operational area of SAFI. SHGs were formed as voluntary, small group structures for mutual aid and the accomplishment of special purposes by people who were ready to come together for mutual assistance in satisfying a common need overcoming a common handicap or life-disturbing problem and bringing about a desired social and/or personal change. SHGs were formed for the first time under SAFI in 2004. Initially SAFI promoted groups of women only; but later groups were formed for men also. In the present scenario SHGs play an important role in social development. SAFI supports the SHGs in the following ways:

♦   Motivate the people to organize themselves and form into self-help groups at village (parish) level
♦   Training are given to group members to in managing the group activities like book keeping, conducting meetings, management of funds etc.
♦   Promote thrift and saving habits among members
♦   Support the SHGs in identifying local resources and raw materials and trainings are being given to upgrade their skills and technology to make best use of the resources
♦   Introduce the groups to different income generating programs and make available credit facilities and act as link between the members and financial institution.
♦   Help the group members in exploring markets for their products
♦   Work as the facilitator in the meetings and act as friend, philosopher and guide.

At present there are 350 women SHGS and 20 men SHGs under SAFI. Major activities undertaken by SGHs at the diocesan level are World Women’s day Celebration and participation in different exhibitions and melas conducted by SAFI as well as by government institutions. All through these years SAFI has been able to make significant achievement through SHGs in the area of social development, women empowerment, alleviation of poverty and agriculture development.

3. Joint Liability Groups ( JLGs)

Formation of Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) is another step stone towards development. JLGs are groups formed from existing SHG members. JLG will comprise of 4 to 10 members were formed for the integral development, financial stability and a dignified life for its members which can be achieved by engaging in income generating activities including agriculture which will be funded by banks through NABARD. Bank loans are made available to JLGs on the guarantee given by SAFI. 350 JLGs have been formed and in two years a total of Rs. 150,000,000/ has been give to these groups as loan from Bank of India.

4. Farm Clubs

With a view to promote agriculture development Farm Clubs or SHGs for men were formed. 20 farm clubs are presently active under SAFI. These farm clubs promote agriculture among its members as well as undertake group farming with the help of NABARD and banks. These groups focus and promote on organic farming and they also organize village markets where people can buy chemical free vegetables and other products at a lower price. The activities of these farm clubs have been able to create a new interest in agriculture in their respective communities. SAFI is in the process of forming more farm clubs to promote organic farming and agriculture production.

5. SHGs of Spinsters and Sidelined Women (Social Mainstreaming of Spinsters and Sidelined Women)

In collaboration with Kerala Social Service Forum Kottayam, SAFI launched a new project for women who are single, widows without children and unwed mothers between the age of 35 and 60. The project proposes the enlistment and empowerment of Spinsters (single woman) and organizing them in to Self-Help Groups and empowering them by skill development and promotion of income generation programs. This endeavor aims to elevate the overall status of normally disowned deprived single women and to socially legitimize “single womanhood” by providing full social and legal entitlement as well as equal opportunities like any other sanctified vocations of life like marital life, priesthood, nun-hood, etc.

Objectives of the project

♦  Create and maintain separate space in Kerala society for women opting and experiencing ‘single womanhood’
♦  Organize the concerned women as a cohesive and socially sanctified segment with their fraternities, associations and federations constituted locally, regionally, and state level
♦  Ensure human safety, gender/ social status and livelihood security for the single women
♦  Professionally equip the members as service providers in voluntary sector and human/ social welfare institutions
♦  Stabilize and upkeep the arena of humanitarian services by keeping in place an additional set up for quality services

A survey was conducted to identify the unmarried and single women with the help of the village (parish) social action units. Details of around 500 spinsters have been collected and a list at the diocesan level has been prepared. Later meetings were organized in different areas 20 SHGs have been formed. In order to strengthen and make them self-reliant trainings in micro-enterprises ware conducted.