Komal Srivastava – India

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Komal Srivastava (born 1960 in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh) into a middleclass family of modest means but high ideals. She is the third of five sisters. Her father was an officer in the Survey of India, her mother taught Hindi at a government school. Komal studied at the MGD School in Jaipur, and went on to complete her Masters in 1981 in geography from Rajasthan University.

(She) set up the Rajasthan chapter of the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (India Knowledge and Science Center, BGVS) in 1992. Since then, she has convinced the state government of the need for a people-centered, democratic approach to literacy, and set up Samata, a women’s forum for equality, education, and peace, which was very important for developing women’s leadership within BGVS. Komal’s single-minded commitment to social equality and her persuasive and principled leadership have changed Rajasthan … Komal has inverted the top-down approach to the development of the dispossessed, moving beyond rhetoric and devising innovations that have broken ground in equity and participation.

She grew up a quiet, reflective woman who worked hard at her academics and her responsibilities at home. Her first engagement with social activism came in 1981, while she was still doing her Masters. The Rajasthan University Women’s Organization (RUWA) had organized a meeting for women on their growing insecurity on the campus, and on the exigency for an effective women’s organization. … (1000peacewomen 1/2).

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Sorry, no copy-able photo found for Komal Srivastava – India (but see such a Pic on ioa.ac.uk)

She is member of Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti BGVS.

See also the Community based Monitoring of Health services under NRHM, where she is CSO Representation (Komal Srivastava, Member BGVS, Jaipur).

… Interestingly, all the five chosen women are sisters-in-arms, joining the struggles and common issues from the time of Deorala sati in the late eighties in Rajasthan. In fact Ms.Roy, Ginni, Kavita and Komal made a formidable team during the past two decades fighting oppression and injustice, never resorting to violence – both physical and verbal … (full text).

Find her and her publications on Google Book-search, and on LinkedIn.

Press Note: Rajasthan High Court Accepts Sati Writ Petitions – Issues Notices. The 12 petitioner organisations are: All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Women’s Rehabilitation Group (WRG), Rajasthan University Women’s Association (RUWA), National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), Vividha: Womenís Documentation and Resource Center, National Muslim Women’s Welfare Society (NMWS), Women’s Cell, All India State Employees Federation, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), Vishakha: Women’s Education and Resource Group (VWERG), Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Rajasthan (BGVS), Academy of Socio Legal Studies, Jaipur (ASLS), Peopleís Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan (PUCL) … (full text, Jaipur, 6th August, 2004).

… As you know the starvation and drought situation in Baran district in Rajasthan is very bad. We have a proposal from Komal Srivastava from BGVS Rajasthan and are in touch with her. BGVS, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Sankalp Sansthan, another NGO had done a study of the situation and sent their demands to the chief minister. While they are demanding effective govt. programmes, BGVS itself is also planning to set up some relief programme. They have currently asked for Rs.1 lakh for immediate relief from AID … (full text, November 08, 2002).

Attack on Freedom of Speech and ex-pression in Rajasthan, (by Ranbir Singh, Surendra Joshi, Prem Krishna Sharma, Dilip Singh, Vidya Sagar Upadhaya, Sabir Khan, Rajendra Saiwal, Om Prakash Mathur, Komal Chand Jain, Dr. Narendra Gupta, Mamta Jaitly, Vakar-Ul-Ahad, Nishat Hussein, Komal Srivastava, Sumitra Chopra, Shri Prakash, Rajaram Bhadu, Sunil Ghildiyal, Ajay Jain, Ashish Maharishi, Teesta Setalvad ,Kapil, Manish, Ishwar, Lokesh, Kavita Srivastava and many others), February, 2004.

(1000peacewomen 2/2): … When a student of the university was killed for dowry by her in-laws, Komal took part in the protest rally. Although she has since been involved with the women’s movement in Rajasthan, her activism became truly serious only after a sati (outlawed self-immolation on a husband’s pyre) occurred in 1987.

In 1987, she joined the Jaipur-based Sandhan, a society for education and development in rural Rajasthan, where she spent 18 years. Her primary responsibility was to develop the social sciences curriculum for the shikshakarmi (parateachers, who had studied up to VIII or X class) training. Shikshakarmis were then deputed to government schools in remote areas, where teacher absenteeism is astronomical. Komal developed training modules and teaching aids that were suited to rural schools and used local materials.

From 1989 to mid-1992, Komal worked as a consultant with the Antrodaya Lok Karyakarm (ALK), a program supported by the ministry of human resources development, in West Champaran district in Bihar. Champaran is one of Bihar’s most backward districts, where not much has changed even a half-century after Independence. This is where Gandhi had begun his struggle for freedom: it was here that the British grew Indigo, a symbol of the oppression of Indian farmers. Komal provided academic input to the organization’s program, chalking out the curriculum for schools and libraries that the ALK set up for girls and women in the district.

In 1992, Komal came in contact with the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS), which was looking for someone to start a chapter in Rajasthan. Komal used her experience at the grassroots as an activist, researcher, educator, and trainer to creatively handle her responsibilities as manager, team leader, campaigner, fundraiser, and lobbyist for the BGVS.

Although establishing the unit was an uphill task, it is one of the most active chapters today. Around the time Komal was working to establish the unit, Ajmer district in Rajasthan had been declared totally literate. The campaign in Ajmer had been run in a bureaucratic, top-down manner, and the Rajasthan bureaucracy was all set to implement the Ajmer model throughout the state. Komal lobbied at the state and district levels to convince the administration of the need to set up a people-centered, democratic mode of campaigning.

The BGVS became the main agency for environment-building and training for the state’s total literacy campaign from 1992-1999. The BGVS developed guidebooks, training modules, and a team of volunteer trainers. According to the 2001 census, Rajasthan’s literacy rate has increased by 22.45 per cent, as against an all-India increase of 13.17 per cent. Female literacy has increased by 23.9 per cent. The state’s literacy rate stood at 61.03 per cent in 2001 (up from 38.55 per cent in 1991), although it is still lower than the all-India average of 65.38 per cent.

As its state secretary, Komal extended the BGVS network in Rajasthan to more than 10 districts, and mentored campaigns on literacy and continuing education, child rights, a girl-child education campaign, and science popularization. She is also extensively involved with the human rights networks, the women’s movement, and the campaign against atrocities on women in Rajasthan.

When she joined BGVS, it was essentially a male-dominated organization. Komal was, in fact, the first woman within the BGVS to be elected as state secretary, which directly led to a gender-sensitive approach to all BGVS activities. Under her leadership, a national coordinated program, the Samata Vigyan Utsav, was launched in 1999, which she coordinated at the national level for more than seven years. The Samata Vigyan Utsav gave women an opportunity to articulate their needs. It is through this articulation that future Samata programs were worked out.

The program was implemented in more than 10,000 villages with more than 200,000 women participants. A national and state-level leadership emerged from among the women. There have been four main areas in which intensive work was taken up: self-help groups, women and health, continuing education, women and violence, and women and governance in the local self-government.

Today, more than 15,000 self-help groups (SHGs) are in operation. More than 300,000 women are directly associated with the organization. Komal is now working to develop a resource center at the national level to strengthen these groups. For her, the main challenge ahead is to build the gender empowerment component into all BGVS programs, and establish women’s micro-enterprises.

The passion that drives Komal’s work is promoting literacy and education among those who have little access to it because of social exclusion and poverty. She has been associated with a number of innovative, people-centered initiatives in elementary and adult education, literacy, women’s empowerment, and social justice.

Komal has klieg-lighted the BGVS’ activities on Dalits, women, and other disadvantaged groups in Rajasthan, moving beyond rhetoric and mentoring many innovations that have broken new ground in ensuring equity and participation.

The post-literacy campaign to prevent neo-literates from relapsing into illiteracy: The program aims to move from the word to the world; regular reading sessions were organized on issues such as health, rights of the girl-child, the environment, primary education, and violence against women; 40 groups were formed, with more than 500 women members in the Dholpur and Baran districts. The program continued from 1999-2001, after which it was merged with the continuing education program, and learning centers were established.

The child rights network: 200 children’s forums, called Balmanch, were constituted in six districts of Rajasthan by an open election of children in the villages. The main objective was to develop a group at the village-level that would lobby for children and increase their participation at the decision-making level, teaching them about democratic functioning.

The Janshala Program: It is an innovative elementary education program run in the slums of Jaipur, Rajasthan.

The BGVS started this initiative in December 1999 to provide alternative education, with a view to enrolling out-of-school underprivileged children in mainstream schools. Support from the community is a major achievement of the program. Today, 1,322 children, 721 of them girls, are studying in 18 Janshalas.

One of the unusual features of the BGVS’ work under Komal’s leadership has been the voluntary nature of its members and activists. Unlike most NGOs, it does not depend on funding and number of paid employees. The BGVS, which has been singularly successful in enlisting volunteers from villages, small towns, districts, and cities, has its district cadre drawn from all sections of society – schoolteachers, lawyers, shopkeepers, and small businesspersons, laborers, housewives, college youth, and government employees. The BGVS has been able to establish a volunteer base of nearly 3,000 people in Rajasthan alone.

It is hard to delineate a single BGVS constituency, so successful has been its spirit of voluntary service.

Although this mode of functioning has been concretized in Rajasthan today, the initial years were rough. Rajasthan had practically no history of social movements, and the concept of volunteerism was strange. The only people who were willing to work for no payment were the activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (a Hindutva organization with a large mass base). Komal persevered, gradually drawing in people from all walks of life, particularly primary school teachers and educated youth.

She has worked with daunting financial and personnel resources. On principle, the BGVS does not take money from foreign donors, which leaves very few sources of funding: government, corporate houses, and individual donations. In 1999, the core grant the BGVS received from the National Literacy Mission withered away. At the state-level, grants for some programs have been mobilized from the state government, UN agencies, and individual donations.

The very nature of its work has meant that the BGVS has been embattled by powerful rural vested interests and the State machinery. In 2002, for example, during an acute drought in Rajasthan, hunger deaths were reported among the Sahariya tribe in Baran district. The BGVS conducted an extensive survey in 45 villages, and found that 28 people had died of hunger in these districts, and that more than 2,000 were in urgent need of food. More than 800 households had not a single grain of food. This monitoring led to confrontations between the BGVS, the government, and powerful village leaders. However, on the basis of this survey, BGVS Rajasthan and other organizations put pressure on the government to initiate extra relief work.

Komal’s single-minded commitment to social equity, her ability to mobilize voluntary action, and her persuasive and principled leadership have, in many ways, altered Rajasthan’s archconservative face. She now lives in Jaipur with her father and an older sister. Although her current work primarily revolves around the national BGVS team, she continues to work with the Rajasthan unit. (1000peacewomen):

links:

Right to Food Campaign, update no 6 of Newsletter: 4. UTTAR PRADESH, PUBLIC RALLY ON CHILDREN’S DAY (14 NOVEMBER);

The Education Community has 2510 members as of November 16, 2008, for ex. Ms. Komal Srivastava Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti BGVS, International or local NGO/CBO, Jaipur, Rajasthan;

Solution Exchange for the Education Community, Consolidated Reply, 17 October 2005;

Young, Rich & Restless, by Deepti Khanna Bose, DEC. 31, 2006;

Newsletter for Beyond Accesss, July/August 2004 (with pdf-picture of Komal Srivastava – cannot be copied). They write in July/August 2004:

  • 8.5%of adult women in Niger are literate (male rate 23.5%);
  • 24%of adult women in Nepal are literate (male rate 59%);
  • 1,735,000 people have never been taught literacy skills in Peru, 74.2% are women;
  • 79.8% of adult women in Botswana have literacy skills (this is higher than the male rate, which stands at 74.5%).

Source: Unesco EFA Global Monitoring Report 2003/4: Adult literacy rates are based on 2000 figures and survey all adults over the age of 15.

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