Seminars are a way to educate group members on topics relevant to their lives so as to facilitate problem-solving.
- Several people AVAG works with (especially the women) have received little formal education and are often unaware of the scale of issues in society and options available to them for help.
- AVAG aims to reverse this situation by making group members well informed. In many cases, access to the right information at the right time can result in a positive shift in thinking, attitude and action.
Women’s seminar interactive session
AVAG organises day-long seminars each month at the AVAG office. A maximum of 2 members from each group are invited and the number of participants ranges from 350-400 on average.
The themes for the seminars are:
AVAG schemes: Seminars are a way to communicate the new schemes AVAG wants to implement with the SHGs. These could include a change in policy, housing schemes, educational loan schemes (ex. AVVAI) or about the Ecolife store and its environment friendly products.
The AVAG staff use these opportunities to stress on the importance of attending cluster level meetings. They also take feedback on schemes and answer questions from group members.
Government/External schemes: For the success of government schemes which are aimed at improving rural life in India, it is imperative for the rural population to be well-versed with these schemes. AVAG uses its wide network to spread awareness about these schemes and helps group members to take advantage of these services; such as welfare schemes, SEDAB scheme (aimed at sustainable enterprise development), welfare schemes for women and life insurance schemes.
Financial Inclusion: AVAG is particular about ethical practices in finance and is sensitive to not only the needs of the group members but also to their overall financial well-being. Therefore, we have well defined loan policies that record the purpose of a loan and ensure its timely repayment.
Seminars are used to educate group members about the importance of savings, maintaining records and verifying financial statements. At the same time, group members are made aware of different sources to formal credit that are available to them such as direct bank loans and internal lending. Sessions on loan application procedures are conducted. Ethical and democratic processes within groups for sanctioning loans are also discussed and encouraged.
Health: Seminars on health include the indigenous as well as topics of modern medicine. Group members are educated about the value of traditional, local food and medicinal herbs in maintaining health as well as the knowledge of yoga. On the other hand, modern medical epidemics like diabetes are also discussed. Special attention is given to women’s health issues and menstrual hygiene management which is traditionally considered a taboo to discuss openly. Information on alcohol de-addiction services is made available.
Village Development: Seminars on different ideas for village work camps and micro projects are conducted.
Environment: Sensitivity to environmental degradation and eco-sensitive practices is a recurring theme in AVAG seminars. Group members are educated about water and waste management. They are also taught how to grow their own food in kitchen gardens to bring food security while establishing a deeper connection with nature.
Gender: Questioning the patriarchal system and eradicating gender-based discriminations is one of the goals of AVAG. Group members are educated about the social responsibility to stop violence against women.
- In April 2015, AVAG organised a seminar attended by 282 participants with resource person Victor Raj, founder of Hope NGO who spoke about the Right to Information act 2005 and the Right to Education Act along with Women’s rights.