Strengthening Community Institution Workshop

The workshop aimed to empower participants to enhance the role of community institutions in improving human development outcomes and building social capital.

With the objective of fostering empathy and intrinsic motivation among District, Block, cluster-level, and frontline government functionaries (FGFs) under the Meghalaya State Rural Livelihoods Society (MSRLS), a Regional Workshop on Strengthening Community Institutions was successfully conducted in collaboration with the State Capability Enhancement Project (SCEP) in Shillong on July 9, 2024.

Key discussions revolved around tackling multi-dimensional poverty, addressing gaps in health services, and improving access to education. Participants actively engaged in interactive sessions led by expert facilitators, which included analyzing case scenarios related to human development challenges, health, nutrition, gender norms, institutional capacity building, financial inclusion, and livelihood promotion.

Keynote Address

Mr Sampath Kumar, IAS, Development Commissioner & Principal Secretary, C&RD Department, Government of Meghalaya, emphasized the critical importance of the workshop by highlighting issues that should never occur, such as high maternal mortality rates. He pointed out that maternal mortality should ideally be in the single digits, yet it remains alarmingly high in Meghalaya. He addressed three key issues: poverty, lack of health services, and inadequate education, noting that poverty is a systemic problem that prevents access to essential services.

The multi-dimensional poverty concept and the need for a reflective and transformative approach were elaborated over the next six years. “By 2030, the sustainable development goals will be assessed, and Meghalaya must address these challenges through effective community mobilization and leadership,” stated Mr Kumar. Citing a poignant example from Umsning, Meghalaya, he described how a pregnant woman, already a mother of four and 40 years old, faced delays in receiving medical treatment due to systemic inefficiencies, ultimately leading to her death. This, he stressed, is not just a government failure but a collective one, emphasizing the need for community empowerment.

The SHG platform, he explained, is vital for ensuring village organizations can take community action, especially for high-risk individuals. The purpose of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) is to build community leadership and social capital through regular, well-organized meetings. Further drawing an analogy with church visits, Mr Kumar explained that just as churches serve as community hubs for discussing and resolving spiritual issues, SHGs should function as developmental institutions. Regular, agenda-driven meetings are crucial for addressing challenges and fostering mutual support. He also underscored the importance of initial savings, as these build trust and financial discipline, enabling SHG members to access larger, collateral-free loans from banks.

The event commenced with an interesting session reflecting on the core purpose, skillfully led by Mr. Ronald Kynta, Chief Operating Officer of MSRLS. This was followed by a thought-provoking discussion on community institution roles by Mr Sampath Kumar. The workshop provided a platform for learning, sharing insights, and strategizing to strengthen community institutions for sustainable development in Meghalaya.

Participants represented various roles within MSRLS, including Chief Operating Officers, Functional Area Officers, Sector-specific Managers, Project Managers, District Mission Managers, District Functional Specialists, Block Programme Managers, and Block Functional Specialists. Their diverse perspectives enriched the discussions and activities, ensuring comprehensive insights into community development challenges and strategies.