Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) was founded in 1989 with the objective of organizing rural women ofKutchto facilitate their empowerment. The overarching mission of KMVS has been the empowerment of rural women; And foster their leadership – economic, political, social and cultural – through conscious-raising, organization and their mobilization into local collectives, capable of independently addressing gender inequities in their region.
Since its inception, KMVS has evolved through these two decades, in various phases. The initiation phase incubated a gendered understanding of local issues and through that focused on forming rural women’s collectives. These collectives in different blocks, were subsequently scaled up and strengthened to replicate their learnings amongst different communities. By the second phase, the sangathans went beyond their identities as women alone, and lent their leadership to initiate transformative action in the areas of ecological regeneration, access to livelihoods, reproductive health, violence against women, and local governance of gram panchayats. By the third phase of KMVS, the collectives went on to get registered as independent organizations functioning in their regions as credible civil society change makers. While KMVS continued to enhance the capacities of the newly formed registered organizations, KMVS also initiated resource support units, and through them incubated new collectives. KMVS has thus grown from a single collective of rural women, to a network of 7 grass-root women’s organzations, operational acrossKutchdistrict, and comprising more than 20,000 women leaders/managers/livelihood practitioners. Women pastoralists, farmers, artisans, fishers, wage-workers, musicians, women elected representatives, traditional birth attendants, and single self-employed women, have all come together at various levels as organized collectives and facilitated a range of impacts in the larger environment.Thus, the organization has continuously undergone change even as it has attempted to transform the gender parameters in the district, and influence it outside the district. However, the fast changing socio economic scenario after the earthquake has triggered both growing challenges and developmental opportunities in the micro and macro context. The development context ofKutchhas been characterize by ~
1. Growing urbanization and large presence of urban poor in the towns, includingKutch. The rapid industrialization in the district has undoubtedly contributed to this, as well as the changing demographics of the region – with sharp increase in migrant labour.
2. Changing socio-cultural configurations within the rural communities coupled with more confident and assertive rural woman in the district has also led to a clear increase in both reporting and incidents as well as types of violence against women.
3. KMVS’ efforts to empower women elected representatives from panchayati raj institutions is creating a larger spectrum of women leaders in local governance and a more conscious citizenship of women in the district.