In Focus: Ashif Shaikh, Jan Sahas

In Focus: Ashif Shaikh, Jan Sahas

Story by : Welthugerhilfe India
Written on : 8th January, 2015

“More than 98% of our own staff come from excluded communities, so we all know first-hand how the situation is, because we ourselves have been, or still are, facing discrimination and have many personal stories to share. We are very motivated because we are helping our own community and are emotionally deeply involved.” - Ashif Shaikh, Secretary, Jan Sahas

Can you briefly describe for us Jan Sahas’ work and focus?

Jan Sahas is a social and community based organization that is committed to the protection of human rights and development of socially excluded communities. We capacitate the community on accessing their rights and entitlements, and at the same time, we provide direct services and start the implementation ourselves, that the community can then take over. We work with marginalized groups, especially Dalits and tribal population, and empower them so that they can take forward their own issues. We facilitate this process and provide technical support whenever needed.

How did the cooperation with Welthungerhilfe start and how has it been so far?

Our journey with Welthungerhilfe started in 2011 with a food and nutrition security project in Madhya Pradesh. In this state, hunger and malnutrition are a big issue, as 60% of the children are malnourished and the majority of the vulnerable communities are not able to access Government programmes. Our assessment pointed at discrimination, exclusion and corruption as the main reasons. Dalit or tribal families did not send their children to the IntegratedChild Development Services centres, because they were discriminated by the workers there. At the same time, ICDS centres lacked the necessary products and services. The desire to start a nutrition programme addressing this issue prompted us to work with Welthungerhilfe. WHH also gives us ample scope to pilot new ideas and innovative concepts that can then be replicated in other projects.

What has worked best so far?

Some of our most meaningful interventions are undoubtedly our food marches and nutrition camps. For the food marches, we trained community leaders and empowered them to work on food and nutrition security at the local level. These groups of people travel from village to village mobilizing the community. In 2014 they covered more than 2000 km, visiting 11 districts and reaching out to 60,000 people! We also encourage the community to undertake advocacy actions and start a dialogue with policy-makers and administrators. Another successful example is our 14-day nutrition camps, where we provide the community with the tools to identify malnourished children and teach pregnant and lactating mothers to prepare supplementary and nutritious food. Already at the end of the camp, most children gain weight. The mothers increase their awareness and once the camp is over, they themselves start spreading information about what they learnt.

What’s in store for Jan Sahas’ future?

We are now working towards building the capacity of smaller organizations and are planning to establish Community Based Organisations (CBOs) at the block level, run by the community itself on a small budget.