Mahila Shanti Sena (MSS)
Report from Odisha, 2009 Sri Gopal Mohanty
During 1999, when Odisha ( previously known as Orissa) State of India was hit by super cyclone, SEEDS (Sustainable Economic and Educational Development Society)an NGO in the USA, and Unnayan, a Bhubaneswar based NGO, started several SHGs(Self Help Group) that were formed by women. The main activity of a SHG is to create income generation opportunities for its members mostly by providing micro-credit. Thus the incentive to augment MSS movement in conjunction with SHG was very appealing. In 2005, Unnayan initiated a MSS training camp in Mayurbhanj District. Till today it has conducted two training camps, one training camp for trainers, several workshops and regular consultative meets in Mayurbhanj and Balasore Districts in North-Eastern part, one camp in Jagatsingpur District in the Central Eastern part and one in Anugul District in the Central part of the State. In addition, it organized a special workshop on Culture of Peace and Women in 2006 and a State level MSS Convention in 2008. Another NGO, BISWA held one training camp in Sambalpur District of Western Odisha in 2007.
In Mayurbhanj region where the MSS movement is intensive, a remarkable change is noticed in the mindset of the people, particularly on the issue of gender domination. At the same time women have become more aware of social and political issues. MSS training has brought self-confidence, developed self-reliance and promoted co-operative action among them. The members have taken active role in many community related problems, particularly in helping the recent flood affected victims in the region.
The MSS movement in Odisha has been financially supported by SEEDS, AID (Aid Indias Development) and Centre for Peace Studies, McMasterUniversity.
This year it is planned to intensify the movement in Jagatsingpur by conducting a fresh camp, spread it to new areas in Sambalpur and initiate it in Nuapada District which is in the farthest western part of the State. Except Jagatsingpur, the regions under MSS movement including the newly planned programmes have predominantly tribal population.
MSS impact reported by Unnayan, 2007 Bhanu Prasad Panigrahi
Unnayan is a registered NGO in Orissa working for the poor and marginalized rural communities with focus on livelihood promotion and womens empowerment.
In December 2004 we got an opportunity to learn about the Mahila Shanti Sena(MSS) programme initiated by Acharya Ramamurti,. Our active involvement began after eight months when we invited two members of Shrambharti to train our women.
This training and the subsequent exposure visits seemed to touch some hidden capacity in the rural women with whom we are involved. The initial training was received by 50 members. Now the membership has grown to 2752. But it is certainly not a question of numbers alone. This training seems to have empowered the women in actual terms, some of whom are SHG members and others who are not, who have been coming together to address problems faced by the community at large. Where do the women get their inspiration from? We often wonder! Most of these women are extremely marginalized and barely literate. We think that perhaps the idea that the training imparts that each member can contribute collectively to maintaining peace and harmony in the family, neighborhood and the community at large has a powerful impact on these women.
The response to the training has been so overwhelming that we are convinced that for those of us who are working in the field of development this is a powerful tool which can be used very effectively at the grass root level for empowerment and capacity building.
MSS concept is a holistic one. (A) Community harmony and its social relevance (B) Looking at livelihood issues (C) Encouraging womens participation in decision-making process.
Thus NGOs and other civil society organisations can integrate the concept of Mahila Shanti Sena in all their activities, no matter what sector they are involved in, thereby establishing a peaceful social order. MSS is without doubt a powerful means towards this end.