“A community that is engaged and working together can be a powerful force.” – Idowu Koyenikan, Thought Leader
Indeed, there is power in unity and harmony. It is extremely essential for the people of a community to interact and work with and for each other in order to address the significant needs such as curbing poverty and unemployment, hence, contributing towards betterment and social well-being of the entire community as a whole.
IIT Gandhinagar believes in the concept of being a good neighbor. The Institute promotes the idea of active engagement, among its students, with the community which it is a part of and aims to have a positive impact on people by its presence in one way or the other. The mission is to bridge the knowledge gaps existing between the privileged and underprivileged sections of the community and promote sustainable livelihood generation at grassroots level.
A notable step taken by IIT Gandhinagar in this direction is, NEEV (Nurture and Empower Entrepreneurial Ventures) – a community outreach program by the Institute. This program provides comprehensive training and mentoring for developing and expanding the employability and entrepreneurship mindset of the communities that surround IITGN. The beneficiaries mainly include youth and women from rural and semi-urban localities in the neighborhood of the Institute. Till now, this initiative has been successful in reaching more than 15 villages and 1900+ lives have been positively impacted by its various initiatives.
With the passage of time, NEEV has extended its campaign to incorporate vocational skill development training initiatives for the grassroots as well. The first vocational skill training course started in 2016 at the Institute Campus in Palaj. It is a 2-month duration course which teaches skills such as fitting, carpentry, wiring, tin-smithy and plumbing, machining and welding. It is financially supported by the Desai Foundation in U.S. and admits participants in the age-group of 18 to 28 years. While most of the participants are from Palaj and Basan villages that are neighbors of IITGN, there are participants from Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Uttar Pradesh as well. They receive training in the mechanical engineering and electrical engineering labs of the Institute. The participants are also trained in business skills and soft skills and are taken to local industries for field visits.
Apart from this, NEEV comprises of various other sessions, workshops and courses that aim to empower the underprivileged. Entrepreneurship Development Workshop is a 5-day session on idea generation, market research, negotiation, cost analysis, and financials. Role play, interactive activities benefit participants from all education backgrounds. Entrepreneurship Awareness Session creates awareness about entrepreneurship being a viable avenue of livelihood generation. Stitching Skills Training Course focuses on empowering the village women, by means of a 2-month basic training course in stitching which includes measurement, marking, cutting and sewing. Computer Skills Training Course is an 80-hour program which covers basic knowledge of computer hardware as well as software and MS office. Spoken English Training Course equips participants with basic conversational skills in English for better prospects in the job market. The 2-hour/day course spread over 8 weeks focuses on basic grammar, pronunciation, speech and its composition, with the help of descriptive writing and speaking.
Soumya Harish, coordinator of NEEV said that the main objective of this community outreach program is to create more employment or entrepreneurial opportunities for the people in neighboring villages of IITGN. They are encouraged to undertake further advanced training in the trades of their choice which is beneficial for them in terms of becoming financially independent.
NEEV has initiated 34 projects with 1677 beneficiaries under its entrepreneurship activities and 10 projects involving 226 beneficiaries within the skill-development courses which have greatly aided for youth and women empowerment. In the past few years, there have been a large number of success stories of the villagers starting new businesses ranging from general stores, beauty parlors, catering, stitching, pizza shops, sound & DJ, food trucks, canteens and event management to tiffin services, art classes, electrical works and pen manufacturing.
On the occasion of International Earth Day celebration at the Institute on 22nd April, 2019, a stall of reusable multipurpose cloth bags was set up, which were sewn by a group of rural women trained in stitching by NEEV. This initiative served the dual purpose of saving the environment from plastic bags and empowering rural women through employment generation. In another project, the curtains of the IITGN hostels were stitched by women from the neighboring villages after an initial training period of 2 weeks.
In future, IIT Gandhinagar will constantly explore ways to contribute towards the welfare of the local community by raising funds for voluntary activities, driven primarily by students, staff and faculty, which will continue to foster social responsibility, social sensitivity and thus, social advancement. This Institute strives towards the all-around development of its students and understands that it can only be possible when they are educated to contribute towards building a strong society!
“The best education I received was working with people in the community on a grassroots basis. Because what it taught me was that ordinary people, when they are working together can do extraordinary things.” – Barack Obama, former U.S. President.
Written by Apeksha Srivastava, Senior Project Asssociate, External Communications, IIT Gandhinagar. M.Tech student, Biological Engineering (2016-2018), IIT Gandhinagar.