Reigniting the swabhimaan of Indian Villages

A warm hello from the team of Gram Swabhimaan and fellowships at Goonj!!

Starting with an introduction of Goonj-

Goonj ( aims to build an equitable relationship of strength, sustenance, and dignity between the resource-abundant and resource-scarce communities, creating a barter between surplus material and the efforts and wisdom of resource-scarce people as two new currencies, to trigger development with dignity. Founded in 1999 by Magsaysay award winner Mr. Anshu Gupta, works on poverty alleviation, rural development, and disaster relief & rehab, by using the cities’ discards as a fuel for wide-spread development work across villages in India addressing issues around water, sanitation, agriculture, education, local infrastructure, access, etc. Working with a strong network of 600+ grassroots partners, in the last 8 years (2014-2022) itself, we have reached out to more than 12 million people, facilitated 55,000+ development activities, and channelized more than 45 million kgs of material across 31 states & UTs of India.

Through Gram Swabhimaan our aim is to work towards fostering village empowerment and development by catalyzing collective participation, setting positive narratives, building environmental consciousness, and capacitating youth to encourage a solution-based approach for complex issues amongst several other similar goals

This will be achieved via an amalgamation of urban-rural events, volunteer meets, partner meets, fellowships, etc

To give you an overview, the initiative has reached 249 villages in 3 states, namely Maharashtra, Odisha, and Rajasthan. Through fellowships, we have engaged with 150+ youth

Kickstarting the association in August, Goonj’s annual event Chaupal- no agenda conversations was held in Delhi (H.O). The event witnessed the attendance of over 300+ urban volunteers, well-wishers, partners discussing the imperative need for a transformative language and lens through which we view certain issues, communities, and objects. These discussions ranged from valuing the capacities, wisdom of the grassroots, to conversations around recurring disasters, environmental consciousness, and the need for ecosystem strengthening

Largely amplifying the aims of Gram Swabhimaan the event successfully engaged the attendees in these thought-provoking discussions

Another good news is the launch of the second edition of the Next-Gen fellowship at Goonj.
The Next Gen Fellowship has been designed to provide exposure opportunities to the children of people who have been associated with Goonj for a long time— including people working in the processing units, office staff, and community mobilizers, amongst others.
The first cohort saw the engagement of 14 fellows of diverse backgrounds with the aim of engaging them in the organization’s work as exposure to better prepare themselves to achieve their dreams.


In October updates,

This month’s meeting in Karkatta village, in the Latur district of Maharashtra marked the 250 villages spread under Gram Swabhimaan.

This is the next phase of diving deep into these communities and building/reigniting swabhimaan together, wherein we are holding cluster meetings with 10 villages at a time, gathering feedback along the developed understanding of Gram Swabhimaan. This is coupled with group discussions and street plays building upon the idea of model villages. These discussions also touched upon certain aspects of self-reflection where individuals sat together and reflected on what self-respect means to them.

The first set of these meetings was held in the Latur district with approximately 60 participants in the first two meetings. Similar meetings will be held across districts of Maharashtra from November onwards.

Sharing here a few pictures and testimonials from the meetings:


“Ek mul ek jhad paus padel dhad dhad

(Ek bacha ek podha, baarish giregi jor jor)” - Prerana Bansode, Village-Sakhara, District-Latur

“Aapne hume humara bachpan lauta diya, gaon ki mahila ghar ke aage kahi nhi nikalti, na hi use ijjat milti hai. Aapne humara samman kiya yehi sabse badi baat hai” - Damini, Village-Malkaranja, District-Latur

“Ped lagane se, paani bachane se gram ka swabhimaan nhi hoga, jab tak hum har vyakti ka samaan aur ijjat na kare” - Damini, Village-Malkaranja, District-Latur

October also saw the launch of Gram Swabhimaan internship in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, the applications for the same are open till 15th November. The aim is to start with the 6-month internship by December.


Hi @Arundhati.goonj Loved it! And I can echo those testimonials when you don’t remember stages of your life or you have completely forgotten due to external and internal factors - resisting those brings infinite joy! Next time do capture the invaluable facial experiences - it will unravel a lot about us (humans).


In December Updates,

We are happy to share with you all that we initiated the Gram Swabhimaan internship in December. The initial application phase saw an overwhelming response from both states, after a thorough analysis few candidates were called for interviews in Banswara (Rajasthan) and Mumbai and finally a total of 13 interns were inducted in the 1st cohort.

Their induction took place in Delhi, it was a three-day workshop held at Goonj’s Delhi office. The interns not only visited our Goonj Delhi processing and production centers but also participated in several team-building activities and group discussions. For 11 out of these 13 zealous interns, it was their first visit to Delhi, filled with anxiety and doubt they had started their journey to Delhi but the warm welcome here and each other’s support helped them work through that and continue to embark on this new exciting journey of a 6 month internship. Our agenda for the next month now is to start this internship in Odisha as well.

Additionally, as previously shared we continued to host cluster meetings in Maharashtra covering three other districts namely, Ratnagiri, Palghar and Jalgoan. In the next month, our focus would also be to arrange these cluster meetings in Rajasthan which were earlier delayed because of socio-political tensions in the region.


In March updates

Continuing the cluster meetings started in Maharasathra, the last two months saw cluster meetings across Odisha and Rajasthan.

In Odisha, a combined cluster meeting was held for the Daringbadi and Puri regions. It brought together the first and last regions that have been covered by the initiative so far. It was interesting to witness the concept retention of both groups. This meeting was held in the Gram Vikas campus in Mohuda, which also enabled these groups to stay together in the same campus, allowing for the exchange of thoughts and ideas. We used this opportunity to then introduce our internship in Odisha, we selected 6 interns from the whole cluster. These interns are now working in the Puri and Daringbadi blocks respectively.

Towards the end of January, we also introduced the cluster meetings in Rajasthan. A total of 12 meetings were scheduled across Rajasthan in a month. The team covered all the villages under Gram Swabhimaan in the Banswara, Pratapgarh, and Udaipur districts.

Simultaneously, we also had a very engaging interaction with the climate champions in Odisha in a 2-day dialogue series held in Gram Vikas. These climate champions are working on traditional ways of restoring ecosystems and agriculture in their respective villages and were very swift in understanding and picking up the concept of Gram Swabhimaan. This interaction also introduced the concept in a whole new geography, opening several doors for future collaborations.

In February, we also got the opportunity to introduce the concept of Gram Swabhimaan in a very interesting workshop designed by Rainmatter for all their partners, “Sense of the House”, on the 14th and 15th Feb. This also allowed Gram Swabhimaan to learn from various grassroots approaches which are being successfully implemented on the ground.

Lastly, on the 18th of February Goonj celebrated its 25th anniversary. Our annual Chaupal was graced by over 350+ urban volunteers, well-wishers, students, and teams from pan India. It allowed us to present the concept of Gram Swabhimaan to a whole new audience and share the gathered learnings and insights.

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