Employment Guarantee Training Through Zoom Calls, in Marathwada

The lockdown has not dampened the energy of our leaders from the 16,000-strong Single Women Programme (Ekal Mahila Sanghatana) in Marathwada. Yes, it has constrained mobility and direct interface, but both have been accepted in good spirit as steps to prevent and stem the spread of Covid-19. Not discouraged by the measures, our leaders have found ways to stay connected with each other through their mobile phones! Through their phones, they have given, received, and basically shared courage and emotional support with each other but also others in their local communities. Diligently calling and asking about everyone’s wellbeing, the leaders also used these calls to identify the kinds of support needed.

This dynamic took a new turn when 63 women from the Single Women Programme in Neknur village were present for the conference call from 42 mobiles. With so many women asking procedural questions, a few of the leaders contacted CORO’s regional coordinator in Vidarbha to seek guidance on MGNREGA. Realising that an overwhelming number of women needed a basic tutorial on NREGA work and the application process, they were faced with the question: How do we do a session for such a large number of women? After some brainstorming, they decided to use video conferencing platforms that not only accommodate the large number of women, but also make the conversations more personal and enjoyable through live visual interface. Their final decision: Zoom! a video conference tool that would take their connection-making and sustaining process to a new level.

Full of enthusiasm, the leaders fixed a date for the Zoom session connecting CORO’s regional coordinator from Vidarbha and the 63 women for a live interactive session on how to apply for a NREGA job. The session lasted two hours even though the free version of Zoom allows single sessions of only 40 minutes. At one place, 21 women gathered along with our leader Mangal tai, to listen to the training; while 83 women demanded for work under MGNREGA, from Neknur village. It had to be reconnected several times, but the women participated with great energy and had their questions and concerns addressed! Ecstatic about having connected Live with our resource person, the first ever online training was a tremendous success! Using a technology platform, and specifically Zoom, has opened up a new medium for all their future communications. Many women later expressed that it felt as though they were attending a usual training session. Having enjoyed and come away with the information they wanted, the women have suggested more such trainings on topics, like addressing domestic violence.

(Cover image courtesy - http://www.yuppee.com/2014/06/04/could-you-live-without-technology/)