CECOEDECON brought into view the core of humanity, where women, men and children fight the daily battles of poverty, water shortage, malnutrition, and patriarchy, and, with the help of the inspiring NGO, come out with community-driven smiles and conviction. Too often in my travels have I seen NGOs powered by individuals with the selfish desire for selfless action. COCOEDCON rids pretense from the equation, not only focusing on the needs of one issue, but on any issue at the forefront of human well-being in Rajasthan.
CECOEDECON spans environmental issues such as climate change, agriculture, and water harvesting, while maintaining the perceptivity to realize these issues are connected to community health, malnutrition and finance. The revolutionary NGO has the boldness to challenge the paradigms of patriarchy while questioning the dominant paradigms of feminism. CECOEDECON’s definition of gender justice, as conveyed by program coordinator, Ritu, in a squeaky, but forceful and resonating tone: “If one wheel is bigger and one is smaller how can you keep the car on the road?” The NGO does not assume that historical patriarchies are the reason for today’s problems, but rather that equality – two wheels the same size – is the answer. Men, as well as women, shined in the organizations programs of social and gender justice.
In terms of structure, CECOEDECON engages an incredibly wide geographical area with a comparatively small staff. Just 150 employees in nine offices across the deserts of Rajasthan engage in hundreds of social and environmental justice projects. This is possible due to a focus on community empowerment instead of institutionalized progress. By listening and understanding the needs of communities, the NGO facilitates problem solving instead of trying to impose or control projects. The idea is independent, sustainable social justice, not falsely enforced justice as so many NGOs and governments weakly attempt.
Going into the details of CECOEDECON’s programs for community health (i.e. family planning, malnourishment, maternity health), would breach the boundaries of this post. But that just goes to show the span and gravity of this admirable organization. When asked about problems the village faces, Kalyan Mal Kissan, head of the Village Development Council, with the rapturous voice of a true leader responded, “We used to have problems. Now there are few.” He attests this progress to the work of CECOEDECON. One problem he did note was that schools in his village only go up to standard 10, so students have to leave the village to get up to standard 12 for the opportunity of higher education. If I were a gambling man, I’d bet on CECOEDECON formulating plan to remedy this issue.
This is by no means the full overview COCOEDEON deserves, but it would take full-scale academic projects to fully explicate its tremendous accomplishments and projects. The only critique I can offer, and the NGO’s workers and administrators agree, is of the corporate funding of the program. PepsiCo and Tata are two major contributors. As Dr. Jayman is quick to point out, the only reason these donations are made is a small condolence to the vast problems of neoliberalism. Thus, The problems being solved are product of, and perpetuated by neoliberal policies and opportunistic multinationals, such as Pepsi and Tata
As an anti-corporate and generally anti-neoliberal mind I tend to agree with such claims. But finding the direct connection between Tata, Pepsi, and these people isn’t exactly clear. These companies have contributed to substantial economic growth, which creates funding for such contributions. Though I would prefer to see these companies regulated by governments and taxed to hell, how can we blame neoliberalism (my liberal arts education is yelling at me) when multinationals are funding projects as revolutionary and admirable as CECOEDECONs?
Grassroots, social activism is the answer to the problems of modernity. CECOEDECON, despite being funded by the parasites of globalization, is quite possibly the most genuine and productive organization of its type. If Pepsi and Tata support organizations like CECOEDECON, the corporations may just meet their end, or at least their match; people, not corporations and co-opted governments, will once again be the speakers of justice and sustainability. Maybe, just maybe, neoliberalism, globalization and modernity, will fold upon the will of people empowered by organizations such as CECOEDECON. The NGO fired in me not a Leninist inspiration, but Lennonist one. So, anti-corporates, you may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.