SoochnaPreneur program is one of the unique programs launched by DEF which always brings surprising elements into the sphere of social work. Most often, the SoochnaPreneurs share their stories of their learnings quite vividly and here is one such anecdote from Tarana Nazmi of Jharkhand.
Empowerment, stripped from the outfits of skills, confidence and courage, is a constant journey of learning with an open mind and heart in its true sense. Such empowered voyagers sail through the high tides meeting a better self on the other side. “Wait until the day I get the authority to question the business of running a government school where children are least tended to and the absence of teachers is acutely felt”, was the thought Tarana Nazmi had whenever she visited the schools to talk about nutrition as part of the Digi Poshan program launched by DEF. From being a SoochnaPreneur in Ranikhatanga village of Jharkhand to being persuaded to stand at the local body elections by the numerous people she has tirelessly worked to help get the needed benefits, Tarana’s sensitivity to understand the needs of the people and immediately acting upon it is something hard to miss.
A graduate in psychology with BCA and MA in computers, Tarana set up a centre in her village with her husband’s support under the SoochnaPreneur program. Through this, she has been serving many since 2017 who had to travel more than five kilometres to avail any digital services. Being a young and driven person, one of the very few to have completed post graduation especially coming from a Muslim community of a remote and conservative village, she chose to get involved in service oriented work instead of just taking care of the household chores. She owes a lot of such courageous endeavours to her husband’s support and has made the best out of it by actively taking part in many of the DEF’s work like Digi Poshan, imparting digital literacy and Soochna Preneur program. Working hard for so many years and travelling a kilometre or two in the middle of her busy work schedule just to get the filled forms signed by the Sarpanch (Village Headperson) made her question, “Instead of waiting around just to get these signatures to which the local body keeps creating obstacles, why can’t I do the whole process of filling, authorising and implementing myself by contesting to become the Sarpanch so that people get the benefits on time?”. With this thought in mind and with the support of the people around, she decided to contest in April 2022.
Sharing her story, she said, “With the 5 years of experience I had on the field, understanding the needs of the people, I had a 5 year plan worked out to help people from all sections of the society. I would ensure that the schools run in a good way as the younger generation shape the future, the dealers who sell ration in black are kept at a distance, distribution of resources and funds is done locally in each ward so that employment and development goes hand in hand and every age group, old or young can have easy access to schemes and services”, shares Tarana.
Working against the system, with the system or bringing change within the system through the system are some wise realisations that come with experience, mostly bitter ones. “I always hated two things in life: cricket and politics and made sure that I stayed far away from both. But because of the demand from people to represent our community in the elections, I agreed. The campaign started in December and although I initially thought that I had a lot of support, it was very hard for me. People offered me money many times to put an end to my campaign as they were aware of my popularity among the local people because of my work. I was not interested in all of that and strictly told the people that I was not going to offer any money in return for their votes. I contested as an OBC candidate and as the rules changed, there were more candidates. The one who won was from the Scheduled Tribe category; she wasn’t even aware about all the procedure until the previous Sarpanch, whose wife was formally elected with zero involvement in the work, ensured she contested against me in the reserved category. Some people paid money and lost and although I lost by 75 votes, I consider it as a win in a way as I won so many votes purely based on my work.
I have written and prepared for many exams, but this was the toughest one so far. I was the youngest candidate. While I campaigned during my work, I sensed a good deal of support. But I soon figured out the difference between genuine people who truly respect my work and those who put on a facade irrespective of getting so much of my help and support.
It was a difficult stepping stone of failure, but I am fine with it and continue with my work. I have learnt the lesson to get a good measure of the people instead of blindly trusting and this will help me in aiming higher. My way of working has changed post elections. I have slowed it down compared to my overtime efforts in serving so that people also realise the actual pace of work in the office and how much effort it takes to get purpose oriented and outcome based work done. My husband initially urged me to quit when he realised that my hard work wasn’t recognised. But we slowly acknowledged the belief of so many other voters and resumed the work with a pinch of hope as well as anger.”
Brushing this aside and reflecting on her own state of mind, she ended her story saying, “Now that I know what it takes to win elections, I am going to aim higher and contest for Zilla Panchayat elections. Himmat ka doosra naam hai Tarana (Courage is equivalent to Tarana)!”