31st Oct 2018.
When I type the word “convergence” on my dictionary app, one of the meaning reads “the merging of distinct technologies, industries or devices into a unified whole”. This seems so apt for something like assembling a computer desktop, right? But more relevant usage is also seen in the development sector or projects, where bringing diverse actors together to achieve a common goal is increasingly put forth as a solution to many development problems.
The word is heavily used by different actors in different context. I’m no exception to this.
I would like to share my experience when I put this word into practice. I had organized a stakeholders meeting in Bagepalli in southern district of Chikkaballapur in Karnataka with help of our INREM team and Taluk Health Officer, Bagepalli. This is part of an ongoing European Union (EU) funded project on fluoride and arsenic issues across India.
After sharing observations from our team we opened the floor for discussion. Participants shared objectives and numbers, of their presence and outreach. The issue and history of fluorosis in these parts of Chikkaballapur was well known among them. Some of the highlights of this meeting are as follows.
One, when participants expressed gratitude to INREM for enabling coming together of these actors, some of them pointed us that it is time to have “such meetings”, where there is representation of government, NGOs and other civil society groups seated together to discuss how to mitigate fluorosis. Because in real world, all problems have multiple linkages or causes to it. Hence there is a need to share or draw knowledge from different disciplines like Water, Sanitation, Health, Education, Nutrition, Agriculture, Ecology etc. Based on this specific inputs from participants have been noted, converting plans into action for fluorosis mitigation is next phase of our work under this project.
Second, participants used words like “convergence”, “forum”, “co-ordination”, “platform” to describe this meeting and wanted to contribute through their own work. We also have a name, it is “people-centric platforms” to ensure civil society have a voice on complex water quality problems. Whatever is the name, people want to solve such problems. Participants requested us to hold such meeting once in 3 months. If such spaces are coordinated well enough, the goal of safe drinking water and good nutrition for all, can be achieved.
Finally, such meetings need to happen closer to the area of work. For instance participants felt Taluk or block level meeting are good way to initiate and build “people-centric platforms”.
As this meeting ends, there are handshakes as they see possibilities opening for working together on this issue before they savor bisibele bath and curd rice for lunch.
KIRAN KUMAR SEN