Mrs Vandana Sonawane is the Founder and President of Manikratna Multipurpose Social Society, an NGO that works to serve women’s interests. The organisation helps women improve their economic situation through the formation of self-help groups, and also provides them with vocational training. It also addressed difficulties that women faced in their family lives through counselling, and helped women empower themselves.
In a bid to strategise the aims of her NGO, Mrs Sonawane took part in a course on strategic management, designed and implemented by Knowledge Whiteboard and managed by Kshitij, Pune, an organisation supported by Tata Trusts. As a result, the focus of her organisation also underwent significant changes. Now, Manikratna’s directional focus has changed towards addressing the issue of domestic violence, which is all pervasive in the area. It will work to empower women in dealing with this issue, and enable them to gain a voice in making decisions within their family structure. Mrs Sonawane is also determined to work with the village communities on the effects of a patriarchal culture on women’s lives. Taking part in the course has crystallised Mrs Sonawane’s determination to give her NGO a clear mission and purpose, as well as specific goals, such as social change relating to women.
Mrs Sonawane has also been able to make some structural changes to her organisation. The NGO has been established in a formal office, though it is a small annexe next to her residence, it has an independent infrastructure. A banner and board has also been prepared to give the NGO a distinct identity in the community, and volunteers have been gathered under its umbrella.
A very different, and important, transformation has also taken place — the communities that Mrs Sonawane works for now recognise her NGO as a distinct entity, and that has changed their perception of her, as an independent ‘social worker’ as well. Taking part in this course has also changed the very nature of the NGO — earlier, Manikratna had a few volunteers, who were led by Mrs Sonawane. Now, it boasts of nearly 40 volunteers across several villages in the region, who work diligently on women’s empowerment in domestic violence issues, as well as on the improvement of their economic status through skill-based training that generates income for the family.
The course training also helped Mrs. Sonawane make some procedural changes as well. Formal fund-raising efforts have been planned for the future, while clients who can afford to pay will be requested to pay a small fee to pay for the organisation’s services. However, those who cannot afford the fees will still be helped without any monetary compensation. Some income will also be generated by advising and guiding the self-help groups already set up in the area, especially with regard to record-keeping and/or training its members. A three-year audit of the organisation has also been completed.
As a result of all these changes, Manikratna’s work is being recognised by the local community, and women from the villages have begun to approach the organisation to discuss their problems. In order to counsel the women, links have been established with a local lawyer. Manikratna maintains a case file of each woman who goes for counselling. It also maintains records on women, who are referred to other organisations for additional services. At present, 170 local self-help groups have registered with the organisation.