This article has been sponsored by TVS Motor Company.
A few years ago, a group of men living in a remote village in south India had discovered an alarming threat – the handbag.
The handbag was not like any ordinary bag they had seen. It was not as much about how it looked but what it did and carried that bothered the men in this village.
Available in different shapes, sizes and colours, they noticed that the handbag had the same effect on the wearer – a seemingly dangerous transformation for every village woman who donned these handbags. She became confident, fearless and free.
This is an observation that author Snigdha Parupudi points out in her new book, The Silent Revolution – The Journey of the Srinivasan Services Trust. The book encapsulates the two-decade-long journey of rural development initiated by a trust called Srinivasan Services Trust (SST).
A symbol of upward mobility for a marginalised section of society – the women, carrying a handbag represented the act of breaking patriarchal shackles.
“Inside the bag there is money, there is freedom, there are plans for the future. A woman with a handbag has things to do and places to be,” writes Parupudi.
“With SST’s support, women who were working in self-help groups (SHGs) were able to earn a good living, provide education for their kids and ensure financial stability for their families. They carried their money and their agency in these handbags, which soon began to intimidate many men in the village, says the author in conversation with The Better India (TBI).
However, the wave of positive change soon swept over them when the realisation dawned that financial empowerment of women is indeed beneficial for their families and the whole of the community, in the long run.
Such are the instances of positive impact that Parupudi captures in her book that introduces readers to SST’s inspiring journey of being an enabler of this transformational change in underserved rural communities. Through interesting anecdotes and unique first-person narratives, the book unfurls the inspiring stories, which are both deeply personal and empathetically collective.
Chronicling SST’s 25 years of Brilliance
The Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), the social arm of Sundaram-Clayton Limited and TVS Motor Company, was founded in 1996, in honour of the company’s founder T S Srinivasan, with an aim to realise his dream of initiating an equitable, participatory and sustainable development in society. For this, SST focuses on empowering communities from within through a sustainable model of converting individual beneficiaries into community leaders.
The Trust partners with government agencies, at the state and district levels, as well as like-minded corporates to drive large-scale transformation.
One of the primary goals for SST at the initial stage was to remedy the severe income inequality, especially in the rural communities. For any change to take place, they had to inspire faith in the people, which was only possible by improving their ability to earn a living.
Hence, SST began by identifying better livelihood opportunities. They established self-help groups, initiated skilling programmes, helped them benefit government schemes and assisted those with a job to optimise their work through sustainable practices, be it in agriculture or livestock.
It was only after the community members realised their own potential to earn a good living to sustain comfortably that they considered improving other aspects, which includes education and better hygiene.
From empowering women, educating farmers, to setting up primary health centres, balwadis and anganwadis as well as supporting rural schools, SST has managed to intervene at every level to implement its holistic developmental approach.
The book narrates such exemplary interventions initiated by the Trust across six key pillars–economic development, environment, social and cultural development, infrastructure, healthcare and education. This helped improve the lives of rural communities.
Released on September 22, 2021, commemorating 25 years of SST’s journey, the book which is published by HarperCollins India, hopes to be an inspiring read for Social Science students looking to focus on rural development, government agencies or even corporates deliberating on the best model for CSR implementation.
“This book is testimony to the upbeat growth stories across 25 years, that started with few villages in 1996, has touched around 5,000 villages across five states in India, in some way or the other, positively impacting the lives of approximately 3 million people, to date,” writes company’s chairman Venu Srinivasan in the book’s foreword.
Speaking about her journey writing her first book, the author Parupadi adds, “In many ways, this book was very personal to me. Growing up, I had spent 5 years studying in a rural government school in Chidambaram, where I witnessed many of my female classmates dropping out even before they completed Class 10. While traveling and researching for the book, I could relate to similar instances. But the larger goal, at all times, was to be a medium to reflect the silent revolution that was started by SST and lived by the thousands of beneficiaries.”