Jeevika Development Society was set up in 1994 to promote livelihoods for youth and women in the area just south of Kolkata city on both sides of Diamond Harbour road. It began with three major activities – microcredit among village women, promotion of the traditional craft, Kantha and various forms of animal husbandry.
Over the next five years, while interacting with village women, it became clear that there needed to be certain intervention to work on organizing the microcredit group members into groups that would promote and fight for women’s rights. Jeevika’s strategy was and continues to be to involve the members into programmes which are unquestionably useful to the community (such as the provision of credit and vocational training and income generation opportunities), combined with women’s rights-related interventions through general awareness programmes combined with the promotion of and support to issue-specific trained women’s groups. The microcredit groups formed a platform for this activity, which over the years metamorphosed into the member-governed democratic rights-based microcredit institution, Swayam Sampurna.
In response to the increasing reports of domestic and other forms of violence against women, a training programme of village volunteers was organized. The first group of trainees decided to form a group in 2002 which they named Alor Disha, which today operates over a much larger area compared to the other Jeevika programmes.
Similarly, in an attempt to take up preventive activities on the issue of violence against women and girls, a community group, Alor Barta, was set up in 2012 and currently works in the community, mainly through the microcredit groups, on a campaign to combat early and child marriage, through both awareness generation and direct activism. Since the phenomenon of young people eloping was perceived by the community as a major cause of under-age marriage, a campaign has been launched in schools among adolescents to discuss issues such as sexuality, friendship between genders and love.
The animal husbandry operations were abandoned due the lack of access to infrastructure needed for training and stocking activities. The traditional crafts work increased its training-cum-production range to cover tailoring and soft toy manufacturing. Over a period of time, the vocational training also covered several other areas such as computer literacy, English teaching as well soft skills development, depending on the emerging opportunities at various times.