“It’s our unshakeable belief that India will never achieve its true growth story until the rural sector is empowered to make choices and transform their own lives,” says Ronnie and Zarina Screwvala, whose philanthropic initiative of building 75 “Dream Villages” this year in rural Maharashtra is nearing completion. The initiative is a part of their NGO Swades Foundation that focuses on rural empowerment through holistic development.
“A village qualifies as a Swades Dream Village by achieving over 40 parameters bucketed into 5 S’s – Swachh (Clean), Sundar (Beautiful), Swasthya (Access to Health Care), Sakshar (Educated), and Saksham (Self-Reliant),” says Ronnie. “But most importantly it is the spirit within the community to come together and work towards transforming their village into a dream village,” he adds. The initiative also ensures that every rural household has access to an individual toilet, potable drinking water through taps at home, access to healthcare services, education and the community has opportunities for a diverse range of livelihoods.
The smooth flow of the Swades Dream Village initiative is achieved by building and nurturing community leadership through the Village Development Committees (VDCs). These VDCs are responsible for creating and implementing Village Development Plans. While expanding further upon the efficient working of their ambitious project, Ronnie says that Swades Foundation has established “a proper monitoring and reporting mechanism” to ensure that all parameters are “tracked and reported”. “A team from Swades audits the completion of these parameters before [villages] are announced as a Swades Dream Village,” he explains. The initiative also focuses on plastic waste management, convergence and leveraging government schemes.
“This 75 Swades Dream Village in the 75th year of India’s Independence is our first step towards this initiative and we look forward to scaling this up and building another 750 dream villages across Maharashtra and beyond in the next few years,” says Screwvala. The Swades Foundation also aims to uplift 1 million rural lives every five years by empowering communities to take charge of their own lives and break the cycle of poverty through proper education and healthcare.