Ashwini Rughoodas – Mauritius

Ashwini Rughoodas – Mauritius

Date: July 1, 2015
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Ashwini Rughoodas holds a BA in social work and has been working as a welfare officer at the Black River District council for over seven years. But somehow she had a feeling she was not practicing what she studied until she met Gender Links. Ever since, her journey has been rich in experience.

As a welfare officer, Ashwini has the responsibility to bring the grievances of employees as well as the community at large to management. She also has to encourage co-operative societies and welfare committees, and provide amenities such as canteens, shelters for those in need, and adequate public toilet facilities among others. She has to be ready to advise on provision of welfare facilities such as housing, social and recreational facilities and sanitation as well as on individual personal problems and on the education of children. On a more important note, she also needs to address questions relating to training so as to further the education of workers as well as the community. All in all, the aim is to suggest measures which will raise the standard of living of workers and the community in general, and promote their well-being.

The change which Gender Links has incurred was to make Ashwini work in ‘hot areas’ like La Valette, Tranque Bar or Roche Bois; areas for the disadvantaged groups of the community. These villages have no structure; there is a high incidence of alcohol abuse, children do not go to school, teenage pregnancies are frequent, and there is a lack of hygiene. Gender Links has inspired her to put into practice her social work degree. That is, to develop community based projects within these ‘hot areas’. Before GL’s intervention, she was only organising events for the District Council. But after a few workshops with Gender Links, she was inspired to work with townships.

Right after the workshop, she started a mushroom production project. The 26 participants were both male and female from the deprived region of ‘La Valette’. She contacted the Agricultural Research and Extension Unit (ARE) to give training to the participants. The training was paid entirely by the council. During the training, each participant was given a ‘fruiting bag’ for their first attempt. The target was mostly for small production by people living in poverty. The result was that the participants grew their own mushrooms, and the surplus was sold to their neighbours. “Even though the impact was minor, I am satisfied with the results” said Ashwini.

Alongside the mushroom project, she also started a ‘Remedial class project’ with children of ‘La Valette’. The aim of the project was to support primary school children in subjects they were struggling with. But she found out that children aged 12 years old still needed basic education. She was helped by members of her staff to further educate the children after office hours. It is a project she has at heart as she has become close to the children.

“I have become more independent when it comes to projects; from conception to implementation. It makes me take full ownership of the project as I want positive outcomes. I am using the Council money to fund my projects, so this makes me work harder to get results” says Ashwini on a serious note.

With Gender Links workshops, Ashwini and her staff have been able to make a strong network with resource persons from different Ministries like Agriculture, or Gender, as well as organization like the National women entrepreneurs council or ARE. The staff were encouraged to mobilise people for social work among their community.

Ashwini participated in GL’s summit in 2012 with the mushroom project and the remedial classes. She didn’t win, but she is very determined to put into practice what she has learnt from GL to contribute, even in a small way, to the development of her community.

She is busy working on a very interesting project at the moment called ‘Sculpture from waste material.’ Young and old men and women are attending her classes. It is a way to develop people’s creativity. At the same time, it is an opportunity to educate the participants on climate change and how each individual can somehow contribute to lessen his or her impact on the environment.

As a welfare officer, she has responsibility and control of the Council’s notice board and information bulletins. In GL’s last verification meeting, it was concluded that the Black River District Council was not promoting sexual harassment policies in the workplace while discussing the working condition and environment section of the Gender scorecard for local government. Ashwini, together with the chief welfare officer, have decided to advertise the Sexual harassment policies on the billboards of the council so that all the members of the staff become acquainted with the laws. Also, she will see to it that these laws are posted in public places in the district.

The Council has allocated a budget for Gender Links and Ashwini looks forward to working in close collaboration with the organization in the years to come, to further educate and develop her locality.


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