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India Student Profiles

Meagan Le

Neema Jyothiprakash

Matea Fish

Taylor Heath

Bryce Chiodo

San Francisco native, Meagan Le, bid farewell to her city by the bay for an internship at Prayatna Samiti (PS), a NGO in Udaipur City that works on the social and environmental sustainability of rural communities in Rajasthan. To help PS put its mission into practice, Meagan delivered extensive field research on the sustainability of village land management systems and common pasturelands in six different villages. This required conducting extensive interviews with PS members, local farmers, and community members in each village in order to explain why the management of private and common pasture lands have either failed or succeeded in these communities. Meagan’s research proved critical to PS organizational planning, as the organization is currently using research findings to re-design its support for village initiatives aimed at revitalizing the livelihood of pasture lands as a source of fuel, livestock rearing, and other community needs.

To further enhance her knowledge on this topic, Meagan’s own research project expands on her work at PS. She offers an insightful analysis of how maintenance of common and private pasturelands empowers local communities and how different management systems either address or ignore pressing community needs. More specifically, Meagan examines how village relations with external organizations, population growth, land disputes, and climate change impact land management and family labor in rural India. [top]

American born, Neema Jyothiprakash lived with Kotda Adivasi Sansthan (KAS) for ten weeks in the beautiful forests of Udaipur, Rajasthan. KAS is a grassroots, rights-based, tribal development NGO and Neema’s work with KAS focused on gender. In response to observations at village level meetings, Neema created an interactive educational curriculum for the tribal youth on how democracy and consensus-based decision-making relate to gender and power relations. Additionally, she created a women's self-help group manual for the PS staff and community. The manual provides a valuable training tool for the development of 100 new PSs KAS is currently developing. The manual provides a full PS training curriculum, and this includes an outline of strategies for starting new PSs, a list of rules and regulations, guidelines for PS meetings, and descriptions of capacity building and income generating activities. Finally, Neema was able to facilitate three sessions on gender and power for staff leadership and capacity building trainings.

Neema’s research looks at how tribal communities interact with the forest at the spiritual, political, ecological, and ontological levels. She examines how these communities perceive the forest as a source and approach to knowledge about gender, the commons, subject-ness, love, and democracy. [top]

Oregonian and Art History major, Matea Fish, worked for ALFA Educational Society, a grassroots organization in the village of Karawada, on women empowerment through community building and microfinance initiatives. In response to community initiatives, Matea organized a series of tailoring workshops, tapped into community resources, and mobilized networks to develop a Karawada women’s tailoring business and connect to a cooperative in Udaipur City. Matea’s work centered specifically on Muslim women, and it fit within the broader scope of ALPHA’s mission and initiatives to provide a space for dialogue and empowerment of both Hindu and Muslim communities in the village.

Work at ALFA inspired Matea to research the importance of common space to community development, harmonious relations between Hindus and Muslims, and women empowerment. Her research specifically looks at ALPHA’s use of public space in the areas of education and the arts.  [top]

Taylor Heath enthusiastically worked on youth education initiatives at Jatan Sansthan, a local NGO that provides service to marginalized children in the outskirts of Udaipur City in Rajasthan. More specifically, Taylor built a library and mobilized resources to add a classroom computer, fully equipped with educational software, for teachers and students to use at the Apna Jatan Center. Taylor’s work and library enhanced Jatan Santhan’s mission of building a positive learning environment for disenfranchised children with initiatives aimed at complementing the work of public schools.

Puzzled by the harsh poverty of children at Apna Jatan Center, Taylor researched the life and history of children in this community who are predominantly classified as Bhat, or Bhatta caste. As her research and experience in India unfolded, Taylor’ research and intellectual curiosity shifted towards a personal journey and study of marginalized communities in different geographical settings with a particular emphasis on African American experiences abroad. [top]

As an International Studies major, Bryce Chiodo has always had a visceral interested in understanding the different narratives, experiences and identities of people from around the world. During his ten-week internship in Udaipur, Bryce worked with Aide et Action on the development of a comprehensive impact study the organization’s HIV/Aids education and prevention program, the Link Worker Scheme. The Link Worker Scheme program started in 2007 as part of a government initiative to connect rural India with the appropriate HIV/AIDs education, prevention and treatment. Implementation was handed down to various non-governmental organizations across states, and in Udaipur district alone Aide et Action works in ninety-two different villages, with over five thousand different people.

Aide et Action inspired Bryce to extend his own research on ways re-design strategies that inform and engage rural communities into national and global HIV/Aids education and prevention initiatives. As part of his research, Bryce visited twenty-five different villages and conducted formal and informal interviews with countless stakeholders in HIV/Aids education and prevention.  [top]