Astha is a Hindi word, and means “Faith”. We have Faith in the people, in their abilities, strengths and knowledge. Astha believes that these capabilities are being suppressed by the dominant forces, and the result is that people themselves don’t recognize their inherent capabilities. With this “deep faith” and “conviction” in the strength of the people and their capacities, Astha was formed in 1986 and was registered as a Society, under Society Registration Act.
The founder members have 10 to 15 years working experience in the field of adult education, rural development, organizing women’s group, drought management and agriculture development. The work area of Astha has been primarily Rajasthan, but the national issues and larger forces and policies affect the conditions in Rajasthan, and at the local level.
Astha always has made an attempt to ensure the Right to Justice, Peace, Development, no caste, class, gender based discrimination; we have worked for a society in which the poor have control on their natural as well as livelihood resources, people co-exist with nature, equality prevails in the society, and the citizens of India have strong moral values.
The Astha feels that the role of the NGO is to strengthen the citizens to become aware of their rights, their responsibilities and the government’s responsibilities, and together, to make the mass resources of the government available to the masses. Awareness about and use of laws is also a role of NGOs. Of course, there are other legitimate NGO roles, in relation to social development and social change – caste and community customs are often expensive and/or cruel, counselling and mediation in problem-solving situations is often needed, people’s leadership development, and special interventions at times of crises (drought, flood, disaster).
The Approach Of Astha
1. An Organizational Approach – we help those living under economic marginalization, feudal traditions, gender stereotypes and inequalities, environmental degradation, etc. to get organized into community and issue-oriented groups and networks, and to support those already formed. Unorganized, nothing will happen.
2. A Rights Based Approach – we work with the people to claim, and re-claim, their human rights i.e. right to life, to work, to a life with dignity, to food, to land and livelihood.
3. An Educational Approach – in which “praxis” (action-reflection-action), learning from experience, learning from analysis, learning from each other, training events, awareness raising camps/ exposure visits and tours, learning from “people’s knowledge”, all play major roles.
4. A Developmental Approach – in which we attempt to initiate processes, make linkages, set in motion problem solving actions…and yet an approach which questions the dominant paradigm of “Development”. We, with The People, are in search of a new definition of “Development” which would respect and take seriously sustainable lifestyles for sustainable development, indigenous people’s social and survival patterns, people’s knowledge, and so on.