Ahmedabad: Women are permitted to take time off or even allowed to temporarily change jobs for raising an infant; parents are permitted to take leave to support wards appearing for board exams or employees are granted special leave to attend camps for a holistic living. The organization is more relevant today than it was 37 years ago, when it was founded, says Pankaj Shah, managing trustee of SEWA Rural. Edited excerpts from an interview:

What according to you sets SEWA-Rural apart from so many other NGOs that are working in this space?

NGOs do a good job in trying to serve people of the society in various sectors. We share the fundamentals of ‘doing good’ with others. However there are two three aspects that would set SEWA Rural a class apart from others.

To begin with, the organization is established on the ideals of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. For us, two cadres of men are important—the one whom we are serving i.e. “beneficiaries" and the one who is serving them or “the employees".

At the base of all the work is our threefold mission that includes working for poor, value-based work and self-development of employees. SEWA Rural has been extremely successful in its ability to percolate this mission down to the level of safai karyakars

That SEWA Rural has been able to remain true to each of its mission in these changing times is an achievement in itself.

The organization was founded almost 37 years ago. How has it evolved in terms of managing its workforce in keeping with the changing needs of the society? What about attrition?

Grace of God, blessings of our beneficiaries and best wishes of friends have sustained our work over these 37 years. Like-minded individuals joined early on and are now sharing the burden of the administrative work.

Second and now third cadre of central leadership is being groomed. The organization has always remained grounded in the needs of society which get translated in terms of its mission. We find that the mission of SEWA Rural is even more relevant today than it was 37 years ago. We have introduced series of interventions to keep up and maintain organisational culture, which had evolved spontaneously in first decade.

Attrition rate is pretty low. I don’t have exact numbers at hand.

In an organization that works for the people, how important are people within the organization? What are the key things in designing employee-friendly policies?

Designing interventions for our employees is at the very core of what we do. It is one of the three pillars of how we work. We keep developing new interventions as and when we spot the need in our employees, for example, paying for tuition fees of children over and above school fees, starting school bus facility, etc.

We develop new interventions not as a means to an end but it is a way how we exist, how we care.

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