by Angelina Bouchard
The Auroville Village Action Group is an organization that works with local villages to develop programs that benefit the members of rural communities, focusing especially on the marginalized. As the first organization visited during the practicum, we were all eager to learn about the impact of AVAG’s work. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a brief tour of a workshop, where a group of women crocheted, sewed, and trimmed fabrics. Next door, a small boutique displayed the finished goods. There, I noticed some products that are also available for purchase at the Visitor’s Center. Nearly everyone in our group walked out of the shop with a new shirt, bag, pouch, or pair of pants. Some even adopted a new animal, albeit a crocheted one.
We met Anbu, who currently runs the NGO. Founded in 1983, the Auroville Village Action Group is one of the oldest organizations in the area, and their mission continues even after the founder, Bhavana, passed away in 2011. In societies that place men in superior positions to women, inequality is so ingrained that it becomes normalized and internalized. As explained by Anbu, AVAG’s efforts to combat social injustice result in initiatives such as the Economic Development Program, which aims to reduce poverty by increasing financial opportunities within these communities. They provide women with profitable skills training and then employ them at AVAL, their own fashion brand. Working women gain confidence in being financially supportive members of their households, families, and communities. Strategies extend beyond economic security and delve into emotional and physical wellbeing as well. They offer psychosocial services, which have decreased the suicide rate among women by holding counseling sessions and collaborating with self-help groups. Additionally, the organization’s emphasis on community development encourages people of all genders, castes, and religions to find solutions to common problems and build a better bioregion for all to succeed.
AVAG is a central pillar that bridges the gap between Auroville and surrounding villages. They not only advocate for progress but actively create change.