Chhavi Rajawat quit her corporate career to change the face of her native village of Soda in Rajasthan, India
Chhavi Rajawat, the ‘sarpanch (village chief)’ of Soda village in the Indian state of Rajasthan, is a living source of inspiration. This business graduate quit her cushy corporate job and has dedicated to improve the living conditions of people in her ancestral village. Since 2010, she has been tirelessly striving towards sourcing the required funding from government and non-government bodies in order to bring about the desired changes.
Chhavi’s primary concerns have always been electricity, roads, water conservation, education, reforestation, health and sanitation and creating alternate job opportunities. In these four years, she has been able de-silt a generous part of the village’s main reservoir to collect rainwater which resulted in year-around availability of drinking water in its surrounding areas. By introducing the villagers to solar power, she increased the village’s electricity supply from four hours to sixteen hours a day. Chhavi also managed to enhance intravillage connectivity by laying proper roads. Her persuasion got Soda its first bank, a State Bank of India outlet. While this gave the villagers easier saving and borrowing options, it also helped them escape the clutch of moneylenders.
Her determination comes from her will to continue her grandfather’s legacy. In her opinion, since the time her grandfather, Brigadier (retired) Raghubir Singh, retired two decades back as the sarpanch of the village, the people of her village have not seen much of any development. “I am just a village girl who has had an opportunity to study in some of the best institutions in the country. I have gone back home to work with and for the people. It’s as simple as that,” says Chhavi.
She was honoured by former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in 2011, named as the ‘Young Global Leader’ for 2012 by the World Economic Forum and also received the Karamveer Puraskar in the same year.
Chhavi has been seen tackling gender- based discrimination, an ugly truth which is still heavily prevalent in rural India, with unwavering persistence. And all of these have been done to empower the villagers so that they can continue with the flow even after her term as sarpanch ends in 2015.
Her recent endeavour has been the building of around 900 toilets throughout the village and setting up of selfhelp groups to provide new income sources through grinding spices and pulses, and tailoring. She even opened a computer lab in affiliation with German company SAP to provide training to the youth in computer skills.
On offer are career guidance and training programmes along with a certificate programme in soft skills for the unemployed graduates.
To address the issues of deforestation, Chhavi is often seen organising tree plantation drives. Her volunteer group, ‘Our Team’, keeps tab on staff attendance at the ‘anganbari’ (crèche), the village school and the hospital.