The Weaker Sections Development Society – institute of innovative technology transfer & environment (in short WSDS- initiate) is a not for profit community based institution registered under the Manipur Societies Registration Act, 1989 (under Act I of 1990) working in the North Eastern Region of India. Over a decade and a half, WSDS – initiate evolved as a Civil Society Organisation formed as a response to complex interplay of issues facing the hills of North Eastern parts of India in particular Manipur and include diverse activities related to Natural Resource Management (NRM), Micro Enterprise Development, Community Health, Social Security and Micro-finance.
The organisation’s evolution can be divided into three distinctive phases. The first phase (‘89-’93) saw the coming together of youths and formation of ‘Monglham Youth Club’ principally for recreation and promotion of sports activities. Youth clubs are fairly common across Manipur and primary articulation of youth sports and communal activities. The second phase (1993-1999) was marked by intense ethnic strife between the Naga and Kuki communities.
As a Civil Society Organization in this troubled phase, WSDS-initiate consistently advocated maintenance of distinct cultural identity while denying the exclusivity of land rights of the either community. To maintain its largely non communal character, to this day the organization has been working with all communities irrespective of both the hill and plain communities.
As an organization, there were two principal learning’s from this phase: More often than not what is seen as ‘ethnic conflict’ is actually a dispute over social, political and economic issues and ethnicity is used as a means of social mobilization. Without addressing these issues, it is almost impossible to bring peace and stability to the region. While development may not be the one stop shop for all the ills facing the region, it constitute an important element in the task and an important entry point for dealing with the complex issues facing the state.
Second and potentially more important learning was the gender perspective of an armed conflict situation. In an armed conflict, woman are the major victims as well as the potential source of peace order. This became evident in the role that women’s groups such as ‘Meira Paibi’ in the plains and the “Women Society” from the hills have played historically and in the current situation in Manipur. This brought out strongly the agency role that women can play in such a development context and consequent to this, women have been the major constituency of the organization’s activities and primary instrument of its strategy.
As a result of the above, the Organization enlarged its scope of activities in the third phase (2000 till now) and registered itself in its current name (WSDS-initiate) under the Society’s Registration Act, 1860. In its current phase, the organization has taken up roles such as Natural Resource Management, Micro-Enterprise Development and Promotion, Community Health, Social Security and Micro-finance.