Florida students pick up a lesson or two on grass root level, solid waste management

The involvement of private and voluntary agencies engaged in solid waste management, role of elected representatives in providing services to residents, and community participation in women’s empowerment, were some lessons a group of students from an American university learnt in a rural local body near Tambaram on Monday.

Fifteen students from the University of Florida are in India, as part of a five-week programme on learning about the role of non-governmental organisations, youth and community groups at the grassroots level.

After a briefing and an orientation programme at the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development in Sriperumbudur, the students, accompanied by Muthuswami Kumaran, director of the programme and his wife Leela Kumaran, co-director, visited Mudichur Village Panchayat later in the evening.

 The students interacted with ward members of the village panchayat, most of whom were women. The students were impressed with the number of women taking part in local self-governance as well as the roles they played in the community.

The students were amazed at the close personal ties between the local government and people, with one of them, Camille Tinnin, saying that people in India had a greater and easier access to their respective local government and its representatives than in the United States.

The role of non governmental agencies in removing garbage, converting it to manure and in keeping the local body clean was an altogether new experience for them, she said, adding that the visit to India, a first for all of them had been a life-changing experience.

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