To do something different, her mantra
She admits that she likes to do things differently. For a woman Rotarian to rise from the ranks of Rotarians in a place like Uttar Pradesh is no joke. When I ask her this she smiles and says, “Of course UP is a very challenging place for a woman and I have experienced that right from my childhood, but Rotary has been very nice to me and over the years, in my club, I have always got the support of my seniors… well most of them,” says Stuti Agarwal, who is the first woman governor from District 3120.
She always walks away from the beaten track; “when no woman from our region wanted to choose engineering as a degree, I opted for that, and even in engineering, I chose a branch — mechanical engineering — which no woman was choosing at that time,” she smiles.
She joined Rotary in 1996, because from her earlier days in Canada, where her family lived then, she was associated with a service organisation that worked for the rights of migrant women. “I liked working for other people’s welfare and when I returned, I found my family deeply engaged with Rotary. My father, cousins and uncle-in-law were all Rotarians and they said that since you’ve always wanted to work for disadvantaged people why don’t you join Rotary. So I joined RC Allahabad.”
Even though the seniors in her club supported her, the journey to becoming a DG was rather difficult, she admits. “Before me women have contested for the DG’s post, but never succeeded. Even though she did not have a contest on her hands and was named by the nomination committee, “there were complaints but my election was not challenged.”
Stuti’s major priorities during her year as governor are to focus on maternal and child health… “my husband is a paediatrician and I very strongly feel for this cause”… and to bring more women into Rotary.
She hastens to add: “My endeavour and challenge will be not only to just induct women into Rotary for the sake of bringing in women members, but ensure that they do the work and are fully involved and participate in our service projects. I want to ensure that.”
So what does she feel about the extravaganza that many Rotary clubs in India indulge in, and which is frowned upon?
With a broad smile Stuti quips: “That is exactly why I want to bring in more women! Women are very cost conscious and will crack down on unwanted expenditure.”
Reintroducing Rotary to Rotarians
He is anguished that many Rotarians are forgetting the core values of Rotary, and those who are new to Rotary are “not well-trained in what is the real essence of Rotary. So educating the new Rotarians and a re-orientation for the older ones who have forgotten Rotary’s core values, will be my priority during my year as governor,” says Rajiv Sharma.
So during his year training and education of Rotarians will take centre stage. “This is very important because I believe that except god, you can only love a person you know really well. So a Rotarian has to know Rotary well before he/she can love it totally.” His next priority will be to focus on women members. “Luckily, the percentage of women members in our district is rather good at 12 per cent or so, but I will try to improve it,” says Sharma, who joined Rotary in 1994, because his father was a Rotarian “who introduced me to this wonderful organisation.”
He adds that District 3030 normally concentrates on maternal health. “Our district has three mammography buses which have been acquired through global grants and functional literacy is another area we are concentrating on. I particularly want to educate people on how to open and operate bank accounts etc because this is something we really need in Maharashtra,” he says.
But his full attention will be on maternal health, and distribution of sanitary napkins in order to ensure female hygiene will be taken up in a big way during his year. This district, with 93 clubs and around 5,500 members has done rather well in Foundation giving; “we have already touched the $1 million mark a few years back and I am confident of replicating that target. But we will be concentrating more on permanent fund though annual fund will also get our attention,” adds Sharma.
He wants to enhance women’s membership
A Rotaractor-turned-Rotarian, Vishnu Mondhe holds his Rotaract days close to his heart. “I came to Solapur in 1988, employed as an engineer with LML and I had no friends, until one day I was invited to a Rotaract meeting.” This meeting impressed him so much that he agreed to become a Rotaractor. He is quick to add that his days as a Rotarian since 1994 have been equally interesting and valuable as “looking back, I feel happy to have been of some help to many people along the way through Rotary.”
Mondhe wants to improve women’s membership in the district by making the meeting time and venue more comfortable for them. “I have suggested to the clubs to have early meetings and venues within reach so that women find it easy to attend meetings.” He is also encouraging his team to rope in working women as they will find Rotary an interesting platform to bond. Another challenge is regaining the No 1 slot the district held in membership growth two years ago. “Retention is a huge challenge and I am devising programmes to address it in earnest,” says the DG.
He aims to raise $300,000 for TRF and towards this goal will encourage Rotarian couples to contribute ₹1.25 lakh to earn the title Jodi kamaal ki and will urge club presidents to inspire all members to contribute to the Foundation.
Organising mega medical camps in Akalkot and Usmanabad tops his list of service projects. “We are known for our participation in international medical missions and mega health camps in Udgir and Udhampur. Now we want to extend that support to our people too,” says Mondhe. A mega dental camp to reach out to 100,000 schoolchildren, rallies to promote Rotary’s polio eradication drive and ‘Save the girl child’ are some of the programmes on his agenda.
He wants to make Rotary “affordable”
This DG has taken to heart the recent strong message from Rotary International that extravaganza is best avoided in Rotary. “I want to make Rotary interesting for common Rotarians and get their full participation. The recent message from RI not to have events outside the district, or not to make our events too expensive, has been my thinking and philosophy right from the day I got elected.” He feels that if an event is too expensive, being held in an exotic locale, it deprives many Rotarians the opportunity to participate. “So my first priority will be to make Rotary affordable to Rotarians,” says Nikhilesh Trivedi.
He joined Rotary in 1998; he had gone to Australia as a GSE team member in 1987 and “felt I owed a debt of gratitude to Rotary and was also very impressed by what Rotary was doing in Australia.” On his return he looked for opportunities to join Rotary “but unfortunately I landed up in places where there was either no Rotary or it was very regional. I was in Karnataka at that time, and so didn’t join the organisation.”
But the opportunity he was looking for came when a club was chartered in his home town Balaghat, near Jabalpur, in Madhya Pradesh. He not only joined it but also became the charter secretary.
Trivedi’s focus during his year as governor, apart from ending extravaganza, will be increasing women members. “My district lags behind in this area and the percentage of women in our region is much lower than that in India, which itself is much less than the world average of 20 per cent.” His promise to himself is to strive hard to get to the 20 per cent mark, or at least close to it when it comes to women members.
“Thirdly, I want to do sustainable service projects; recently Rotary News featured the cath lab we have done.”
Membership development is his focus
I joined Rotary in 2002 to make friends and further my vocation, but gradually felt overwhelmed by the vast transformation Rotarians make in communities worldwide, particularly polio eradication,” says Nirmal Prakash. He leads a team of 3,000 Rotarians in 68 clubs in the district and is all set to increase this number by 20 per cent and ensure 90 per cent retention. His assignment as membership chair two years ago, which fetched him an RI award, gives him the confidence to meet his target now. He plans to identify 10 active members in every club to assist the club president in inducting “quality” members. The chosen Rotarians will be asked to mentor the new members for better retention.
He plans to double his district’s contribution to TRF with a target of $300,000. “I will urge each member to contribute $100, and thus my target can be met easily. Beyond that I am confident of getting PHFs and Major Donors too,” says Prakash.
His agenda includes getting all clubs to register in Club Central and apply for the Presidential Citation, and also get Rotarians to register in My Rotary. Most important, he hopes to “educate Rotarians about Rotary, so they can get inspired to plan service projects needed for the community rather than blindly perform an eye camp or a blood donation camp.” He will urge each club to implement the WinS programme in two schools and has drawn up plans to construct check dams and toilet blocks, and gift cattle to enhance villagers’ livelihood.