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Standing next to Charminar

Standing next to Charminar

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Feature story on COVA, a coalition of voluntary organisations that work on communal harmony in Hyderabad.
Feature story on COVA, a coalition of voluntary organisations that work on communal harmony in Hyderabad.

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Published by: Rajesh Cheemalakonda on Jan 18, 2013
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11/04/2013

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Standing next to CharminarRajesh Cheemalakonda
 
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Standing next to Charminar
Few weeks ago in Hyderabad, on the day of an important festival, there was a sudden outburstof rumors about communal violence in old city. Security was pepped up; police patrolled eachand every street in sensitive areas of twin cities and peace messages went rounds on mobilephones. For the surprise of Hyderabadis, no such instances were covered by24*7 newschannels or the newspapers the next day. A couple of weeks later one of the top cops of APpolice confirmed the stray incidents and detailed how they effectively handled the situation.Behind all their efforts in maintaining peace, there is a well-organized network of NGOs workingtimelessly in the old city that is COVA (Confederation of voluntary associations). Abovementioned is just an example, COVA played a major role in handling many such issues be it isthe bell controversy at Bhagya Lakshmi temple, curfew situations in 2010 or any such incidentfor that matter. Immersed in bustling energies of old city COVA works diligently to bringtogether the various voices of the community. The focus of their efforts lies in the advocacy of those in the community who would otherwise have hard times in having their voices heard suchas women and children.
Today COVA’s mission take
s shape in the various programs the organization offers. In
Hyderabad these programs focus on children advocacy, and empowerment. COVA’s youth
program lies in education and works to bring together the youth from various communitieswith the hope that they can share and together build an outlook grounded in peace and social
responsibility COVA also works extensively on women’s issues offering adult literacy centers,
proving family counseling and encouraging self-help groups.
The beginning:
COVA started as a movement in old city to counter communalism after 1991 riots
recalls MR.Md. Turab the executive secretory of COVA. He further says, at that time tensions prevailedbetween two communities due to vested interest of some political organizations who tried totake political advantage of the situations. Deccan development society took an initiative at thatpoint with the support of a few other likeminded NGOs and formed COVA Network to ease the
 
Standing next to CharminarRajesh Cheemalakonda
 
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tensions. We believe that communal harmony cannot be achieved just through peace initiativesbut development at various levels like health, female education, women empowerment etc. areequally important. and thus COVA decided to address these issues through its programs.
Programs and initiatives:
Playing a major role in advocating human rights and maintaining communal harmony across theAsian countries, COVA has been serving the community and working for its development in allpossible ways. The major strength and the secret behind the success story of this organization isthe fact that the contributors to the programs are the beneficiaries themselves.Being self-sufficient does not mean that one is denied of all the rightful things that thegovernment should be providing its citizens to help them lead a comfortable life like cleandrinking water, sanitation, health education, and housing for all its citizens etc. to ensure thatpeople are well aware of these governmental policies and to keep a check on their effectivenessin implementation COVA conducted a nationwide
campaign called the “National Campaign for Right to Basic Services (RTBS)”
 COVA added another feather to its cap when it went beyond its community service and extended
itself to contributing to world peace when it took up the “Indo
-Pak Joint Signature Cam
 paign” in
February 2009, marking the end of the war, and promoting anti-terrorism and friendly relationsbetween these nations.
Their other initiatives like the PAP or the “Peace Alliance Partners” have been working
effectively in countering overt and covert communal biases within individuals and organization.
The COVA is also an active member of the Pakistan India People‟s Forum for Peace and
Democracy i.e. the PIPFPD, CNDP, VANI, and the Credibility Alliance, and is represented onthe joint Machinery, Planning Commission, Government of India, and GO-NGO CoordinationCommittee set up by the Government of Andhra Pradesh along with many other such nationaland international bodies.Apart from helping in the spread of communal harmony the volunteers also work on educatingpeople about the various disaster management techniques making the people in the communityself-sufficient to face any man made or natural calamity. Ever since its conception in 1994
 
Standing next to CharminarRajesh Cheemalakonda
 
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COVA has been successful in maintaining peace across the society and serving the people. Thevolunteers claim that more often than not the people whom they work with end up enrolling asvolunteers and carry on the chain of service to humanity.
Volunteers:
The success secret of COVA lies within its bottom up approach. A strong network of volunteersfrom all sections of societies lead by well experienced and dedicated core team looks after itsprograms. They conduct periodical review meeting for all their programs to ensure effectivefunctioning. The only criterion for a person to obtain membership in COVA is the willingness towork with the various sections of the society and serve the community. The peace volunteers, asthey are called work directly with people through the various programs targeted towards women,children, and youth welfare. Each of these program works under different names and they havedesigned unique strategies for every initiative keeping in mind their focus group. For instancethey have adopted the use of street theater to provide educational inputs that would be beneficialto the children. It can be said the these regions are where democracy flourishes in its true sense,with the voters or the citizens deciding on the political agendas for their constituencies ratherthan being carried away by the words of the politicians. COVA was successful in achieving this
dream by making the “Citizens Assertion Campaign” a reality where the people are educated
about their constitutional rights.COVA has its volunteers spread across the society who work in association with other voluntaryorganizations and NGOs and work collectively towards the achievement of their common goals.In order to be effective in their attempt the volunteers at COVA have also involved themselvesinto research for methods that would help them in influencing the diverse sections of the civilsocieties. Their major establishments in the country are in the communal sensitive areas like theold city in Hyderabad and in Jammu and Kashmir they focus mainly on the citizenship rights andempowerment of women in these regions.Umesh Yadav, an active volunteer who works as a dentist in the evenings says, it is an honor towork with COVA. Now people here live peaceful lives, we celebrate festivals together, we donot fall prey for politician
s‟
games.
It‟s
proud to see women taking active part in peaceinitiatives. The recent bell controversy at Bhagya Lakshmi temple near Macca masjid and how a

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