Human Rights Day appeal 2018

Please help us raise $21,600 by 31 December to defend the rights of Dalit women and children to education, health and decent work. 

“Education of a man uplifts a family, whereas education of a women uplifts the entire society.”

These are the words of Guna Vincent, Director of our partner organisation Mahalir Sakthi which works in the slums of Madurai. And we couldn’t agree more.

For children and women from Dalit communities in India, the odds are stacked against them. Our Chair Lyla Rogan recently visited Tamil Nadu and heard first-hand about the horrendous human rights abuses that Dalit communities face daily in Tamil Nadu, and in particular the threats to women and children – violence in the home and in the community, being relegated by birth to bonded labour, street sweeping and other menial jobs, appalling wages and conditions, high drop-out rates from school and shocking poverty.

Yet on this visit Lyla also saw the power and impact of our community partners – Mahalir Sakthi, the Program for Education and Awareness Building (PEAB) and Social Awareness for Society and Youth (SASY). You can read Lyla’s letter from the field here.

Our partners are strong grassroots organisations – community-led, accountable to their communities, 100% focused on standing up for the human rights of Dalit people and with a track-record of life-changing programs.

10 December is Human Rights Day. This month, we ask you to please help us raise $21,600 to back the important work our partners are doing to ensure Dalit communities, particularly women and children, have access to education, health and human rights protection in 2019.

Your support is vital for these communities in 2019. It will mean:

  • Education: Over 350 children will be able to access a network of after-school tuition centres in the slums of Madurai and rural Tamil Nadu. These centres are a lifeline for children who live in cramped homes that lack privacy and adequate lighting and who experience family violence and adult alcoholism.
  • Employment: 70 women will have access to training in tailoring to build their skills so they can escape dangerous and degrading work that is typically relegated to Dalit women, like scavenging, garbage removal, toilet cleaning and domestic work. This year, Mahalir Sakthi opened a second tailoring unitat Gomas Palayam slum in Madurai and we want to back this centre to succeed.
  • Health Over 300 women will be able to be seen and treated by doctors, nurses, pharmacists and family planning specialists at quarterly full-day GP health clinics in the Madurai slums, getting access to advice on sexual and reproductive health and a general health check, including breast cancer examinations and vaccinations for children.
  • Better pay and conditions: Over 60 women who work as domestic workers will have access to advocacy and representation for decent pay and conditions and links to certified employers through the Domestic Workers Union.
There are around 300 million Dalit people in India. Despite constitutional safeguards, discrimination and atrocities – including rape and murder of women and girls – are endemic. Tamil Nadu has the second highest rate of atrocities against Dalit people in the country. The stigma of “untouchability” continues and children born today still face a life with poor education, health and life prospects. Our local partners are putting all they have into beating those statistics.
Your tax-deductible donation today will go a long way to support our partners’ proven track record in improving education and health outcomes and defending the human rights of Dalit women and children.
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After school tuition – Meet Suruthi*

The evidence tells us the after-school tuition centres run by our partners reduce school drop-out rates and dramatically improve exam performance, which in turn opens up further education and improved work prospects.

This is the story of Suruthi who attends one of the year 10 coaching clinics ran by PEAB. “Suruthi was part of our year 10 coaching centre. The evening tuition has helped her in a big way. She got 434 out of 500 in her class 10 exams. She is doing her nursing course at present. Her tutors helped develop her interest in social sciences and now she will be working in the area. She is one brave girl who has the ability to face the challenges.”

With Suriuhi’s strong sense of self and backed by the support of our partners at PEAB, she was able to not only stay in school but graduate with a profession and return to give back to her community.

Students and parents at one of SASY's Children's Resource Centres in Cuddalore district

Life cycle of support – Meet Priya*

Guna at Mahalir Sakthi shared a story of Priya from the Vaikkalkarai slums whose two children attended tuition centres ran by our partners. “Priya had two children, a girl and a boy. She was a domestic worker and her husband was a tailor. She started working for the education of her children. Mahalir Sakthi understood the family situation and helped place her children in … schools.  We also supported the family financially and made arrangements to get scholarships for her children. Her daughter has completed a Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy, and her son has gained a Bachelor Degree.”

Right now, students are preparing for their mid-year exams and having a safe and supportive environment to study is crucial to keeping these children and young people in school.

Mahalir Sakthi - A tailoring class in full swing

Dignified work for women – Meet Malathi*

The majority of women from Dalit communities remain stuck in degrading and dangerous jobs. Mahalir Sakthi works with those women to build their skills and, in the case of domestic workers, to advocate for their rights at work. In the last six months to September, of the 36 women from took part in a tailoring course, 13 have already found work in tailoring shops and another 23 have started their own home businesses.

Malathi’s story, shared by Mahalir Sakthi, shows the impact that this training can have. Malathi was left as a widow with two young children and no job prospects after her husband died in a truck accident. “Due to the stress of her in-laws she was unable to take any decision. I motive her and encouraged her through Mahalir Sakthi. She learned tailoring in our centre and now she got married again. Now she is a good tailor, self earning and living happily.”

Where will my donation go?

For the women and children who we work with in Tamil Nadu, your donation will be life changing:

  • $32 will fund 9 women to attend a full-day medical health camp run by Mahalir Sakthi in the Madurai slums in India, including snacks for participants, lunch for 20 people in the medical team, medical kits, medicines and hall rent.
  • $85 will support one community-based after-school tuition centre for one month, including tutor salaries and education materials for Dalit children
  • $150 will fund the Domestic Workers Union for one month, including salary for the organiser and quarterly meeting costs for the workers
  • $215 will fund a tailoring class for one month, enabling up to ten women to learn tailoring skills, providing them with an opportunity to earn money by non-manual labour.

Community development is not simple and it is not quick – and we want Mahalir Sakthi and PEAB to know that we will be there – as respectful partners – for the long haul. With your support, we want to sign a new three-year commitment agreement with PEAB at the start of 2019.

Thank you for standing with Dalit communities and for your trust in indigo foundation and the high-impact work our partners are doing in Tamil Nadu.

* Names have been changed to respect privacy