India: Mahalir Sakthi

Our partner, Mahalir Sakthi, means ‘Women Power’ in English. It is a thriving hub in the slum areas of Madurai in India with a clear goal of empower children and women largely Dalit and Adivasi backgrounds to break the cycle of poverty, unemployment and discrimination.

We partner with Mahalir Sakthi to:

  • Improve education outcomes for children, most of whom are the first in their families to attend school beyond primary school and who often lack the privacy, lighting and support to study at home. Mahalir Sakthi runs a network of eleven after-school tuition centres focusing on children and young people at risk of dropping out of school.
  • Build women’s economic independence by offering training in tailoring and typing.
  • Protect rights of women working through their Domestic Workers Union which empowers women with information about their wages and conditions and links women to certified employers.
  • Improve health outcomes, through regular health lectures and quarterly free GP clinics.

Women lead the way at Mahalir Sakthi’s anniversary celebrations, as one of Mahalir Sakthi’s tutors speaks to what education meant in her life

Focus on Dalit and Adivasi communities

Mahalir Sakthi’s centre is a welcoming hub for all people and religions in the slums of Madurai but a large part of their work is advocacy for Dalit rights. The word ‘Dalit’, in Sanskrit, means “oppressed” or “downtrodden”. ‘Dalits’ are the name of a group of people who are born into the bottom rung of India’s caste system. Tradition assigns Dalits to dirty laborious work in society, including gutter cleaning, manual scavengers, toilet cleaners, and garbage removalists. Because of these traditional social structures in India, Dalits are at risk of discrimination, dehumanisation, degradation, and violence every day.  Dalit men often spend a major portion of their earning on alcohol and become bonded to money lenders, leaving the women as the main bread winners and the responsibility of taking care of their families rests upon them.

Dalit children have very high rates of drop out from schools. This results in children often becoming child labours and inheriting the same demeaning tasks their parents performed. They are forced to continue to remain bonded to money lenders to pay back the loans raised by their families.

Meet Guna, Director of Mahalir Sakthi, and some of the tutors and students that Mahalir Sakthi works with