How Caritas Australia is empowering India's most vulnerable

27 Jun 2016   |   Blog   |   India   |   Long-term Development

Tags:  development, India   |   No comments

Kylie Supramamian with women from Chhattisgarh

Published in CaritasNews Winter 2016

Kylie Supramaniam has been working with Caritas Australia for seven years. Having recently received independent acclamation as an “Inspiring Woman Leader in International Development Working with Tribal Women”, she reflects on the work of Caritas in two Indian states.

Through our local partner Caritas India, we have enjoyed a long-standing commitment to the Scheduled Tribes (Indigenous communities) of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. This caste is widely recognised as amongst India’s most vulnerable and marginalised groups.

The Gram Nirman Program helps create sustainable and empowered communities by building villagers’ awareness of the entitlements and social security schemes offered through the Indian Government. Our local staff then build the capacity of communities to access these entitlements. This involves empowering local leaders to meaningfully participate and purposefully contribute toward official village decision-making forums, known locally as the Gram Sabha.

Our work through Caritas India helps community members find confidence to participate in community meetings, and collectively present their requests for government support. Once communities have these skills, they can repeatedly come together to discuss further development opportunities and collectively advocate for assistance.

Gadaghat Village in Chhattisgarh is one of the areas Gram Nirman program assists. The village’s recent experience demonstrates what can happen when people are helped to work together.

A river separates the 250 villagers from the main road 5km away, and some sections of the village from others. With neither bridges nor roads for crossing the river, villagers were frequently isolated for extended periods, particularly during the rainy season. People needed to cross the river to get to school, buy or sell products, and access medical care. The rainy season made this particularly challenging, and there were many fatalities.

Since July 2013, Gram Nirman has empowered this community to come together to make decisions about their future and find their collective voice through surveys, focus group discussions, training and community-based groups. Working together, the people of Gadaghat identified the need for a bridge, and advocated collectively for government support.

The bridge was built in a few months, and work is now underway for an all-seasons approach road. The bridge is being used extensively. People travel for medical treatment, education, and to gain better prices for their produce.

It has been exciting to see how our support has empowered the community of Gadaghat to work collectively and realise major accomplishments. Their success has led them to believe in themselves and their elected administrators, and the power of a common voice. Indeed, the community has now gone on to secure government support to supply electricity to their village - further evidence that Gram Nirman empowers communities and brings genuine sustained development.

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