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Background

District Federation for Dalit Liberation (DFDL) was started with an aim to protect and promote the rights of dalits (untouchables). It consists of 15 community-based organizations/small NGOs who have emerged from the reference communities as grassroots social activists and are focused on dalits. These organizations decided to work together to address the issues of dalits in different pockets of the district, so as to consolidate the grassroot interventions. DFDL has been implementing activities through its partner organizations in 210 target villages in Kancheepuram District.

Situation

Kancheepuram district is situated on the northern east coast of Tamil Nadu and is adjacent to the Bay of Bengal and Chennai city. Agriculture is the main occupation of the people with 47% of the population engaged in it. 90% of the dalits are working as agriculture laborers and 80% of them are dependent on the dominant caste people for employment. Most of the agricultural laborers are treated as bonded laborers. Traditional fishing has also taken a hit due to rapid mechanization and over-fishing. This has resulted in the migration of these communities and the worst-hit are dalits, who hardly have any land holding.

Dalit children of the coastal area are deprived of educational rights due to increasing closure of government schools and establishment of private schools which charge high fees. Government schools lack basic infrastructure, teachers and the quality of education imparted is quite poor. The health centers as well as the Balwadis which distribute nutritional food during the post-natal period are not functioning as per expectations.

Objectives

  • Protection of the rights of dalit children and communities.
  • Strengthen the child rights forum in the district for children to express themselves and address issues with the support of the community.
  • To facilitate collective community control and monitoring system over Public Health and the Education System through activation of Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and health committees.
  • Build livelihood options for the dalit inland fish workers’ community thereby protecting the rights of their children .
  • Ensuring dalit identity in the coastal community and recognizing dalit inland fish folk as fish workers.
  • Strengthen the Dalit Panchayats President Forum (DPPF) through mass action so as to ensure a just system of local self governance.

Review and Impact


DFDL has a rich experience of working amongst dalit communities at various levels in Kancheepuram district. It has worked at the grassroot level building grass root level community groups and children’s groups. Building on its experience with the inland dalit agricultural communities after the Tsunami intervention, DFDL along with its network worked with the dalit inland fishing communities’ hamlet to organize them through various means. The focus of DFDL as a network since its inception has been on building groups to address dalit issues at the grassroot level and also nurturing children through the Dalit students’ federation - locally called the Manavar Peravai - to understand and address the atrocities and harassment against dalit children.

Highlights in the review period include:

  • In the operational areas, immunization and post pregnancy care was ensured for 612 mothers.
  • In the 48 DFDL working areas, around 340 children were identified as part of child labor.
  • 340 children (around 90%) were drop outs who are now going to school for education.
  • In 48 DFDL working villages, children groups have been formed in 40 villages. The children’s collective was named as the Dalit Student’s Federation and includes 830 students.
  • The students’ federation members from the villages took part in the Gram Sabha meetings and demanded proper housing, school infrastructure and quality education in the Panchayat schools.
  • Cultural programs were conducted in 27 villages to create community awareness on coastal destruction, livelihood and rights violations in the name of development.

Plans

  • 100 out of 156 families will be identified to get ration cards through collective action thereby ensuring food security for them.
  • 50 children will be removed from the child labor force with community support and village sangam intervention and enrolled in formal schools.
  • Around 100 families, who have applied for housing under the government scheme, will monitor the process.
  • To address the child rights issues through cultural action and organize the community to address the issue more holistically.
  • Mobilize dalit, tribal, and other marginalized community children via the Dalit Students Federation. Children from the age group of 6 to 18 will be part of the DSF.
  • Ensure that the children who are in the labor force are removed from the work force and enrolled in formal schools.

ANNUAL FINANCIAL SUMMARY

  • Right to Development
    $1,670
  • Right to Survival
    $847
  • Right to Protection
    $18,487
  • Administration
    $5,694
  • Total Grant Approved
    $26,698