Project Update: Empowerment of excluded castes in Punjab and West Bengal, India
Religious and caste discrimination is one of the leading causes of poverty and social exclusion in India. This has prevented access to basic services, including education, health facilities and other government services and schemes for large sections of society.
UnitingWorld supports the Church of North India’s Diocese of Durgapur and Diocese of Amritsar, to run study centres for children of vulnerable families. The projects operate in the urban slums and tribal villages of West Bengal and in Amritsar near the Pakistani border.
In Durgapur, skills training is also offered to marginalised women and farmers to build livelihoods and provide communities with access to and information about government services and schemes.
In Amritsar, the project also seeks to empower people from marginalised communities to advocate for their rights and entitlements and support women to generate income.
The result of this project is empowered, organised, educated and healthy communities, who are involved in local governance and capable of accessing government services and schemes.
Good news from 2021-2022
In Durgapur, over 3000 people were directly impacted by this work. This included:
- 365 parents/carers took part in seminars on the importance of childhood education
- 441 children took part in non-formal education and alternative education pathways
- 585 people were helped through community health and wellbeing programs, including nutrition, infection control, and access to health care
- 262 people received better access to essential medicines, health services and commodities
- 2846 men and women gained access to various livelihoods and social empowerment schemes and services.
In Amritsar, over 7000 people were directly impacted by this work in the last financial year, including:
- 954 children attending study centres received remedial education from trained teachers
- 1400 parents attending monthly meetings on their children’s education, encouraging and motivating parents to keep their children in school
- 425 adolescent children gained awareness on the value of higher education and increased knowledge in career options
- 140 teenagers attended career guidance camps to help them identify future education and career opportunities
- 28 teachers participating in training to strengthen teaching skills
- More than 1200 people accessed their first COVID-19 vaccine
- 2070 people participated in sessions on health and hygiene
- 765 people were trained in how to access government services and schemes
- 97 women involved in self-help groups accessed training on financial management and income generation
Work has also been done to help the Diocese of Amritsar strengthen their organisational systems and processes. The assessment was undertaken by a very helpful local agency.
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Both the Durgapur and Amritsar projects are changing to reflect new needs of their communities. Some of the activities that will be undertaken in the 2022-23 financial year include:
- Supporting 467 children in Durgapur and 920 children in Amritsar to continue their studies, including providing healthy snacks, remedial education and training teachers.
- Capacity building of staff and study centre teachers.
- Supporting women’s self help groups to build skills and livelihoods.
- Raising awareness among communities of available government services and schemes, through community workers, notice boards and Village Development Committees.
- Supporting these communities and community leaders through advocacy, training and leadership development to advocate for the rights and entitlements of their community.
The Durgapur project also supports daily wage labourers and other migrant workers to set up and improve farming practices, building food security and income and enabling them to stay with their families. Vocational training is planned for teenagers to improve their career options.
The project is working to improve disability inclusion. So far, disability analyses have identified 40 people with disabilities in the villages. The project design process will include consulting with local Disabled Persons Organisations, as well as specialists in addressing violence against women.
In Amritsar, the key work continues but with a focus on sustainability and community ownership of the project. Local communities will, of course, need to be supported in a transition to make sure this great work continues without extra support from our partners or UnitingWorld. To no longer be needed is the goal of most projects we work on. The Amritsar project is also increasing their focus on teenagers to support them (as well as encourage their parents to support them) to pursue higher education and career goals.