Working in India since 1999, Concern Worldwide India set up a liaison office in Bhubaneswar, Orissa in 2002, which was the Priority State for its long-term development in India, to pave way for a poverty free country. The belief of the Concern that poverty can be alleviated only when issues of inequality and injustice are themselves addressed, is discussed in detail.
The main guiding document for CWI’s work in India is the Country Strategy 2006-2011, that outlined a situational analysis of the socio-economic and political conditions in the country recording the increasing inequalities. It recorded that in spite of declining proportion of people in India living below the poverty line, the percentage of Schedule Tribes (ST) s in the rural population living in poverty had increased from 14.8 percent in 1993-94 to 17.5 percent in 1999-2000. The paper recognized “the deprivation and exclusion that the tribal communities face is multi-dimensional and the factors that perpetuate deprivation are intrinsically interlinked and reinforced by exclusion.”
In keeping with its international mandate to promote equality, as per Equality Policy of CWI, the Concern had developed an Equality Position paper for India and had undertaken a sample participatory Equality Audit of six partners in Orissa, to continue organizational learning around the issue and to reflect on its own systems, procedures and culture.
This open culture supported partners’ efforts to bring about change in their own organizations as well as in development, planning and practice. The audit process involved the study of secondary material, policy documents, annual reports and proposals, discussions with Board members and senior management, presentation of programmes by staff, review of problem identification, strategies to reach out to the excluded, group exercises for critical reflection, small group meetings with women staff, individual interviews with some staff members, case studies exercise to understand life cycle of men and women of project area, visits to the field discussions with the SHGs and other community institutions, filed staff, and feedback on observations from the field to the staff. Audit process was also used as an occasion to increase understanding of gender/equality issues, questionnaire to assess organization culture, introduction of reading materials and film shows.
Structural violence in a society is represented by denial of access to education, health and food for many sections of the society. The NGOs acted as an institution in Orissa, and took initiatives to promote development. In policies and in practice, NGOs did so through their process of formalized policies, in recruitment, gender, setting up committees, to prevent sexual harassment, and in training. Participative planning by wealth ranking and people’s input was used in different forms by the NGOs. Concern, as a donor partner had worked closely with the NGOs to support them in their efforts. The NGO movement had also brought in more than Rs. 650 crore since 2000.
The several new legislations, brought about in the State, were critical to increase incomes and create access to land and water resources. National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, the Right to Information Act, Mo Jami Mo Diha Campaign, The Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act 1996, Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, and the Right to Food Entitlements recognized by the Supreme Court of India, brought about major changes in social relations and also promoted economic development of the State.
In developing leadership among women, Dalits and Adivasi community, Indian society continued to be marked with great inequalities of power. A small number of elite at the village level and in the country controlled the lives of others. Concern designed programmes and partnerships to eradicate the inequalities, through a new leadership, sustained training and development of new interventions. Resources were made available to develop women, Adivasi and Dalit leaders, who can manage their own community based organizations.
Programme planning included recognition of the existing minorities (people with disabilities, primitive tribes, religious minority etc.) in any project area. Plans clearly demonstrated as to their inclusion in the project.
Concern programme officers established a monitoring format that recorded the completed activities and also the results of the interventions undertaken.
A task force was set up to monitor progress in each sector (livelihood, HIV/AIDS prevention etc.).
Concern promotes a rights based approach to development. It supports many NGOs to implement development projects to meet basic needs. It also supports state and national interventions to make the state accountable. While Concern would rethink organizational strategies including for the most marginalized while identifying disaggregated qualitative and quantitative baseline information on systems management, it would not leave any stone unturned in identifying opportunities and challenges in promoting equality (both policy and practice), facilitating organizational learning and change from an equality perspective. Concern may like to reflect and create a meaningful synergy between grassroots level support and advocacy to make the state accountable.
Concern believes in a world where no one lives in poverty, fear or oppression, where all have access to a standard of living and the opportunities and choices essential to a long, healthy and creative life, and a world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
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