Tribal groups improve their own human rights

Tribal groups improve their own human rights

In December VGIF asked me to visit a project that had received a grant in 2013-13. The project applicant came from a hill tribe that needed help to build awareness of their rights as forest dwellers, and also their basic human rights that had been continually denied to them as a marginalised and neglected group.

However this tribe’s habitat suddenly came under the glare of government notice as their land was found to be rich in granite, so much in demand by big construction promoters for offices and homes with polished granite stone. These tribal people were forcibly moved out of their abodes and trees felled to start quarrying, laying bare the entire mountain side.

It was a dreadful shame, and the group’s appeal to VGIF found the Projects Committee awarding them a grant of about $6500, to print manuals on human rights, women’s rights and child rights, and holding workshops to train them to better their information and knowledge with help from activists from the nearby town.

At the end of the year, VGIF wanted to know how much the tribal people had benefited from the grant, and I accepted to go there, and I flew last weekend, and was taken to the village up in the hills to assess their progress if any. What I saw was an eye opener, as the entire village had made such strides to help themselves by building a small primary school for the children to attend school regularly, getting 2 teachers to come up from the town to the hillside school to take classes. Also health workshops were held to give advice on nutrition as the women and children were found to suffer from anaemia, and infant and maternal mortality was frequent.

Steps were taken to print a manual with graphic illustrations on safe childbirth procedures. Traditional midwives were helped by this manual as they received training from medical staff who were called to train on better practices in birthing.

This visit was a learning experience for me as I felt so humbled by the visit as it opened my eyes to the resourcefulness of people who are denied all that we take for granted in life.

Scholars or researchers from universities should work on such cases and not only get their Post Graduate degrees but in the process help neglected groups of people improve their lives.

Gomathy Venkateswar

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