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ActionAid Association transforming India’s social growth story with- Yeh Kahani Badalni Hai

By auther pic. Abhisikta Dey

January 15, 2021

ActionAid Association transforming India’s social growth story with- Yeh Kahani Badalni Hai

ActionAid

India struck by poverty and illiteracy saw the burgeoning of many socially active firms and NGOs. ActionAid Association, a pioneer in this regard, supported 83 long-term projects including network partners, who worked for a longer duration and 420 short-term projects spanning up to one year.

 

Action Aid’s inception since 1972 has seen a huge diversity in its type of projects, starting from a project each in the two states of West Bengal and Karnataka, focussing on the children who were deprived of food and elementary education.  Today, their presence has been extended to 24 states and two Union Territories, working on a mission to eradicate poverty, patriarchy and injustice so that every individual can enjoy a life with dignity via 14 implementation nodes. They partner with several organisations and civil society groups while catering to the issues of natural resources, democracy and governance, women and girls’ rights, child rights, and promoting peace, justice, secularism, and solidarity beyond boundaries.

 

Throughout the country, ActionAid Association works with local and community-based organisations or NGOs along with local and state governments, with the support of institutional, corporate, and individual donors.

 

Out of the several initiatives, the 'BetiZindabad' campaign launched about eight years ago inspired them to launch this specific campaign titled 'Yeh Kahani Badalni Hai'. This initiative aimed at eradicating gender-based discrimination and practices, while working towards the upliftment of women and girls by changing the mindset of people towards them, mainly in the Karauli district of Rajasthan and Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. They have been working in association with the UNFPA and other local foundations namely, Astitva Samajik Seva Sanstha in Uttar Pradesh and Alwar Mewat Institute of Education and Development in Rajasthan. 400 villages were selected to bring about a change in their societal norms by preventing child marriages and to celebrate the birth of girl child by means of 1000 young volunteers who have been trained as Change Agents. About 379 out of these 400 villages across these two districts have been reporting such data and there is a positive shift in the trend of the number of men and boys sharing the responsibility of household chores. Domestic violence, alcoholism and instances showing the exploitation of women have reduced drastically and their endeavour is to address gender inequality at the earliest as women empowerment is most vital at the moment.

 

 

There were a couple of hindrances that ActionAid Association faced while implementing this shift from patriarchy. After discussions with the Gram Panchayat in these two districts, a number of trainings and behavioural practices were adopted to train all the 1000 volunteers to work in these groups and handle these issues with different religious communities and groups of men and women, boys and girls, school children etc. They analysed the root causes of discrimination and the initial resistance that was faced from the society’s patriarchal practices.

 

 

The other major initiative has been to promote access of the deprived class to education and to strengthen public education by activating education governance mechanisms. Because of the COVID-19-induced crisis, children’s education was adversely affected due to a halt in their educational journey, thereby increasing the number of child marriages. However, 2000 community-based volunteers in Uttar Pradesh have traversed an extra mile to ensure there is continuity of education in the villages of the state by opening up Pathshalas and imparting tuitions as online education was a challenge for children from disadvantaged communities. The ’Yes to School’campaign was launched on 8th September 2020 across fifteen states of the country to promote free, quality, and inclusive education for all children. The focus has been on strengthening School Management Committees to enable regular discussions on the various school-related issues. As part of their ‘Act for Scholarship’ campaign, ActionAid Association has been able to reach out to more than 16,100 students from 28 districts of Uttar Pradesh; 15,000 students from eight districts of Haryana; nearly 11,350 students from four districts of Rajasthan; 5,000 students from six districts of Punjab; 2,500 students from five districts of Delhi-National Capital Region; and 2,500 students from four districts of Himachal Pradesh. More than 14,000 students across these states were also supported in filling up their scholarship applications.

 

There has been commendable work in over 50 districts across five states of the country, namely West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Bihar with support from UNICEF starting 2019. The district-level staff have been sensitizing communities and linking girls to education, leading to the prevention of 1,731 child marriages across these states.

 

 

Apart from rendering children and women welfare services, ActionAid Association has been catering to the welfare of the informal workers. The pandemic has hit the economy so hard that economic hardships continue and several time-based surveys were conducted for more than 11,500 informal workers across 21 states during the last phase of the pandemic-induced lockdown in the months of May and June 2020 to assess their economic indicators like nutrition levels, income-job losses etc. This was followed up with a second round of analysis for 16,900 informal workers during the third phase of reopening of the lockdown, between August 23 and September 8 to understand how they have been coping with the pandemic and their linkages with several COVID-19 schemes and entitlements. The status of the socially and economically deprived communities like the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups was analyzed to understand the specific impact of COVID-19 on their lives and livelihoods. After speaking to 450 respondents hailing from these tribal groups from across three states on phone, it was deciphered that the lockdown had impacted them hugely as these were the months of collection of minor forest produce and due to their scarce storage capacity, a considerable loss of income was reported as they could not sell these perishable products. Movement restrictions imposed an added vulnerability on their earnings as few of them did not have Government entitlements and there was a huge drop in the exchange of their products which caused them to be deprived of essential food items. A lot of corporate bodies came forward for relief support to almost 77 lakh people during this pandemic alongwith creating an awareness for them on COVID-19 protocols and sanitization measures. 

 

 

 

During the pandemic, the river water activities were quite diminished and there was too much research on the ecological impact it created. The campaign on water, Act for Waterwas focused on the availability and quality of water. Ten rivers were assessed during the lockdown times to understand their situation and 550 respondents were enquired as they were members of the river dependent communities. These respondents stated that the quality of river water had improved and it could be used for domestic purposes. The quantity and variety of fish increased and the water was used for cultivation too. This study mainly hinted at creating a balance between the utilization of river water and the human culture for sustainable development.

Though there were so many initiatives being worked upon, ActionAid Association had to face some hindrances in the initial days, which motivated them to excel further. Today they are an established organization with a lot of moral and financial solidarity from the Government and CSR initiatives of the different companies. In 1995, there was a strategy set up to work with the emerging middle class in India and the corporate sector to engage them to work for some noble cause. It was then that ActionAid set up ‘Partners in Change’ as an initiative in this regard.COVID-19 times witnessed a lot of support from the middle-class people and several public-private companies. ActionAid expects the growing part of India to support growth initiatives for all. We need to recognize the bottlenecks on the path to an equitable and just India. It is for this that we need to highlight the country’s solidarity and unity, which is a challenge in itself.

ActionAid Association identifies children, youth and women amongst disadvantaged communities in cities and rural areas to be the torchbearers to transform India into its new avatar as they believe in bringing about change. That is one of the future road maps that the organization plans to embark upon for the country’s makeover.

 

 

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Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at shilpi@csrbox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage.

 

 

Author

Abhisikta Dey Ghosh is a business research and content professional for the last 14 years with leading brands from the industry. Her interest lies in authoring and weaving stories to foray into people's mind and hearts, thereby creating an ever lasting impact. Brand creation and management have been her forte using few magical words supported by language. A Master's Degree in Finance and Marketing with a passion for literature and language has certainly given her a huge platform to merge her educational expertise with passion, par excellence. Currently Abhisikta works as a Senior Consultant for Strategic Content and Research with Corporates, Edu-tech firms, CSR Foundations, Travel companies and Fintech majors. Abhisikta has a keen interest in music, dance and going on family adventure trips.

 

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