From 2010 - 15, VODI delivered a 5 year project supported by UK Government’s Department For International Development. [DFID]: ‘Improving Access of Dalit Children to Primary Education In Bundelkhand through Advocacy and Empowerment’. Bundelkhand is a much deprived and caste ridden region of India’s Uttar Pradesh and Maddhya Pradesh states. The project’s main aim was to achieve 100% enrolment and 50% retention rates of Dalit Primary schoolchildren in 200 villages in the region, meeting Universal Primary Education targets [MDG 2]. The project trained the Dalit civil society to be aware of their rights, particularly under the ‘Rights to Education’ Act. It also set out to organise communities to make their demands collectively at local and state level, which had many successes of improving school infrastructure, toilet and hand washing facilities, mid day meals and in some areas, new schools. The reduction of caste based discrimination in schools, as a result of community monitoring, also contributed greatly to increased school enrolment and retention rates. The project additionally trained communities to claim other entitlements also, including Below Poverty Line [BPL] food and fuel rations, employment schemes, improved health services and access to pension for the elderly. Over the 5 years, the project supported 469,000 rural Dalit men and women and their children: 126,000 Dalit Primary school children, now enjoying non-discriminatory attitudes from teachers, staff and service providers and have improved school environments, and 343,000 adults, are now empowered, informed, organised, confident, and capable of resisting discrimination and accessing government schemes and services.
Regarding project sustainability, Dalit families in the region are now members of the many local and state level committees, forums and cohesive platforms formed over the life of the project, which they can continue to draw support from to address their day to day issues.