The U.K. Charity Registration No:1078764
Dalits, severe victims of caste discrimination, form one third of the Global Poor and live largely in India. The UK’s Department For International Development [DFID] in their policy paper, ‘Reducing Poverty by Tackling Social Exclusion’, state that caste is a root cause of Dalit poverty. Yet, since 2015, they no longer fund projects in India. The majority of international aid agencies, whilst providing aid to address the symptoms of poverty such as health and children’s education for example, have been reluctant to explore caste discrimination as a root cause, believing it to be a cultural problem or one that they do not have expertise or affirmative policies to address. So the cycle of poverty for Dalits has continued and Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] remained off track, despite the declaration of world leaders at the 2010 UN Millennium Summit to ‘free all men, women, and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty.’
From MDGS to halve Global poverty by 2015, we have moved to the new international development speke of ‘Beyond 2015’, to eradicate world poverty by 2030 and DFID’s new parlance of ‘Leave No-one Behind’, which although its funding to India has been discontinued, does in effect include Dalits, who represent 1/3rd of the Global Poor.
Chronic Poverty: A 2014 Independent Commission For Aid Impact [ICAI] report on ’Increasing the effectiveness of UK AID’ highlighted the symptoms of chronic poverty, with powerlessness as the root cause and duration as its distinguishing feature. Insecure environments, no meaningful political voice, remoteness, social discrimination and exploitation were the 5 main traps, with those in chronic poverty experiencing such deprivation at multiple levels. The report also highlighted that UK AID had ended to 16 countries, including India, as, according to the UK Government it was no longer needed. Instead 28 countries had been identified where Aid could have the greatest impact. As India is home to Dalits who make up one third of the Global Poor and who qualify all definitions of chronic poverty, VODI is disturbed by this announcement and continues to vigorously raise the Dalit profile in the International Development sector.
DFID Project: Bundelkhand, India
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.
OUR PAST CONFERENCES
International Conference on Dalit Human Rights 16-17, September 2000.
First ever International Conference on Dalit Human rights was organized by VODI in association with of Dalit Solidarity Network UK the communities of Ravidass, Valmiki, Ambedkarites Buddhists and Christians with whom VODI was interacting from its inception. It was a historic conference as it was for the first time Dalit Diaspora from various religious affiliations and many eminent Dalit leaders from India came together in an international conference. The Dalit leaders Mr. G.S. Chambers and Mr. T. R. Bali of Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha, Mr. Satpal Muman and Mr. Gautam Chakravarthy of Ambedkarite Buddhists, Mr. Dharmpaul Nahar and Mr. Baldeve Gill of Valmik Community were very supportive of these initiates. Apart from the forging of unity and common strategy by the Dalit community, the conference also made a tremendous contribution through two specific papers – ‘Caste in Britain' – by Mr. Satpal Muman, second being, ‘International Aid agencies Addressing Dalit Issues'- by Mr. Leo Bashyam of Christian Aid. The Conference proceedings were published in a book form by www.ambedkar.org(click Publications).
Dalits and International Development Aid - National Conference on - May 2002, Birmingham
This conference highlighted the indifference of the international agencies of development for the rights and development of the Dalits. The presence of the then Secretary of State for International Development, Ms. Clare Short M.P. was significant for the conference. The conference also highlighted the practice of caste discrimination in the UK by Indian Diaspora. These contributed to the BBC Radio to interview and investigate in to caste discrimination in the UK which was broad cast later as programme with greater impact.
In May 2002, VODI organised a Conference on the above subject in Birmingham, inviting This was to draw the attention of the international community of aid agencies to the realities of poverty and its relation to Dalit situation. This Conference also highlighted the existence of caste in Britain, which was followed up by Radio-4 by interviewing different resource persons from the Conference.
In this Radio programme, VODI's director Mr. Eugene Culas was interviewed and he spoke about the existence of caste practices in British schools, educational institutions, work places, religious places etc.
Dalits and International Development Aid – National Conference, New Delhi 2003
Through the previous campaign and conference of VODI, the issue of International aid agencies addressing Dalit issues became more accepted. To further the campaign and advocating the concept VODI organsied this national level conference ont eh same topic folloed by various state level seminars. This conference in which many Dalit activists, intellectuals participated came out with ‘Delhi Declaration’ (See Conference for details).
Dalits and International Development Aid – National Conference, Kathmandu, Nepal, July 27, 2003
VODI continued with the campaign for due share of Dalit in the developmental scenario by organizing another conference in Nepal in association with Jana Uttaan Pratishthan (JUP) of Nepal and other members of the Dalit NGO Federation of Nepal. It the Delhi Declaration and the DSN papers on the subject was widely discussed and debated. The participants acknowledged the relevance and uniqueness of such a subject and that that this was the first time such a subject was discussed from the people's point of view (See Report for details).
International conference on Dalit Christian Rights
VODI organised the first ever international Conference on Dalit Christian Rights held in London from 24-25, April 06. The Christian population in India is drawn largely from the lower echelons of society. Dalit Christians constitute more than 70% of the Christian community, which in the 2001 census numbered 25 million, around 2.3% of India’s total population. Dalit Christians find themselves in an unenviable position today. They are a people that are twice discriminated. The state discriminates against them and refuses them any rights and privileges that their Hindu counterparts enjoy.
In addition to the step-motherly treatment of the State towards them the Dalit Christians suffer inequality, injustice and inhuman treatment within the church. They realize the painful truth that their change of religion has in no way changed their pathetic, subhuman social condition. In effect the Dalit Christians live as refugees in their own homeland..
Gujarat Earthquake - January 2001
Caste Discrimination in relief works was found to be rampant in Gujarat. VODI took up the campaign against corruption and caste discrimination during relief for the victims of the earthquake by documenting evidences and conducting seminars in UK to make the public aware (click on Newsletters for more information).
Since the relief was not reaching the deserving victims of the earthquake especially the Dalits, various UK based Dalit organizations entrusted the responsibility of providing relief to the victims. Hence VODI got directly involved in the relief and rehbilitaion works in Gujarat since 2002 based at Madhpura, in Kutch District
The original work was undertaken in co-operation with an existing local charitable organisation which is legally in control of an infrastructure for the community.
Tsunami & VODI
The 2004 tsunami once again established the existing discrimination against Dalits even during times of disasters. Along with highlighting this practice even by the aid agencies, VODI used the opportunity to form a Working Committee under the leadership of Mr. Jagdish Rai, one of the community members with the aim of developing it into an aid agency in the future to reach out to the discriminated groups during times of disasters and to fund other developmental projects. One of the first contributions to DALITAID from the community groups was used to produce a film on ‘Tsunami and Dalit Resurgence' Contact Vodi for the copy of the film.