DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT DESTRUCTION,
EMPOWERMENT FOR ENABLING CHOICES

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Gender Equity and Rights
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EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

Women and socially disadvantaged groups are routinely discriminated against and increasingly more vulnerable today. Indian society is deeply patriarchal which has resulted in severe gender gaps in access to schools, healthcare, livelihoods and incomes, and even nutritive food; illiteracy, malnutrition and economic dependence further restricts them from asserting their equal rights. Violence against women and children is rampant and often conducted with impunity, permitted and even supported by customary laws; this is amplified for women in marginalized communities. Adolescent girls and women suffer a range of adverse customary practices such as child marriage, dowry, witch-hunting, etc., and multiple forms of abuse and violence including trafficking, molestation and rape.

India’s marginalized groups include those deemed lower on the social hierarchy, such as Dalits and tribals, as well as the landless and migrants.... Read More

Women and socially disadvantaged groups are routinely discriminated against and increasingly more vulnerable today. Indian society is deeply patriarchal which has resulted in severe gender gaps in access to schools, healthcare, livelihoods and incomes, and even nutritive food; illiteracy, malnutrition and economic dependence further restricts them from asserting their equal rights. Violence against women and children is rampant and often conducted with impunity, permitted and even supported by customary laws; this is amplified for women in marginalized communities. Adolescent girls and women suffer a range of adverse customary practices such as child marriage, dowry, witch-hunting, etc., and multiple forms of abuse and violence including trafficking, molestation and rape.

India’s marginalized groups include those deemed lower on the social hierarchy, such as Dalits and tribals, as well as the landless and migrants. They remain disempowered, continuing to lack access to basic rights, and often suffer exclusion and neglect from their governments as well. Malnourishment, illiteracy, etc., are far higher among these groups as a consequence of the social injusticeand persisting inequity suffered by them, and they are disproportionately affected by poverty and social evils.Barriers to their effective participation in political and democratic processes also implies that they have no voice to influence changes that benefit them.

Gender sensitivity is entrenched across the spectrum of Pragya’s work. Aspects of our livelihoods work are aimed exclusively at women, whilst our food security work focusses on the nutritional health of women, and trains women as grassroots nutritionists and women-friendly agricultural tools are being identified for women farmers. Our health programme has an emphasis on maternal and reproductive healthcare, supporting women and adolescent girls in northern India. Pragya also works to combat gender-based violence in its multiple forms and contexts, including socioeconomic, psychological, and physical violence. We also work to improve access to basic services for marginalised groups, helping to restore dignity and giving a voice to the disempowered.

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Local Mentor fights to end harmful traditions

Nilima Das has been working as a mentor (Missamari village, Sonitpur, Assam) to empower women and to sensitise all stakeholders in the area on VAW iss

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EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

PREVENTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

India is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. Women and girls in India are subject to high levels and manifold forms of gender-based violence (GBV), encompassing sexual and other physical violence, economic and financial violence, and emotional/psychological violence – a situation spanning the private-public spheres and perpetuated by key drivers including entrenched patriarchy and social norms and poverty. Customary practices such as child marriage, wife battering, witch-hunting persist and are provided tacit support by the immediate society; weaknesses in the infrastructure for protection and redressal/justice also allow most molestation and rape to go unpunished. Women in marginalised communities experience the highest incidence of gender-based violence, resulting from a combination of low social status, severe poverty, illiteracy, and inadequate access to legal and social support. Such communities are also the least resilient to the impacts of conflict and disasters, which are associated with significant spikes in violence perpetrated against women and girls.

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

PREVENTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

Pragya is dedicated to the prevention of violence against women and girls in all regions in which we work, and we take a multifaceted approach to supporting women and girls at risk of or experiencing violence. We have designed a comprehensive programme for primary-prevention of violence against women, with a focus on women of ethnic minority communities who suffer much higher levels of violence, and are implementing it in high-risk areas.

Aiming for assertion and active resistance of violence from women and girls, we foster local leadership and grassroots support networks. We select women with leadership potential in communities who receive intensive tutoring in the key legislations and support structures concerning GBV, as well as in counselling for women affected by GBV; these Women Counsellorsact as anchors for village-level women’s peer support groupsestablished by Pragya. Through these groups we run assertiveness sessions, designed to shift women’s default response to violence away from passive submission and towards active resistance. We establish and run Empowerment Centres, safe spaces that women can access equipped with essential GBV-related resources as well as links to lawyers, health centres, shelters, and counsellors to provide in-person/telephone counselling. 

Pragya is committed to addressing the negative social norms that often underpin violence against women. Our work aims to encourage more equitable and respectful gender attitudes in society, and consequently to bring about constructive behaviour change. We develop networks of local Mentors, respected community members supported to identify practices and customs harmful to women and to champion appropriate change across communities. We conduct campaigns on gender equalityand against various forms of violence against women, using local media and arts, and addressing both men and women. We also enhance and leverage established leadership, running gender sensitivity workshops with village councils to encourage local engagement on the issue of GBV and catalyse positive attitudinal change across the community. 

Pragya also strives to enhance the wider institutional response to violence against women, strengthening and integrating the efforts of social services, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and local authorities, to foster a collective and comprehensive GBV support network. We deliver gender sensitivity workshopsfor law enforcement, legal professionals, local government and relevant civil society organisations. We establish ‘GBV Observatories’run by and for the community which document and track GBV cases for analysis, with a view to identifying areas for improved institutional response. To promote multi-stakeholder networking and cooperation, we establishInter Agency Task Forcescomprising key institutional actors in the prevention of violence against women, for coordinated action planning and management in combatting GBV.

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

PREVENTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

GEOGRAPHY / LOCATION

Our work to address violence against women and girls has been/ is being delivered in selected states with a high incidence of such violence, including those of Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.

 

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EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

EMPOWERING WOMEN

Women in marginalised communities in India suffer many disadvantages in life, simply for being women. Lack of schooling, combined with the household chores and drudgery that traditionally befalls women, hampers their career opportunities, consequently becoming financially dependent on men and lacking economic independence and the freedom to make choices. Poor knowledge of personal healthcare and hygiene impacts women’s health with potentially serious consequences, while issues such as early or forced marriage can have lifelong impacts on women’s wellbeing.

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

EMPOWERING WOMEN

Pragya believes in building a brighter future for women struggling to thrive in strongly patriarchal societies, though initiatives aimed at promoting economic independence in conjunction with informing and supporting women on other vital matters impacting their circumstances. 

We work to empower women through the formation of village-level women’s peer support groups, oriented to address a range of pertinent socioeconomic issues such as fundamental rights, menstrual hygiene, the importance of educating children and the negative impacts of early marriage. The peer groups are also facilitated to access key government schemes, such as free medications, enhanced water access and improved sanitation.

Pragya fosters leadership among womenand their effective participation and representation in social and political spheres. All community institutions facilitated by Pragya, such as the Community Conservation Councils, also have representation of women and women are being encouraged for effective participation in community decision-making. Women are provided special confidence-building and assertiveness training, rights education and awareness on development avenues. Women leaders are also provided opportunities for representation on issues of concern to womenon local, regional and national platforms.

We seek to bring income generating opportunitiesto women, with livelihoods projects adapted to women’s circumstances in the poorest communities. We provide initial start-up support and thorough hands-on training in culturally and environmentally appropriate occupations, such as traditional handloom and handicrafts. We also support women in niche agriculture, equipping them with polyhouses and the necessary start-up seeds, tools, and training for the cultivation of high-value cash crops such as medicinal, spice and aromatic crops. Women’s Self Help Groupshave been formed in several villages and provided training, facilitation for savings & credit, and support for collaborative endeavour.

Rural women are the traditional managers of natural resources and have the task of collecting fuelwood, water, fodder and various food supplements from the forests for their households, one that is becoming increasingly onerous however as forests recede due to habitat degradation. Respecting their traditional role, Pragya involves women strongly in the management of Common Property Resources, training them in sustainable use of natural resources and supporting them for group farming of these resources.

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

EMPOWERING WOMEN

GEOGRAPHY / LOCATION

Pragya’s intervention/s towards Empowering Women has been/ is being carried out in all areas of Pragya’s operation, including the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.

 

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EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

SAFETY AND WELFARE OF MIGRANT WORKERS

Landless and impoverished families in India migrate out of their home provinces in search of work and sustenance. Even though the migrant workers contribute significantly to the Indian economy via critical sectors such as construction, small industries, masonry, quarrying, mining, hospitality services, they have to endure unbelievable hardships and have little capacity to improve their situation. They work exceptionally long hours in severe conditions facing multiple associated health risks as well as numerous personal safety hazards, for very low pay. Frequently whole families migrate together, and while the adults work on backbreaking labour, the children accompanying live in typically unhealthy or dangerous environments, deprived of education, nutrition and health, and are conscripted into similar harsh labour even before they are out of their childhood. Migrant groups are typically poorly educated and from diverse locations, are often from subjugated minority groups, and desperately in need of what work they can get; as such they have little knowledge of their working rights or capacity to assert them. In this context, employers  have little will to improve the welfare of their workers who endure these dangerous and exploitative working conditions.

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

SAFETY AND WELFARE OF MIGRANT WORKERS

Pragya is committed to alleviating the hardships endured by migrant workers in the regions in which we work, through initiatives to improve workers’ living and working conditions whilst also ensuring that the migrant workers’ children may have a better future. 

In a dedicated effort to improve conditions for migrant workers, Pragya is providing those that labour on road construction with a range of health and safety equipment, including safety masks, gloves, helmets, first aid kits, and so on. Simultaneously, we deliver essential safety and hygiene trainingto the workers, covering workplace hazards, hygiene measures for the prevention of disease, and orientation on use of the supplied equipment. Recognising the significant risks of various kinds that road workers are exposed to in the remote locations that they live and work in, we have provided training on first response and first aid to accidents, and self-defence. Pragya also supports local doctors to deliver pop-up clinicsat the tenements of the road workers for consultations, basic treatment, and onward referral where appropriate. In order to combat water-borne diseases that afflict the migrant worker communities, Pragya provides water storage tanks with filtration unitsto the worker families. 

The welfare of children of migrant workers is a special focus for Pragya. Pragya reaches essential education to the children via innovative ‘Schools on Wheels’and Tent-based Creches, along with support for enrolment in local schools- see Pragya Program on Access to Education for the Last Mile

Pragya strives to educate and inform the migrant workers and build their skills to empower and enable them for a better life. Adult literacy classesare conducted, including digital and mobile literacy, for the workers. The road workers have also been provided skills training for alternative vocationswhich have lesser exposure to health risks.

Pragya is committed to the complex task of building bridges between migrant workers and employers. The workers are trained on employment laws and worker rightsand for collective bargaining, advocacy and representation to employers and government. Wider rights-awareness campaignsare conducted with community activists to generate a sense of responsibility among host communities, whilst high-level meetings are facilitated between employers, government and employee representatives, to discuss the main issues affecting them and encourage improving the living and working conditions. 

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

SAFETY AND WELFARE OF MIGRANT WORKERS

GEOGRAPHY / LOCATION 

Pragya work on Safety and Welfare of Migrant Workers has been/ is being implemented for migrant worker settlements along the highway is selected states in north India, including those of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand.

 

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EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

WELFARE SERVICES IN URBAN SLUMS

Whilst urban slums may not be the remote communities that form the mainstay and founding focus of Pragya’s work, they nonetheless represent a highly appropriate challenge for Pragya: they are, in a tangible sense, isolated, underserved and neglected, despite their situation amidst bustling city life - and so occupy an excluded, liminal space subject to their own economic, social and healthcare challenges that can be far more severe than those felt in the rest of the city that navigates around them. Often populated by impoverished rural migrants in search of better prospects in the city or else forced to migrate due to the impacts of climate change, these slum dwellers find themselves with little or no access to clean water, adequate sanitation or basic healthcare, leading to health complications including diarrhoea, dengue fever and malaria, and subject to discrimination, all whilst living with the constant anxiety that comes with the prospect of sudden forced evacuation from their meagre plots by local authorities. 

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

WELFARE SERVICES IN URBAN SLUMS

Pragya believes all people are entitled to a dignified life free from poverty and hardship and strives to improve services for slum dwellers in India, along with their prospects for decent and gainful work. 

Pragya has conducted scoping studieson urban slum communities and their specific situation, in terms of access to welfare services such as education and vocational training, health, water and sanitation, poverty and nature of work including illicit work, as well as the psychological and related abuses and violence, along with the experiences of harassment, injustice and exclusion endured.

Pragya installs water tanks with filtration unitsin the slums, helping stem the spread of disease and reducing hardships for women in particular. We deliver pop-up health camps in the slums extending access to quality healthcare, and health professionals provide medications as appropriate. Health of women and children is prioritised along with issues prevalent in urban slums such as seasonal epidemics (diarrhoea, dengue fever and malaria) and water-borne and respiratory ailments. Simultaneously, we deliver health educationin the slums for positive behavioural change and preventative health measures, covering family hygiene, sanitation and dietary practices.

Digital and mobile and financial literacy trainingsessions are conducted for all age-groups of slum-residents to empower them for the modern-day, urban world. Alongside, they are guided on their rights and the government schemes and benefits available for them and the modes of accessing these.

Vocational trainingfor young people living in slums is a key focus in order to enable them to access better, more secure and higher paying jobs in the city. Short-term certificate courses, including classroom and practice sessions and exposure visits, are conducted in IT, sales and customer service, housekeeping, hospitality, etc., depending on the educational levels and interests of the particular youth. The trained youth are provided vocational advisory and placement support via linkages with employers, and a helping hand in launching new careers- see Pragya Programme onVocational Skill Building.

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

WELFARE SERVICES IN URBAN SLUMS

GEOGRAPHY / LOCATION

Pragya's work in Urban Slums is being delivered for selected slum communities in the National Capital Region (Delhi).

 

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EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

CULTURE PRESERVATION

Nestled deep in the high-altitude belt of the Himalayan region of northern India are tribal peoples with a beautiful and captivating cultural heritage, passed down the generations through a rich tapestry of dance, music, folklore, architecture, literature, botanic knowledge for traditional medicine, ecological practices, arts and handicrafts – all infused with the distinct flavours of symbolism and iconography of mountain cultures of Asia. With shared origins and geographic proximity, these high-Himalayan cultural narratives and practices have much in common with one another across the region yet are markedly distinct from the character of mainstream populations occupying the plains below. Despite an ethnographically valuable and fascinating history, this regional hub of minority culture faces significant threats and pressures. Development initiatives can have a homogenising impact, whereby the transmission of Himalayan cultural knowledge and practices to the next generation is being eroded, and the traditional knowledge and indigenous languages are being lost, and practice of local arts and crafts diminishing at an alarming rate.

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

CULTURE PRESERVATION

Pragya has successfully worked to help secure the preservation and development of high-Himalayan culture, employing a combination of grassroots capacity building for culture management, training and support for the development of heritage-based microenterprises, and the inventorying, documentation and showcasing of local cultural assets. 

Pragya established a series of Heritage Conservation Councils(HCC) covering key cultural zones, empowered to enhance community participation in cultural activities and to coordinate and manage collective efforts towards cultural preservation. Participative research was carried out to document several Himalayan cultural forms and assess the degree of risk of erosion- see Research. Monographs are being brought out on the social & political structure and material culture; indigenous songs & dances have been indexed and the traditional lyrics published.Cultural Promotion Centreswere set up to conduct classes on the traditional music and dance, with the provision of instruments and clothing for performances, as well as indigenous language, and local crafts. 

Pragya has supported the establishment of heritage-based enterprises. Craft groups were formed, and design experts brought together with local craftspeople to develop a selection of traditionally crafted products with a contemporary twist, including such initiatives as loom-based garment production, weaving of baskets, rugs, shawls. Himalayan dance and music groups have been given inputs on choreography and stage managementand sponsored for participation at state and national cultural festivals. Further capitalising on this dynamic, Pragya facilitated youth-focussed ecotourism and hospitality initiatives, taking advantage of the region’s fast-growing tourism, providing vocational training in partnership with various academic and sports institutes, promoting responsible adventure tourism and hospitality as livelihoods options. 

Pragya has also established a network of Himalayan Community Museumsfor the collection and display of ancient cultural artefacts donated by native Himalayan community members, organisations and monasteries, helping to conserve these vanishing cultural objects, as well as promoting local tourism. These museums represent an attractive point of purchase for the objects and souvenirs hand-crafted by community members as part of the heritage-based enterprise projects, and additionally serve as a hub for community cultural interactions, holding dance and musical performances, talks and discussion forums, and exhibitions. Any profits from these museums can be put towards small community development work.

The traditional knowledge of plants in the Himalayas and their medicinal and other cultural uses has been documented and preserved in Ethnobotanic Centresset up in each distinct Himalayan zone. Traditional healer associationshave been supported in the Himalayan region towards revival & promotion of the local medicine systems. The traditional healers have also been trained on emerging issues such as Intellectual Property Rights and benefit-sharing measures.

EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND MARGINALISED GROUPS

CULTURE PRESERVATION

GEOGRAPHY / LOCATION

Pragya’s programme on preservation of Himalayan cultures was implemented across the entire length of the Indian Himalayas, spanning the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, and W. Bengal.

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