The Record » PROJECT COMPASSION 2016: ADVOCATING FOR CHANGE: DHANIRAM’S STORY

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‘Never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity!’ Pope Francis.

Dhaniram is driven to help create change in his village. Through the grass-roots Hamara Haq (‘our rights’) project, run by Caritas India and supported by Caritas Australia, he’s gained the skills to help his community claim what’s rightfully theirs and develop their plan for a better future.

Dhaniram, 24, lives in the State of Chhattisgarh, Central India. The state is part of a region, known locally as the Tribal Belt. Over 7.8 million people live in Chhattisgarh including people from 645 distinct tribes.

For generations, people from Scheduled Tribes have been marginalised and discriminated against and today they are among the poorest of the poor in India.

In Dhaniram’s village, there are 117 households, and nearly every family lives hand to mouth, with no food or money in reserve. Many, like Dhaniram, work as ‘daily wages labourers’, constantly searching for work and living without a secure income. “I am only able to support my family to some extent,” says Dhaniram.

Like many communities across the Tribal Belt, Dhaniram’s village were unaware of the many flagship social security schemes that the Indian government has in place to support its most vulnerable communities.

“There is a low rate of literacy in my village and a low level of awareness of our own rights and entitlements,” says Dhaniram.

Dhaniram with his wife and son. When Dhaniram’s wife told him about the Hamara Haq project, he immediately joined. “I joined the program and began attending different training sessions,” he recalls. Photo: Supplied.

Dhaniram with his wife and son. When Dhaniram’s wife told him about the Hamara Haq project, he immediately joined. “I joined the program and began attending different training sessions,” he recalls. Photo: Supplied.

Bringing to life the teaching of Preferential Option for the Poor, supporting tribal rights is a key focus of Caritas India, aided by Caritas Australia. As a result, the Hamara Haq (‘our rights’) project has been implemented across five districts in the Tribal Belt. The project actively helps communities learn about their rights and entitlements. And, it helps them to strengthen their traditional governance, so that rather than relying on others to make decisions for them, communities can plan and direct their own development.

When Dhaniram’s wife told him about the Hamara Haq project, he immediately joined. “I joined the program and began attending different training sessions,” he recalls. “I became more interested and drawn into the implementation of the program as I got to learn new and important things from this project.”…

 

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