India in-depth

In Maharastra, India, our local partner Chetna Mahila Vikas Kendra works to empower women to address domestic violence in their communities and increase their awareness of the new domestic violence law. The law, which came into effect in 2006, gives women the legal right to live free from all forms of abuse in their home and provides victims with a legal channel for justice.

Areas of work: trade rights, emergency food distribution, gender violence, partner support and training, humanitarian support, gender equity, women’s empowerment, natural resource management, livelihoods, labour rights, indigenous rights

More than 300 million people in India are living in poverty. We believe we can play a lasting role in finding solutions to this injustice.

To ensure that our work is as wide-reaching as possible, we – in collaboration with Oxfam International – have supported the setting up of Oxfam India, an autonomous Indian organisation which was formally launched on 1 September 2008.

We continue to work in India but now support Oxfam India to implement our programs.

Fighting for workers’ rights

About a third of the world’s stone, including granite, marble, sandstone and slate, comes from Indian mines, much of it ending up in Australia as a feature in new and renovated homes.

About 90% of the total Indian stone output comes from the north-western state of Rajasthan. Despite this wealth of resources, Rajasthan’s estimated 2.5 million miners are enduring unbearable poverty and brutal working conditions.

Working shifts of up to 10 hours long, male miners earn on average $2-$3 per day. For women, who constitute 37% of mine workers, wages are even lower at around $1 per day. Children, who make up almost 15% of the workforce, work for the paltry sum of about 80c per day or are not paid at all as they are often employed to pay for the debts of their families.

By mobilising and organising workers within the Rajasthan mining industry, our partner MLPC is leading the way in protecting the rights of Rajasthan’s mine workers. Through MLPC, workers have formed into unions to collectively demand their rights and negotiate for better working conditions and basic social protection. Workers have also been empowered to buy and run their own cooperative mines, creating an outstanding model of fair trade in the Indian stone mining industry.

Addressing domestic violence

With 896 girls being born per 1,000 boys at last count (Indian census 2001), India’s sex ratio is becoming increasingly unbalanced. In some states such as Rajasthan, this disproportionate figure is skewed even further. According to the UN’s Population Fund, the sex ratio of Rajasthan is 798 girls per 1,000 boys, a huge decline from 875/1,000 in the 1991 census.

In a bid to reverse this trend, the Indian Government introduced a law against sex determination and disclosure in 1994. In simple terms, this was a law against the targeted abortion of female foetuses. However, since its implementation, only 37 cases of female foeticide have been lodged under the Act, despite as many as 500,000 female foeticides occurring every year across India.

Against these odds, Oxfam and Indian non-government organisation Vikalp Sansthan are raising awareness of this legislation and reducing the practice of female foeticide. Changing attitudes is challenging work and Vikalp Sansthan has been building strong ties with remote communities along the Indian/Pakistan border where the most numerous cases of female foeticide occur.

As part of Oxfam’s We can campaign, Vikalp Sansthan is working to mobilise thousands of “change makers” to challenge harmful attitudes and end violence and discrimination against women. Vikalp Sansthan also supports women who have suffered from domestic violence to seek justice.

Defending indigenous people’s rights

Imagine having your homeland exploited every day by people who have no legal right to do so. For the indigenous Adivasi communities of northern Andhra Pradesh this is part of daily life.

While there are protective laws in place to safeguard the rights of these communities, their rights are persistently violated and the laws ignored. They are denied the right to participate in decision-making processes that affect them and are regularly displaced from their traditional homeland and farmland without proper consultation or compensation.

Adivasis are also struggling with the erosion of their cultural identity through the loss of traditional knowledge such as herbal healthcare, and a weakening of traditional institutions such as customary law and decision-making bodies. With strong connections to the land, securing Adivasis’ access to their natural resources is vital in raising their standard of living and maintaining their cultural identity.

Together with our local partner Laya we’re working to protect the human rights of Adivasi communities. We support marginalised communities to assert their legal rights and secure sustainable livelihoods while developing youth leadership through innovative programs such as a Community Video Unit and herbal healthcare training.