AS is the case with many indigenous people worldwide, centuries of facing inequalities, marginalisation and encroachment of their space have shaped the life of tribal communities in India. They live in difficult areas, relying primarily on subsistence agriculture and forest produce. Government’s tribal welfare measures have not reached all of them, and many lack access to education and opportunities to excel.
But there are exceptions. Take the examples of Nahul K and Naini Mamatha. Nahul, belonging to the hunting tribe of Malavettruvan and living in the tribal hamlet of Kalliyottu in Kasargod district of Kerala, scored ‘A plus’ in all the subjects in the recently declared class X results. Over 800km northeast of Kalliyottu, Naini Mamatha, a girl belonging to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) in Hayathnagar of Telangana, secured a seat in the National Institute of Technology, Warangal, through the All-India joint entrance exam. Naini was trained for her exam by the state’s tribal welfare department.
What Nahul and Naini achieved were firsts for their respective communities. Both youngsters benefited from having access to basic education and the government’s tribal welfare measures.
A long way to go
Tribal welfare has been one of the government’s top priorities since Independence. But for every Nahul and Naini, there are thousands of young tribals who lack access to primary education, health, nutrition and better opportunities in life. Still, despite decades of efforts to uplift them economically and improve educational levels, a lot needs to be done across large swathes of tribal regions across the country. Tribals form around 100 million of India’s population or over 8% of the total population.
Nonprofits have played an important role in bridging the gaps in tribal welfare in education, health, nutrition, and others. On International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we look at five NGOs that have been working for tribal welfare across the country.
‘Mrida’ in Sanskrit stands for both ‘joy’ and ‘soil’. And Mrida Education and Welfare Society has been trying to do just that with its grassroots-led development programmes among tribal communities of Mahakoshal region comprising some of the most backward districts of Madhya Pradesh.
The organisation started with a school for the children from tribal communities, deprived of knowledge and aspirations. Mrida has been trying to build and scale impactful education, nutrition, and livelihood practices for school-going children in tribal belts and demonstrate an environment of love and care.
It imparts education and provides opportunities to youngsters to excel in sports. It also provides a community shelter facility for children who are orphaned or are single-parent children. It also has sustainable livelihood programmes for the parents of its students attending its school, through its Kheti Shiksha Ke Liye – an agroforestry building project.
You can show your support to Mrida’s various programmes by donating here.
NWTWS has been working in the field of tribal welfare in the Nilgiris region in Tamil Nadu since 1978. It was originally designed to address health issues in the region, but there were so many other problems facing the communities that it expanded its welfare programmes.
The NWTWS, besides providing medical care through its dispensary, organises health camps, takes socio-economic measures for the upliftment of tribals and runs a residential school and hostel for tribal children.
While it helps boost the self-esteem and confidence of tribal children, it emphasises on preserving tribal culture and heritage. Through its innovative Livelihood Enhancement Programme, NWTWS has distributed cows and goats to leprosy survivors to generate income and improve quality of life.
Many of its programmes are supported by generous donors from across the world, and its 17-acre tea, coffee and pepper plantation in the same region. You can donate to NWTWS here.
Started in Odisha as a residential school, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) provides quality education to the tribal children to help them overcome poverty and injustice. And in the last 30 years, the organisation has grown by transforming the education landscape in the tribal areas of the state. With student strength crossing 25,000, KISS is one of the world’s largest residential education institutions for tribal children, serving over 10,000 meals daily.
KISS has persistently strived to become a preferred center of learning for the poor indigenous sections of the society. It focuses on formal education while providing sustainable livelihood and scope for holistic development.
Its mission is to empower 2 million indigenous children through quality education. You can contribute to its mission by donating here.
Parivaar has been working in tribal welfare in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh for close to two decades. Concentrating primarily on children aged 4 to 14 in tribal districts facing deprivation and malnourishment, it has over 240 ‘Sri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Seva Kutirs’ with more than 25,000 children getting nutritious meals, education, and life-skills in Madhya Pradesh.
It has long experience in West Bengal and continues to work in various regions of the state.
Parivaar wants to scale and set up 500 Seva Kutirs in Madhya Pradesh by December 2023, serving at least 50,000 children in some of the country’s most backward districts.
You can support Parivaar’s various initiatives by donating here.
The Samiti first started imparting education to 17 tribal children in Rajasthan, and today it provides education from primary to post-graduate level. In the last four decades, it has benefited over 30,000 tribal families. More than 18,000 children have completed their education from centres and institutions run by RBKS.
Its fields include development, livelihood enhancement, poverty eradication, rural development, skill enhancement, agriculture, and livestock management.
RBKS works closely with the tribal communities in various parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and others through its healthcare and empowerment programmes. They have also forayed into Haryana and Chhattisgarh.
You can donate towards RBKS’s various projects here.
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Kumara has been a professional journalist for over 15 years with stints in The Telegraph and Reader’s Digest. He grew up hating maths and physics. He is a post-graduate in history. Kumara believes that cricket and Seinfeld have answers to most questions that life throws at you.