ActionAid Association Organises a National Conclave on Building Solidarities for Just Futures

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India, 15 June 2023: ActionAid Association, in its commitment to work with the most marginalised communities and to build community-led initiatives, hosted a two-day national conclave on June 9 and 10, 2023, in Delhi. The conclave brought together grassroots leaders from marginalised communities, renowned social and ecological justice defenders, leading academicians, civil society leaders and students to discuss the challenges faced and the prospects for advances available. Leaders from historically disadvantaged groups, including Dalits, tribals, de-notified tribes, pastoralist communities, forest-dwellers and landless labourers joined the discussions, among others.

In the gathering were present leaders of people’s collectives who have been defending the rights of marginalised communities. In both policy and practice, they have been demanding just, feminist and discrimination-free futures for small-scale fish workers, landless farmers, urban slum-dwellers, gig workers, bonded labourers, manual scavengers, forest-dwellers, pastoralists, nomadic tribes and de-notified tribes. 

Dipali Sharma, Director, Organisational Effectiveness, ActionAid Association, in her welcome address, outlined the continued efforts of ActionAid Association across 28 States in India to ensure that voices of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities are included in decision-making processes – locally as well as nationally. She shared that this gathering is ActionAid Association’s effort to deepen collective knowledge and action on the trajectories and the challenges that historically marginalised groups face today.

The opening panel consisted of notable academics such as Professor Paris Yeros from Universidade Federal do ABC (UFABC); Professor Praveen Jha, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU); Dr Indu Agnihotri, Former Director of Centre for Women’s Development Studies; and Nidheesh Villat from the All-India Kisan Sabha.

Professor Paris Yeros spoke about global disparities due to imperialist and colonial structures and practices. He provided a historical analysis of how these structures have eroded the sovereignty of several nations in West Asia, Africa and Latin America. He highlighted the importance of people’s collectives and of building solidarities to further rights in this context.

Professor Indu Agnihotri spoke about the historical violence and oppression faced by women and elucidated how factors such as landlessness, caste and patriarchy continue to impact them today. She shared that while there have been many different rights demanded by women’s collectives in India, the question of women’s autonomy has been central.

Nidheesh Villat shared that the All-India Kisan Sabha has always attempted to form strong connections with other peasant groups to advance the rights of all agricultural and peasant workers. He spoke about how small-scale farmers are being impacted in today’s times and stated that there is a need for alternate solutions, such as building cooperatives among workers.

Professor Praveen Jha from Jawaharlal Nehru University expressed that precarities are increasing with factors such as climate change further exacerbating the vulnerabilities of workers and other marginalised groups.

A leader from the Kalandar community shared how they have been treated as criminals and how the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, has impacted their livelihoods as they had to surrender bears and monkeys that they had trained to perform. A leader from the Maldhari community spoke about the rapidly shrinking common grazing lands. Land previously available for common use is now being privately owned and the worsening climate crisis is making it difficult for the Maldhari community to feed their livestock. A leader from the Tibetan refugee community shared that the expansive democracy of India has given hope and safe refuge to the Tibetan community, allowing them to preserve their culture and keep their hope alive.

The conclave served as a platform for social and ecological justice defenders, civil society organisations, academicians, community representatives and students to share their experiences, perspectives, challenges, victories and avenues for coming together and building solidarities for just futures.

The two-day national conclave had people representing 17 States in attendance. The proceedings of the second day attempted to consolidate key recommendations on how people’s collectives can converge and build solidarities across, to ensure that the rights of all groups can be furthered.

While culminating, Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association, expressed that the conclave has served as an exemplary platform to understand the work done by the various collectives and how they have been instrumental in upholding democratic values. He further stated that the questions of identity, landlessness, access to commons and women’s demands have common themes and issues and that a space for convergence must be created, using this coming together as an impetus.