ASTITVA SAMAJ VIKAS AND SANSHODHAN SANSTHA
Astitva has been working amongst dalits of Solapur district in Maharashtra for the past ten years addressing their issues of livelihood, health, education, employment and VAW. A group of youth from the community came together to form the Astitva and since inception has been working on issues of exploitation of dalits at the hands of non-dalits and establishing their rights over lands received from the erstwhile rulers of Hyderabad state. The area is one of the highly drought prone areas of India and every third year here is drought. The communities are largely dalits, nomadic tribes and other backward castes who are unable to sustain themselves due to poor fertility of lands, lack of local employment sources and forced migration to cities and towns. Women and children are worst sufferers who alongside suffering malnutrition also face more brunt due to social status. Women face gender discrimination in all walks of life within community and society at large. Astitva has been addressing the issues of livelihood by empowering communities and addressing gender issues at community level.
Area of Work:
Mr. Shahaji Gadhire
History of Involvement With Men
Solapur and Sangli districts, part of western Maharashtra are known for practicing caste systems, feudality and masculine society where women are treated merely as commodities at family and community/society. Blocks identified by Astitva for our intervention on gender issues have lowest sex ratios in Maharashtra State - Sangola in Solapur district has 780 and Jat in Sangli is at 862. The child sex ratio is also shocking at 846 and 885 (0 to 6). Poverty amongst resource poor and landless communities is acute who also suffer due to recurrent drought conditions. In recent months number of sex detection clinics are sealed by ‘State’ due to increasing tests of gender before the babies are born (PND Tests).
Rral poor women face major brunt of the violence due to social hierarchy, drought and deprivation. As per one estimate every third woman face one or other type of domestic violence which is due to polygamy, dowry demands, deprivation of property rights and negligence.
Two districts are also known for sex workers and sending maximum number of girls for sex sale in different parts of India. According to Indian Health Organisation, at least 15,000 and National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) 16,624 girls were dedicated to temples last year (2010-11) from the boarder districts of Maharashtra and Karnataka states. Poverty, long droughts, widespread alcoholism and hounding loan sharks, miseries amongst low castes families, poor enforcement of prevention laws alongside continuing rise in demand from organised traffickers for young girls are main reasons for continuation of devdasi who are easy targets of traffickers. Although number of laws and policies are in place the enforcement is a major issue in protecting women and children from, female foetcide, domestic violence, child marraige and trafficking. To empower women and activate government machinery there is need of creating community awareness about gender equality, rights of women, development schemes, gender justice and sanitize law executing and rural development agencies and demanding implementation of legal provisions.
Keeping this background in view Astitva decided to work on empowerment and development of women by actively involving women, men and youth at village and PRI level and sensitisation of government and poilce administration sentsitisation.
Some efforts of sensitisation of community – women, men and youth – were already going on at all level due to social structure of our caste, community and region. Our trustees, community leaders and volunteers and consultants were the mainstakeholders who decided to work on gender equality and that we need to work not only at community level but also with other stakeholders such as government agencies, police, schools and colleges. Our efforts were strengthened by joint planning with Center for Health and Social Justice, New Delhi.