Economic independence for widows of Irular tribe of South India | Milaap
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Economic independence for widows of Irular tribe of South India
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Need Rs.40,000
  • Anonymous

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    Hanna Mathias

    from Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Five families squeezed into 10 square meters of space. Low walls made of mud with palm leaves forming a pointed roof, confine the living area.  
Outside the hut, a used car tyre and a bast mat serve as a sitting area, while some steel cooking utensils and clothes are strewn around, finding no place within the confines of the mud wall. 18 people of third generation live here, without electricity.  The monsoons bring in their own challenges, making the hut uninhabitable for these families.
Now, the hut is the least of their problems.  They do not own the land they live on and nor do they have ID cards.  Their children cannot go to school and they can be expelled from this temporary shelter at any point in time. Welcome to a small settlement of the Irular.
As an indigenous tribe, Irular, spreads across countless villages in South India today. Originally forest dwellers, who live among nature, are considered as the lowest in the caste system.
The Tamil Nadu Forest Act, introduced in 1882, prohibits their life style, forcing them out of their familiar environment and to live as homeless wanderers, working as daily-wage labourers either on agricultural fields or in brick factories. Their meagre earnings help them to just about survive by allowing them to buy rice from the black market.
Widowed women or women with dependent families, turn to charity. As a single parent or as a single earning member of their families, these women are unable to provide sufficiently for their children and sometimes are forced to send them to beg. Though the government provides special development programmes for these indigenous tribes, bureaucracy buckles their progress, and discrimination does the rest. 

The NGO Enlight Mission educates the Irular on their rights and supports them in their journey towards an independent and secure life. The staff members help the members of the Irular tribe with acquiring ID cards, ration cards and financial support for building houses and toilets. They help enrol the children into boarding schools or organize transport to help them visit the neighbouring village school. 
I have accompanied the social workers on their regular visits to the settlements several times. Now it's time for me to support the villagers.
How can we help?

In consultation with the villagers, we plan to buy five cows for five widows from five different villages, to become economically self-sufficient. With the sale of milk, single mothers can earn up to 90 € / 7000 INR a month, less the supply costs. Of their earnings, 12.50 € / 1000 INR is returned to us, to help them buy a new cow for a new family in need, after eight months.
A dairy cow costs 500 € / 40,000 INR. This is all it takes to help create a better future for a family, or even a whole village.
In the past, a few Irular families in the region around Gingee have received goats. The concept is based, not on charity, but on "help for selfhelp." This has proven to be very successful and effective. 


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