South India: building economic independence, cooperatively
The new UnionAID project will enable Dalit and Tribal communities to build their economic independence (from landlords, middle men and moneylenders) through cooperative based businesses and micro-enterprises.
On a recent visit to South India UnionAID Executive Chair Ross Wilson was able to talk to many of these groups about their aspirations.
Rajalakshmi and Rana are the leaders of a Tribal nomadic (Narikuravar) community who, as part of the UnionAID project, have settled on government land near Madurai. Organised as a union they are proud of their achievements in obtaining the land and a water supply. They now want to work with two other Narikuravar communities to extend their jewellery making business as a cooperative venture providing an important source of income for the community.
There are 189 units of Dalit sandalmakers in and around Madurai City working in poor conditions on piece rate work. The UnionAID project will enable them to develop these businesses together as a cooperative venture, and link them directly with the market.
Angali is the president of the Bamboo Basketweavers’ Union. Dalit women in several villages aim to develop their existing bamboo weaving skills and micro-enterprise activity into a cooperative based business. These women are working in the forecourt of the Dalit temple in Ambedkar Nagar which is the Dalit area of Perunkueli village.
Erammal is the leader of the Women Agricultural Workers’ Union which has built the collective bargaining power and confidence of these workers over the past few years. Erammal says that the women want to build their economic independence by developing their agricultural activities as a collective based business.