Since 1877, the United Church has been working in solidarity with partners in India who focus on human rights, land protection, and gender justice.
The United Church's partners in India are
For more information on India, see:
"Unorganized, nothing will happen."
Astha is a Hindi word that means "deep faith or conviction." Astha Sansthan has deep faith in the people and their ability, knowledge, and strength to solve their problems. Astha's mission is to help marginalized people move from a position of deprivation and powerlessness to one of equality, justice, and full participation.
Since 1986, Astha has organized eight self-directing people's organizations representing 75,000 women and tribal forest dwellers, labourers, and farmers, living in hundreds of villages across the State of Rajasthan. These organizations work on issues including women's empowerment, Tribal Self Rule, land displacement, higher wages, and protecting land from corporate exploitation.
Member organizations have created a Women's Court (community-based resolution of violence and oppression of women), a women's counselling centre, a literacy program for girls, and a crash literacy training course for tribal leaders. Astha supports its members and works for structural change through research, documentation, and action. One of its most important successes was the passage of the Recognition of Forest Rights Act in 2006.
Astha has been partnered with the United Church since 1987. The United Church funding was instrumental in the completion of Astha's Training Centre in 1994. Recently, the United Church facilitated an exchange visit involving four First Nations people from Canada and two tribal women leaders from South Rajasthan.
Astha Sansthan has initiated an Extra Measures project relating to Empowering Women.
"Unity, Witness, Service"
Spread across a vast area, ranging from foothills to deserts to coastal regions, encompassing rural and urban populations, the Church of North India (CNI) is a microcosm of India's remarkable diversity. A multilingual, multi-ethnic Protestant communion, CNI is breaking down the barriers of caste, class, gender, economic inequality, and the exploitation of nature.
Formed in 1970, CNI has 1.5 million members worshipping in 4,500 congregations, using 12 languages and diverse forms of worship. In solidarity with marginalized communities, CNI sponsors four Resource Centres for Social Action across North India. These centres are hubs of information, community-building, training, and action for justice in relation to food security, the exclusion of Dalits and women, and land rights for Tribals.
The United Church of Canada supports CNI's anti-human trafficking program along the Nepalese border. This program involves establishing safe houses, building public awareness about the issues of trafficking, and offering alternative work training. CNI also networks with border governments and NGOs to monitor and stop trafficking.
The United Church of Canada partnerships in India began in 1877 with the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
The Church of North India has initiated an Extra Measures project relating to Building Sustainable and Just Communities.
"Social awakening through critical reflection"
Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (VAK) is an organization that facilitates dialogue between two groups that often don't connect: scholars doing theoretical research and social activists immersed in people's experiences.
Founded in 1981 and based in Mumbai, VAK is a people's think-tank that engages in research, documentation, and advocacy on issues of immediate concern to India's poorest and most marginalized people, especially Dalits (those of lower caste) and Adivasis (indigenous tribals). VAK sponsors two national forums: the Dalit Intellectual's Collective and the Cultural Studies Group. It publishes dozens of books, papers, journals, and bulletins. It works with other organizations to build networks for legislative and systemic change.
Along with its academic work, VAK is also involved in direct community action, such as
VAK has been a United Church partner since 1997. Their website includes videos about the impact of multinational soft drink factories on water access for ordinary people.
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