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Changing Lives of Sahariya in Tilori

Weakly thatched roofs, walls made up of mud and stone boulder, one small entrance to the house, one room to accommodate the living and kitchen. Women and men working as manual labour at nearby construction sites, with no stable source of income. Children playing in dirt, covered with dust all over. One school with meager presence of children. This is the story of the Sahariya basti in tilori. The entire hamlet witnesses a classic divide and social exclusion within a community comprising of Kushwah's and Baghel. Sahariyas would have to make their own paths to commute to and from the village. The primitive tribal group largely capacitates migrant families from Shivpuri district about a 150 kilometers from the village. The government schemes reaching them were none. Even the grain especially wheat they had was a substantial composite of stones and wheat grain.

Akzonobel felt that this was one community that needed special attention, considering the alarming status of lives of this community. The first step in this direction was the complete revamp of the satellite school in the village, with a view of challenging the social exclusion children of this community were facing. There was some success too, about 10-15 children started to attend the school . However this was not matching the dream of Akzonobel for this community. Akzonobel partnered with Sambhav ( a local non-governmental organization) to work closely with the community, with special focus on the Sahariya community. There was no concrete plan of action in hand, considering the disparity. Hence it was planned to do whatever is in the capacity to work in the direction of collective upliftment of this community.

It all started with a series of meetings with the community. Group meetings, meetings with women and men, separately all was done. The community had painful stories to share. Some of these were inhuman. The community was a complete outcast for the main village. The only government service for them was a seasonal handpump, that was responsible for fulfilling water needs of 35 odd families through the year. Once the water level sank , they would walk distances to get water, since their admission into the main village by large was prohibited. Alcoholism was adding up to their vulnerability in the absence of regular income.

The very first intervention in this direction was to enter the community through children . A remedial education class was started here by Sangeeta and Rahul. This had no specific place. It was either under a tree or any place where there could be some shade. The program members would carry the white board , chair and mattress everyday to and from the community. Morning 8 o clock they would reach and teach these children until 10 , when the regular school commenced. The school authority initially were not very happy about this intervention, however over period of time they noticed a significant rise in children's interest in education and increase in the number of children attending the school regularly. Although all this support was external. When we requested for a place where students could be regularly taught in a organized manner, initial resistance was a pre-assumption. However through regular dialogue and advocacy a standby room in the school was made available for organizing remedial classes.

Today the school has a registration of 31 children , of which 5 children come from the main community. The teachers now feel that there has been a significant impact by the upgradation of the satellite school. The school now has regular supply of stationary for the children by the Parivartan project, added with furniture, toys and other assistive aids. Regular hygiene education classes, distribution of sanitation kits, dresses and school bags was initiated to make sure that education found its place on the priority list of the community.

On the community front, the Sarpanch , Electricity Depart and the district administration was advocated with a series of letters and memorandum familiarizing them with the dire situation in which this community was forced to live. The very first change that took place was the health department coming ahead for organizing regular health camps and undertaking health survey for this community. The panchayat on the other end with the introduction of the PMAY scheme, did a survey of the hamlet with the support of the program, and created a list of prospective beneficiaries. Project staff would support in preparing applications and helping organizing documents. Aadhar card camp was organized and almost all the members of this community successfully got themselves registered. As of today the hamlet has about 8 PMAY houses that have been completely constructed and handed over to the beneficiaries, with some construction and some awaiting approvals. As for the financial sustainability, about 5 members of this community , do not work as manual labour anymore, but as factory workers at nearby corporate institutions.

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