Arogya Agam’s major strategy is to encourage and support community participation through people’s organisations and volunteers. Participation by women, Hiv positive people and children have been described in the sections on children, women development and health.
These are the most discriminated within Dalit communities, even other Dalits discriminate against them. The majority of sanitary workers are from this community. We work with those campaigning for better deal for Arunthathiyars and for implementation of laws banning sanitary work without proper equipment and protection.
Work with Arunthathiyar children has been successful and now Arunthathiyar women’s self help groups are functioning quite well, but only in Aundipatty Taluk. Arogya Agam has been working with Arunthathiyar community in a wider area since 2004 but with limited success. A review suggested a district advisory group which has been started with representation from all over the district. With the help of volunteers this has led to “village guidance centres” in around 22 villages with a view to start 13 more. These advise of education and scholarships, government schemes, infrastructure needs and encourage solidarity from within and outside the district in cases of discrimination and atrocity.
The children’s programme for Palliar Tribals works through ‘child focused community development’. We encourage and train village development committees (VDCs) and WSHGs and plan with them to address the individual village problems. These VDCs and WSHGs are starting to network for greater effect to make linkages for government benefits and livelihood opportunities and ensuring that families have the documentation to access these schemes.
These are born as boys but feel they are women. Arogya Agam was instrumental in assisting the Theni group to form and to register their own organisation. They have their own funding now but Arogya Agam supports a new programme which identifies young transgendered boys (who feel they are girls) and counsels them and their guardians. The aim is to keep these vulnerable young people at home rather than being forced out of the village at a young age and all the risks that this entails.
Arogya Agam was at the forefront of working with these women and their leaders from the early 1990s. A group in Theni has now been registered as a charitable society and has some funding, our role is currently advisory.