Oxfam India’s Community Leader Wins Woman Exemplar Award 2019

Oxfam India’s Community Leader Wins Woman Exemplar Award 2019

Born into a Dalit family in Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur district, 32 year old Kanchan was a child bride and a child labour; she was denied proper education and faced caste-based discrimination. With her grit and determination, Kanchan became a leader from a survivor. She has worked for the rights of Dalit children and women since 2002. In April this year, she was awarded the CII Woman Exemplar Award. 

For Kanchan, education was a far-fetched dream as her family believed in educating only their son. As the elder child, it was her responsibility to take her brother to school. “I would have never been introduced to education had I not been accompanying my brother to school. I enrolled myself in school. I dropped out when I was in class eight as my parents couldn’t afford to pay the fees.” Kanchan’s parents were daily wage labourers; after dropping out she started going to work with her mother. As soon as she started earning some money, she went back to school and eventually completed her B.Ed exams. 

But it wasn’t easy. Belong to a Dalit family, she faced discrimination in school everyday. “Whenever I volunteered for any extra-curricular activities, the teacher would tell me that I come from a Dalit family and I should not aim for anything more than basic classroom activities,” she said. 

Struggling her way through this systematic humiliation that Dalit children face in classrooms, she recognised the need to empower the adolescents to fight such identity-based discrimination. 

Her ordeals, however, were not restricted to her identity as a Dalit alone; she was married off as soon as she attained puberty. As a child bride, she faced immense family restrictions and was subjected to physical assault. It was not an easy journey. From negotiation to arguments to fights, I tried them all to get my family to support me. However, today I have the last say when it comes to decision making in the family,” she says. 

She started work as a community mobiliser at the age of fifteen in 2002 after completing her matriculation. She started working with Child Line Kushinagar as a counselor. Having faced discrimination herself, she wanted to work for Dalits.  She joined Jan Vikas Sansthan (JVS) in 2016, a Jaunpur-based community led organisation and one of the partner NGOs of Oxfam India. CLOs are grass root level organisations working for the rights of marginalised communities and are led by the communities themselves. Oxfam India trains its partner CLOs on issues of gender, health, education, and inclusion.

READ HOW OXFAM INDIA'S WORK ENABLES MARGINALISED COMMUNITIES LIVE A LIFE FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION

In JVS, Kanchan works with adolescents to address gender-based discrimination within the Dalit community. She works in remote parts of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and has reached out to 5,000 Dalit children through her work on rescue, rehabilitation and life skills. Through her work, she has mobilised 8,000 Dalit women to speak out against caste-based violence and discrimination, including that which pushes Dalit children out of the education system.

JVS has trained groups of adolescent volunteers who in turn teach their local community members (adolescents, parents, and farmers) about their rights, in each intervention village. Kanchan works on these community engagement programmes to train adolescents and their parents on health, education, and safety with an aim to improve marginalised communities access to education and health services.

Social Inclusion

Our work enables marginalised communities, such as Dalits, tribals and Muslims to live a life free from discrimination

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