Marginalised women and transgenders join their voices with other downtrodden communities for a post-2015 development agenda

Mayavati, a 29-year old Dalit from Kisani ka purva village in Rai Bareli district of Uttar Pradesh, has struggled hard against poverty and discrimination to educate her children. Her father was unfairly paid for the work he did on the field of a landlord and she spent several hungry days in her childhood. She remembers never being allowed to step out of her house alone. When she was married at 15, she hoped that things would change, but they did not. She worked in a rice mill where she saved the residue of broken rice mixed with stones to feed her husband and children. Eventually she got involve with a savings group in her village, which helped her save money and take loans to put her children in school. She also set up her own petty shop. She now wants to help other women and believes that no amount of cash transfer will help alleviate poverty. She sees collectivisation to be the only solution. She dreams about a world where all children go to school.

Joshna Pradan, 22, fought for her family’s right over their one acre of land in their village in Kandhmal district of Odisha. When Joshna lost her father at a very young age, her uncle took possession of the one acre of land their family owned, which was their only means of survival. He also separated her elder brothers from them. She, her mother and siblings had to starve for days on end, or survive on the wild roots she used to bring from the forest. When she grew up, Joshna summoned the village panchayat and fought for the land. Thanks to her efforts, they were able to get back a small portion of the land.

Vineetha, a transgender from Kolkata migrated to Chennai 26 years ago and has been working for the welfare of her community. She lived with a partner for 13 years and brought up a destitute girl along with him. Five years ago she was forced to leave her partner and the girl in a crisis. Vineetha decided to leave her house and all her belongings to them. She started life from scratch and since then has been surviving on begging and dancing. Her aim in life is to prevent people from addiction. She is concerned about government apathy towards transgenders even as she actively engages with like-minded people to advocate on their behalf with various government departments. These were some of the voices who spoke as Voice for Change at a ground level panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda by People Living in Poverty organised by Praxis, a non-governmental organisation here in the Capital last week. The ground level panel consists of 14 members from diverse backgrounds living in poverty and experienced marginalisation and came together for five days to deliberate on their responses and recommendations to the United Nations High Level Panel report on the post 2015 global development framework. They are not members of any government, private or non-governmental organisations or associated with any political parties or trade unions. Instead, the panellists drew on their own experiences of marginalisation and exclusion to provide a ground level reality check to the High Level Panel.

Sharing their recommendations, the ground level panel members sought establishment of a corruption free society and state. Therefore, there is need for reservation and targeted support, be they poor, Dalits, tribals, minorities, women, elderly, transgender, children, slum dwellers or people with disabilities.

These were the groups of people that comprise the ground level panel and who drafted the recommendations for the high level groups. For the UN millennium development goal 3, the suggestion was to establish a robust accountability mechanism.Groups that are excluded and marginalised, should be recognised as equal citizens and be given identities instead of doles. Care should be taken to ensure that identities, rather than labels are established.

Creation of institutional spaces for promoting people’s participation in local governance and policy making processes, ending discrimination based on caste, language, sexual orientation, religion and gender; abolition of traditions and practices that sustain discrimination in society like caste system and dowry; and creating stringent restrictions on the sale and promotion of alcohol and other addictive substances were some other recommendations made by the ground level panel.

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