DALIT started operating in the education sector in order to ensure regular attendance at the Government schools and reduce the percentage of dropouts among the dalit and other vulnerable communities. Since the beginning, DALIT built and it is now running 64 educational centres (simple structures in bamboo and tin sheets) where children from pre-school to Primary and Secondary level receive educational support (curricula and extra curricula activities) and materials, as books, notebooks, pens and pencils.
It also provides a monthly economic contribution to school and college students to cover tuition and exam fees, especially to girls to give them a possibility to complete their studies at least till the SSC (Secondary School Certificate). At present, more than 600 adolescent girls are involved in this program, postponing at the same time the date of their marriage and increasing their chances to have a role in the society and not only in their families.
According to DALIT’s data, 45% of dalit and marginalized children are enrolled in primary education, while only 5% attended school before; 60% of them completed primary education and are enrolled in the secondary education; 60% of them passed the SSC. By the way, more efforts at higher education level are needed: only 13% of the students completed their higher secondary education and only 6% are going to University.
Abuses against women and children are a very crucial obstacle to the social advancement. Changing the mindset and the traditional behaviour is a long process. For this reason, it is fundamental involving and sensitizing all the communities’ members, especially men and boys, to prevent them and reduce their diffusion in the society. At school level, School Management Committees (SMCs), schools teachers and DALIT staff coordinate their efforts to protect girls from child marriage, providing information both to parents and students about the physical and psychological risks of this habit.
At community level, DALIT campaigns against dowry, VAW and any form of discrimination through seminars, meetings and community mobilization, as rallies and human chains, with the participation of several stakeholders.
Considering the limited access the dalit communities have to health services, DALIT established in 2004 a well-equipped hospital with disease diagnosis facilities in a rural area, where majority of people living nearby belong to dalit and other marginalized communities. Both allopathic and ayurvedic treatments are provided, and a special attention is given in particular to the pregnant mothers and to the newly born babies. Moreover, the medical staff periodically visits remote schools and villages through a service of mobile clinic, in order to supply free medical treatment and health information for disease prevention to poor students and villagers. When cases need more cares are referred to the hospital. Beneficiaries also receive health education and information through regular awareness raising campaigns on health issues.Skill Development of the Birth Attendants and Traditional Healers
Majority of the pregnant women are still opting for delivering at home, as per the local tradition. Due to the lack of proper hygienic information and skills of the birth attendants, often old ladies, many of them are still suffering many health infections during the deliveries. Observing high rates of maternal and child mortality among the dalit and other marginalized communities, DALIT undertook a program to develop the Traditional Birth Attendants’ (TBAs) skills, providing them with health information, up-to-dated techniques and tool kits. Seminars for pregnant women about pregnancy, hygiene and child care have been also regularly organized.
In addition, in the local communities, traditional healers (Kabiraj) provide primary health care to the people as they are available locally. For this reason, DALIT trained them with information about current medicines and health practices, so they can attend the patients in a better way.
DALIT promotes the use of the traditional ayurvedic medicine among the patients in the hospital and in the villages, having very few side effects because of its natural components. The organization decided to plant 5 acres of land for medicinal tree plantation and a medicine production plant was established, which is now producing 24 different types of herbal medicines (syrups and tablets) to address several illnesses, from gastroenteritis to headache, cough, cold, fever and asthma.
In response to the 7th Millennium Development Goal, which aims to improve the access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, DALIT installed deep tube wells and arsenic removal filters in the poorest areas, being arsenic contamination of surface water sources one of the major problems in South-Western Bangladesh. In addition, people are still the fields for open defecation. For this reason, DALIT started promoting the use of and installing latrines, especially among the women, for their safety and privacy. Before and after the installation, the staff also provided information about the importance of using safe water and hygienic practices.
DALIT is committed to provide employment opportunities to dalit and other marginalized communities’ people to make them self-reliant and able to earn some money for themselves and their families. More than 25.000 employment opportunities have been created till now, and the beneficiaries are equipped to run their own activities.Computer & Block batik training programs
Considering the importance of female empowerment and employment, and in order to develop social awareness among the women and young people of dalit and other marginalized communities, DALIT started vocational training courses to create job opportunities and become self-reliant and more autonomous. In particular, computer and block batik training programs for dalit and other marginalized adolescents have been organized in two different localities, improving their competences, practical abilities and skills and getting a job.Handicraft for women
Considering the high number of abandoned women, widows and in other difficult situations, DALIT introduced a specific program for them to produce handicraft products. These activities are diversified: in different villages, groups of women became specialized in a particular manufacturing with a specific material like wheat straw, jute, batik, cotton and saree. Increasing their income, these women can be more autonomous and self-reliant and they can ensure a better lifestyle to their family members, especially ensuring the education to their children.
Environmental disasters such as cyclones and floods are frequent phenomena in the target area. In order to alleviate the suffering of thousands of people who lost their houses and assets, DALIT undertakes relief and rehabilitation programs to recover the people to their normal life after the disaster. Through awareness activities, people in the target areas are now more conscious about the threat of natural disasters and preventative measures. In example, in the most vulnerable flood and water logging area of Tala, Satkhira District, DALIT implemented rehabilitation activities to recover the food security and livelihood situation of severely affected households. Distribution of food, clothes and hygiene kits, deep tube well repair/installation, house construction/repair, cash for work and cash for training have been implemented, in order to employ the affected population to repair buildings and roads and get some profit.
Lack of awareness and poor education lead to vulnerability and human trafficking. Women and children in rural villages are the most affected by these violations of human rights, with the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labour. Through periodical meetings, cultural camps and seminars in the villages and in Banishanta brothel, DALIT aims at making people aware of the risks of human trafficking and exploitation.