Center for World Solidarity (CWS) is a voluntary organization founded as a Public Trust in 1992 to create a more just society. CWS works through a network of partnerships with voluntary groups, networks of NGO’s and individuals to promote people centered, participatory development in five states of India namely Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar.
Self-help is the first step toward progress. Solidarity is the pathway to collective prosperity. And smaller communities are the way to sustainable development. Then, small, self-governing and self-reliant communities are what hold the key to building a strong, socially vibrant and economically resilient society.
Areas of Action
Organization of women into self-help groups, village Sanghas, farmer collectives and unions is the chosen method to address women’s needs, including addressing systemic violence against women. These formations build the capacity of partner NGO’s and community organizations to struggle for rights over resources and to enhance their livelihoods, both through government and NGO programmes. Currently CWS supports women’s struggles to gain land rights, rights over forest resources and to ensure equal rights to women.
CWS promotes women’s networks to campaign against domestic violence, female feticide, and infanticide and child marriages. Women’s networks are active in all the states CWS works in. In Andhra Pradesh alone the network outreaches 150,000 women spread over twelve districts. Recognizing the emerging trend of national and international trafficking of women, CWS links local action to regional and international countervailing campaigns preventing and to focus on rehabilitation of trafficked women with dignity.
CWS attends the problem of social, economic and cultural exclusion of Dalits, which exists despite constitutional provisions. Multiple forms of discrimination, destruction of livelihoods and lack of access to productive resources such as land marginalize Dalits. CWS works to strengthen Dalit organizations and their networks to access productive resources and develop barren land to create work and food security. Local watch groups and fora of Dalit activists that CWS helps, work for prevention of atrocities, and providing legal aid to victims. The programme has led to Dalit farmers accessing land rights, create food security at the household level and pro Dalit right interventions at the policy level.
The rising Hindu fundamentalism internally, and the current anti-Muslim environment globally make all minority groups feel insecure. CWS strives to work with the Muslim and other minority communities to ensure their constitutional rights to equality in every sphere. CWS strategises to overcome their marginalization in the civil society. CWS development initiatives are linked to livelihood enhancement and promotion of the rights of Muslim women through women’s networks.
CWS encourages NGOs to take up cases of rights violation. CWS works closely with NGOs in this, providing legal rights training, advice and information on International Bill of Human Rights, which has enlarged the human rights discourse. These interventions address the grievances of the victims. Overall, communities have been sensitized. The police and state systems realize that rights violations are no longer tolerated, and that they can take recourse to the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women and the Minorities Commission.
Child survival, protection, development, participation and the provisions of the Convention on Rights of Child are the guiding principles of CWS work. Partners are involved in providing pre-school care, identifying school dropouts and enrolling them, campaigning against child labour and organizing adolescent girls to provide them reproductive rights education. While this programme supports a modest number of children, it is CWS effort to develop models by working with communities to ensure sustainable results and the spread of ideas.
Rights of Adivasis (Indigenous People)
Adivasi communities have paid a high price for “mainstream” development ; displaced and subjected to loss of livelihoods, they had their culture under seize. CWS effort is to strengthen community organization, livelihood approach and value their environment-friendly practices. In this work CWS works with like-minded national networks.
Democratic Decentralization – Development Where People Matter
Given the potential of local governance, CWS aims to strengthen the Panchayati Raj Institutions to empower the marginalized sections of society such as women, dalits, indigenous peoples and minorities. CWS campaigns for voter awareness and undertakes capacity building of newly elected grassroots leaders to help them old their own vis-a-vis bureaucracy. In this CWS works closely with all those sharing this approach to strengthen the process of decentralization.
CWS reaches 7,000 villages with 4 million population in Andhra Pradesh. A similar initiative is on in the state of Orissa; and there is a campaign to ensure elections are held in Pondicherry. State level campaign is on for devolution of funds and functions to the local bodies so that planning from grassroots becomes a reality.
Conserving, Managing Natural Resources and Promoting Sustainable Agriculture
CWS along with the organizations— Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Watershed Support Services and Activities Network, and Center for People’s Forestry works with indigenous and marginalized people in several ways:
To protect degraded village common lands to make them productive. Usufruct rights have been earned by the communities.
Conserving and developing degraded private lands owned by the poor through water and soil conservation measures.
To Protect and develop forest resources to improve productivity
To help communities to take control of forest resources
To help the poor and women through watershed development
Drought prevention and mitigation
Influencing policy to prevent flood and water-logging in the Gangetic region of Bihar.
Promotes social regulation of water resources.
CWS is a member of the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication an alliance of South Asian voluntary organizations campaigning with European Union, multi-lateral and bi-lateral aid agencies to focus attention on 400 million poor in the region and to step up efforts to eradicate poverty. It works in close alliance with like-minded European NGOs. It dialogues with international civil society organizations to develop a pro-people agenda to inform the current debates at the WTO.
CWS partners are involved in preparing bio-diversity registers as a first step towards ensuring community control over bio-diversity. Participation in the World Social Forum and Asian Social Forum has helped to strengthen the various networks promoted by CWS in the five states of its work.
Governance at CWS
CWS works with a team of 61 staff members providing professional and administrative support services to more than 150 partner groups and twelve fellows. It is managed by a board of trustees who take an active interest in the management of the organization. Participatory mechanisms are in place to ensure dialogue and consultation with partners in the form of mandatory annual regional and national consultations. A Programmes Committee comprising all CWS professional staff meets bi-monthly to discuss project allocations. Advisory Committees of well-known development professionals, academics and civil society leaders in their work, advise each of the different desks. A Finance Committee advises the Board on the financial management of the organization. The annual budget of the organization is approximately Rs 50,000,000.
Creating a Network of Institutions
CWS has promoted the founding of Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), the Centre for People’s Forestry (CPF), the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), BODHI (for Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi development) and National Dalit Forum (NDF) to serve marginalized communities effectively.