Re-evaluating tribal communities

This piece was posted by Tahsina, FYF Trusts and Communications Intern in London:

Tribal women in Chattisgarh, India

Starting my voluntary position at Find Your Feet has been indeed inspiring. While I read about the key issues surrounding Find Your Feet’s projects, the programmes about Tribal People in India (adivasis) grabbed my attention, which is an issue very close to my heart.

I first started thinking about tribal people when I touched upon the topic in my Master’s course in Gender and International Development. Being someone who feels a strong connection and oneness with nature, I could understand their passion for their surroundings and their way of living. In a rapidly globalising world where cultures from most regions of the world are slowly coming together and meshing into one, where modernism has led to universalism, one learns to value diversity.

Besides their unique cultures and traditions, indigenous knowledge is something that is easily forgotten. The experience of the local people, along with the knowledge that has been handed down through generations can be easily overlooked by the desire to use the most technologically advanced techniques in managing natural resources. There is a clear need to open our minds to learning from tribal people and how they manage nature.

What seems to be problematic, however, is the injustice that the general disregard for the lifestyles and livelihoods of the indigenous people engenders. Indigenous people have been marginalised and their environments have been intruded upon by dominant socio-political groups in many parts of India, resulting in a lack of social, political, community and individual rights and trapping them into an inter-generational cycle of poverty. To break this cycle, it is crucial that they regain access to their rights and that they are able to reclaim their ownership.

Find Your Feet employs a bottom-up approach where individuals in tribal communities engage in making decisions that affect their lives, thereby returning power into their hands.

It is vital that the tribal communities are provided with access to safe drinking water, healthcare and education. But I have always wondered why tribal people are seen just as an ‘under privileged’ community. With the privilege of their breadth of knowledge passed on through the generations, isn’t it about time that they be supported to take matters into their own hands and get their voices heard?

On that note I wonder what the effect of global agreements like Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests (REDD) will have on the ability of tribal communities to make sure their voices are heard. Will it have a positive or a negative effect on the poverty they face?

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One Comment

  1. Posted March 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the work you’re doing.


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