FEDINA’s creation, back in 1983, was following the State of Emergency established by the Indian public authorities for a 21 months period from 1975 to 1977. After almost two years of denial of basic rights and freedoms, people were still afraid that these arbitrary policies would be back. In order to promote rights and giving priority to oppressed communities, FEDINA was then set up. In 1996, the network evolved to the one we know today : promoting rights of unorganized sector workers together with all kind of marginalized populations. Duarte Barreto, Executive Trustee of FEDINA, explains to us who is standing the network for.
1- Hello Duarte, Could you explain to us who is refering FEDINA to when speaking about « vulnerable and oppressed people » ?
Historically and at the beginning, FEDINA was working with tribals communities. The network then extended its activities to dalits communities. This is in 1996 that our teams invested the slums and worked with their residents. In such places, we met muslims as well as dalits and work with all of them without any religious or ethnic consideration. Finally, we chose to focus our efforts on unorganized sector workers as well as most of the population we were already working with was part of this sector. Women have also been at the centre of our action for years.
2- What is the process carried out by FEDINA in order to support this population ?
One major activity of FEDINA is conscientization: it means that people need to develop a critical consciousness. They need to be aware of injustices they are facing and question them. Awareness-raising and awakening is then followed by organizing. Especially in the early phase, it requires quite an effort : getting close to people, and earning their trust and carrying activities of animation. Principle of withdrawal is also a big step of the FEDINA’s process : we follow the groups that we have created with the idea that they are managed by themselves, and with relations with FEDINA. Finally, we encourage collective actions so that people claim their rights and earn them back.
3- According to you, was there an improvement for these people during the last 10 years ? / What are the main achievements FEDINA obtained ?
The main achievement is, without any doubt, people being aware and questionning, Nowadays, thanks to our collective action, there are many people aware of their condition, organizing and acting. In the end, we can certainly say there was an improvement during the past decade ! FEDINA has about 40 unions today and we even formed the South India Federation of Trade Unions (SIFTU), operating at South India level. Our unions won some essential victories for the workers and women groups are always getting stronger : empowerment is effective now.
4 – What are the main challenges FEDINA had/ still has to face while working with this public ?
For example, in the slums, people are organized,on the base of slum residence.
But very often the real leadership is coming from outside and answering to personal or political interests.
Another fact is that many people are used to welfare. FEDINA finds it hard sometimes to make people admit the importance of their rights and stop thinking in welfare terms. We need to keep a long-term vision and not falling into dependence.
Finally, cultural and societal discrimination is a day-to-day challenge we need to rise to.
5 – What is going to be the strategy of FEDINA for the next years to come ?
FEDINA will strengthen its action along 3 mainstream lines :
- Promoting women rights, with vigilance committees for instance ;
- Promoting marginalized population rights as for dalits and tribals ;
- Promoting labour rights while worling with unorganized sector workers.
Developping links between groups, federations and unions and helping small organizations to be part of a wider, larger one will also be one of our goals. We can say that as long as oppression and marginalization prevails, FEDINA and its network will be there for the people‘s benefits.