Foundation for Educational Innovations in Asia (FEDINA) is a secular, non-governmental, non-profit organization established in 1983 with the objective of empowering the marginalised, the oppressed and the poorest of the poor to demand their rights.
We have our headquarters in Bangalore, India, and currently work in the four South Indian States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, and the Union territory of Puducherry.
FEDINA works towards the empowerment of almost all marginalized groups of our society: tribals, dalits (traditionally regarded as untouchables, officially identified as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes), poor women, small farmers, landless labourers, informal sector workers, Muslims and slum-dwellers, with the aim of enabling them to organise themselves into groups capable of fighting for and demanding their rights.
The broad objective of FEDINA is to empower the marginalized sections of the society. Empowerment is broadly understood in terms of improving the self confidence of the marginalized people, enabling them to resist oppression and negotiate with government authorities, employers, landlords, upper castes etc.
We believe that the most effective way to fight oppression is to enable the oppressed to become actors in their own emancipation.
From the Executive trustee
I have been working with Fedina since 1994. Since my childhood days I was intrigued by the situation of dalits, the discrimination they were victims of and the submission they were subjected to. The need to fight this discrimination and submission was a vague feeling first, which progressively became a conviction. Both at the Indian Social Institute, where I worked for 25 years, and in FEDINA, I tried to fight these evils of our society. At the Indian Social Institute I did this through training, and in FEDINA my colleagues and I created a large network of social action groups of dalits, tribals, women and informal sector workers. Within this network, local associations work together to confront the discriminations suffered by marginalised communities. They fight forms of discrimination which have become structural, rooted in a social code from another time. What they do is extraordinary, as it touches the foundation of society.
– Duarte Barreto
FEDINA was established in 1983 with the objective of reaching out to the poorest of the poor and the marginalized, in order to improve their livelihoods. Though it was established with the idea of ‘empowering’ people by enabling them to access their rights, we invariably stepped back from building political consciousness among people and focussed more on welfare. This was due to the political situation at that time, given that it was not too long after the emergency.
During those days, the suppression of the people had strengthened the Naxalite movement, and the government came down very heavily on Naxalites. Therefore NGOs were overcautious and did not want to be identified with the Naxalites. There was so much fear of the state, that any activity that came close to empowerment or rights, were withdrawn. Partly because of NGO intervention, many groups that were militant became less militant. People’s movements were diverted, consciously or unconsciously, due to fear of the state.
Over the years, FEDINA has evolved gradually from Welfare to Rights and now our approach is almost fully rights-based.
IN the late 80s and early 90s, FEDINA was mainly involved in forming Self Help Groups, promoting income generating activities and conducting informal literacy classes for adults and drop-out children. We worked mostly with tribals, dalits and senior citizens.
Over the subsequent few years, we began to focus more on rights of the marginalised people, and also started working on women’s issues. In 1996 FEDINA consolidated a loose network of rights-based groups in South India, which later came to be called Network of Social Action Groups.
Our work since 1996 can be divided into two phases. In the first phase, we worked broadly on human rights of dalits, tribals, women and informal sector workers. Later, as the groups interacted and worked with each other, we asked ourselves if we should have specific priorities under the broad framework of human rights. We realised that what really kept the tribals and dalits marginalised and poor is the fact that they were either unemployed or underpaid. So logically the priority had to be labour rights and unionisation.
At this point we started looking at dalits more as workers with labour rights, and not just as a structurally marginalised and discriminated group. It took a few years for all the groups to make this shift from general human rights to labour rights. Now, the main prioirity of most of the groups in the network is labour rights.
To sum it, over the last three decades our priority first shifted form welfare to human rights and later from human rights to labour rights.
Our Organisational Structure