SLUM DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY (SDS), CHENNAI, INDIA
ON SLUM DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY
Slum development society ( SDS ) is one of the voluntary groups which has over a decade of years maintained its integrity, sense of commitment and closeness to the slum people of the metropolitan city named Chennai. It is involved in organizing fishermen, Harijans (Dalits) and other backward people of the slums surrounding Santhome, Adyar and Mandavelli of Chennai Corporation. It purely aims at the Welfare of the slum dwellers.
GENESIS OF SDS
SOS is the brainchild of Mr.D.Benjamin,a young and energetic post - graduate who had co-worked under the banner of SEED TRUST, Chennai. He himself being a slum dweller, he witnessed the community clashes occurring in the slums, It was in 1987 a community clash broke out in one of the slum area in Santhome. With the timely guidance and able leadership of Mr.D.Benjamin a major clash was averted. The slum dwellers thought of an association to safeguard themselves. Mr.D.Benjamin decided to go to the most backward slums and exert his efforts for the welfare of the low-caste and oppressed class of people. Under his leadership an organization, under the title of Slum Development Society was registered in 1987, since then, as a registered body, SDS continues to serve the slum people.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SLUM AREA
The slum areas are, in general, separated from the main stream of city life. The socially backward and economically weaker sections of people particularly the low caste people are the inhabitants of these slums. They are exploited by the rich and high caste people and are treated inhumanly, even worse than animals. Slums are the manifestations of poverty and human struggle for shelter and security.
A survey was conducted and the findings were summarized in a book named "HUMAN FACES OF THE SLUM PEOPLE " SDS is the compiler of the book. The characteristics of the slum area and its people are: 1) Low level of literacy, especially women education at low ebb. 2) Low standard of living. 3) Low level of per-capita income; below poverty line. 4) High density of population, no family planning methods. 5) Lack of skill training; seasonal employment. 6) Low level of propensity to save 7) Mostly indebted with high rate of interest 8) Exploitation of low-caste people, especially women and children 9) Poor infrastructure facilities 10) Lack of leadership qualities.
OBJECTIVES OF THE SOCIETY :
The opportunities for voluntary social service society are vital in the process of social transformation among the slum dwellers. To this end, SDS had -framed salient objectives basing on social awareness and economic emancipation.
Following is flow-chart of major sectors with which the objectives are inter-twined.
Investigation, Training and economic activity
Social Action & people's movement
Social Transformation & Social Justice
As "awareness" is the base for self -realization of one's status and potentiality, it provides insight for future vision and so it has to be created among the slum people. Awareness in every sphere of human life is to be built necessarily - in socio economic, political, cultural and education fronts.
Education has twin force to bring in a great change in the existing social order and economic status of the slum people. To develop minimum education as to enhance educational skill and leadership qualities of the slum people and their children.
3) INVESTIGATION, TRAINING AND ECONOMIC ACTIVITY
To investigate and identify the traditional and potential skill of the slum people, to give training, to develop their skill and capabilities and to encourage small business, and self -employment.
4) SOCIAL ACTION & PEOPLE"S MOVEMENT
Public participation is the base for social action and people's movement. With this instrument of solidarity and unity, people can achieve their legitimate demands. Hence initiate social action and formation of different associations for youth, women etc.
5) SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
This necessitates to increase individual household income, to raise the standard of living of the slum people and attain equality of women groups at per with slum male-groups.
INSTRUMENTS OF ACHIEVING THE GOALS
In the beginning of development work, SDS had some teething troubles in the form of mistrust, and non-acceptance by the slum people. As years rolled by, the people of Dalit and fishermen community began to grow in confidence and accepted SDS a committed group interested in the betterment of the toiling masses.
This acceptance made SDS to throw themselves heart and soul into the project works. Development agencies abroad began to help SDS in their endeavor to build awareness and to alleviate illiteracy and poverty among the slum people. The methods that are adopted to awareness building are :
1) Awareness building through regular meetings, audio -video shows, seminars, work -shops programs etc.
2) Non-formal education programmes and night school study centres.
3) Health education art environmental safety.
4) Skill training and self-employment programmes.
5) Reading room, recreation, sports, cultural activities, religious orientation etc.
6) Leadership training, legal Aid, women’s empowerment.
7) Human Rights programme.
SDS is very grateful, at this moment, to CEBEMO - The Netherlands and TRICKLE UP PROGRAMME - U.S.A. who had with their tiny assistance encouraged SDS at its cartilage. The activities began with their assistance are still continued with the help of other agencies even today. The activities are not only carried out in the slum areas of Chennai, but also in rural areas. Because the so-called ideal, quiet and peaceful village life has now become the open-field for array of evils of illiteracy, poverty and population explosion. In order to stop these evils, SDS has shifted its focus on rural welfare and development activities. Following are the activities of SDS.
1.NIGHT SCHOOL CENTRES
From 1987 onwards tuition classes for school going children are conducted through these Night school centres, except on Sundays. This is done with the motto to motivate the children to go to school regularly. Totally 20 Night school centres are conducted and in each center about 75 children attend the class every day.
Once in every month parents meetings are conducted. It is a reflection session where parents shared their experiences about the performance of their children. It provides an opportunity for parents to take responsibility in the children's studies, welfare and development, and talk on other issues pertaining to the slum way of life, like health, savings, sanitation and infrastructures.
3.STUDENTS SUMMER CAMPS
Every year one summer camp is conducted for 100-150 student in the age group of 14 to 17 years, a common program for all target group areas. All students who join X std in June are given special coaching in the subject of English, Maths, physics and Chemistry in which students generally lag behind. The camp will last for 7 days.
4.ORGANISING COMMUNITY MEETINGS
SDS organizes community meetings for young people to get involved in the process of training and development which will lead to self-initiative and new opportunities for active participation in local communities. In each project year, 3 or 4 community meetings are organized. About 60 persons take part in such meetings.
This is organized for three categories of people - school drop-outs, women and artisans. The school drop-outs are encouraged and supported to undergo vocational training in driving, printing, book-binding, motor vehicle mechanism and repairing, air-conditioning, motor rewinding works etc. During 1997-98 project, 46 persons got trained in the above trades, some of them employed in standard companies and others self-employed. All of them earn regular income for their family.
For women groups, training is imparted in type-writing, toys making, candle-making, basket and plastic wrie-bag making, woollen thread works etc as to enable them to engage in self-employment ventures. About 75 women are able to succeed and sizable income for their family. Training is also given for artisans to develop their knowledge and skill, to understand labour security and welfare measures.
6.ASSOCIATIONS / SANGAMS
Youth Associations and Madhar (women) sangams are started in each target area as to make the youth and women to participate, involve and commit themselves for their own development. Thirty sangams exist today with elected officebearers for each sangam / association, and nearly 25 members per association. The associations make it a practice to conduct area meetings every fortnight as to identify the existing problems in each area, to undertake suitable remedial measures and to approach respective government officials for specific problems.
7.LEGAL TRAINING AND COUNSELLING
The existing legal provisions and constitutional safeguards for upliftment of the Dalit people have led to repetitiveness in legislation without bringing about any concrete change. The poor is always exploited, harassed and is made to experience the painful side of law. For the poor, law always speaks about justice but it fails to provide them adequate justice. To make available the channels of justice to the poor, during 1998-99 project, free legal services and counseling have been advocated by SDS. Committing itself to the basic rights of women, SDS has opened a 24 hours Legal Aid counseling cell in the office. About 36 women/families had got benefited by this cell. This program had facilitated the women groups in rearranging or restructuring their lives in freedom. It had also strengthened the social and political position of women and improving their economic base.
NEWS LETTER ON HUMAN RIGHTS
During 1998 - 99 project a "News Letter" on Human Rights was published in Tamil every month. The name of the bulletin is " MANITHAM "Twelve issues were published, each issue 1000 copies. The News letter contained articles On human rights, the circumstances under which human rights denied to the Dalit people, especially to Dalit women and widows, how the freedom leaves plucked, articles on religion and humanity, women welfare, child care etc. The target people made use of the magazine to avail the concessions and loan facilities to enterprising groups.
The inhabitants of slum areas and villages belong to the unorganized sector of labour force. The main source of income in the slum area is from daily wage works like building construction works, cycle -rickshaw, auto -rickshaw driving, fishing etc. The slum women earn income by selling fishes, greens, vegetables and fruits, house-maid works and building construction works. In villages, the major source of income is agricultural labour. In order to make these people to earn regular income, small business are encouraged and supported by SDS. With the assistance from Trickle-up-program, 250 families were benefited over a period of 3 years.
In order to create " reading
news papers " a regular habit among the villagers a " Reading
room " was started in 1994 in the remote village of Kanakankuppam
in the South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu state. About 3000 people of
the village were benefited by this program. Today the reading room is
run by the villager themselves.
S D S PERFORMANCE
SDS is good at carrying out schemes to the utmost benefit of the target people. Because of its excellent performance in the social service works, SDS was assisted in its projects continuously for three years by the same agency, CEBEMO, TRICKLE UP PROGRAMME entrusted with SDS, the job of Southern India representative to convene a meeting in 1994 for South India Partners. Its president, Mr. D. Benjamin was chosen to participate in the solar cooking workshop programme held at KATHMANDU - NEPAL in 1994. Later on, SDS was given an opportunity depute its staff to undergo a special graduate study in " HUMAN RIGHTS " at, INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL STUDIES - THE HAGUE THE NETHERLANDS.
The sources of finance for SDS project come from foreign agencies onIv. The main funding agencies are
Year Name of Agency Country Activities
The Organization is run by a managerial Board, Information and Research Team and an Advisory Board. The managerial board consists of the President, Secretary, Treasurer and 4 executive council members.
The president, Mr.D.Benjamin is a post-graduate degree holder in Sociology. He has exerted himself in several of education programs on human resources development schemes. He is qualified in Communication for social changes. He is closely related to the slum and rural people for he is involved in solving people's problem. He has participated in the solar cooking and sound Alternate workshop conducted by TRICKLE - UP - PROGRAMME, U.S.A. He has also undergone a special graduate study on " LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS " at ISS, The Hague, The Netherlands, in 1996,. He is also a journalist, the founder and Editor of " MANITHAM " a Tamil monthly magazine on Human Right The secretary, Treasurer and the E. C. Members are postgraduates. This is the apex body of administration of the Slum Development Society.
THE INFORMATION AND RESEARCH TEAM
The information team consists of part time animators organize meetings for women and promote small savings. The full timers supervise the works of part time animators and motivate the people to take up local issues; both of them help the Organization to plan for project activities.
Mr. Arputhanathan and Fr.Neethi are the members of this board. Mr.Arputhanathan is a post-graduate degree- holder in Economics, participated in the workshop on communication for social change. He is a good social analyst and a field worker, one of the best speaker and coordinator.
Fr.Neethi is a founder of many Dalit peoples movement and Director of Rural Development Society. He has given good guidance and coordination to organize seminars, workshops etc. He is a good counselor both in religions and family matters.
EVALUATION & REPORTING
SDS has developed a system to evaluate the project activities within the organizational set up. A self-evaluation committee, consisting of five members is set up within the organization. A member of the executive committee is the head of this team. The target group members are called to comment on the achievements and short comings of the project. Based on this report, a half-yearly work-progress statement is prepared. Financial statement is prepared and audited by the chartered accountants. The final report of the project is sent to the donor agency along with the audited accounts statement. This system is welcomed by the funding agency as well.
1.Local big-shorts of the high caste community often intrude and stand in the way of benefits reaching the poor.
2. The unorganized sector of daily coolies is spread over vast areas and hence coordination between them is not achieved to full extent.
3. Seasonal nature of work to win the bread for the family often removes the unity among the people.
SDS has done all its worthwhile deeds during the past years and proved the excellent value of funds provided by the donors. All of its programs particularly the training in human rights, the News Letter and women's empowerment schemes remain as an eye-opener for the young generation and women groups. It is not an exaggeration to say that SDS has planned development for man, by man and of man. Its basic emphasis on education for slum people is to liberate the slum people from the restraints and limitations of ignorance and dependency. Support and resources are most welcome from institutions and agencies to set SDS on the chartered course of its vision and mission.
For More Information, Please contact:
D. Benjamin, Founder and President, 36/B . 11 Loop St, R.A.Puram - Chnnnai - 600 028, India.