Surrounded by mountains and bodies of water, India is one of the oldest civilizations and home to over 1.3 billion people (World Bank, 2017). It was led to independence from Britain by Mahatma Gandhi in 1947, one year before he was assassinated. To this day, India remains the world’s largest democracy.
It also holds special meaning for our WE Villages team because our story began here. It was on a trip through South Asia in 1995 that Craig Kielburger witnessed firsthand the working conditions of child laborers.
Despite becoming a global economic power, India still struggles with overpopulation, environmental degradation, extensive poverty and ethnic and religious strife. Sadly, 21.9 percent of India’s vast population live below the poverty line (World Bank, 2011).
Of children under the age of five suffer from stunting (UNICEF, WHO, World Bank, 2015)
Of people over the age of 15 are literate (CIA World Factbook, 2015)
Average age of life expectancy in India (UNDP, 2018)
We began working in India in 1998, not long after Craig’s first trip to the area, concentrating our efforts in the northwestern province of Rajasthan, in the districts of Udaipur and Rajsamand. The marginalized populations residing in this province include the Scheduled Tribes (Indigenous), the Scheduled Caste (Dalits) and the Other Backward Classes (Diaspora community) and have largely been excluded from government spending and development over the years. Girls especially suffer in these areas, where they are given less food than their fathers and brothers.
Education has been our primary focus, as we believe it offers the single greatest social return in the eradication of poverty. The WE Villages Education Pillar of Impact also facilitates the unification of children in the classroom from the social stratifications of India’s caste system. We work together with each of these communities to get rid of the obstacles that prevent children from accessing education. Our commitment to community development has also united government leaders, local elders, parents and students in these rural communities.
In every country where WE Villages operates, we tailor our programs to meet the unique needs of the communities we work with, while still adhering to our five Pillars of Impact. Read how we’re implementing them in India.