We cannot simply apply the term “indigenous” to tribal populations in a country like India. India has a complex pattern of indigeneity because of its civilizational continuities and despite its colonial history. Yet, we must recognize that about 20% of the world’s so-called “indigenous” people reside in India. They represent a rich diversity of cultures. We need much humility to listen to tribal communities and celebrate their egalitarian social structures and harmonious relations with nature. We need great sensitivity to respond to their needs. Tribal communities continue to face multiple barriers related to land ownership, wages, social security and access to ecological commons. We need to recognize their role as frontline ecological defenders as the natural custodians of ecological resources.
We have to build the feminist just transition required in this time of mounting climate crisis on the affirmation and protection of the rights of tribal communities.
Advocating the rights of tribal communities has for decades been an integral part of ActionAid Association’s work. The 2023 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples theme is “Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-determination”. In this spirit, we re-affirm our commitment to working with tribal communities, especially those whose livelihood depends on ecological resources, including agricultural labour, small farmers, small-scale fisher folk and fish workers, pastoralists, and even hunters and gatherers of minor forest produce, to ensure their rights, and custodianship of the ecological resources with which they have had a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship over centuries. We will continue to strive to ensure that we integrate youth from tribal communities into our ongoing initiatives and that we continue to help protect their way of life for the benefit of all life on Earth.
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ActionAid India’s work with these communities is strongly focused on women and children. It was established with a vision to create a world without poverty, patriarchy and injustice in which every person enjoys the right to life with dignity. In 2006, ActionAid Association was registered as an Indian organisation, governed by an independent General Assembly and a Governing Board. Together with supporters, communities, institutions and governments, they strive for equality, fraternity and liberty for all. It works in 24 states and two union territories, with several partners and allied organisations. ActionAid Association is part of a global federation and a full affiliate of ActionAid International, that has presence in over 40 countries worldwide. Ms. Shabana Azmi is the current chairperson of the governing board.