This is the second in a series of posts about the development work of People's Rural Education Movement (PREM) Orissa, India.
PREM is what you might call an intermediary non-governmental organization (NGO); it is less a solitary, issue-based organization than a movement that reflects the direction of hundreds of grassroots people's and community-based organizations (CBOs). The basic idea of PREM is that people build up organizations, not the other way around.
At its inception as an advocate for education of the marginalized people of Orissa, PREM didn't just build schools. It began to build up a culture of education and literacy among those--aboriginal peoples (Adivasis), lower castes (Dalits), fisherfolk, rural villagers and farmers--who hadn't been exposed to the possibilities and rights of formal education. And it lobbied those who would deny these rights--inept or corrupt government, the haves of society--to be a part of changing the prevailing social values.
And after twenty-five years of evolution as a movement toward this value-based change, PREM now nourishes hundreds of small, village-level CBOs that, e.g., operate pre-schools, train and support local teachers, provide vocational training, promote new initiatives for curriculum development, and advocate for education among constituent communities of Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalized groups.
Over the years, PREM has expanded beyond education to facilitating projects and raising awareness about issues of health care (general, immunization, HIV/AIDS, malaria, hygiene, etc), water and sanitation, livelihood, governance, child rights and child protection, disaster relief and rights implementation.
Beyond CBO-level support at the local level, PREM has organized state-level and national-level networks so that these disparate CBOs might federate themselves for strength and unity in advocacy for change. The Orissa Adivasi Manch (lit: "forum") and the National Advocacy Council for Development of Indigenous People (NAC-DIP) are state- and national-level, respectively, federations of Adivasi-development CBOs and NGOs that are facilitated by PREM. There are similar federations formed by PREM for Dalits*, for the fisherfolk**, and for women's groups.***
From a wide-angle view, PREM is situated within an immeasurably extensive web of people, organizations, development initiatives and values that--with PREM's core competencies of knowledge and resource sharing, and its capacity to bring people together for change--is continuously building itself into a stronger and stronger alliance for social justice among the Adivasi, Dalit and other marginalized people of Orissa.
* The Orissa Dalit Manch is a state-level forum for Dalit issues and organizations. It's national counterpart is the Alliance Network of Dalits (AND).
** The Kalinga Fisher People's Union is a state-wide union of 35,000 local fishermen and women in Orissa. The East Coast Fisher People's Forum (ECFPF) is a network of fisherpeople's unions in various Indian States.
*** In 1992 PREM founded Uktal Mahila Sanchaya Bikash (UMSB), a state-level federation of more than 2200 women's self-help groups (SHGs), most of which are small, village-based micro-credit initiatives including seed and grain banks, local arts and crafts commerce, forest-produce and agriculture collectives, etc. All receive training and other organizational support from PREM. Today UMSB has more than 32,000 women members. UMSB is also part of a national network, INFOS (Indian Network of Federations of Microfinance Self-Help Groups).
Photo: Ceremonial planting of a tree at a meeting of various tribal organizations and CBOs with PREM.