The Community Empowerment program is transforming communities in the mica region with initiatives that provide long-term and self-sustainable remedies to the underlying causes of child labor and poor working conditions. Launched in 2018, today more than 180 villages and 16,000 households are already benefiting from programs, including better schools and health care delivery, access to more diverse sources of livelihood and receipt of government services.
This map highlights all villages in which RMI and members are implementing Community Empowerment programs. The villages are selected under specific criteria, including the high dependency of communities on mica for their livelihood (more than 75% of households depending on mica for their living), higher concentration of the disadvantaged social groups, higher rates of illiteracy and dropout of children from schools, community willingness to work with the project in a self-help approach, and proximity to mines and processing units supplying mica to RMI members.
The Community Empowerment program is directed by RMI staff and implemented with the support of more than 90 development professionals employed by local program partner civil society organizations (CSOs). Partners provide expertise in disciplines that promote social and economic development in underserved rural communities. RMI and program partners amplify their community outreach by identifying and coaching members of each village who are trusted and can serve as ambassadors to explain program elements to the broader population. RMI’s work in the region is complemented by related initiatives to promote child rights sponsored by RMI members and program partners, including Terre des Hommes Nederlands.
The program addresses four broad areas:
Village populations are often economically dependent on mica collection for subsistence incomes because they have no alternative sources of livelihood. RMI provides families with training and resources to learn or improve skills for additional means of livelihood such as farming and animal husbandry. Mica collection will remain an option for adults who will be able to work in the mica sector which will operate in accordance with workplace standards designed to protect their health and safety and the environment.
In many villages, school attendance is poor, and the quality of the curriculum and teaching skills is inadequate. RMI initiatives work to strengthen curricula, improve school management and classroom environments, develop school leadership and enhance teacher capabilities. The program also engages parents to reinforce the role they can play in their child’s education. RMI also supports a scholarship program, which targets those children who dropped out from schools or who are at risk of dropping out due to adverse family circumstances. The children are from poor backgrounds where the family is unable to cope with emergency needs.
Villages in the mica region suffer from poor nutrition and lack of access to health care, affecting the population as a whole but especially women and children. RMI programs bring medical services to the villages and advise families about how to improve nutrition. For instance, RMI and partners have developed a model to revive and improve services of local Anganwadi Centers.
Anganwadi Centers are targeting 0-6 year old children, such as pregnant and lactating mothers and adolescent girls from disadvantaged sections belonging to poorest of the poor families. Anganwadis are backyard schools in simpler words, and provide free primary education to children, free healthcare services such as vaccinations and periodic health check-ups to children as well as mothers and pregnant women. They also provide lunches to the enrolled students.
Because villages in the region are remote and underrepresented, they frequently fail to receive their share of government support. RMI works with local and regional government agencies to improve the delivery of government services. These include social insurance schemes, agricultural subsidies, infrastructure development such as roads and hospitals.
For instance, RMI and partners have assisted more than 2000 families to get covered under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, a health insurance scheme supported by the government of India, given to each member of a qualified family and provides access to free treatment valued at five lakh rupees (6 968,25 USD) per year for health related needs.
Terre des Hommes Netherlands prevents child exploitation, removes children from exploitative situations and ensures children can develop themselves in a safe environment. Responsible Mica Initiative program partner and Board member Terre des Hommes, Nederlands sponsors programs in more than 60 villages in the mica belt. Consistent with its mission, Terre des Hommes efforts focus on child welfare initiatives including promoting education and child rights. Given the close relationship between the missions and programs of both organizations and the proximity of the villages where the organizations operate, both the Terre des Hommes and RMI programs are elaborated and implemented in very close coordination.