The Advocates for the Poor project trains poor South Asian women to help their fellow poor obtain rightful government benefits which they are usually lacking because of ignorance, intimidation and corruption. The need is enormous because South Asia is home to the largest number of urban poor in the world and is also one of the most corrupt regions of the world. This can leave poor families without some of their most basic necessities—things like access to clean water or electricity, the ability to enroll their children in school, access to available pensions or the ability to get a vendor’s license. It can leave victims of domestic abuse without recourse, communities without toilets, proper drainage or good roads and much more.
The project uses an Advocating With the Poor manual that was developed to address this problem, then adapted and translated for multiple languages and regions. The manual identifies approximately forty important benefits in categories like food and water, income, health, education, power and gas, community or villages services, farming, identity documents and help for human rights abuse. Each benefit is described on just one page that identifies the relevant government department, the exact entitlement, the application procedure, how to advocate if the application doesn’t succeed and a success story. The manual is easy to learn and use, even for women with little education.
The project trains twelve to fourteen women in a given city or area to work for five to ten hours a week. The women usually work in teams and go out into their communities to meet people and survey needs. Once needs are identified, they work with families and individuals to apply for benefits and see them through the process until benefits are received. The women meet regularly with a project coordinator to share successes and solve problems. They can also learn to start literacy classes and self-help groups. Since all the women advocates are followers of Jesus, they are also able to share God’s story, the story of the ultimate Provider and the one Advocate for whom nothing is impossible.
There are currently two projects in need of funding, one among the Bhil and another among the Bhojpuri, two or the poorest and most oppressed of South Asia’s many outcaste people groups. The support of a full team for one year is just $2500. Each advocate receives an honorarium of $10 dollars a month, which though small to us is significant in their economy. The coordinator gets a slightly larger amount and the remaining funds go for copying forms, transportation to government offices, regular team meetings and miscellaneous other expenses. The projects are designed to run for three years ($7500) so the process can be taught widely and thoroughly enough to endure when the funding ends.
Would you, your small group or Sunday school class please consider a gift for the support of either the Bhil or Bhojpuri teams? Gifts are tax deductible and can be made in any amount.
A Success Story
Dilsha and husband Anwar have five children and live in a small hut in one of their city’s 500 slums. Dilsha was illiterate and could get only occasional jobs as a servant. Anwar lost a foot in an accident and hadn’t worked for six years. The family lived literally from one meal to the next. One day one of our advocacy workers met Dilsha and learned of the family’s plight. She learned that the children were not in school because neither parent had the identity documents needed to get them the available assistance. Our worker immediately helped them get their documents and obtain the financial aid that enabled them to get the children enrolled in school. With the new identity documents, the worker then helped Anwar apply for disability assistance. By then, the worker had helped Dilsha enroll in a self-help group where she learned to save, began hearing the stories of Jesus, and eventually qualified for a small micro-loan. Within a short time Dilsha was able to take a small loan enabling Anwar to get a vendor’s license and open a small recycling stall. During this time she’d been hearing the stories of Jesus and become his follower. Dilsha says, ”Since the women have helped me and I have come to know Jesus, I have found hope to live. Now my husband earns after 6 years of being bed ridden. I know very well that Jesus has helped him. My children are happy going to school.”