Focus 2006

Dalits Awakening - INH15-05-2006

Project: People’s Action for Rural Awakening (PARA)
Date of foundation: 1986, (Registered in 1988)
Place: Ravulapalem, Andhra Pradesh, India
Province: INH

History: It is twenty years since People's Action for Rural Awakening (PARA) was born. It came into existence as a response of the Social Action Initiative of Don Bosco, Ravulapalem to the devastation caused by the 1986 floods of the Godavari river.

Since its inception, the project has gone through various phases of growth:
- A mission to sustain the faith of the dalit (outcaste) Catholic communities who were poor agricultural labourers in the vicinity of the Catholic mission of Don Bosco, Ravulapalem.
- A relief project in favour of the victims of the floods caused by the Godavari river that extended its services beyond the Catholic communities.
- A sustained programme for the overall development of the poor of the area. This was the stage when PARA official came into existence. Its services extended to 36 villages with a focus clearly on the organization and development of dalit agricultural labourers.
- A macro level network began to substitute the scattered and sporadic interventions on behalf of the labourers that were limited to very small areas. The nework comprised some 40 non governmental organization. This gradually became a state federation of NGOs, agricultural labourer movements and sympathizers in which few Salesians have played pioneering roles.
- Political empowerment of all dalits in Andhra Pradesh was the new need to be developed and not merely of agricultural labourers alone. A resource center was created which keeps the work of political empowerment in focus - thus shifting its emphasis from working for merely economic development to working for representation in political assembly constituencies.
- Supporting a community that leads its own struggle for empowerment is the present work of PARA. This goal has been arrived at after twenty years of journeying, reflecting, experiencing together with the people and after a deeper understanding of the political economy of the state.

The aim of PARA today is to network with other NGOs in awakening and facilitating the capacity of the community of dalits of Andhra Pradesh for leadership - in securing their own political rights and entitlement to livelihood. The aim is elaborated in eight precise objectives, some of which are defending human rights, setting up credit cooperatives, promoting primary level education, etc.

Empowerment through folk media is one of the many objectives of PARA. The marginalized especially the dalits, adivasis (aboriginal peoples) and tribal communities have a rich cultural heritage which is embodied in folk media such as theatre, dance, music and songs. These forms are related to the many myths in which the glorious past of these subjugated peoples are retold.

PARA considers the use of folk media a very important instrument in the empowerment of these deprived communities so that they become agents of their own liberation. The folk media are used for conscientization, social mobilization, campaigning for various issues and cultural rejuvenation. The repertoire of theatre includes street theatre, victims theatre and play back theatre. The later has a therapeutic effect on suppressed communities, since it acts as a process of healing which is necessary for them to journey forward towards empowerment.

The folk media used have mobilized the marginalized and civil society on a variety of issues such as: Minimum wages, Land and Livelihood Rights, Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, Dalit, Women and Child Rights, Universal Primary Education, Right to Work etc.

The children‘s troupe has given more than a hundred performance over the last three years reaching out to around 20,000 people covering 150 hamlets spread over the district of East Godavari. Their aim was to spread the message of universal primary education, eradication of Child Labour and ‘Back to School’ Programme.

The street theater troupe of PARA has the honour of being selected as the official cultural troupe of the Governments Literacy programme of the district. Its ‘Ekalavya Training Centre’ has conducted 40 training programmes in the variety of folk forms, especially for dalit youth but also for young seminarians and youth activists who wish to be involved in the empowerment process.

Address: PARA
Don Bosco Mission
Ravulapalem - 533 238
Godavari Dt est.
Andhra Pradesh
Tel: +91 8855 255488
Fax: +91 8855 255010
Web site: