Civil Society Coordination and Solidarity Meeting

Introduction and summary

Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation (HRF)  organised Civil Society Organisations’ Coordination & Solidarity Meeting on 22nd January 2020 at ICSA, Chennai. There were 36 participants (16 women and 20 men) from 24 organisations from 15 districts.

Edwin (Director (Programmes), HRF) gave the welcome address and elaborated on the purpose of the solidarity and coordination meeting. The organisations invited and the suggested areas of collaboration are those that HRF had joint programmes with in 2019. This attempt is to go beyond HRF centric collaborations and evolve collective joint programmes. The joint programmes are to strengthen the existing programmes, organisations, and networks. It is not to start new networks or processes. The collective planning is to make synergies possible. All need not take part in all programmes.

The key decisions taken were to jointly organise three programmes, and to set up core groups to plan and coordinate them. The three common programmes are local government day (22 April 2020), indigenous peoples’ day (9 August 2020), and women’s empowerment (6,7 November 2020). The details are given below.

Session I: Strengthening Local Government in Tamil Nadu (Main challenges, civil society  response, and collective action plan)

Sheelu Francis (Social Worker, Women’s Collective) moderated the discussion. Under challenges, the most common ones are money distribution for every vote and influencing the candidate’s mind to withdraw their candidature from the election. On the positive side, everyone welcomed the increasing trend of youngsters getting elected in this panchayat election, despite many hurdles. The way forward is to use data like village resource mapping, survey, etc. in grama sabha meetings to effectively monitor the changes/ developments in the panchayat area. Participants also noted with concern the increasing number of representatives with right wing views.

Session II: Sector-specific discussions (Main challenges, response, collective plan)

Esther Mariaselvam (Associate Director, ActionAid) facilitated the session. Due to time constraints, only women’s rights and SCs and STs (PoA) Act could be discussed. It was observed that media and TV serials are portraying women in negative roles which in turn reflects the patriarchal mindset. The way forward is to engage men volunteers in campaigns for women’s rights.

Session III Common calendar

Swarna Rajagopal (Director, Prajnya Trust) moderated the discussion on ‘Developing a common programme calendar’. The participants were asked to list out their planned activities that need to be conducted annually. She proposed that three or maximum four common actions be planned (one every quarter). After a lot of discussion, three common programmes were agreed upon.

1.   April 22nd – Panchayat Raj Day; the anniversary of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act coming into force. This will be celebrated at the organisational level, but with district level visibility so that the coordinated strength is demonstrated. There is no collective financial impact for this programme. However, we will prepare for a collective, state level programme for 2021, for which the fund-raising plan needs to be drawn up by the core group. The joint programme will be decentralised, and not as a federation.

2.   August 9th – International indigenous peoples’ day; State convention of tribal and nomads representatives in local government (including SDGs). If any tribe does not have even a single representative in local government, then they can send other representatives. This is to ensure that all tribes are represented at this seminal event. The meeting will be in Kotagiri, with Mr Alphonse from ISLAND Trust taking the lead. Some funds will need to be raised for this programme.

3.   November 6th and 7th – Women’s Rights (including SDGs); many are already doing this. The common event can be coordinated. Men need to also be involved in this initiative. If a meeting is held earlier than the 16 days activism, then the events can be coordinated. Accordingly, this common event is clubbed with the annual SDG Watch Tamil Nadu convention, and will be held in Madurai (just after the Ekta celebrations). The remembrance of the pioneers and annual human rights lecture will also take place on the last day.  HRF will raise funds for this as has been the practice. Any extra needs to be raised collectively

The common planning meeting for 2021 will be held at or soon after the SDG Watch convention.

Session IV: Roles and responsibilities

Manoharidas (Director, ISM-WDRC) moderated the final discussion of the day. Each programme will have a core group to carry forward the collective process. First the members for the core group for each programme were identified, and they were assigned the  primary roles and responsibilities. The core group will not be responsible for raising funds this year, since it is too short to inform and it is not in anyone’s programme or budget.

Core Group Members of Panchayat Raj Day celebrations

It was decided that this will be a joint decentralised programme, but it will not be as a federation (though the federation(s) can have their own programmes). All organisations will work together in their respective districts.

1.   M.L. Doss (Independent)

2.   Dhayalan (HRDF)

3.   Karuppasamy (READ)

4.   Sakthivel (SIDO)

5.   Bimla (EKTA)

6.   Sheelu (WC)

7.   Manoharidas (ISM-WDRC)

8.   Chitra (HRF, Convenor)

Core Group Members of Indigenous Day celebrations 

1.   Alfonse Raj (ISLAND Trust, Convenor)

2.   Kumar (IPDA)

3.   Periyakaruppu (RACNIICO)

4.   Sara (Women’s Collective)

5.   Annadurai (Child Voice)

6.   Vanaraj (Manitham Trust)

7.   Mageshwari (from Annamalai’s organization)

8.   Setha Lakshmi (WDPS, Trichy)

9.   Porkodi (HRF).

10.  Manoharidas (ISM-WDRC).

Location for the meeting is at Kotagiri, The Nilgiris.

Core Group Members of Women’s Rights celebrations

1.   Bimla (Ekta, Convenor)

2.   Swarna (Pragnya) (media outreach)

3.   Tamilarasi (HRF)

4.   Sheelu (WC)

5.   Manoharidas (ISM-WDRC)

6.   Kamachi (SWTN)

7.   Vanaraj (Manitham Trust)

8.   Edwin (HRF)

The core group is responsible for planning and organizing the specific event, which includes content, agenda, schedule, materials, advocacy, etc.

The convenors will intimate the date of the core group meeting as soon as possible.

HRF will assist the core groups with the preparation of content, drafting the declaration, material, resource persons, and any other help as and when required.