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The background research for this project was conducted in 2016 by Allison Platt as part of a Master of Arts Thesis for Tufts University, Boston, United States in collaboration with the TGG Foundation. Permission for this research to be conducted was gained from the District Collector in Wayanad before it was carried out.
This project aims to address issues faced by the local rural community in the Wayanad District of Kerala. Whilst Kerala is largely considered to be a highly progressive state, Wayand falls behind in metrics related to literacy, health access, and decentralized power. Wayanad is now considered to be the most “backward” region in Kerala, along with the Palakkad District (Nair 2006; Upendranadh 2008)
As a workforce, 74% of the population in Wayanad are dependent upon agricultural-based activities with 40% of the labor force engaged as agricultural day laborers. Historically, the District has experienced a high rate of agrarian distress in the form of farmer suicides.
Between 1997 and 2005, 90% of the 11,516 Keralan farmers that had committed suicide were from Wayanad (Munster 2012; Badami 2014). Whilst recent research suggests that these incidences are on the decline, it is estimated that as a result approximately 14,000 widows exist in Wayanad and find themselves in very culturally and economically vulnerable situations (Voorhees 2010).
Tribal communities, women, and farmers in Kerala and especially Wayanad have been identified as facing extreme economic, environmental, and social challenges. The Kerala economy has more recently entered a period of decline and stagnation characterized by underemployment and low employment, particularly amongst young people and women.
On a more local level, research-based near the offices of TGG Foundation found that female day laborers earn on average 48% less money than their male counterparts. Women in the area are also much more likely to do more hours of unpaid work than men and far less likely to be landowners (Platt, 2016).
In addition to this, it has been noted that currently there are few organizations locally that focus on women empowerment activities that are not affiliated with a particular religious group (Platt, 2016). This in itself can create barriers to entry for women who find the only services available to them locally are part of a religion of which they are not.
Stage 1 – Land Acquiring (Completed).
Stage 2 – Land development (in progress)
Stage 3 – “Aasha Ki Kiran” center for rehabilitation & empowerment