What We Do?
The Foundation for Social Transformation: enabling north east india (FST) is a not for profit, feminist, gender just, apolitical, indigenous philanthropic organization, conceived, led and managed by people from the region to support progressive grassroots initiatives in the North East India. FST works towards supporting community led solutions that contribute towards creating a just, peaceful and equal society. FST started in 2005 with the mandate to strengthen civil society initiatives for promotions of democratic governance.
Entrenched in the principles of social and gender justice, FST’s vision is to enable communities in North East India to be free from fear, discriminations and violence. FST’s vision is anchored on the aspirations of the people of the North East region and in their active participation in the social transformation process.
Vision of Success (VOS) of FST:
As a development organisation FST has been working within the complex geopolitical, socio-economic environment of the region but at this juncture. FST needs to revisit its development vision whereby justice is put at the center of community development and rights are included within the framework of justice. This vision is what FST want to establish through its work in the region as encapsulated in its Theory of Change:
FST is an indigenous philanthropic organization that transforms lives by creating cadres of change agents in marginalized rural and urban communities, establishing a culture of community giving for social justice and building a strong network of grass-root groups in NE India.
- Youth are progressive, conscious and critical thinkers and are taking assertive action for positive change in communities
- Women are recognized as custodians and nurturers of natural resources, holders of knowledge, deeply connected with mother earth. Women are collectivized and a cadre of women leaders assert and uphold progressive women’s agency at different levels.
- Marginalized Groups across NE India are organised into issue based collectives, with a cadre of leaders and change makers who continuously assert and engage with authorities and the public for correcting power imbalances and inequalities.
- Invest in, support and promote the region’s diverse communities, abundant environment and natural resources and cultural and creative knowledge and practices.
- Enable communities of the region to chart their own visions and strategies, and be owners of the development processes.
- Promote and support peace-building and rights-based approaches and gender equality and social justice.
- Channelize the energy, and imagination of the youth for positive social transformation through innovation and creativity activities.
Strategic Target Groups
To realize the development vision, FST identified the followings as key strategic target groups.
FST believes that youth of the region have tremendous potential if harnessed and mentored in right manner and given a proper platform. FST recognizes the potential of the youth and have been working with them since inception.
|FST is deeply committed to gender justice and enabling women’s agency. Women are an integral part of FST’s work crosscutting FST’s approaches and programmes. While being focused on women FST believes in having an intersectional approach in addressing gender issues.||
FST endeavors to be especially focused on marginalized groups (MG) in NE India such as women with disabilities, LGBTIQ+, occupational minorities such as domestic workers, daily wage laborers, construction workers, street vendors etc.; ethnic minorities and religious minorities development induced displaced groups, conflict impacted groups.
THEMATIC AREAS – FST HAS DECIDED TO WORK ON THE FOLLOWING THEMES
Rural and Informal Economy:
India is making rapid economic progress. Services and technology sector is driving this growth. Yet economy is still dominated by agriculture and informal sector. India is predominantly a rural country with two third of the populations and 70% workforce residing in rural areas. The situation in Northeast India is no longer different.Informality is found all the states of the region. Women are somewhat more likely to be engaged in the informal economy but significantly more likely than men to be working as informal workers. Female participation in the rural workforce is significant.
The focus of the theme of Rural and Informal Economy will be on accessing information, resources and social space where significant skills and opportunities are provided to strengthen the economy with an emphasis on:
- Formations of craft collectives, producer groups
- Support, upgrade skills, design, diversification of skills
- Improve access to market and fair prices
- Improved urban governance
- Access to basic services for urban poor
- Assist people in accessing rights and entitlements
Environment and Natural Resources:
North East India often called the green belt of India is a land rich in natural resources-oil, natural gas, minerals and most importantly valuable forests. Assam produces the largest share of tea that’s nearly 53% of the all India production. Besides Assam, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh & Tripura also contributing to the tea production, though output from these states is yet to gain momentum.
The main reasons for the decrease are shifting cultivation, other biotic pressures, rotational felling, diversion of forestland for development activities, submergence of forest cover, agriculture expansion and natural disasters, they said. Assam is affected by flood every year but it is now regular occurrence in the states of Manipur, Garo Hills in Meghalaya, Tripura. Flood causes serious damages to the natural resources.
Focus of this theme is to conserve, promote and sensitize the traditional sustainable agro practices, clean energy and its linkage with the market with an emphasis on:
- Community based inclusive sustainable natural and common property resource management practices – protection, forest produce, ownership and access
- Conservation of bio-diversity
- Increase resilience to climate change
- Land rights for small holders
- Promotion of clean energy
- Sensitization and advocacy (extended support to advocacy groups on national policy of climate change)
- Promoting sustainable agro practices
- Farmer’s collectives – focus on women farmers
- Market linkage – bargaining power, spaces within market
- Traditional food preservation methods
- Reviving, preserving, promoting indigenous seeds and herbs
Gender and Patriarchy:
Gender equality is a principle and approach in all the work of FST. Speaking of gender, women have an unique position in the society of the Northeast Women are visible in every sphere of lives in the society of the region. “Visibility, entrepreneurship, sense of justice, collectively are some of the markers in the coloring of the picture of women in North East India. They are out fending for their families and they were out defending their state from colonial forces. Marking their mark in the field of sports, theater, weaving, education etc., they are at the same time in the cudgels of domesticity with the sense of ethnic identity overarching their individual idea of being a woman.” Women are producers, sellers, weavers and custodian of the homes. Every epithet describes the women. Women enjoy freedom in education, marriage. Practice of dowry, bride burning etc. are almost a no in the reason.
Focus of this theme will be to access gender inclusive space with heightened women’s participation in peace and policy forum. To promote substantive equality, opportunities for leadership and support advocacy with special focus on women and youth with an emphasis on:
- Promote substantive equality in different levels and contexts
- Promote feminist principles across sectors
- Address power imbalances, exclusion and patriarchal controls over resources, markets, livelihoods, environment and decision making institutions
- Deepen understanding and advance socio economic and political rights for women, youth and marginalized groups especially indigenous women and women with disabilities through collectivization
- Promote opportunities for women’s leadership and agency in emerging livelihood options
- Address gendered dimensions of conflict and ensure women’s participation in peace building processes at different levels
- Foster women’s civic and political engagements at different levels
- Support advocacy efforts for implementation of state obligations under national laws and policies and international human rights instruments
- Have a special focus on adolescent girls while addressing gender and inequalities
- Work with men on gender imbalances, patriarchy and masculinity
Marginalized people are those who do not have an access to resources, justice, rights and entitlements and opportunities: they could be a minority in larger groups that are deliberately ignored and neglected and pushed to the periphery. Their voices are not heard.
The marginalized are found in everywhere. It is based on race, physicality, numbers, sexual orientation etc. A mentally and physically unwell person is often discriminated at home and society. Adivasi community especially in Assam is one of the largest groups who have been facing discrimination for centuries. They are socially excluded. People with disabilities have had to battle against centuries of biased assumptions, harmful stereotypes and economic marginalization of generations with disabilities, and like many other oppressed minorities, this has left people with disabilities in a severe state of impoverishment for centuries.
Focus of this theme is to support and encourage the capacities of marginalized groups by enabling their access to livelihood opportunities, schemes and extending our solidarity to social justice matters with an emphasis on:
- Encourage formation of collectives of the marginalized groups
- Support training and enhancing capacities of members of these groups in accessing
- Accessing rights and entitlements
- Legal and financial literacy
- Reporting and documentation
- Sexual health and sexual rights
- Gender sensitization
- Politics of marginalization and social justice issues
- Build leadership skills among the group members to better assert and negotiate within their communities and with authorities and institutions
- Facilitate the establishing of networks with other like minded groups within the region and beyond (national and international), so as to gain solidarity and be a part of larger discourse on social justice matters.
The premise for FST as an indigenous philanthropy organization is based on certain issues. Some of these are:
- A large majority of people are economically, geographically and socially disadvantaged.
- The rich biodiversity is threatened and so is the livelihood and cultural identity of people dependent on it. Growing horizontal and vertical disparities over the years have exacerbated conflicts and further fueled prolong socio-political unrest.
- The region is presently going through a host of issues such as ethnic conflict, problems of livelihood, survival, and access to and control over scarce resources, to identity politics of power sharing, inter-ethnic, communal and separatist conflicts.
- These issues also provide a sound rationale for sustained intensive social activism; and pose major challenges to civil society organizations working at the grassroots level on issues of social justice, equality, and community mobilization.