Grass-roots rights

Since 1995, Karunalaya has grown from a small soup kitchen to a large organisation that runs an enormous range of projects and services to champion the rights of many of the most marginalised women and children in Chennai, India.

The central pillars of their programme are providing shelter, food, healthcare, as well as offering counselling, street-based education and arts, sports programmes, vocational training and family reintegration work.

Karunalaya provides dedicated transitional accommodation for boys, and girls, as well as working with child labourers and children in pavement-dwelling communities. They focus particularly on the prevention of child marriage through family and community education, promoting girls’ continued engagement in schooling and encouraging girls’ participation in sports programmes.

With pavement-dwelling communities, street theatre has been a great tool to encourage children to share the issues affecting their lives with their families and communities. Karunalaya also empowers communities by supporting them to form pavement-dwellers’ associations. Through coming together in these associations, they can use their joint strength to ask for their rights to be recognised and to advocate for basic amenities for their communities.

We aren’t begging for this, or asking for it as a favour. It’s our human right. There is so much that needs to be done for children and families living on the street and so many stories that need to be counted. They are backed up by a lifetime of experience.” Usha, 19 years old, Chennai

Karunalaya’s advocacy and campaigning work is bringing change, and they have attracted supportive media coverage for speaking up for the right of all children on the streets to be given birth registrations.

To find out more about Karunalaya and their work, please watch our short film.

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