India | ActionAid UK


ActionAid has been working with poor and marginalised people in India since 1972. We work in 24 states across the country.

India is the largest democracy in the world,with a population of over 1.2 billion. Despite its status as of the world’s fastest-growing economies, people living in both cities and rural areas experience extreme poverty. 


Why we work in India 

There are an estimated 18 million children living on the streets in India. Made homeless by poverty, violence, the death of a parent or natural disaster, children are forced to scavenge, beg or work on the streets.

Discrimination against women is widespread. Women living in the poorest areas of India have almost no access to finances, land and inheritance rights. Domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, acid attacks and ‘honour killings’ are frequently reported.

  • 33
    33% of the population live below the poverty line.
  • 53
    53% of children die before they reach their fifth birthday.
  • 47
    47% of girls are married before their 18th birthday.

Although discrimination on the basis of the Hindu caste system is now illegal, members of the Dalit caste remain some of the poorest people in society.

Smallholder farmers from Dalit and tribal backgrounds make up 80% of the farming community. Despite providing 50% of the food in India, they remain poor, and have few rights to their land. Flooding, drought and tropical cyclones are common, leaving farmers vulnerable to crop failure.





Chinama, 26 is a member of a co-operative women’s group supported by ActionAid. The group built 5 large ponds surrounding the village to supply water for the families, cattle and agriculture.

Photo: Richard Carter

What we do in India 

Tackling discrimination 

Across India, ethnic minority and caste groups experience discrimination, abuse and violence. Known as India’s ‘hidden apartheid,’ one in six people are affected by ethnic or caste discrimination.1 This includes not allowing people from lower castes to go to school, own land or have certain jobs.

In the state of Karnataka, ActionAid is supporting the Koraga tribe to stand up for their rights. Traditionally, Koraga tribespeople are restricted to the profession of basket weaving – meaning that many live in extreme poverty.

Together with the Koraga community, ActionAid has set up centres where young children can play and learn, fought to reclaim land stolen by highcaste neighbours and opened the discussion on women’s rights in the community. Witnessing discrimination against their classmates, students also organised a federation to protect Koragas children at school. 

Food security

India has 15% of the world’s undernourished population – one in three children under five is chronically malnourished.2 

ActionAid’s cooperative scheme is providing a lifeline to women living in some of the poorest parts of India where food is scarce. With a small grant and business training from local staff, women choose a livelihood and re-invest the profits back into the coop for everyone to share, so that they can feed their families. 

Women’s rights

Across India we tackle attitudes which treat girls and women as second class citizens. We work to end female discrimination in India, improve health care for women and babies, promotes female education and campaign on issues such as forced pregnancies and wage inequality by lobbying the government at central, state and local level.

At ActionAid women’s groups, women learn about their rights and receive training on topics everything from domestic law to land rights and business skillsWe provide support to women who have experienced violence to report the crime and get legal advice.

Female foeticide

According to estimates by experts, there are 60 million missing women in India because girl babies are being aborted before they are born. The 2011 census revealed there were only 919 girls to every 1,000 boys.

Because girls are seen as a burden to their families due to the tradition of giving a daughter’s dowry, many mothers are forced into taking an illegal sex determination test. If the foetus is female, they can be pushed into having an abortion. 

ActionAid’s ‘Beti Zindabad’ campaign aims to protect girls by stopping female foeticide. Beti Zindabad means ‘Long Live Daughters’ and celebrates the birth of daughters in the same way that the birth of sons are celebrated. In 2014, a Beti Zindabad campaign on Mumbai’s local trains reached millions of commuters with messages like: “If we don’t wake up now, it might be too late”.

How we change lives for good in India

ActionAid India helped over 840,000 people in 2013. As of October 2016, 5,300 people in the UK sponsor children in India with ActionAid. 

  • 1.
  • 2. WFP, June 2016. wfp273244.pdf?_ga=1.19151800.1071644378.1471271510

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Photos: Florian Lang/Actionaid, Richard Carter/ActionAid