India | ActionAid UK


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

India is the largest democracy in the world, with a population of nearly 1.3 billion. Despite its status as of the world’s fastest-growing economies, people living in both cities and rural areas experience extreme poverty.

As of October 2018, 3,769 people in the UK sponsor a child in India with ActionAid.

Why we work in India 

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

Women in India face extremely high levels of sexual violence. Shockingly, one rape is reported every 15 minutes on average, and countless more are committed.

This violence is closer to home than many might think; in 95% of reported rapes, the survivors knew their rapist.

Despite the large number of cases of sexual violence in India, there are relatively low conviction rates for perpetrators. Legal loopholes and poor implementation of the law mean that many survivors are unable to successfully prosecute their abusers and get access to justice.

Many women do not report these crimes at all, from fear of social stigma and the high cost of legal fees.

  • 22
    22% of the population live below the poverty line.1
  • 70
    70% of girls aged six to 16 drop out of school.2
  • 27
    27% of girls are married before their 18th birthday.3
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What we do in India 

Ending violence against women and girls

In India, we run One-Stop Crisis Centres where survivors of violence can get access to immediate and comprehensive support, a safe place to sleep and emotional, medical and legal help all under one roof.

When ActionAid’s Gauravi One-Stop Crisis Centre in Madhya Pradesh (the state with the highest reported rate of violence against women and girls in India) opened in 2014, it was the first of its kind in the country.

Since the centre was established, it has supported 39,777 women and girls. An estimated 90% experienced violence from someone that they knew.

As well as supporting survivors, our local outreach workers are changing attitudes and challenging stigmas to end violence against women and girls. They are empowering women to recognise different types of violence within the home, and know where to get support.

ActionAid is also working with communities and law enforcers to them help spot the signs of abuse, report violence and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted.

Building on the success of our existing Gauravi One-Stop Crisis Centre, ActionAid plans to support 11 One-Stop Crisis Centres in Madhya Pradesh in the next year and train more workers and volunteers to help survivors of sexual violence get access to justice.

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.4 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 fought to reclaim land stolen by high caste neighbours, opened the discussion on women’s rights in the community and set up centres where children can play and learn.

Witnessing discrimination against their classmates, students also organised a federation to protect Koragas children at school.

Food security

India is home to roughly a quarter of the world’s undernourished population5 and more than one-quarter of school-age children are too thin.6

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 cooperative for everyone to share, so that they can feed their families.

Female foeticide

According to estimates by experts, there are 63 million missing women in India7 because girl babies are being aborted before they are born. India’s annual economic report found that there were only 39 girls born per 100 births between 2015 and 2016.8

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 a daughter in the same way that the birth of a son is celebrated.

In 2014, a Beti Zindabad campaign on Mumbai’s local trains reached millions of commuters with messages including: “If we don’t wake up now, it might be too late”.

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Smita Sharma/ActionAid Florian Lang/ActionAid Richard Carter/ActionAid