Human rights for the voiceless in urban slums


December 10th, 2013
Today is Human Rights Day – the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Britain it seems we take our human rights for granted – that they will be protected, respected and we’ll be treated with dignity.

But in our line of work, we come across so many people whose rights are not protected at all.

I’ve spent the past couple of months working on a campaign that will improve the lives of people living in urban slums in Nepal and Bangladesh.

This is a photo of a slum in Nepal that my colleague took:

urban slum in nepal

Most people living here are from the Harijan, or Dalit caste who experience a staggering number of human rights violations.

Crammed into makeshift shacks, they live without adequate access to water, healthcare, schools and other essential public services. They are not only deprived of their basic resources, but also face insecurity, exclusion from services and processes, and are ignored by those in power.

Unable to get jobs, they are forced to live off rubbish dumps – searching amongst mountains of filth to find anything they can sell.

They are seen by society as the lowest of the low. They are known as ‘untouchables’ and face rape, abuse and discrimination with no opportunities for escaping their situation. Their children are subjected bullying and struggle to get an education.[1]

As we celebrate Human Rights Day, it is important to reflect on these and other abuses, and remember why charities like ours care about our human rights laws.

Practical Action is working with Dalit and Harijan women’s organisations so that they can have a voice in society, and bring basic services into the slums such as clean water, toilets and modern energy. The work will also give the poorest women and children in Nepal and Bangladesh education, skills and training to enable them to form small businesses, access jobs and run self-help and safety groups.

You can find out more information about this campaign called Safer Cities here. It is being backed by the UK government who will match fund donations pound for pound, helping us to do more vital work to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people living in slum communities.  This means that if you can give us £20 the Government will also give us £20, making your donation go even further!


[1] Information and statistics about the Dalit caste from the International Dalit Solidarity Network http://idsn.org/front-page/

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