SOS Children's Villages has been working in India since 1963, and our work has developed rapidly all over the country. We started our activities in Bhakatpara in 1983, after many families had been separated and numerous children had lost their parents during political unrest.
Women and children at risk of being exploited
SOS Children's Villages is located about 15 km from Mangaldoi, the capital of the district of Darrang in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam. The population of Assam is ethnically mixed, and is periodically affected by clashes between the different groups.
The north-east of India has not been as economically successful as other parts of India, and reports suggest that the state of Assam is amongst the poorest. According to some estimates poverty has actually increased in recent years.
The majority of the population lives in rural areas, where the poverty rate is high. The locals are mostly involved in agriculture. However, parts of the district are prone to flooding and agricultural productivity is low. Those living in these rural areas have poor access to basic infrastructure (such as sanitation facilities and clean drinking water) and to adequate health care.
Due to the political instability, many people have been displaced; forced to leave their homes, they are now living in camps. Not only have they lost their support structures but also their ways of making a living.
Women and children are the first to suffer the consequences of the high unemployment and poverty levels and the political unrest. Many struggle to survive, finding it hard to scrape together a living. Children are often not sent to school because their parents cannot afford it; they often have to work in order to raise the family income.
Human trafficking is a problem in the area, as people fall for the false promises of traffickers. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to abuse due to their weak position in society. They often end up working as commercial sex workers or under exploitative conditions as domestic workers.
We work closely with local agencies
SOS Children's Villages works closely with the authorities. At a community level we collaborate with local agencies to identify families who are in need and then provide them with the support they require in order to improve their lives.
What we do in Bhakatpara
SOS Children's Villages supports children and families near where our organisation is based. Our family strengthening programme offers a comprehensive package of services to enable families to stay together and take good care of their children.
We aim to raise awareness of hygiene, children's rights and positive parenting skills. We provide families with food, as well as educational support and medical treatment. In order for parents to generate income, we offer them vocational training, career counselling and advice on how to look for a job. For example women have been trained in tailoring, embroidery and weaving.
Young adults in our care live in SOS Youth Programmes in the towns of Mangaldoi, Beltola and Tezpur. With the support of qualified professionals they are guided through this new stage of their lives, as they start vocational training courses, attend higher education or look for work. The young people are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.