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Ms. Siddamma first became involved with the Irula as an educator and a sociologist, working with children and women in a slum in Tamil Nadu. She founded the Bharathi Trust, and began to work with the Irula, a scheduled caste. She has worked to provide education for the children of the Irula, including creating educational centers and attempting to get the children into the mainstream educational system. She has created co-operatives, social programs, and advocacy programs, and has built awareness about bonded labor. The organization of the community has helped the community to fight back against exploitative landlords, and exploitative labor techniques. In 2004, Ms. Siddamma became aware of over 1000 workers trapped in bonded labor situations in the Red Hills area of Tamil Nadu. They were working in a rice mill. She intervened, drew public attention to the issue, and word even reached parliament. The laborers were freed.
Ms. Siddamma continues to work in the red hills region of Tamil Nadu with the Irula. Bonded Labor and child labor continue to be a challenge in the communities, who also face extreme poverty on a daily basis. Bharathi Trust was without a source of funding for almost three years, but has recently been funded in small amounts. To see more about her work and how Asha for Education is funding it visit this page. Despite the challenges she has faced, Ms. Siddamma continues to be an inspiration, tirelessly working to help the Irula villages.
In the 2014 TIP Report, India was listed as a Tier 2 country. It is a source, destination, and transit country. Although there is some sex trafficking, bonded labor and forced labor constitute India’s greatest problem. Fueled by historic and cultural class divides, including the mistreatment of the scheduled castes, ninety percent of trafficking occurs within India’s borders.
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