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Gordon Brown visits Christian Aid partner in India

In November 2010, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown took time out of a hectic overseas trip to find out about a Christian Aid-funded project in India that seeks to end discrimination against dalits (formerly known as 'untouchables').

He visited Bhalswa, a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of New Delhi and home to the city's main municipal rubbish tip, which towers like a mountain range above the tightly packed homes.

Life on the margins

The vast majority of poor people in India are locked out of the benefits of their country's growth precisely because of who they are – their caste status, ethnicity, religion, gender or disability. 

Christian Aid partner the National Conference of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) is a network of grass roots organisations working across India to empower dalits and challenge barriers to their full participation in society, especially in the private sector. 

The majority of Bhalswa's residents struggle to make ends meet and many earn a living by rag picking and street vending.

Speaking of the conditions he witnessed, Mr Brown said, 'I have seen many slums from my time visiting Africa and Asia, but the numbers of people packed into a very small area without proper sanitation [here] is very shocking.'

Engaging with the private sector

In Bhalswa, NACDOR is working with local employer North Delhi Power Ltd, a subsidiary of the powerful Tata group, to provide training as electricians, and in some cases jobs, to 20 dalit young people, many of them school drop outs.

NACDOR's model of engaging with the private sector demonstrates how companies and society can work together to tackle social exclusion.

'It is very important that a company as prestigious as Tata is prepared to take an interest,' Mr Brown said. 'I hope this model can expand and I would call on other corporate business to think of joining projects such as this.

'These young people were really fired up with enthusiasm, but were living in the most appalling conditions.'

Mr Brown added, 'I think in India the issue is that young people can get the opportunities that the Indian economy will give in the future.'

Early starter

Gordon Brown is no stranger to Christian Aid’s work. His introduction to the needs of poor countries started early when as a child, he and his entire family collected door-to-door for Christian Aid Week. When he was Chancellor, his mother sent him a Christian Aid debt-cancellation petition.

Mr Brown’s government committed 0.7 per cent of the UK's national income to international aid. Since leaving office, he has remained committed to the fight against global poverty.

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