The following post was written by Rev. Kathleen McTigue, director of the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ). She is currently coleading a service-learning trip to explore justice for rural India with the UU Holdeen India Program.
The first of our UUCSJ journeys to India is now under way! Eleven of us, from all over the United States, are gathered in Mumbai for a day of orientation to this region of India and to our partner organizations here. We’ll spend five days in Maharashtra, where the union Vidhayak Sansad is centered, and learn about their work over the past 30 years empowering tribal peoples to reclaim land that has been taken from them. We’ll also travel to Ahmedabad to meet with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a union that has organized and empowered women who do piece work at home and work as street vendors. Both organizations are longtime partners of the UU Holdeen India Program.
There are several reasons for our pilgrimage to India. First, to learn from our Indian partner organizations about their important work empowering some of the most impoverished people in India to stand up for their rights to land and education. Second, to explore solidarity through this work, not only for the short duration of this journey but after our return to the United States, via work in our own regions and congregations. Third, as UUCSJ’s pilot delegation, we’re here to learn how a continuing program of exchange can mutually benefit our partners here and UUCSJ participants in pilgrimage, in the hope that we’ll send two delegations each year going forward. And fourth, we will further develop opportunities for long-term volunteers — especially young adults — who UUCSJ will help place with Vidhayak Sansad, SEWA, and other Holdeen partners for periods of 4–12 weeks.
It is a complicated political moment in India’s history. The country has been heavily impacted by the downturn in the global economy, and the stress of a slowing economy has brought issues of economic justice as well as political corruption to the forefront. We are immensely privileged to be guests here of the courageous people working for justice in India through Vidhayak Sansad and SEWA, and we’re looking forward to our time in this ancient, lovely, and complicated land.
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