In the high-altitude Himalayas across India and Nepal, communities and children are often marginalised and isolated. Welfare services are lacking and education services are compromised, as teacher absenteeism is extremely common, particularly during the winter months.
The impact of these challenges is severe and high levels of illiteracy, malnourishment and early conscription into farm labour remain the reality for many children and young people.
Pragya runs grassroots projects that improve the education, health, and access to basic rights and employment of the high-altitude Himalayan population, with a focus on indigenous communities, migrant workers, children, women and low-income groups.
Alternate Learning Hubs, run by trained primary school teachers, provide vocational education to children and young people of remote villages, whilst rural resource centres and mobile services offer migrant workers and pastoralists access to essential information.
Through the establishment of the High Himalaya Forum, Pragya also aims to influence policy at a national level and bring about improvements in state services offered in the neglected region.
Since it was founded in 1995, Pragya has provided more than 60,000 children with access to quality education through Alternative Learning Hubs, resource centres, science labs, IT kiosks and libraries and trained hundreds of teachers to deliver better quality learning opportunities.
In the year following the Impact Award, Pragya reached more than 120,000 beneficiaries including 72,000 children spread across 12 districts of the high altitude belt of the Indian Himalayas.
The organisation used capacity building and training to encourage the recognition of the child as an entity with a set of rights and to emphasise need to engage with children and involve them in decision-making. It also developed education packages on health and climate disasters for children and provided training for teachers.
Pragya used its consultancy support to launch a new website suitable for online volunteer applications, donations and discussion. The organisations accessed legal support to register the organisation in Kenya in a bid to expand operations to Sub-Saharan Africa.
Finally, the Research and Advocacy team at Pragya has developed policy research papers on key issues that affect the Himalayan region, specifically climate change, welfare services and infrastructure. The papers have been circulated to ministries of the Indian government and have been well-received. The senior staff at Pragya are also making presentations to key officials in the government on the same issues.
Photos: Andy Aitchison