Exchange Programmes are designed to break communication barriers between different societal groups so as to facilitate an inclusive and integrated approach to development.
The first exchange programme happened in 1998. Through our unique Exchange Programmes between members of different villages and castes, we aim to break down traditional barriers of gender, caste and class. These events try to mitigate prejudices that are endemic to India such as fear of Dalits (formerly called ‘Untouchables’) and discrimination based on gender.
Exchange Programme Poothurai 2016
Participants learn to see each other as unique human beings with common issues to overcome.
- India’s age old caste system, that dictates the professions different people are allowed to pursue, is a social evil of gargantuan proportions. Caste differences are taken very seriously, especially in Tamil Nadu, which is considered a “caste sensitive” state. Inter-caste interaction is limited, settlements segregated and inter-marriage prohibited.
- The inter-caste Exchange Programme of AVAG aims to challenge these differences and bring about a shift in this divisive mentality that hinders holistic growth of communities. In the exchange programme, a group of women from a caste group visits a Dalit group in their settlement or vice versa. They spend the day together cooking, eating, playing games and sharing their experiences.
- In addition to these, gender Exchange Programmes are conducted to remove gender-based discrimination. The strong patriarchal society in India often results in oppression of women; their rights and expression. In Exchange Programmes, gender roles may be reversed to increase empathy for the other sex. Communication games are played to break preconceived notions and generalisations.
Within the Exchange Programme, members from different groups form friendships that continue to grow after the visit and villages develop inter-community relationships that would have been otherwise unlikely. Groups discuss and learn from each other, and SHGs later share their experiences and inspire others with new project ideas.
In the year 2014-15, 626 people participated in 18 exchange programmes that bring together women and men of various castes, ages and AVAG experience levels.