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Empowering the Oppressed: Grassroots Advocacy Movements in India
General Assembly, International Engagement & Building Peace, International Opportunities

By John G. Sommer

Traditional approaches to development have not proved equal to the task of ensuring a just society, especially for the most socially, economically, and psychologically oppressed peoples. The unique individuals and groups introduced in this book recognize that a qualitative and sustainable improvement in the lives of the most downtrodden—those battling discrimination by gender, class, or caste—can be achieved only when the root causes of their oppression are addressed, not just its symptoms. Not only have these leaders and their organizations found strikingly effective and innovative ways by which people may secure their human and civil rights and realign power relations in society; they have also enabled the marginalized poor to pursue their own interests and their own struggles for justice and equality.

Empowering the Oppressed offers highly readable stories, lessons learned, and analysis from India that should be applicable in many settings around the world where injustice prevails. The book also cites analyzes the implications for foreign aid donors, who are frequently chary of supporting empowerment activities, and shows by example both how such aid is effectively given and how critical it is to successful development outcomes.

About the author: John G. Sommer has been actively engaged in international development in a variety of capacities over more than three decades. Now an independent consultant and writer, he was most recently Dean of Academic Studies Abroad at the School for International Training/World Learning in Vermont. Previously, he worked at both grassroots and senior policy levels with agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, Peace Corps, and Overseas Development Council in Washington, DC, and with The Ford Foundation and International Voluntary Services in South and Southeast Asia, respectively. Mr. Sommer has also been engaged with other NGOs and government departments as a board member and consultant, and was author, among other works, of Beyond Charity—U.S. Voluntary Aid for a Changing Third World, in many ways a precursor to the current volume.

Contents: Foreword by LC Jain/Preface/Introduction/Of Pigs and Coats and Human Bondage/Reclaiming the Human Personality/Trunks of the Banyan: In Support of Women/Struggle in the South: Land to the Landless/Power of Knowledge, Power of the Purse/Variations on the Theme/Lessons Learned/Implications for Donors/Concluding Thoughts/Appendices