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Gujarat’s Siddi Tribe, India’s Marginalised Community With Multifaceted Challenges

Siddis, who have a heritage going back almost 800 years and have been living in India for decades, are among the country's forgotten and marginalised communities

Gujarat's tribal community, the Siddi, has one of the most unique cultures to be found in India. They reside in the Gir Forest in Somnath district and the community is believed to be the descendants of the Bantu people of East Africa.

Siddis, who have a heritage going back almost 800 years and have been living in India for decades, are among the country's forgotten and marginalised communities.

The tribal community suffers from many challenges, from poverty, unemployment, to illiteracy. Above all this, there is an added layer of challenge: the colour of their skin.

They are referred to as the ?lost tribe of Africa' and due to this tag, they have faced a lot of discrimination.

Despite many challenges, the Siddi community excels in sports. So much so that in the late 1980s, under the government's Special Area Games scheme, it was believed that the Siddis' genetic advantage made them naturally gifted runners.

Alfiza Majgul, a Siddi tribe member, has a gold medal. She is a national-level silver medalist in wrestling. A resident of Hadmatiya village, 36 km away from Somnath, the Class 8 student is studying in the Eklavya model residential school to pursue her dream of making her parents proud.

While Ms. Majgul has gained a certain level of acceptance, many others from the community like Mahebub Chotiyara haven't been fortunate enough to fulfil their dreams due to financial crisis

Education and access to healthcare are inadequate for this marginalised ethnic group. To make both accessible to the tribe, the Anganwadis in the areas where the community resides have been deployed to make preschool education playful, joyous, and engaging for impressionable young children. The Anganwadis are the focal point for the implementation of all the health, nutrition, and early learning initiatives under the Integrated Child Development Services programme.

The kindergartens in the areas where the community resides, the infrastructure has been upgraded with BALA (Building as Learning Aid), under which the infrastructure will be weatherproof, the buildings will be painted with all the animated creatures to grab children's attention, and the faculty will be guided with all the learnings they need to provide to the children.

Along with a focus on education, Dettol's Banega Swasth India campaign's Reach Each Child Programme is working in the area to improve access to healthcare.

Hamida, who is a tribal member of Madhupur Jambur, Gir Somnath district, said her younger daughter is four years old and is severely malnourished, but Hamida was unaware of her condition .

Gulabi Didis are on the forefront of driving Reckitt's nutrition programme Reach Each Child. 21-year-old Bajarani Alfiza is from the Siddi community and is among the few who completed her education. She is a trained nurse who has joined the Reach Each Child programme as a Gulabi Didi

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