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NGO working among TE workers bags global prize
STAFF Correspondent
 DIBRUGARH, Sept 25 - Nazdeek, a legal capacity building organisation engaged in legal empowerment of tea garden workers in Assam has won the inaugural global Namati Justice Prize. The prize comprising $10,000 is dedicated to grassroots justice. It is run by the international organisation Namati and BRAC, the World Justice Project and the UN Development Programme as partners.

Jayshree Satpute, the co-founder of Nazdeek and a human rights lawyer said that the Namati Justice Prize had further strengthened their commitment to bringing justice closer. “We feel incredibly humbled to have won the first ever Namati Justice Prize. The award recognises our deep commitment to advancing the rights of tea garden workers in Assam through a model of legal empowerment. Working alongside our grassroots partners, Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis (PAJHRA), People’s Action for Development (PAD) and student organisations we are using the law to improve the living and working conditions of labourers. Today, as a result of trainings with grassroots activists who are leading a campaign for higher wages, the minimum wage for more than one million tea garden workers in Assam, is set for a historic increase. Today, a collective of 30 women paralegals using only their mobile phones and their knowledge of the law, have secured ambulances, medical personnel, and access to nutrition and medicine for pregnant women in their communities. Today, due to international advocacy and awareness, consumers are beginning to demand transparency in the global supply chain for tea,” she said.

Stephen Ekka, Director, PAJHRA told The Assam Tribune that the presence of Nazdeek in Assam particularly among the tea garden workers has been very useful and helpful to the community at large. “The vast majority engaged in plantation works in Assam lack the legal support and knowledge to fight for their rights and justice. But Nazdeek filled the gap of the legal knowledge among the tea garden workers by empowering them and supporting them legally. They enlightened us as also trained several of us on various rights and legal systems through sustained empowerment programmes, which has helped the community,” he said.

Nazdeek, meaning “to be close” in Urdu, has succeeded in training the tea workers themselves as community paralegals who have been engaged in leading their advocacy campaigns around minimum wage, maternal mortality, health, education and other issues. The US based organisation operates from Delhi in India.

In all, more than 160 organisations entered for the prize, from small groups working in the most difficult circumstances or with very vulnerable populations, to more established organisations who have changed the lives of thousands of people for the better.

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