Inspired by Buddhist values, we exist to end caste-based discrimination, poverty and inequality in India and Nepal.
Our work with individuals focuses on education, dignified livelihoods and gender equality, transforming communities and changing society.
Since 1980, Karuna and its supporters have enabled people to overcome caste discrimination, finally gaining their own dignity and realising their potential as human beings. Based in the UK, we work with in-country partners towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals of eliminating inequality, ensuring access to humane and decent work and basic education for all - with no-one left behind.
All of this is only possible because of the generosity of Karuna supporters.
Karuna works largely in India, where hundreds of millions of people suffer lives of grinding poverty and oppression, excluded from the region’s economic boom.
The caste system is an ancient form of discrimination that denies people their basic rights and keeps millions trapped in conditions of modern-day slavery.
Those most affected are known as Dalits, literally meaning “broken people”, who are placed outside the caste system on the basis of birth. Considered “impure”, and therefore “untouchable”, they are seen as fit only for the most degrading and humiliating work, such as cleaning out public toilet pits or working in toxic brick-making factories.
Despite the illegality of this so-called “untouchability”, over 200 million people in India and Nepal still suffer the social exclusion and stigma of being born as a Dalit. They are routinely denied access to education, food and the possibility of a dignified existence. Many more are rejected care at hospitals, refused protection by police, all while regular atrocities committed against them are ignored.
Dalit children and women are particularly at risk. More than half of Dalit children drop out before finishing primary school, while women suffer the double discrimination of gender and caste, with most being taken out of school early to be sold into marriage and household service at the cost of their own independence.
This epidemic of exclusion based on caste has existed for centuries. It serves only to widen the ever-growing poverty gap and social and economic progress of millions in South Asia.
Karuna works with community based organisations that are helping thousands of people to escape the hell of poverty and discrimination and take their rightful place in society.
Our 3 themes
Under the traditional Indian caste system, dalit and tribal children were denied access to education.
Today, in spite of the government's pledge to provide education for all, children from disadvantaged backgrounds still face massive obstacles.
All too often children, especially girls, are taken out of school for early marriage, domestic work or child labor.
Karuna supports thousands of children from disadvantaged dalit and tribal backgrounds to remain in school as long as possible so that they can realise their aspiration for a better life.
As a result of gender inequality and discrimination, women and girls are the most vulnerable, marginalised and economically disempowered group in Indian society.
The situation is even worse for dalit women who also suffer discrimination on the basis of class and caste. This double discrimination leaves dalit women disadvantaged in terms of education, access to land and other resources, social rights and basic services, security and access to justice.
Karuna aims to support partners and build a strong dalit womens movement, enabling disadvantaged women to become effective agents of change, claim their rights and improve their lives.
Under the caste system each community would be identified by its occupation.
Traditionally dalit and tribal people were forced to carry out the most menial and degrading work and even today many communities are expected to fulfill their caste duties by carrying out activities such as manual scavenging for rubbish, cleaning toilets by hand or making bricks out of mud.
Karuna supports its partners in challenging traditional caste based attitudes, enabling people from dalit and tribal backgrounds to develop vocational skills so that they can access decent, dignified and better paid employment.