Roma Malik

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2007
National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers


This profile was prepared when Roma Malik was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Roma is using her decade-long association with marginalized forest tribes in central India to shape a forest governance model that protects land, livelihood, and human rights. As part of an organization known as the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW), she and her team are creating a national level association of forest workers so that concerned tribal communities can be instrumental in the ongoing policy-making process. Her work is significant given the increasing interest in forest land and other resources by India’s private sector.
The forest tribes in India have had to grapple with land and livelihood related problems for decades. In the past, activists and political parties have made multiple attempts to address these issues through mass protests and political activism. Roma is approaching the problem at the systemic level. Through her organization, she and her team have been collaborating with government authorities to draft the new Forest Bill and orchestrating the recognition of forest tribals as respected forest workers.
Roma is deepening India’s legal infrastructure by linking land and livelihood-related struggles to the National Human Rights program and by uniting the forest dwelling communities into a national apolitical trade union to strengthen their negotiation powers. Roma is arming the tribal communities with training and awareness programs, documenting land records, and educating professional lawyers about forest law. She has established a Human Rights Law Centre in Sonebhadra district and plans to establish many other similar centers.
Roma’s organization contributed to the framing of the Forest Rights Act and is actively creating the ground-level infrastructure to ensure a fair and just flow of benefits to the forest communities. Roma’s work is both critical and timely in the context of the new Forest Rights Act known as The Scheduled Tribe and Other Forest Dweller (recognition of rights) passed in 2006. By arming communities with the appropriate legal tools and techniques she assists them to adopt a superior alternative to the armed insurgency struggles that have led to innumerable human rights abuses in the past.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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