India and South Africa are thousands of miles apart but share a struggle against discrimination and inequity.

Mahatma Gandhi spent his formative years in South Africa, where he forged his identity as a political activist before returning to his native India.

Nolwazi Mjwara comes from South Africa and recently went to India to work at a non-governmental organization that promotes sustainable development.

The Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG) is committed to grass roots community building in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Founded in 1983, AVAG fosters gender equity and caste equality through micro credit, community service, social enterprise development and education.

“Coming from South Africa and our history with discrimination and marginalization through apartheid, AVAG’s initiative really hit home,” Mjwara said after returning to her graduate studies in Paris.

In her video, narrated by AVAG Director Anbu Sironmani, Mjwara shows women in a sewing unit making toys and clothes.

“What distinguishes AVAG from some of the other NGOs in this region is that AVAG’s model tries to integrate different castes through working together in the community,” said Mjwara, calling the caste system “incredibly complex”.

Still, Mjwara warned against equating India with South Africa. “Racism in South Africa and the caste system differ in significant ways, and I cannot reduce nor fully compare the caste system to apartheid South Africa.”

nolwazi (640x498)Nolwazi Mjwara is a South African graduate student at the American University of Paris who is pursuing a master’s degree in global communications, with a focus on development. She is currently working with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers on their World Young Reader Prize, which is awarded to a newspaper that contributes to news literacy and press freedom promotion among youth.

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WorldAfricaFighting inequality in India