The Human Development Organisation (HDO) was founded in 1990 by a group of university students and plantation workers. Plantation sector workers are often subjected to multiple layers of ethnic, gender, cast and other social and economic discrimination. The peacebuilding approach of the organisation is intimately connected with its approach towards improving the lives of plantation sector workers. The principles of human rights and empowerment upon which HDO’s social transformation is based on, facilitates the empowerment of the entire community in the places where they work.
As a sector, plantation workers are marginalised irrespective of their ethnicity. Their residence within estate-provided quarters and the low-paid labour intensive work segregate them from the rest of Sri Lanka. A majority of the plantation sector workers are marginalised Tamil groups. The isolation and the oppression experienced by this community makes them vulnerable for exploitation.
HDO as an organisation by and for the plantation sector workers creates a platform to voice their issues. The rights based approach of HDO empowers the people at an individual and a community level. HDO provides human rights education, peace education, and solidarity trainings among the plantation sector workers belonging to the different ethnicities. HDO also provides legal assistance and guidance in cases of land expropriation and human rights violations. As the result of a sustained campaign on behalf of the plantation sectors, HDO won land rights for 150 families in plantation sector.
HDO carries out regular education programmes for women and children, advocacy and lobbying for human rights and protests for human rights violations, gender empowerment projects, and livelihood programems as solidarity building activities.
The training HDO provides to its members include conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills while being sensitive to the local culture. The extensive network of the organisation that exists within the plantation sectors takes action to address and mitigate conflict situations emerging in their communities. The members take leadership in resolving the issues or in directing the parties to relevant authorities when needed. HDO actively intervenes in mediating conflicts between plantation sector workers and other communities and authorities.
HDO also contributes to relevant research projects and collaborates with human rights organisations at national and local level in carrying out its work. Some of these organisations include Women and Media Collective, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, local government offices and CBOs in the working areas.