A Day in the Life of an Indian Wife

All women of the world worry about the same things: themselves, their family, their work.  Sometimes the lived daily experience of this is quite different.  This is Meenadutta’s story, as told to Geraldine Visser.

india honey bees

“I wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning, 4 at the latest. I first do all the household work: the different activities like cooking or taking care of my in-laws. I then send the children to school so they get there at 8. Then I take some food.

I have time to do all the income generating activities like honeymaking or knitting from 12 until 3. I was trained [By another NGO] to knit different designs. After 3, I am busy with household again; I take care of my in-laws and children. I go to bed at 11.

Before the project we were in the 4 walls of the house. Now we are involved in different activities: beekeeping, and also vegetable growing. We can also go out: if there is a honey fair, we all go and sell the honey there. We make good profit and it is very helpful to the family. We are feeling very proud because we are mixing with you people [NGO members from the state capital city and European volunteers].

We are not alone.

I would like to use my savings to buy a sewing machine. My dream is to unite all the women members and bring a strong platform to start a wool production centre where we all work together getting good income to support our families. We could sell our wool products at the market with the honey.’’ 

india gardens

Tribal women find they face less discrimination when they act in a group.  Despite India’s booming economy Meendutta has problems getting credit from the bank for her business.  With perseverance and the support of our NGO partner JRP that should change. Communal Self-Help groups provide a supportive atmosphere for livelihood activities.

To help Meendutta and other women like her 

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Strengthening Ecological Resources with Pramila Jena

This story was told to Geraldine from innocent foundation who recently visited our Eco-Berhampur project in India.

JRP has been working for nearly two years in the village of Barhampur, on the Chilika Lake Lagoon. They support villagers in strengthening the ecological resources of their environments.

One of the ways to do this is through vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is the process of composting using a mixture of food waste. Villagers use cow faeces, mix it with vegetable peels, and add a kilogram of worms.

Vermicompost acts as a natural nutrient-rich fertiliser and soil conditioner – perfect for the villagers to use on their crops. It encourages organic farming and high yields. Using this vermicompost, they have already produced 600kg of vegetables and cashew nuts. They also sell the vermicompost to other farmers to use on their crops.

india vermicompost

Pramila Jena, along with other self-help group (SHG) members, has been trained to look after a vermicompost pit as she had some land she could cultivate. Before JRP started the project, her husband was more involved with the farming. Thanks to JRP, women received training to become small-scale farmers. She has learned how to cultivate the ground so now she and her husband do the same things. She adds: “My husband was very supportive and wanted me to be involved with JRP to keep on being happy.”

Pramila Jena has a beaming smile on her face and is very happy to belong to the self-help group. Her family business has grown a lot: not only do they look after a vermicompost pit, they also fish, farm prawns, and cultivate cashew nuts. Which all means that her children have a much more diverse diet than they did before the family became involved with JRP and the family has more household income.

One of the other key advantages of vermicompost is that food waste is removed from the village, therefore reducing the number of mosquitoes and houseflies, and providing a more sustainable environment.  

Please join innocent foundation and add your support the strengthening of the Chilika Lake Lagoon ecosystem and our other projects now

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Crab and Prawn Farming

This story was told to Geraldine, a volunteer for Jeevika Trust who visited India courtesy of innocent foundation.  Thank you Geraldine and innocent! 

Project Eco works with impoverished tribal families in the ecologically-vulnerable Chilika Lake Lagoon. Its goal is to develop sustainable lagoon-linked livelihoods such as crab, fish and prawn cultivation.

Santi is one of the women who has benefitted from the project. With JRP support she has started a prawn farming activity.

india story

“My name is Santi. It means ‘peace’ in Hindi. I am 52 years old and I have one son and two daughters. One daughter is married, but not the other one. She is still at school. I used to have two sons but one died three years ago. The other one is independent, he works and earns money to feed his own family. I also have five younger brothers, whom my husband helped to get educated. Now they are settled in various positions in Bhubaneshwar [Orissa state’s capital, 3 hours’ drive away from the village] and they don’t come to visit. Even though they grew up in the village, they don’t care how we live. I feel very sad about the situation.

Before JRP started the project in my village, I wasn’t working. I was dependent on my husband, who works outside the village but earns very little money.

After Renoo [project coordinator from JRP] came and spoke about prawn and crabs cultivation, I joined a self-help group and was able to invest 5000 Rs towards crab cultivation. I learned the skills to cultivate crabs and prawns, and also learned how to increase banana and coconut production. Since the project started a year and a half ago, I made 70,000 Rs profit. Now I feel very rich.

Fattened crabs are hand picked for harvest

Every day, I wake up at 5 in the morning. I first send my children to school then look after the crabs and prawns cultivation. I have lunch at 10am, then snacks at 4 and dinner at 8. I do all the family work in the morning and then I am free. In my spare time, I plan where I need to invest my money and what I need to buy.

My life has changed now: I used to have a thatched home, now I have a cemented home. Only the ceiling is still thatched. I also opened a stationery shop, which is looked after by my daughter-in-law. Thanks to all these activities, I was identified by the government of Odisha [Indian state in which Santi lives] as someone who could be trusted to make things happen so got extra help from them.

We save the extra money in the bank and I can use that money when needed. I don’t need to ask the other women for money. I didn’t have to ask them for money when my daughter’s husband died three months ago. He was a fisherman and disappeared. It was tragic.

I have hopes for the future: I hope I can build a cemented ceiling on my house. I also hope my son and daughters will get educated and don’t have to depend on anyone.”

Crab and prawn farming are some of the most profitable activities on the island, producing commodities which can be exported to foreign countries.

To support our partner JRP in continuing to establish Self-Help Groups in village India please donate now

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Bees in the Bigger Picture – Part 2

As we said in our last post…..there’s a bigger picture – in fact two bigger pictures! - extending far beyond the direct livelihood benefits of the villagers who participated in Jeevika’s bee-keeping Project Madhu Network. In the first place there’s the local community ‘big picture’ which we outlined last week. And we touched on that word ‘pollination’, which is the key to a far bigger picture still, one of global dimensions – namely the crisis facing honey-bees as pollinators of 80% of all the fruit & veg that we eat.

bee pollination

We need bees.  In Europe 4,000 vegetable varieties, and worldwide over 70 of the 100 crop species which give us 90% of our food, are bee-pollinated. Albert Einstein is often quoted forecasting that “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination…no more men”.  A clear objective of Project Madhu, beyond providing means for village livelihood, was to counter the risk of deforestation in the project area, and improve crop production, through enhanced bee pollination from the new 750 hive colonies. This has been a fruitful success, with crop yield more than doubling.

This crisis became the subject of a huge debate in 2006-7 arising from evidence of ’CCD’ or Colony Collapse Disorder experienced in America, and subsequently spreading elsewhere – even reportedly to Kerala in India. By 2009 a lot of research into the causes of CCD was being published, but here we are 5 years later, still uncertain whether CCD has a single or principal cause, or a cocktail of causes – pesticides such as ‘neonicotinoids’ sold by the likes of Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto, or deadly mites which infest bees such as the varroa mite (or indeed ‘miticide’ chemicals used to control such mites), or even electro-magnetic interference from mobile phones or phone towers which have been shown to impact bees’ navigation.

america bees

However, according to a 2010 UN report, CCD causes, even in the US, less than 10% of all bee deaths. The great bulk is due to a combination of broader challenges such as degradation of forest and other bee habitats; progressive loss of food sources and pollen sources and loss, through air pollution, of scent trails to locate them; wide-spread use of agricultural pesticides and insecticides; and in the US the extensive practice of transporting hives of bees in lorries over huge distances to pollinate monocultures like almond trees – e.g. as many as 20 million bees in a single truck-load.

No wonder that bees are under terminal pressure from these causes, when they are simply trying to do their job. And this is why not just Project Madhu, and any expansion which may follow it, but Jeevika’s overall strategy on bee-keeping in rural India, will be looking not only to address village poverty but also make a contribution however modest to this global crisis which the bees – and all of us – are facing.

To save the bees and the future of man

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Bees in the Big Picture

21 July 2014  Today is the day that Jeevika delivered its final report to the UK Department for International Development (DfID).  This told the story of what we’ve achieved over the past 2 years with the £64,000 grant it gave us to promote sustainable livelihoods among some of India’s poorest villagers in the state of Odisha, one of India’s three poorest states.

It enabled us to select, train, fund and empower 300 women to become skilled bee-keepers and effective producers and marketers of honey. We hope this successful pilot project will now be expanded to other parts of Odisha and indeed into other states where we work.

This grant was paid directly to Jeevika who applied it to ‘Project Madhu Network’ which was implemented by our Indian NGO partner Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP) based on the detailed project which we designed with them and obtained DfID funding for in 2010.

The numbers tell the basic story:

  • Prior to the project some of the women were collecting an average of 7.5 kgs per year of wild honey from the nearby forests (selling it in an unfiltered state, in unsterilized plastic drink bottles for a few Rupees where they could get it)
  • DfID’s grant allowed 750 bee colonies to be set up via 25 women’s Self-Help Group in ten villages comprised of 300 beekeepers + 60 other villagers (men and women) who were involved in related activities
  • By the end of the two-year project, the 300 beekeepers were producing an average of 36 kgs of honey from 3 hives each (this also included a little wild honey), as well as related products like wax and creams, generating an average income of £276 each per year and allowing 250 out of 300 women to access wholesale honey markets.

But there’s a bigger picture – in fact two bigger pictures! - extending far beyond the direct livelihood benefits of the villagers who participated in the project.

The first extends to the local community within Odisha, where the project has created waves of interest among state government, academic and other circles. A high-profile Honey Fair was organised by JRP in Bhubaneshwar the state capital on 24-25 March 2013 to publicise the Madhu project and promote development of bee-keeping as a village livelihood model in Odisha.

This fair was supported by state ministers for horticulture, agriculture and tribal affairs along with the National Bank for Agricultural & Rural Development  and the Odisha University for Agriculture & Technology.  JRP has joined with state government agencies to help support expansion of the Project Madhu model.

Three bee nurseries  have been established in the project area to address shortage of bee stocks to start hives, and the state Department for Horticulture has pledged support to establish further such nurseries. The University has established a pool of 50 apiarists to train new bee-keepers, and a bee help-line has been opened up to provide technical support to farmers on bee-keeping and crop pollination.  JRP has also published beekeeping manuals in Orya, in other tribal languages and a pictorial version of the manual.

Come back next week to read part 2 of the honey story

To help fund the expansion of Project Madhu Network

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SANITATION – enabling hygeine, dignity & security

Jeevika Trust works in villages that do not have sanitation systems of any kind. Open fields and non-farmable wooded areas are their lavatories. Men and boys relieve themselves during the day. To maximise privacy, women relieve themselves at night. Mothers and fathers accompany their small children but, when young boys and girls are old enough, they go alone. Night-time presents a dangerous situation for adolescent boys, girls and women – and an opportunity for deprived (if not depraved) men who seek illicit sexual pleasure or retribution – as the Badaun rape case highlighted in our blog demonstrates.

women toilet india

Our partners - WORD in Tamil Nadu and JRP in Odisha – work closely with families to bring hygiene, dignity and security to village life. Both partners train women and men to build toilets for themselves. This involves learning how to make latrines, construct toilet shelters with hand-made bricks, fit toilet pans and doors, and paint and line walls with tiles. Due to the scarcity of water, the toilet is serviced by using water from a bucket to sluice the waste away. By western standards, this is still a basic form of sanitation. For villagers living in remote villages, owning your own toilet is close to luxury.

JRP also provides sanitation facilities in schools. This includes a system of water collection tanks which catch the monsoon rain and makes it available for drinking as well as for use in the school latrines with links to a wash basin so that children may wash their hands. Toilets in schools are vital in attracting and keeping pubescent girls at school. The education of a pubescent girl ends when school toilets are not available.

girls school india

Eco Clubs are also formed in these schools for students to learn about the environmental cycle and enables them to use water, soil, seeds and saplings to plant out their own kitchen garden and provide shade within the school grounds. The fruit and vegetables they produce contribute to the midday meal the school provides (often an incentive for poor parents to send their children to school). In these ways, children learn about hygiene, the value of privacy, and the need for environmental sustainability.


Help villagers build more toilets & water harvesting systems

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Can better sanitation reduce rape in India?

The Badaun rape case has shocked the world, with the disturbing image of the teenage girls hanging in the tree being shared millions of times on social media.  It has highlighted once again the fact that the Indian Government has done little or nothing to address the sanitation needs of poor women in rural India. 

india toiletTwo girls stepped out of their house in Katra Village in Uttar Pradesh on a hot May night, two months ago to relieve themselves in the fields- just like millions of other women in the country do. They never returned and their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in the village the next morning.

A postmortem examination confirmed that the girls had been raped and died from strangulation as they were hanged while still alive. The girls belonged to a Dalit family, who are the poorest of the poor, illiterate or semi literate with little or no assets. The alleged perpetrators, who were arrested only after a public outcry and the local police officials investigating the crime, belonged to a higher class.

The incident has once again raised the specter of poor or no sanitation in villages. Lack of basic facilities, like toilets inside every household, is a root cause of several social and health related problems not only for women but also for men.

According to the 2011 census, 53 percent of households in India did not have toilets. The figure was much higher in the rural areas, almost 70 percent.

Several reports have indicated that a high number of rape incidents take place when women defecate in open fields. Women unlike men can step out of their houses only when it is dark, as extra responsibilities inside and outside their homes, family size (most families are at least seven to eight in number) and cramped surroundings do not give them the privacy for their ablutions.

Access to proper toilets, preferably inside each and every household, will help women maintain a measure of basic dignity and of course privacy. This in turn will reduce the risk of any such untoward incidents. Many parents pull girl children out of schools, as soon as they reach puberty, as most Government owned educational institutions have poor or no sanitation facilities.

india toiletLack of sanitation can lead not to only rape and assault but also health hazards. A number of health related issues including diseases like Urinary Track Infection (UTI), constipation and poor menstrual hygiene are a consequence of lack of sanitation.

While building toilets are important and a pressing need, it is important to generate awareness about hygiene and sanitation, especially among youth and adolescent women.

Jeevika Trust through its partners in Tamil Nadu and Orissa have constructed toilets in schools and homes and provided facilities such as overhead tanks and pipes and faucets to ensure running water and promote proper hygiene among students, adolescent girls and rural women.

 During the election campaign, Narendra Modi made a statement ‘pehle shauchalya, phir devalaya’ (toilets first, temple later). Now, with a Prime Minister who purports to understands the importance of toilets, it is important that the newly elected Government prioritizes this issue, and builds toilets in private and public spaces to end open-air defecation.

Support Jeevika Trust in building toilets and providing young girls and women the dignity, security and privacy they are entitled to.

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Sanitary Napkins, a taboo…

Jeevika Trust want to address the conservative taboo that menstruation is dirty and meet the needs of girls and women of reproductive age in village India to have access to hygienic, cost-effective, eco-disposable sanitary napkins. Access to sanitary napkins is a health issue and the UN have branded the stigma a “violation of several human rights, most importantly of the right to dignity.” Ideally, the women want to make them for themselves and other poor villagers.

And we would love to hear your ideas about how we can help them do this.

menstruation women india

Do you know why sanitary napkins are more than a piece of cloth?

  • 74% of rural women use unsanitized cloth during menstruation
  • In the poorest villages, where there is no access to a spare piece of cloth, women will use gunny (hessian) bags, sand, ash, rice husk or newspaper to stem their flow which creates Reproductive Tract Infections
  • The same piece of cloth is often used repeatedly over a long period of time – and sometimes by women in the same household – and not adequately washed or dried, which is unhygienic
  • Lack of access to menstrual hygiene – which includes sanitary napkins, toilets in schools, availability of water, privacy and safe disposal – sees some 23% of girls drop-out from school.

Are you aware that menstruation defines the life of women and girls in India?

  • Average menstruation age is 13.4 years – in many villages this is considered the age from which girls can marry
  • One in 6 girls in India begin child-bearing between the ages of 13-16
  • 50% of all girls urban and rural have no understanding of this basic biological process
  • Maternal mortality in India represents 15% of all deaths of women of reproductive age
  • Taboos around menstruation include being required to sleep outdoors, not being able to touch food consumed by others, attend family functions or enter temples.

india rubbish

Some ecological & health impacts of disposable napkins

  • Most disposable pads end up littering village roadsides or are burned in huge trash heaps which release toxins from plastics into the atmosphere
  • Popular branded sanitary napkins/tampons, eg. Stayfree, Whisper, Playtex, Tampex, etc, are made up of plastic fleece, plastic-based gel, polyethylene and chlorine, all of which are highly toxic and are linked to cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease and Reproductive Tract Infections
  • It is estimated 58,500 million pads would be generated each year if every woman of reproductive age in India used disposable sanitary napkins
  • A disposable pad is estimated to take between 500-800 years to decompose.

Central Government solutions in 17 States have cost Rs 44.21 million = approx. £440,000

  • While this has so far provided 15 million school girls, new mothers & women prisoners with sanitary napkins, supplies are insufficient and do not adequately address need for safe disposal.

Jeevika has many ideas about how to address these issues but is still developing a suitable strategy to enable village women and girls to design a strategy to make & dispose of sanitary napkins for themselves & others in a cost-effective, hygienic, eco-friendly way.

If you have any ideas you would like to contribute to this strategy – no matter how wild – we would love to hear from you!

Email now! becky@jeevika.org.uk

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Will the new Government offer a People-centred Policy?

Following our recent election coverage and political analysis of poverty, Priya (our programme co-ordinator in India) gives her view on the outcome.

“If we have to build a modern India, then we will have to first give dignity to the Indian woman,” says Narendra Modi, the newly elected Prime Minister. Is this mere lip service to win the elections or will women enjoy a more equal status under the new Indian Government?

With an overwhelming victory for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies Narendra Modi promises to focus on people-centered policies and effective governance.  Will the rule of his Government consider the needs of disadvantaged minorities and live up to their inclusive manifesto?

india women

There is the pledge to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill, which has been pending approval by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) since 2010. The Bill will reserve one third of political seats for women to encourage equal opportunity and the political, social and economical condition of women is expected to improve drastically nationwide.

Schemes focusing on the welfare of the girl child in urban and rural areas of the country have been included in the Manifesto. It promises dedicated Women ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes), skill development for tribal minorities and all women Mobile Banks to boost employment opportunities. To emphasise progress in the personal security of women, the BJP intend to set up fast track courts to deal with heinous crimes against women and senior citizens, and open more hostels for working women.

child labour india

Health facilities for all will be provided with the launch of Universal Health Insurance and trauma centres in all districts. The Government proposes to invest 30 per cent of the health budget in promotion of preventative good health care.

For the first time in the BJP’s history, they have listened to the citizens representatives and a panel has been set up to enable NGOs to voice their grievances.  The NGOs are particular that candidates are of high calibre with clean records and not those who would run on muscle and money power. Basic issues like water, sanitation, illegal constructions and rehabilitation of slum dwellers are command demands, although it does not mention specific programmes for the welfare of disadvantaged communities.

At Jeevika Trust, with support from our partners in Tamil Nadu and Orissa, we engage with women from vulnerable and impoverished communities. Many are Dalits and Tribal villagers who face discrimination on a daily basis. The NGOS we work with serve as a connection between Government structures and local communities and create awareness regarding various schemes in education, health and livelihood. We can only hope that the policies of the new Government enable poor rural communities, especially women and children, to receive their entitlement to livelihoods, education, health and human rights that holistically serve the social and economic inclusion of disadvantaged communities.

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Why Do We Tolerate Poverty? Part 2

Gurcharan Das puts his finger on a question which Jeevika sees as vital to the whole issue of addressing Indian poverty, especially rural poverty – what is the correct role for, and expectations of, the State? Unfortunately the legacy of Nehruvian socialism still lingers on, with its implicit expectation that the state provide not only a framework for delivery of individual and community livelihoods, but also the delivery itself.

india village

The State – including increasingly, as Professor Sen points out, regional state governments, – should concentrate first on what only the State can do: as Das puts it 

Prosperity is indeed spreading, but it is happening amid appalling governance. Indians despair over the delivery of the simplest public services. Where the state is desperately needed—in providing law and order, education, health and drinking water—it performs poorly. Where it is not needed, it is hyperactive, tying people in miles of red tape.

As to the way forward, Professor Sen disappointingly, in his essay on tolerating poverty, concludes only that ‘there is work to be done’: we are left to infer that someone somewhere needs to persuade the Indian media to tackle its caste-based bias and better discharge its responsibility to educate its public about the symptoms and causes of India’s poverty.

Meanwhile at village level there is indeed real work to be done: at the interface with village communities, the role of the state needs to be radically redefined to synergise with the energy, compassion and ‘grass roots’ versatility of the thousands of proven NGOs active in rural India and the disciplines, technologies and enterprise of a much better engaged business sector. The BJP will now be free from the constraints of its coalition last time round, to deliver on both its pro-business mandate, and its signals to the rural poor.

india bees

A symposium on ‘The Dilemma for Rural India’ organised by Jeevika last December at Wolfson College, Oxford (*) confronted the question – who is accountable for the historic and continuing failures to build expanding livelihoods and prosperity in village India in a way which might counter massive unplanned urbanisation?

The State is normally blamed for these failures, but are expectations of the State to both plan (e.g. the National Rural Livelihood Mission) and to deliver not misconceived? As between the three sectors – state, private and voluntary – where should poor village communities expect more effective help to come from? A properly functioning synergy between the three sectors has been missing.

oxford university

Jeevika advocated an improved ‘Tri-sector model’ for rural development, based on Schumacher’s thinking, under which a different synergy between government, business and NGOs at the interface with local communities can deliver sustainable village prosperity; they suggested that the poor track record of completed development projects based on such a synergy needs to be better understood and learned from, and the model given higher political and media debate.

To leave the last word with Gurcharan Das: In the end, India’s story is one of private success and public failure.

(*) The Dilemma for Rural India: urbanisation of village prosperity?’

organised by Jeevika and the Programme for Contemporary South Asian Studies: for papers relating to the symposium please visit the ‘Open ForumUsername indiasymposium13@gmail.com Password jeevika@hampton

To advance the tri-sector by supporting our advances in village India please

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