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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Why Do We Tolerate Poverty?

Why do we Tolerate Poverty? asks Amartya Sen: is it a failure of information, of hope, or of compassion?

Prospect magazine carries an article in this month’s issue entitled ‘Why do we Tolerate Poverty?’ by the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen. This essay echoes the book ‘An Uncertain Glory: India and its contradictions’ published by Professor Sen and Jean Dreze last year, which is instructively reviewed by Gurcharan Das for the Wall Street Journal and by The Economist.

Sen’s analysis focuses on India – its unique scale of poverty and its public attitude to such poverty, – with some invidious sideways glances at China. He argues that the most convincing explanation for the apparent ‘tolerance of the intolerable’ by Indian electors is public ignorance – rather than either a conviction that poverty is irremediable or a failure of human compassion and moral sentiment. And he goes on to blame the failure of India’s media to ‘inform public reasoning’ about the reality of the country’s poverty, due to ‘hardened social stratifications of caste, class and gender’.

india homeless children

Many would rather blame a failure of middle-class social conscience, arguably due to those same stratifications – or as The Economist puts it:

a ruling elite defined by caste, but also by gender, education and income, has an utter lack of interest—verging on contempt—in improving matters for the rest. Newspaper editors and readers, judges, NGO activists and academics are also drawn largely from privileged backgrounds, and care little.

Others who, like Jeevika Trust and its NGO partners, are active in rural India would say that ‘Indian poverty’ is not a single static thing, that Indian attitudes to slum poverty in exploding metro-cities and provincial towns, and to grinding deprivation in the age-old hinterland of village India, need very different explanations. Massive unplanned urban migration is changing the face of India, impoverishing both the city margins and the villages, but in very different ways.

women workers india

As authors of ‘An Uncertain Glory’, Messrs Sen and Dreze were closely involved (Mr Dreze being a member of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council), in the Indian Congress government’s economic change of tack after surviving the 2008 recession: it embarked on a programme to more directly address rural poverty through such moves as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, and more recently the Food Security Act, at huge cost to the state, while simultaneously de-emphasising programmes to stimulate and facilitate business enterprise and active job creation. Congress has now had its chance, and it has failed village India.

Professor Sen’s historic association with evolution of the Human Development Index as an economic measure, and with ‘human capability advancement’ via education, health-care, better nutrition and other measures of human well-being, are very much in line with what E.F.Schumacher – a co-founder of Jeevika Trust – called ‘economics as if people mattered’. As such Jeevika’s work for the building of village livelihood in India is shaped by the same instincts as those which drive Professor Sen.

However, as Gurcharan Das comments in his review

it is difficult to understand why Messrs. Sen and Drèze in particular insist that only the state directly deliver food and employment through its bureaucratic machinery ……… Instead of “make work” schemes, why not create sustainable opportunities for employment creation by eliminating regulation and other impediments? ……

This is the first of a two part analysis of India’s response to poverty at home.  The second part will be published later this week.

Meanwhile, to contribute to our mission to alleviate village poverty please click here

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[To be continued in Part II].

Life for the World’s Biggest Democracy

This is the fifth week India’s 814.5 million voters  (the worlds biggest democracy) are at the polls in a 6 week long general election. The results will arguably be swung by who can inspire the youth as half the population are under 24.  The youth are pressing for a change from successive governments failure to improve life conditions despite burgeoning economic growth.

india women voters

As it stands there has been rapid, chaotic change, with 20% of the population moving to urban zones in less than a decade. Whilst malnutrition rates in children have marginally improved since the 2009 election, in Mumbai the ratio of toilets versus population is infamously 1:30.

At Jeevika Trust we work with the most disadvantaged people in village India to slow urban drift and tackle the roots of poverty. As a small charity we can avoid expensive bureaucracy to instigate effective solutions in health & nutrition, water & sanitation, and livelihood to encourage the growth of self reliance. At our 2013 symposium at Oxford University we hosted influential multi-disciplinary experts to debate and engage with future solutions.

india self help group

The changing life conditions the media and the people are concerned with are primarily inflation in food prices and corruption. The populist pledge of the new anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party to have more urban planning is largely useless without a complementary rural livelihood development plan.

Despite the rhetoric of the British government that aid is no longer necessary, India is still a developing country. The New Delhi professor of economics Jyati Ghosh cites growing inequalities and a lack of job creation contributing to

failures of the development project so far: the persistence of widespread hunger and very poor nutrition indicators; the inadequate provision of basic needs like housing, electricity and other essential infrastructure; the poor state of health facilities for most people; and the slow expansion of education.

india electric

Whatever the elections outcome, India’s people will continue to desperately need the Indian government, the business sector and international NGO’s to work together the help people on the path to self reliance.

Donate now to support village India support itself 

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Can you imagine a country where 3,000 children die from hunger every day?

Despite dire headlines warning of the increased ‘heat or eat’ dilemma here in the UK our perception of ‘poverty’ is often relative. We think in terms of white sliced bread versus artisan sour dough. But in a grain exporting country such as India how does it reach the stage of no butter for the bread for a third of the population?

In 2012 India’s Planning Commission described the situation by stating “if it is not in a state of famine it is quite clearly in a state of chronic hunger.” The country comes second to last in the Global Hunger Index with a staggering 43.5% of children under 5 undernourished.

India starving kid

It is common for people in rural India to eat just one meal a day – a large serving of rice with a watery gravy. This lacks vital nutrition and starvation deaths are a hollow counterpart to 8% economic growth per annum. The Food Security Bill 2013 subsidises wheat and rice for two thirds of the population, keeping people fuelled with carbohydrates but not essential protein.

Can you imagine living where 3,000 children die every day from hunger? The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has labelled it a national shame.

Food prices are prone to wild fluctuation, and distribution to the needy suffers from corruption and inefficiencies. In 2011 I worked in an orphanage in Tamil Nadu where the local official demanded a bribe worth more than the rice the children were entitled to in order to stamp the ration book.

Here at Jeevika Trust we work through our Indian NGO partners to build village livelihoods. We focus on nutrition & health for the most marginalised. We also secure equally vital water & sanitation. We enable women to work in Self Help Groups to gain family income, to set up kitchen gardens, to cultivate honey for sale and for their families.

India free lunch

Our reach maybe modest but it is effective. Reputable NGOs do what the government still can’t do. Every little helps.

And with YOUR help we can say NO to starvation and make more people self-sufficient.

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Tarka and friends ‘Life’ – an album for India

They seem two worlds apart – the highly visible world of rock’n’roll, popstars and fashion in California, New York and London, and the vast unseen world of India’s 600,000 villages where one in eight of the planet’s population still live in extreme deprivation. Yet the unnecessary and much grieved death in 2008 of a young 42-year old highlighted a slender thread between the two.

It’s that thread which led record producer Barney Cordell, when planning an album in tribute to his younger brother Tarka, to single out Jeevika Trust. As a small charity working through its grassroots NGO partners in India we can effectively dedicate the royalties the artists have generously waived to a memorial project for Tarka in village India.

This month the album itself has finally been born with a fanfare of publicity. So we owe Barney a huge thank you, and wish this creative act all possible success.

Tarka and Friends: Life  is the title, produced under Barney’s label Room 609.  Please, please buy it now!

tarkaIt’s a haunting collection of tracks by Lily Allen (Shelter Me), Tarka’s mentor Evan Dando (Lovely New York) and other artists with close links to Tarka. The album echoes a collection of his own songs which Tarka would soon, but for his death, have released under the title Wide Awake in a Dream -  which Tarka himself described as ‘a compelling story of (his) heady days in New York City’.

tarka

That slender thread between the two worlds was Tarka’s own life. His legendary producer father Denny’s sudden death of cancer in 1995, and failure of his own musical career to take off, seem to have impacted Tarka deeply and he took a year out in India where he later admitted he ‘rode a motor-bike and took loads of drugs’. We don’t know how else he spent that time, but it seems to have made a deep impression on him and drawn him back: only days before his suicide he had just returned from another stint in rural India, and it is this link to India which Barney has wanted to celebrate with Jeevika’s help.

Jeevika has been focused, since our foundation in 1970 on the endemic poverty of life in village India. The Indian government has always prioritised industrial and urban development: it annually watches millions of rural people drifting into city slums, and is neither systematically investing in infrastructure to accommodate them, nor facilitating systematic growth of village livelihoods.

Jeevika’s projects for water & sanitation, health & nutrition and women’s income generation have been addressing this vacuum over the past 10 years.

Bee keeper

A new model for village livelihood is needed: neither government nor the business sector is taking the necessary initiatives, and  it is left to NGOs to move things forward. Jeevika is launching this year a ‘tri-sector’ model in which the roles of the state, private and voluntary sectors – are redefined.

So once again, we hope you’ll respond to this blog by ordering your copy of the new album on line at www.tarkamusic.com and recommending it to your friends.

Thank you.

Is Tesco the Answer for India’s Hungry Villagers?

All opinions expressed in this blog are those of the individual and not the official standpoint of Jeevika Trust.

The Indian government believe the solution to its starving millions lies in increased production and direct foreign investment.  This is supposed to cause a trickle down effect as the economy grows and one tactic has been the opening of the markets to multi-national companies.  As our blog has previously documented, the British government agree and have timetabled an end to British aid in 2014 with a renewed focus on a trade relationship.

At Jeevika Trust we have more of a grassroots approach, working with local NGO partners to support the most disadvantaged female entrepreneurs in livelihood development that harmonises with the environment and the individual.

starving india

Perhaps you heard in December about Tesco partnering Tata India and investing £68 million in expanding supermarkets.  This first significant move into the previously closely guarded retail market has been met with a wave of protest.  The convenor of the Confederation of All-India Traders has warned that like The East India Company historically they will come for business and end up controlling the country.  Shop keepers argue it will put many small and middle traders out of business.

India protest

The Indian government estimate 40% of food rots before it gets to market, due to poor transportation and middle men traders.  The disastrous impact of this was felt in 2013 when the price of onions, almost as much of a staple as rice, saw a 280% increase.

Some of the Dalits (traditionally the poorest in society) believe Tesco will help them out of poverty.  “At the moment the middlemen who control everything are high castes but there will be no role for middlemen and our firms will benefit. India’s new shopping malls have created the maximum employment opportunities for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe – the Dalits. But the government has promised that the supermarkets will procure from small and medium enterprises and 20 per cent of them will be Dalit enterprises,” said Milind Kamble, chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce (DICC).

If trade is sincerely the intention of both governments then it should be trade in both directions and I look forward to seeing Biotique on our high streets.

It’s worth remembering that in the UK we have had violent protests against Tesco for the same worrying reasons as the Indian shop keepers protests.  I believe that unless the introduction of Foreign Direct Investment is carefully managed, with advice being sought from local NGOs (as suggested in our tri-sector model for development) there is a very real risk of increased unemployment and poverty.

 

To support Jeevika Trust in developing the tri-sector model and opening fair options up for the people of India’s villages please donate here now

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How WALKING can help!

Remember Cyclone Phailin?  How it caused devastation last October in the State of Orissa?  Of particular concern to Jeevika and its partner, Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP), was the damage and devastation it created on the Island of Berhampur.  Situated in the Chilika Lagoon and bordered by the Bay of Bengal, it is here that JRP works with the 2,800 island villagers to generate income through the cultivation of crabs and prawns, bananas, peanuts, coconuts and vegetables.  The impact of Cyclone Phailin left many of these activities needing to start again.  The project’s funder – www.innocentfoundation.org – generously donated more funds to restore the project.

When JRP staff – together with Jeevika’s India Coordinator and Programme Officer -visited the island to review the project and the cyclone’s damage, we discovered that many houses had lost their thatched roofs and families were without resources to replace them.  The government provided bags of rice, but not roofs.

cyclone phailin

As we walked past paddy fields and large crab ponds – both heavily flooded – we came upon Mr Rankanidhi Bhoi sitting outside his home, crying.  75 years old, his limbs paralysed for the last five years, he said: ‘My Heaven has lost my home.  How will my family survive?’