Small but not Beautiful?

In a recent report, the World Bank interestingly puts great emphasis on jobs (livelihoods) and “enhancing gender parity” in its most recent studies and reports on South Asia. The reports are detailed and make for rather dry reading, but what is interesting for Jeevika and its supporters is how much employment is accounted for by small-scale “own account” enterprise even in such areas as manufacturing.

Small shop in India

By far, most employment in India comes from self-employment and casual labour and that transition from casual labouring to self-employment will continue to be where the future lies in the near term for most people trying to escape poverty. Salaried employment, despite the high levels of economic growth in India in particular, still only provided 17% of all employment in 2009/10.

I don’t think you will find mention of Schumacher Economics or “Small is Beautiful” anywhere on the World Bank’s website but the statistics they provide show that small-scale employment opportunities make up the bulk of those that exist. The challenge of course is to improve the quality and conditions of such employment with much of the work being “small” scale but far from “beautiful” — especially when it boils down to poorly paid casual labour in bad working conditions.

The way to achieve that is to improve skills, education, and most importantly of all, to “enhance gender parity” as the World Bank describes it, especially if issues like the childhood malnutrition still endemic in the region are to be properly addressed.

Excerpts from the World Bank report on South Asia:

In 2011, the Bank produced a regional flagship report, More and Better Jobs in South Asia. To strengthen the World Bank’s understanding of the policies conducive to inclusive growth, the South Asia region team is working on a new flagship report on Equity for Development, in which inequality in income and consumption will be studied alongside inequality of access and opportunities.

World Bank report on jobs

Building Skills and Improving Health and Nutrition Outcomes

The World Bank has strengthened its focus on promoting a multi-sectoral agenda to tackle the severe nutrition problems in South Asia, and on mainstreaming gender issues into its operations. South Asia has 330 million undernourished people, more than sub-Saharan Africa.

The World Bank is drawing on the World Development Report (WDR) 2012 findings as it intensifies its efforts to enhance gender parity in the region. Efforts include strategic mainstreaming across the portfolio, such as the South Asia Gender Initiative, which is working across sectors to mainstream gender; understand gender identities (women’s and men’s) across generations; and support Impact Evaluations of Rural Livelihoods projects in India and Nepal and gender-specific projects.

In addition, the Bank has many stand-alone gender-based projects such as the National Rural Livelihoods Project in India and the Adolescent Girls Initiative in Afghanistan, which aims to help girls stay in school and build skills so they can find jobs.

If you would like to support Jeevika’s work with the poorest of the poor in India, through livelihood initiatives just like those mentioned by the World Bank, please consider making a donation:

Jeevika Trust JustGiving

First photo used courtesy of and second photo from Chapter 3 of the World Bank report.

Celebrating women, championing their cause

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
– Gloria Steinem

International Women’s Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike since its birth in the socialist movement in 1911.

The United Nations designated 1975 as International Women’s Year and since then, women’s organisations and governments around the world have annually observed the day on March 8th by holding events that honour women’s advancement while reminding us of the continued vigilance and action still required to ensure women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.

International Women's Day in India

There have been significant changes – especially changes in attitude – towards women’s equality and emancipation in society, particularly within the developed world. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have already gained a fair share of equality.

The fact remains, however, that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics and, globally, women’s and girls’ education, health and the violence against them is worse than it is for men. In light of this, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) recently published a call to end all violence against women, featuring a letter from Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.

Nowhere is this inequality more clearly demonstrated than by women villagers in India – particularly those who belong to Scheduled Castes and Tribes: these women remain some of the most impoverished and disadvantaged women of the world. These are the women with whom Jeevika works.

International Women's Day in India

Working with our five partner organisations in the poorest villages, Jeevika helps women gain income-generating livelihoods that enable them to contribute to household income through beekeeping, organic compost and kitchen gardening, cultivation of crabs, prawns, fish and peanuts, etc.

We also work with villagers – both women and men – to help them construct water catchments and toilets for use in schools and their households, all of which improves health and hygiene and encourages children (particularly girls) to attend school.

Inspired by International Women’s Day – and your help – together we can achieve much more to bring equality to the lives of Indian women villagers and their families.

Please consider making a donation to help us make a difference to the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged women in the world!

Donate to Jeevika Trust

First photo used courtesy of EarthSky.