A Mother’s Motivation? Her Children.

by Judith Crosland, Programmes Manager at Jeevika Trust

When I visited Jeevika projects in Tamil Nadu & Odisha in November last year, it occurred to me that we, at Jeevika, regularly talk about women being ‘at the heart’ of our village livelihood programmes, but perhaps do not talk often enough about how children in turn are at the heart of the women’s own motivation. Before I say more about this, I want to provide a little background information, so that you know why I, and other members of our Team, regularly visit India.

A girl with goats

If you are one of our regular blog readers, then you’ll be aware that Jeevika’s priority is to always address the issues that face India’s most impoverished women villagers.  This means that many of our blogs talk of the issues that these women face but not necessarily what motivates them to engage in our projects.  They can do much given a little but this still requires outside help.

This is where Jeevika steps in.  We help our 6 partner organisations – one in Odisha, four in Tamil Nadu and one based in New Delhi – to identify where the women are who have the greatest needs.  Once partners have designed a suitable project to meet those needs and we have approved its suitability and fundability, we and the partner concerned sign a Collaboration Agreement to meet our mutual needs for appropriate delivery, monitoring and evaluation so that we can report with full accountability to the funders.  This is where my visits come in.

Children learning to read English

Every time I visit India I work closely with Priya Anand, our Bangalore-based India Co-ordinator.   In between my visits, Priya regularly visits the projects and liaises with our partners and, when I visit, we travel together.  In fact, we do everything together:  we meet with the directors and staff of our partner organisations; we meet with the women beneficiaries and assess their many activities:  cleaning ponds and wells so there is safe water available for drinking and cooking; constructing – along with their menfolk – toilets and water tanks so there is no longer need to waste daylight hours carrying water, or to defecate in the fields at night;  building food security by cultivating organic compost, vegetables, millet, crabs, prawns, fish and rearing goats so there are sustainable sources of food and enough to sell to generate income.  Priya and I always find these visits – particularly the women we meet and their achievements – inspiring.

But let me return to what really needs to be said:  the primary motivator for these women, and almost everything they do is their children. Of course, everyone in their family benefits from the activities in which these women engage but the prime mover for everything they do as part of their project involvement, is their need to improve the lives of their children.  They know so well that providing their children, including their adolescent daughters, with access to safe water and sanitation facilities, improved nutrition, security from domestic violence, regular in-school and after-school learning, a better understanding of reproductive health and hygiene with access to sanitary napkins, all combine to assure them of a better quality of life & a brighter future.

…which is why Jeevika works hard to support the needs of the most impoverished women villagers.

Children attending after-school learning

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Women’s work? Gender, work & human development

by Andrew Redpath, Executive Director at Jeevika Trust

The theme of the UN’s latest Human Development Report is ‘Rethinking Work for Human Development’ : “Work provides livelihoods, income, a means for participation and connectedness, social cohesion, and human dignity”. With huge changes in the definition of work, in work mobility and the internet and digital world, is the new shape of the world of work ‘enhancing human development’?

Not only is the workplace transforming but so are the types of work – care work, voluntary work, creative work –  which according to the UN need to be taken into account in assessing the human development benefits of work.  And in this, the whole question of gender has become more prominent. While women perform over 50 % of all ‘work’ in the broader sense, they are still systematically disadvantaged in terms of equality.  For the past 20 years the Human Development Index, measuring nation by nation all the criteria for development, has incorporated the Gender Development Index (GDI) and the Gender  Empowerment Measure addressing gender-gaps in life expectancy, education, and incomes.

The GDI considers income-gaps in terms of actual earned income but much debate has arisen from related questions such as the value of house and child-care work versus men’s work (globally women perform 3 out of every 4 hours of unpaid work), different wage levels between the genders (globally women are paid an average 24% less than men), etc – and there are still several adjustments to be made to improve the comparative picture. But it remains clear that women’s role, potential and empowerment are very real issues in not only the gender balance but the future of trends in development.

In India specifically, education and income gaps vary substantially by class, caste and gender, and unpaid care work that falls on women alone pushes them out of the workforce, resulting in India having one of the world’s lowest female participation rates in the labour force, as traditionally defined.

Translating these criteria to Village India and village livelihoods, Jeevika’s experience is broadly in line with the ‘gender-gap’ measurements above, but we have seen and demonstrated at first hand how women have responded to the opportunity of working in self help groups (SHGs) as a relatively new dynamic with endless potential for generating knowledge, confidence, energy and their own earning power : generating their own individual income streams, albeit small, and sharing the moral and economic support of self help groups in tackling well-conceived and funded projects for communal benefit has visibly created in the past decade or more a huge, irreversible and growing wave of human energy and contributed to village prosperity.

A women's Self-Help Group

Hence, in terms of the basic theme of the Report – the role of work in ‘human development’, – it is clear that both broader definitions of what constitutes ‘work’, and the ways in which women are able to contribute to such work in more dynamic ways, are key.  Both are valuable indicators to us in equipping women with the skills and opportunities they need in order to build rewarding and sustainable livelihoods.

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Jeevika’s founders and future come together at AGM

by Mark Hoda, Jeevika Trust Trustee

I had the honour of being re-elected to Jeevika’s Board a couple of weeks ago at our Annual General Meeting.

As ever, it was a very interesting, thought-provoking and enjoyable event. Board members, patrons and supporters were updated on Jeevika’s current life-transforming livelihood projects and discussed the strategy needed to sustain and grow them. We did this while enjoying the wonderful surroundings of Hampton Wick’s riverside and the very generous hospitality of Jeevika’s driving forces, Andrew and Christine.

However, this year’s AGM was particularly poignant for me personally. It brought together some very close friends of my father and uncle, who started India Development Group (IDG) – the organisation which later became Jeevika Trust – with new Board members, supporters and Jeevika employees full of fresh perspectives on Jeevika’s future.

As well as my Father’s very dear friends, Diana Schumacher – who keeps her father-in-law’s legacy strong – and Dick Gupwell – who champions Jeevika’s cause through his work with the European Institute for Asian Studies – we were joined by George McRobie, who founded IDG with Fritz Schumacher and my father and uncle in 1970.

George was one of my father’s and my uncle’s closest friends and associates which is why he penned Guardian obituaries for both Mansur  - who died 15 years ago this week – and Surur, which encapsulated their life achievements so well. It was great to see George soon after his 90th birthday and wedding to his partner Suzanne last year.

IDG’s original focus was on developing appropriate technologies and training young men from villages in how to use them on campuses in Lucknow. I think this partly reflected the engineering backgrounds of my father and uncle. This is different from Jeevika’s approach today, which is to harness the multiplier effect of empowering women and girls in villages – though the focus on appropriate technologies & solutions to development that fit the local context remains to this day. Jeevika works through grassroots Indian NGO partners to deliver livelihood projects centered on women’s income generation, health and nutrition and water and sanitation.

Though Jeevika’s approach has developed and changed since the days of IDG, much remains constant from when George, Fritz, Surur and Mansur founded our organisation; the desire to provide sustainable, poverty-free futures for India’s rural masses and the inspiration drawn from Schumacher and Gandhi on how to do so, as well as – unfortunately – the scale of India’s poverty challenge.

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Jeevika Partners extend helping hand to flood-ravaged Tamil Nadu

by Priya Anand, India Co-ordinator at Jeevika Trust

A flooded hut in Tamil NaduThe monsoon rains that lashed Tamil Nadu in early December 2015 were unprecedented and were the worst that the state had experienced in over a Century. They caused flooding across the State, bringing normal life to a stand-still. The human toll in the devastating floods was over 190. More than 2500 villages were badly affected and 60 percent of the capital city Chennai was under water. The District of Cuddalore was one of the worst-affected regions, where over 50 villages were under water. Apart from the death of 49 people, over 50,000 huts were damaged during the floods in Cuddalore district and hundreds of families spent weeks together in relief camps. Heavy damage was inflicted on standing crops, cattle and infrastructure.

Cuddalore was ravaged by a tsunami in 2004 that killed 640 people along the district’s 57 km coastline. Since then, it has been hit hard by multiple cyclones including Nilam and Thane, and the district’s cup of woes brimmed full with the recent rains. The armed forces—the army and navy in particular—and 50 teams of the National Disaster Response Force did a good job of mitigating the impact by rescuing stranded citizens and distributing essentials. The floods brought out the best in residents of Tamil Nadu and volunteers from nearby States like Karnataka, who provided support in the form of cash and relief materials. Impromptu rescue teams were formed to rescue those who were stranded and residents who were not affected opened their homes and offered food and shelter to victims. Corporates such as Cognizant, Tata Consultancy Services, State Bank of India and Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd. have also done their part by pledging funds to help victims. Several NGOs complemented the official machinery in delivering essential items to residents in the flood-affected areas.

Mithra Foundation distributing aid in Tamil NaduTwo of Jeevika’s partners in Tamil Nadu, Mithra Foundation and SCAD, played a key role in supporting flood-affected villagers. Mithra Foundation, our partner working with HIV positive individuals and their families in Trichy and Cuddalore districts, with support from various NGOs – including Jeevika – and individual contributors from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, was able to provide 23,000 kilograms of relief materials in kind to flood victims from 33 Flood Affected Villages in Cuddalore District. Essentials like food (milk, rice, oil and lentils), clothes (sarees, dhotis, children’s clothing, undergarments), sanitary napkins, torches, blankets and toiletries were also provided.

SCAD, which focuses on rural underprivileged communities was able to support victims in Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur and Tuticorin districts. It collaborated with local NGOs such as EKTA Nambikkai Centre, Killai, Cuddalore, GOD Trust, Institution Rural Development Trust, and Joseph Rural Development Trust in Kanchipuram to have an easy access to villages not reached by the Government.

distributing aid in Tamil NaduAfter a careful door-to-door assessment of affected villagers, especially women and children, SCAD provided relief kits to meet their needs. Flood relief kit materials included some 23 items including dry rations, dress, note books, oil, soap, food as well as basic things like bed sheets, dress materials, biscuits. etc. Kits have now reached 1325 families across four districts and over 2500 people from 24 villages received medical care from medical personnel in mobile vans. Close to 1500 individuals received essential items such as clothing, food items, blankets and mosquito repellants.

SCAD was able to effectively enlist the support of schools and colleges that are associated with it, and students and staff of both the rural development teams – as well as the educational institutions – played a key role in raising resources and collecting relief items.

Both Mithra and SCAD will continue to engage in rehabilitation efforts in the months to come. To find out how you can support their efforts, please contact us.