We, as women, have earned freedom of speech

Our volunteer Geraldine of innocent foundation shares her insights into how our project with our partner JRP works on the ground.

JRP supports villagers in strengthening the ecological resources of their environments. In Barhampur village, they have set up self-help groups for women, to train them on farming activities so that they can make a living.

How do self-help groups work?

JRP supports 6 self-help groups (SHG) of 15-20 members each.  That’s 100 marginalised women members getting together to improve their situations. Each woman gives 20 Rupees per month to belong to the group. JRP gives a revolving fund of 10,000 Rupees per year. A revolving fund means that funds remain available as they are invested in activities which repay the money used from the account. Self-help group members can start intra-lending towards productive activities. JRP also assists them to set up a bank account so they can save money there.

Self-help groups are empowered to make change happen. For example, when latrines need to be built, SHGs receive the money and organise for artisans to complete the work. JRP has learned it is safer to give the money to SHGs and train them rather than to individuals (e.g. a co-ordinator) as, this way, there is accountability and the money is well utilised.

india toilet

Some self-help groups have also put rules together, which their members have signed up to: if someone commits a crime, for example, the person is judged and need to pay 3000 Rs.

What was life like before the project?

Some self-help groups were put in place before the project started, and they had received money from the government, but the money was badly used, in some cases siphoned off to feed individuals’ addictions. There were also relationship problems whilst the groups were forming.

They weren’t able to save much money.

What has changed in the village since the project started?

The project has brought security to the whole village. Now, thanks to JRP training, the villagers are able to make much more profit from their activities and save money in the bank, which they can use when needed. They can also get microcredit from rural banks and loan schemes which provide cheaper access to finance than traditional money-lenders.

When I asked one of the self-help group members about the achievement she was the proudest of, she initially sounded self-deprecating: I haven’t achieved anything in my life. Then she thought about it and added: Actually, we as women have earned the freedom of speech. Before, in my family, I wasn’t able to talk to make decisions. Now I can give the money to men.

The sanitation system is improving as latrines have been built. On one of them, the following message was painted: Jeevika Trust/JRP with this toilet have improved our dignity. Another message read as follows: I am only going to give my girl [for marriage] to a house which has a latrine.

Ten women were trained to build smokeless chulhas. These stoves are replacing the old chulhas, which create smoke women inhale whilst cooking, leading to respiratory problems.

smokeless chula

They have planted lemon, chili, papaya, banana and coconut trees to both generate income and protect the island from high winds and exposure to the Bay of Bengal.

Education is improving as some teachers received support from JRP. The number of children going to school is also rising. The school now has one computer and a cooking stove, latrines and solar lights.

One thing they also organise is a deep clean-up every couple of weeks in the village: they get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and divide themselves into groups. One group goes to clean the school, another one to the port, and so on. They have brooms, kerosene and matches. Anything that can be burned gets burned so the village stays clean and there is less ground for mosquitoes to develop.

What was the impact on women’s lives?

One of the women explained that, as a self-help group member and small enterprise owner, she was empowered to make decisions. Belonging to a self-help group and generating profit is a truly empowering process for women previously excluded from economic processes.

Women have got together to learn how to cultivate the ground. They can now communicate with each other and work together.

Villagers are so enthusiastic they’ve become entrepreneurs and are keen to expand. For example, women have asked to mill flour. JRP has listened to their needs and organised for 10 group members to be trained on using flour milling instruments. Women have already divided the different tasks between themselves: some will get the wheat, others will be using the flour milling machine, and others will be selling the flour.

They plan to import wheat from other villages in order to produce more than 200kg of flour each month. They can then use this flour to make sattu for example, an Indian sweet nutritious paste. They also plan to rent the instrument to people from other villages who are keen to make their own flour. This activity was not part of the original brief and is very promising.

What are the challenges?

Cyclone Phailin, which hit the Orissa coast in October 2013, has had a devastating impact: 1000 coconut trees were uprooted, fishing nets of more than 100 fishermen were washed out in the seas, 100 boats were damaged, 12 vermi-compost pits were completely destroyed, 100 kitchen gardens were destroyed as well, and so on. The villagers received extra money thanks to an emergency appeal made by JRP and are now re-building everything.

Now other villagers are keen to get involved in self-help groups and income-generation activities. 12 new self-help groups have been formed, even though they are not supported by JRP. At this stage, JRP can ‘only’ support 100 members, who were identified through a needs assessment at the start of the project. They currently can’t afford to help the other self-help groups.

There is very limited access to healthcare. When women are about to give birth for example, they have to go a long way to get medical support. JRP organised health camps after the Phailin cyclone in October 2013: a team of doctors came to the village to provide free emergency treatment. They came twice and had a huge response. They gave antibiotics and treated people for infections and injuries following the cyclone.

What are the villagers’ hopes for the future?

In the future, they would like health assistance to be provided in the village. They would like even more toilets in the village so everyone has access to a latrine.

To help the women in Chilika Lagoon achieve their hope for more toilets and regular medical care please donate now

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Jeevika Trust at Small is Festival

To explore and celebrate the approach of Jeevika Trust founding father E. F. Scumacher to sustainability and poverty the Small is Festival happened in Bristol in September.  There was a rammed timetable of debates, workshops and music.  Jeevika Trust were represented with a talk on ‘Schumacher in Village India.’

E. F. Schumacher India

I introduced the scale and suffering of poverty in village India. The wide reaching meaning of ‘jeevika’ regarding right livelihood financially and vocationally on a human individual scale, respect for the environment to support livelihoods now and in the future and the enabling conditions necessary for livelihood were touched upon.

Ooranie water reservoir redevelopment and school roof top rainwater harvesting are appropriate technology that fit the context of the project without overloading the community with difficult to up keep modern solutions. I described organisation of producers into Self-Help Groups for human scale self reliant local economy’s that are integrated and protected from global fluctuations.

Schumacher infographic

Photos courtesy of Arran Hodgson

Appropriate knowledge was illustrated by the Project Madhu Network bee-keeping initiative to stop wild bees being raided for honey then destroyed.  Involved in this is the state level framework for a standardised product. The tri-sector was introduced by way of a description of the Oxford University Symposium ‘The Dilemma for Rural India: Urbanisation or Village Prosperity.’

The only divergence with Schumacher’s approach in village India is the focus on women. Empowerment at the heart of the family has been proven to be the most effective and reliable method.  

jaipur brass band

Photo courtesy of Kaucus Sound-Film

 It is amazingly gratifying to see Schumacher held is such esteem by so many forward thinking experts and the ‘Small is festival’ cultivated a positive view for the future of the world and its people.

To support us in furthering Schumacher’s vision donate here now

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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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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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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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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’.


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.

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?’