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

just giving donate button

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

just giving donate button

 

 

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 

just giving donate button

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.

just giving donate button

 

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.

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?’