Join us at Walking for Water 2016

by Andrew Redpath, Executive Director at Jeevika Trust

There has to be a fair chance that Sunday 16th  October will be a beautiful autumn day of russet colours, peaceful deer, blue skies, sparkling Thames – all just perfect for a Walk, starting and finishing in Hampton Wick, with a gentle October sun overhead and good walking company.  Up through Bushy Park, then through Hampton Court Palace, and down Long Water to Barge Walk for a really nice tea and talk at the Glass House.  Will you join us?

By joining us you can really do your modest bit to help us raise at least £5,000 this year to support Jeevika’s water projects in south India: not just saving village women the burden of hours walking to fetch water, bt restoring traditional village reservoirs, building segregated girls’-n-boys’ toilet blocks in village schools, etc – all our water projects are planned and delivered direct by Jeevika through our 5 Indian NGO partners.

So on top of a nice walk and company, we’re inviting you this year to set yourself a little target: raising at least £100 from your friends and contacts to give them, and you, a nice warm feeling – the feeling of a pleasurable and productive Sunday afternoon!  What do you think?! That’s just 10 x £10 for a start! Will you?

And will you also spread the word to encourage others to come on the Walk and get sponsored as well?  We need fifty Walkers, and I’m sure that between us and with your help we can manage that.

Please take a look at the below poster for details of when, where and how.

walking-for-water-poster

 

So do please put 16th October in your diary, and sign up! By visiting www.jeevika.org.uk/walking-for-water-2016 you’ll be able to print a simple Sponsorship Form or, if you prefer, to set up your own Just Giving web-page to invite contributions.  Any difficulty or query, just email us – andree@jeevika.ork.uk.

Please note that this will be our last blog on this site, all future blog articles will be published on our new website www.jeevika.org.uk/latest-news

 

India: a country of violence or a country of peace?

by Michael Connellan, Jeevika Trust Trustee

Sadly, violence has been a common theme in news reports from India in the first months of 2016.

February saw at least nine people die in Delhi and Haryana as members of the Jat caste rioted over the government’s job quota system for people of different caste groups. The deaths came after police were reportedly given shoot-on-sight orders to quell rioting.

 The same month saw political violence as well as caste violence. Lawyers, who were chanting nationalist slogans, assaulted a Delhi student who had been arrested for sedition. Lawyers shouting ‘traitors leave India’ also engaged in violent tussles with supporters of the student and with reporters covering the story.

India’s caste system, and the associated politics and tensions, are often very difficult for foreigners to grasp. And the sight of lawyers acting as political thugs outside a courthouse seems downright bizarre to the outsider. But it is not unprecedented in the country.

 Gandhian non-violence – as a response to the British Raj and to internal tensions between Indians – is of course one of the celebrated philosophies that the country gave itself and gave the world. But so often, it still feels in very short supply.

 Violence and the threat of violence permeates the lives of millions of residents of village India, where victims often have no access to the services of a trustworthy police force.

I remember spending a day in a village two hours outside of Delhi where a Jeevika Trust partner organisation was supporting villagers living in extreme poverty. We asked village leaders about the main challenges they faced. We discovered that nearby farmers were threatening to attack women villagers with sticks, over a dispute on where sewage should be stored.

 India is one of the world’s worst countries to be born a woman. Jeevika Trust’s work to empower women in India’s remote rural communities focuses on boosting their ability to maintain a livelihood and reducing their risk of hunger, exclusion and violence. Read more about our work with rural Indian women.

 Support our work with a small donation every month.

Planet 5050? Not in India…

by Lucy Ferrier, Marketing & Communications Manager at Jeevika Trust

Tuesday was International Women’s Day – a day dedicated not just to celebrating “the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women”  but also to promoting the need for accelerated change if women are to enjoy gender parity by 2030 – goal 6 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Group-of-women---optimised

Levels of gender equality vary drastically around the globe. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2015 report, Scandinavian countries like Iceland and Sweden are the clear winners, while countries in the Middle East, in particular, have much further to go – Yemen scores a measly 0.484 for gender equality, compared to Iceland’s 0.881.

In the last 5 years, India has struggled up 4 places on the Forum’s report from a lowly 114 out of 145 countries, to an unimpressive 108. When you consider that India is home to approximately 17% of the world’s women – around 600 million – the country’s score on the Index is alarming. Perhaps more alarmingly, India is conspicuously absent from the list of countries which made national commitments at a UN Conference last September to close the gender gap by 2030.

Discrimination against women in India is endemic. The practices of female foeticide and infanticide, though illegal, have resulted in a skewed population with only 943 women for every 1000 men – a telling statistic that shows the status of women in India. According to this article, more than 93k cases of violations of women’s rights have been made since 2012. Rape, sexual assault and domestic violence are sadly not uncommon. Women have to fight for the right to public spaces, to toilet facilities, to education, to paid work, to technology, to freedom, to respect – and in some case – to life.

An Indian woman

For women in rural areas – particularly those from lower castes and tribal communities – the fight is twice as hard. Jeevika’s priorities lie in the 600,000 villages where 7 out of 10 women lead their lives. Their challenges are radically different from those of women living in urban slums where rudimentary access to public services is greater; in the vast rural areas exposure to the elements, poor access to water and sanitation, poor food security, poor access to basic health services and education – just to name a few factors – combined with a low social standing means day-to-day life for millions of women is grinding.

We at Jeevika believe that women’s empowerment and equality is vital – not only for women, but for the development and progress of humankind. Our projects prove that, when women are empowered, the results are dramatic. By improving access to clean water, we stop women having to walk for hours each day to collect water for their families. By improving sanitation – helping communities to build toilets near their homes as well as gender-segregated toilet blocks in schools – we reduce the risk of diarrhoeal diseases, help girls to stay in school and stop women from having to defecate in the open, where – particularly at night – they are vulnerable to violence and sexual assault. By educating women and adolescent girls about sanitary and reproductive health, as well as improving access to sanitary napkins, we not only help to reduce the number of reproductive or urinary tract infections, but also help women to stay in work and girls to stay in school so that they can realise their full potential. By empowering women and providing them with income generation opportunities – from producing and marketing honey or sanitary napkins to growing and selling produce – we not only help women to increase their household income, but also to grow in self-confidence and to gain greater freedoms and greater respect within their communities.

Tribal women dancing

Help women in rural India realise their full potential by donating to Jeevika today:

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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

Please help us support women and their children – click the button below to donate.
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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.

To support our livelihood projects for women in village India, click below to donate. Thank you!

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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.

Click here to make a donation & support Jeevika’s future.

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.

#HappyToBleed – breaking menstrual taboos in India

By Lucy Ferrier, Marketing & Communications Manager at Jeevika Trust

Towards the end of 2015, a comment made by the head of the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala  - which has a blanket entry ban for women aged between 10 and 50 – sparked a heavy backlash from hundreds of young Indian women. Discussing whether the ban (which is in place to ensure that no menstruating women enter the temple) would ever be lifted, Prayar Gopalakrishnan said: “There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the ‘right time’ for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside”. A teenage girl from Odisha

Menstruation remains a taboo in India, but a new generation of young women refuses to accept these entrenched views; in response to Gopalakrishnan’s comment, hundreds of women took to social media after the launch of the #HappyToBleed campaign. On its Facebook page, the movement describes itself as a “counter campaign launched against menstrual taboos, and sexism that women are subject to through it. It acknowledges menstruation as a natural activity which doesn’t need curtains to hide behind”. #HappyToBleed’s founder, Nikita Azad said: “Shaming menstruation is a sign of patriarchy.”

Though #HappyToBleed was launched in response to the Sabarimala temple’s ban on menstruating women, it is a reaction to a much wider issue. Traditionally, menstruating women are considered “unclean” and are often banned from praying or cooking ; in some rural communities, women are sent to gaokors – huts outside the village – while they are menstruating. A reproductive health & hygiene sessionThis historic and deeply-ingrained taboo has an enormous impact on women – over 20% of girls drop out of school permanently at puberty and Reproductive Tract Infections (RTIs) are rife, particularly in rural areas, due to the lack of availability of proper sanitary products. There is even an indication that unsanitary practices during menstruation, for example re-using cloth and using ashes or sand to aid absorption, increases the risk of cervical cancer – according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) India accounts for 27% of the world’s cervical cancer deaths and the incidence rate there is almost twice the global average “with poor menstrual hygiene partly to blame”.

A nationwide survey of women indicated that 70% can’t afford sanitary napkins, with only 2% of the rural population using them despite the fact that three quarters of Indians still live in rural areas. Jeevika Trust is proud to support the improvement of menstrual health of women and adolescent girls from tribal communities in Odisha; through our Project SNAPS, delivered by our partner organisation Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP), we support Self-Help Groups of women to produce and market low-cost, eco-disposable sanitary napkins (SNAPS) which not only addresses their personal sanitary needs, but allows them to generate a small income from their activities. A SHG member producing SNAPSThese napkins are also made available to adolescent girls to help keep them in school, and women and girls receive reproductive health education. Overall, the project is helping over 5,000 women and girls. Unfortunately, lack of access to sanitary napkins is only half the problem – poor access to proper sanitation facilities and gender-segregated toilets is also a huge issue, but we’re tackling this through our Project PANI.

Through better education on reproductive health and hygiene, we hope to help break the taboos surrounding menstruation, and through providing women with SNAPS (sanitary napkins)  and improving access to toilet facilities we hope to improve levels of health, reduce RTIs and allow girls to remain in education. As Muruganantham, the man who famously pioneered machinery to produce low-cost sanitary napkins in Tamil Nadu and who this week received the prestigious Padma Shri award for his work, said, “Why buy sanitary napkins from multinationals when we can make them at home and generate employment?”.

To support the expansion of Project SNAPS, please click on the link below to donate:

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WATER & SANITATION – some hard facts

by Judith Crosland, Programmes Manager at Jeevika Trust

INDIA has a population of over one billion people and is home to 17% of the world’s population. The divide between rich and poor is huge:  25% of its people still live in poverty.

Did you know that…

  • 76 m don’t have access to safe water?

  • 774 m don’t have access to adequate sanitation?

  • 140K children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water & poor sanitation?

Project PANI is one of a series of water & sanitation initiatives implemented by our partner organisation, Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP) to help alleviate these problems in the remote Tribal villages of Pankua and Phularaas, neither of which had clean, safe water or sanitation prior to JRPs work with the local villagers (www.jrpsai.org).

A restored pond     Working in Odisha with 100 Tribal households and the local primary school, JRP and the villagers will together restore their large pond.  Once the pond is dredged and its boundaries strengthened ready for the next monsoon, its water will be harvested to support village agriculture & household kitchen gardens.  The villagers will also cultivate fish in the pond to contribute to food security and improve local nutrition.

A newly-built village toiletAlready water from the pond services the new toilets being provided to each family and to the village  school.

Village children and their parents now understand how important it is to maintain hygiene for their good health – and already these two villages have won a local government ‘Clean Village Award’. 

A sign encouraging good hygiene

A disused well

A disused well awaiting restoration

A new village hand pump

A new handpump provides safe water for household drinking & cooking

A female beekeeper

Women villagers now grow vegetables and produce honey and the family diet benefits from improved nutrition as a result of better access to water and skill-based training.

Women grow vegetables

If you would like Jeevika to help JRP replicate
this valuable initiative in more remote villages, click below!

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Five shocking facts about ‘untouchability’ in India

by Michael Connellan, Jeevika Trust Trustee

Those in India’s lowest castes, and marginalised tribal groups, are officially known today as Dalits, which translates as ‘oppressed.’ Throughout history, and in today’s India, Dalits face extreme prejudice, exclusion and violence at the hands of higher caste groups.

Traditional practice slanders Dalits as ‘untouchable’ – meaning they are considered too polluting for other caste groups to interact with. This can see them barred from the homes of others, blocked from sharing village wells and paths with others, and blocked from livelihoods.

Overall, 27 per cent of Indians openly claim to practice untouchability – even though the practice is illegal.

 

The situation is worst in rural India. According to the India Human Development Survey, higher caste people living specifically in village areas are the most likely to indulge in discrimination through ‘untouchability’.

More than 100 million Indians are ‘untouchable’ in the eyes of those who practice it. Untouchability is a major factor in keeping impoverished Indians poor.

Rights groups claim almost one in three schools in India block Dalit children from sitting with other pupils. No wonder a reported 70 per cent of Dalit women in India are illiterate.

Rural villages are home to more than 90 per cent of India’s ‘untouchable’ population. But Jeevika Trust works in India’s rural communities to improve conditions & opportunities for Dalit & other marginalised people, providing opportunities for sustainable income generation, improved village facilities, better access to health & government services & a better understanding of their legal rights