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.
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.
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.