Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals in India

by Mark Hoda, Jeevika Trustee

In the culmination of a three year process, at the end of September this year, the UN’s 193 member states met at a summit to agree 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets

Sustainable development can be defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

The goals are to be achieved by 2030 and include ‘ending poverty in all its forms everywhere’.

The agreement also commits signatory countries to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, and inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

India’s mixed record

The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were adopted in 2000 and were supposed to be delivered this year.

As a UN report looking back on MDG delivery notes, ‘India has made notable progress in achieving poverty reduction and other MDGs since their adoption at the turn of the century but this progress has been uneven and millions continue to remain trapped in extreme poverty’.

The report highlights the scale of this challenge in the world’s biggest poverty trap – ‘India remains home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population, over a third of the world’s underweight children, and nearly a third of the world’s food-insecure people’.

Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas

The new Indian government elected last year is committed to a policy of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (‘Together with all, Development for all’) to achieve inclusive development.

As the UN report on India’s MDG record notes, looking forward to its SDG delivery prospects under a new government, ‘There seems to be a remarkable convergence of vision underlying the sustainable development goals and those of the Government, although it remains to be seen how effectively it implements its new strategic direction to provide a life of dignity to all’.

A framework of indicators against which to monitor progress in delivering the SDGs is being developed at UN level and according to press reports, there is scepticism amongst Indian NGOs that the goals will be achieved, especially in the absence of clearly defined monitoring processes and resource mobilisation.

Trade versus aid?

This week, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who coined the phrase ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, visits the UK.

While aid may not feature on the agenda during Mr Modi’s visit (especially given that the UK Government has now stopped supporting development projects in India) trade very much will be. British multinationals are hoping to unveil $15 billion worth of trade and investment deals during the trip.

However, as discussed at Jeevika’s previous policy and corporate events, trade and aid must go hand in hand. India will not be able to transform itself into the economic powerhouse that its Government, people and key trading partners, such as the UK, so badly need unless it can lift hundreds of millions of its people out of abject poverty.

It is therefore vital that aid as well as trade is on the table in Modi’s discussions with political and corporate leaders in the UK this week.

Jeevika Trust is developing it’s ‘tri sector’ approach on how governments, businesses and NGOs can work together to eradicate poverty in India.

Notwithstanding the UK’s decision to stop aid to India, the British Government still provides important technical assistance to India which should be used to support the delivery of the SDGs in India.A newly-installed water pump in village India Likewise, Jeevika very much wants to see UK businesses with a relationship with India devote some of their considerable resources  and expertise to rural development projects, as a key part of their trade agreements. Doing so will not only fulfill an important moral duty, but will also help create massive new markets for their goods and services.

We will therefore be watching Mr Modi’s UK visit closely in the hope that such tri sector poverty eradication agreements will be very high on the agenda. Without such partnership working, India will surely struggle to meet the SDGs by 2030 and Mr Modi’s ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ commitment.


Five reasons why RURAL India will shape our global future

by Michael Connellan, Jeevika Trustee

Rural India is the world’s biggest poverty trap…

Despite rapid global urbanisation, the majority of the world’s poor are rural – and a huge proportion of them are rural Indians. India’s 600,000 villages are home to a quarter of a billion people living on less than a dollar, or 50p, per day.

…But rural India is getting educated. Fast.

Literacy rates are improving in rural India at twice the rate of urban India.

And village India is rapidly getting online…

Hundreds of millions of Indians remain without internet access. But the Indian government is proposing an $11bn (US) plan to get rural India online to boost the rural economy.

… nonetheless, basic resources – including clean water – are often unavailable even if mobile phones are

629 million people in rural India live without proper sewage systems. This lack of sanitation costs lives. Diarrhoea kills 1,600 people daily across the country.

Rural India’s hope lies in its grassroots democracy, which has much to teach us

In the 1990s, the Indian government introduced a law reserving spaces for women on every village panchayat, or council. Once the realm only of men, now women have the chance to slowly push for greater gender equality. Such greater equality could see more girls given an education – unleashing the power of women in rural India’s economy and lifting communities out of poverty.

Jeevika Trust is a UK charity supporting rural India. Please donate it a follow on Twitter  and a like on Facebook.

Can India go “Swachh”?

by Priya Anand, India Co-ordinator at Jeevika Trust

The latest statistics from the Indian Government indicate that 89 Lakh (8.9 million) individual household toilets have been built in rural areas in the last year.  To accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage and to put focus on sanitation, Prime Minister Modi launched the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission on 2nd October, 2014.  The push in rural areas has increased the access of toilets to 46.9% from only 32.6% in 2011 across the country.

JRP village toilet OdishaUrban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu, claiming that Swachh Bharat is the “mother of all new missions”, said that changing the mind-set and attitude of people remains the biggest challenge.  States like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana have performed better in respect of construction of individual household toilets, while other states have lagged behind or are still to begin construction.[1]


Solid household waste management is a key component of the mission in urban areas, and till August this year, 100 percent door to door collection of municipal household solid waste (for example plastics, styrofoam containers, bottles, cans, papers, scrap iron, and other rubbish) has been reported in 31,593 of the total 78,003 municipal wards and the mission is on course to achieve the target of door to door collection of 50 percent of solid household waste by March.  17 percent of 1.42 lakh (142,000) tonnes of solid waste generated is being processed as against the target of 35 percent.

Segregated toilet blockRecognising the need for improved sanitation, Jeevika has supported its Indian NGO partners in toilet construction and has constructed over 185 individual village toilets in Odisha and 8 gender-segregated toilet blocks in village schools both in Odisha and Tamil Nadu since 2008. Women’s Organisation for Rural Development (WORD) in Tamil Nadu will soon start an anti-plastic and waste management programme in select schools in Namakkal District.

Please support Jeevika’s efforts to promote “Swachh” by donating today. Click the link below to make your donation.

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Nutrition is a core pillar of human development (UNICEF)

By Judith Crosland, Programmes Manager

On 12 October 2015, Angus Deaton – a British & American economist – was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his ‘analysis of consumption, poverty and welfare’. Of particular note is his work undertaken with Jean Drèze, a Belgium-born Indian development economist. Together they studied the nutrition and calorie intake of Indians. The authors found that the study of human body measurement in India – ie. the anthropometric indicators of nutrition – were among the worst in the world.

UNICEF supports this finding with some alarming facts -

  •  70% of children aged 6-59 months are anaemic. Children of mothers who are severely anaemic are seven times as likely to be severely anaemic than children of non-anaemic mothers
  • Only half (51%) of households use adequately iodized salt
  • The percentage of children who are severely underweight is almost five times higher among children whose mothers have no education
  • Undernutrition is substantially higher in rural than in urban areas.

Indian toddlerJeevika’s partner, WORD works with Tribal women to help mitigate their lack of nutrition. They do this by training women to grow a range of four millet crops which are known to have a much higher level of nutrition than other grains, particularly rice.


The millet seeds they sow are organic and the seeds are collected and exchanged with women farmers within the project as well as with male farmers outside the project activities in order to spread the production of millet.

Woman and child in fieldThis project has only just begun but we hope to be able to prove by the end of its three-year support by that women and their children – indeed, all family members – involved in growing millet will be much healthier as a result.

Help Jeevika Trust to support, sustain and expand these activities by donating here.

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Old question, new debate – Aid to India

When India has a space programme, more billionaires than the UK and an aid budget of its own, should the UK still be sending money there?

This was a question raised by the BBC’s South Asia reporter Justin Rowlatt on Radio 4’s Today Programme, and skilfully debated by Oxfam India CEO, Nisha Agrawal earlier today. Despite being one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India suffers from vast poverty; over a third of the world’s poor live there and, according to Agrawal, between 30-40% of Indians live on less than $1.25 a day.

Livelihood projectJeevika Trust has been working in villages in India for over 45 years in an effort to revitalise rural communities, empower marginalised women and help some of the world’s poorest people help themselves out of poverty through building sustainable livelihoods. The projects we support in partnership with grassroots Indian NGOs have touched one hundred thousand lives in village India since 1970 and have brought improved sanitation, better health and nutrition, empowerment and increased financial stability to hundreds of villages in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

Village IndiaWith India, particularly rural India, having been supported by the UK Government for many years, we are suffering after DfID’s decision to close its main aid programme to India by the end of 2015. One of our flagship projects, the Madhu Network Project, was funded for two years by the department and helped hundreds of isolated women from dalit and tribal communities in Odisha become self-sustaining village entrepreneurs by training them in bee keeping and the production and marketing of honey. Through participating in this project, some women were able to increase their household income by over 20 per cent after just one harvest, improving conditions for their whole families. Honey productionAfter the success of the pilot phase of this project, we hoped to extend the initiative to multiple other villages to benefit hundreds more marginalised women and their families; however, with the cuts in aid from DfID and from other funding sources following suit, this extension has not yet been possible.

Our Executive Director, Andrew Redpath said: “It is frustrating that there is a perception that India no longer needs aid. It is a country of 1.2 billion people and the world’s biggest poverty trap with over 280 million people living in poverty in rural areas and villages alone.

“We have seen immense success in our projects and, with our Indian NGO partners, we have been able to make a positive impact on a hundred thousand people over the last 45 years. There is still a huge amount of work to be done and millions of people who need the support of NGOs like Jeevika Trust.

Crab cultivation“We’re not about handouts – we’re about village livelihoods. We recognise that there is far greater success in helping marginalised communities stand on their own two feet through building sustainable livelihoods and enterprises than there is in simply delivering food or utilities.

“We’re calling on the world to recognise that millions of people in rural India still need help, and that aid cuts will have a long term negative impact on so many people living in desperate poverty.”

To make a donation to support our livelihood projects, please click on the link below:

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Living with the Narikuravar

By Jeevika Trust’s former Communities Consultant, Becky Buchanan

Before I started working with Jeevika in 2012, I had spent the hot dusty summer of 2011 living with the gypsies on the temple-strewn plains of Tamil Nadu, India. Together we worked, danced and celebrated festivals, and we even got tattooed together. The recent blog documenting the work of Jeevika Trust and the Annai Mary Foundation with a different branch of this tribe brought back many memories as romantic as an Enid Blyton story.

Becky Buchanan with a Narikuravar babyI was a volunteer at the Narikuravar Education and Welfare Society. As team leader I strategised the approach to capacity building for the NGO, mainly in the fields of English grammar and social media, livelihood development for women and holistic education for the school children.

The Narikuravar gypsies are happy to capitalise on their mystical image, and travel to sell home-crafted cures for everything from baldness to impotence, as well as religious necklaces known as mala. These can signify a variety of blessings, from marriage to talismans with nine colours symbolising the 9 planets in harmony.

A Narikuravar Girl - Indian Gypsy childThis industrious self-employment is not without its problems. Locally, school children have to achieve 85% attendance to graduate to the next year, but with family welfare an immediate priority children commonly repeat 1st grade five times, then leave.

Discrimination remains rife from the local community who have been settled for longer. The stigma means it is hard to find other work and contributes to a continuing cycle of alcoholism, domestic violence and early marriage.

I had the joy of living beside a hostel for children to attend school whilst their parents worked. After work, I played games with the kids, applied basic first aid and gave them what they really needed – love and attention.

Narikuravar education teaching childrenThe Narikuravar culture persists through years of persecution. As the men pay dowry to marry (the opposite of wider Indian culture) women are more respected – they even had a lady shaman priest at one Kali sacrifice festival I went to! Dreams and symbolism are vital to daily life. The vagriboli language has no written dictionary yet shares roots with the Roma language.

The work of Jeevika Trust respects the Narikuravar’s traditional way of life whilst equipping people with skills and options for self-improvement and health. By donating today, you can help Narikuravar women and their families access health care, improve their nutritional health and enjoy a better, more sustainable future.

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The Dalai Lama & why we should all practise compassion

By Lucy Ferrier – Marketing & Communications Manager at Jeevika Trust

Though I am not a practising Buddhist, I have found inspiration in the Dalai Lama’s continual support and promotion of human rights, human compassion, and secular ethics, so it was an honour to visit London’s O2 arena recently to listen to his address entitled “Compassion: The Foundation of Wellbeing”.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet - Buddhist Spiritual Leader

I was instantly captivated by His Holiness’ two hour address. Composed, serene and humorous (he jokingly asked his translator at the beginning what the topic of his address was meant to be), the Dalai Lama gave a rousing speech on the importance of compassion, both to the individual and to society as whole.

“Compassion is a marvel of human nature. It is a precious inner resource and the foundation of our wellbeing and the harmony of our societies”

The overriding message of His Holiness’ address was that – regardless of race, religion, gender or any other factor – we are all ultimately the same. We all have the same needs, the same rights to a happy life and the same responsibilities to ensure the well-being of not only our fellow humanity, but also the planet.

The Dalai Lama at the O2Despite being “just one of 7 billion people on the planet”, the Dalai Lama made me feel empowered to make a difference (I’m sure others who attended the event would say the same) and made me assess my own responsibility to create a better, fairer and more harmonious world. Making positive change in the world starts with the individual – “through inner peace, world peace”. It is not just the responsibility of governments and institutions, but lies with all of us.

I have only recently joined Jeevika Trust, but part of the attraction of this fantastic organisation was the focus on compassion, service and co-operation, affectionately known as the “head, heart and hands” approach. Jeevika Trust prides itself on working to E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful model – through investing in small-scale, locally-appropriate projects, we not only make a difference to the direct project beneficiaries (mainly dalit and tribal women in India), but also their families and their wider communities. This is very much in keeping with the Dalai Lama’s address – many of the people we work with face routine discrimination and inequality but they have the same right to a happy, secure life as anyone else and we’re working to make that happen. Though we work on a small scale, we have touched hundreds of thousands of lives in village India over the last 40 years, proof that even small changes can add up to make a big difference.

We hope to have touched 1 million lives by 2020, an ambitious goal, but achievable with your help. You, as an individual, have the power and the responsibility to create a better tomorrow. Start by practising compassion, because if all 7 billion of us do the same, we truly can change the world.

As the Dalai Lama said, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.

If you’d like to get involved with Jeevika’s work, please pop us an email on

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What’s in store for Village India?

by Andrew Redpath, Director of Jeevika Trust.

Narendra Modi India Prime Minister BJPNarendra Modi’s BJP party, leading India’s present NDA coalition government, has completed its first year in power – so is it too soon to turn the spotlight on what if anything is changing for Village India? After successive governments over 60 years have failed to address the challenge of rural vs urban India – what might fairly be called the world’s biggest ‘elephant in the room’, – what signs are there of a fundamental advance in official or political thinking and direction?


A recent McKinsey Global Institute study is in little doubt: “The speed of urbanisation poses an unprecedented managerial and policy challenge – yet India has barely engaged in a national discussion about how to handle the seismic shift in the makeup of the nation.” That is not entirely fair: a ‘national discussion’ on rural India has been taking place at top political level over the past decade – but it has produced no cross-party consensus or shared vision and momentum.

In fact there has existed since before the Millennium a ‘Vision 2020’ whose first principle, as articulated by former President Abdul Kalam, was ‘a nation where the rural-urban divide has been reduced to a thin line’. Abdul Kalam launched in 2003 the mission for Providing Rural Amenities to Rural Areas, known as PURA, aimed at providing urban infrastructure and connectivity in rural hubs to create economic opportunities outside of cities, but by 2012 this was branded a failure by the government itself. Likewise, Congress’s later ambitious NREGA scheme for a ‘national rural employment guarantee’ of 100 days p.a. of public work for a set daily wage, has also run into the sand with inevitable charges of corruption, and a marked drop in the number of days worked from 2.5 to 1.5 billion p.a.

Governments have failed to develop a clear strategy on the massive scale of ‘urban drift’ from rural India into exploding slum cities: current projections are that today’s urban population in India will double to over 600 million by 2030, effectively reversing the present 70/30% rural/urban balance today, while India’s total population forges ahead to overtake that of China by 2022. And there has been no discernible ‘national discussion’ – let alone a clear central direction as we are seeing in China – about how the cities are to absorb this huge flow of people. To quote McKinsey again *: “The starkest contrast between the two countries is that China has embraced and shaped urbanization, while India is still waking up to its urban reality and the opportunities that its cities offer for economic and social transformation.”

Rural women India agricultureSo what if any evidence of a change of heart, direction or priority can we detect from the BJP’s first year in office? It made an energetic start, with a more active legislative programme than its Congress predecessor: a decisive shift in public finances away from central welfare subsidies – including child nutrition and clean village water – in favour of infrastructure – roads, bridges, etc.; a one-third increase in the share of tax revenue passed on to the states for them to administer; broad social initiatives on house-building, health-care, expansion of personal banking and digital availability of information on government services; and a ‘clean India’ campaign – of which only the last was angled specifically at rural areas.

Much publicised among Modi’s social initiatives has been the ‘100 smart cities’ programme: no clear definition of a ‘smart city’ has been offered beyond the fact that, in the government’s words, it will “attract investments, experts and professionals – and good quality infrastructure” and other features of a “citizen-centric and investor-friendly smart city”.

But the financial viability of this Mission is very far from clear: the central funds allocated in the 2015 Budget to the Smart Cities Mission is only 1/1000th of the $1 trillion estimated by accountants KPMG as the cost of the programme, – it being evidently assumed that the ‘smart’ process will draw in private investment to complete the task.

There then came a matching ‘smart villages’ initiative under which rural villages would be given Internet access, clean water, sanitation, and low-carbon energy, with the goal of at least 2,500 smart villages by 2019. Not only is this a drop in the ocean of India’s 600,000 villages, but again the credibility of funding remains to be demonstrated. The progress of this idea will still be worth watching.

Meanwhile, on the ground in rural areas, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, there are “increasing signs of rural distress (which make) Modi’s cuts politically risky”, while discontent over his anti-inflation policies and particularly his bill to open up farmers’ small-holdings to acquisition by businesses is ‘turning to anger’. These are trends he can ill afford to ignore if he is to hold on to power in key agricultural states like Uttar Pradesh – a state which alone contains a population about the size of Brazil – and Bihar. The Bihar state elections this November will be an acid test of the BJP’s standing in rural India.

In conclusion, it may be said at this stage that the new government is failing to maintain the momentum of earlier macro-initiatives to address the rural-India challenge and drive a cross-party strategic vision for what McKinsey calls the ‘make-up of the nation’.

Rural worker India Indian village



TO USE SNAPS or TO NOT USE SNAPS, that is the question!

THE WORD SNAPS is Jeevika’s working acronym for sanitary napkins. We currently support our Indian partner, Jeevan Rekha Parishad ( to work with Tribal women in the Chandaka Forest Area of Odisha, to produce cotton, machinery-made, eco-disposable SNAPS. Formed into
Self-Help Groups, these women will make and sell the SNAPS to local women and make them available in schools for pubescent girls, while helping the women generate income to improve family life.
Adolescent girls in India, teenage girls in India, menstruation, sanitary healthWe already know that 73% of the women JRP surveyed use – and re-use – cloth during menstruation. Nearly 50% of these women were from impoverished village families. The survey also revealed that 66.7% of adolescent girls who use cloth develop Reproductive Tract Infections from the use of unhygienic recycled cloth. Almost 100% of girls surveyed, learned about menarche (onset of menstruation) only after it occurred. It is well-documented that girls who have access to SNAPS are less likely to drop-out from school or contract Reproductive Tract Infections.

JRP and the Jeevika Team – and Monsoon Trust who are funding this 1-year pilot project – believe this is an excellent opportunity to improve the understanding of health & hygiene issues and to trial safe modes of eco-friendly/discreet disposal of SNAPS within five high schools using either incinerators, burial or burning located within a target area of 25 villages.

THERE IS a counter argument in circulation: In July 2015, Sinu Joseph of Mythri Speaks Trust ( posted a provocative blog on Swarajya titled ‘Why India doesn’t need the sanitary napkin revolution’.

While this article does raise a number of important issues related to the way menstruation is being addressed in India, it over-simplifies the matter of SNAPS and their use v.s. non-use. What is true is that outside India we do tend to judge menstrual practices in India as being poor or unsanitary because they don’t conform to a sanitized western ideal; just as it is true that we must allow women to decide for themselves.

Joseph criticises the media on the subject of menstruation: ‘you will find horror stories of how only 12% of Indian women are using sanitary napkins and that the others are almost dying from lack of access to such products…of the poor Indian girl in a village who is dropping out of school because she suddenly started her period…how India is full of superstitions and menstrual taboos that are coming in the way of us breaking free and embracing our body…and sanitary napkins.’ In reality, we think these ‘stories’ are not too far from the truth.

Joseph makes other criticisms: of the statistics and claims made by major NGOs and international organisations who ‘look down upon indigenous women who for generations have bled naturally without using any product’ – a comment of extraordinary complacency given women’s rights in a fast changing world.

To establish what the women we work with want, we at Jeevika working with JRP, will continue to give women – and particularly school-girls – the opportunity to freely trial hygienic, eco-friendly SNAPS and choose for themselves whether they do or do not use SNAPS! Once the pilot project is complete, we will share this information with you.

Menstrual Health India

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Project SNAPS
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Project Narikuravar, our Indian Gypsies

Did you know that the gypsies of the world originated in Northern India? After a presence in India for some 1,000 years they dispersed to arrive in Mid-West Asia, then Europe, sometime between the sixth and eleventh centuries.

The gypsy community in Tamil Nadu with which Jeevika and its partner, Annai Mary Foundation work are known as the Narikuravar. The name Narikuravar is a combination of the Tamil words Nari and Kurava meaning jackal people, a name bestowed on them due to their highly honed hunting skills, with meat being the primary food on which they have traditionally survived.

During British rule the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 prohibited the Narikuravar from hunting and treated them with mistrust and suspicion. It was not until 2008 that India’s Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment recommended equal reservations for gypsy communities similar to those for Scheduled Castes and Tribes.

The stigma surrounding gypsies continues to exist: they still remain banned from entry into forests to hunt; they remain living on the fringe of villages subject to poverty, illiteracy and discrimination; and they suffer from poor nutritional health.

Narikuravar family, Indian gypsy family

Our Project Narikuravar in Tamil Nadu is designed to provide the Narikuravar villagers with a Govt. Health Card which gives them access to health services; to raise the awareness of the issues surrounding nutritional health, hygiene, STDs and HIV/AIDS.

Annai Mary Foundation will also work directly with the 250 Narikuravar villagers to form 100 women into Self-Help Groups to grow vegetables, cultivate mushrooms and poultry to supplement their diet as well as to become self-sustainable. There will also be cooking classes for adolescent girls and women to prepare nutritious food from their own resources, including soups and pickles.

Narikuravar family, Indian gypsy family

Help Jeevika Trust to support, sustain and expand Project Narikuravar by donating now

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