SANITATION – enabling hygeine, dignity & security

Jeevika Trust works in villages that do not have sanitation systems of any kind. Open fields and non-farmable wooded areas are their lavatories. Men and boys relieve themselves during the day. To maximise privacy, women relieve themselves at night. Mothers and fathers accompany their small children but, when young boys and girls are old enough, they go alone. Night-time presents a dangerous situation for adolescent boys, girls and women – and an opportunity for deprived (if not depraved) men who seek illicit sexual pleasure or retribution – as the Badaun rape case highlighted in our blog demonstrates.

women toilet india

Our partners - WORD in Tamil Nadu and JRP in Odisha – work closely with families to bring hygiene, dignity and security to village life. Both partners train women and men to build toilets for themselves. This involves learning how to make latrines, construct toilet shelters with hand-made bricks, fit toilet pans and doors, and paint and line walls with tiles. Due to the scarcity of water, the toilet is serviced by using water from a bucket to sluice the waste away. By western standards, this is still a basic form of sanitation. For villagers living in remote villages, owning your own toilet is close to luxury.

JRP also provides sanitation facilities in schools. This includes a system of water collection tanks which catch the monsoon rain and makes it available for drinking as well as for use in the school latrines with links to a wash basin so that children may wash their hands. Toilets in schools are vital in attracting and keeping pubescent girls at school. The education of a pubescent girl ends when school toilets are not available.

girls school india

Eco Clubs are also formed in these schools for students to learn about the environmental cycle and enables them to use water, soil, seeds and saplings to plant out their own kitchen garden and provide shade within the school grounds. The fruit and vegetables they produce contribute to the midday meal the school provides (often an incentive for poor parents to send their children to school). In these ways, children learn about hygiene, the value of privacy, and the need for environmental sustainability.

 

Help villagers build more toilets & water harvesting systems

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Can better sanitation reduce rape in India?

The Badaun rape case has shocked the world, with the disturbing image of the teenage girls hanging in the tree being shared millions of times on social media.  It has highlighted once again the fact that the Indian Government has done little or nothing to address the sanitation needs of poor women in rural India. 

india toiletTwo girls stepped out of their house in Katra Village in Uttar Pradesh on a hot May night, two months ago to relieve themselves in the fields- just like millions of other women in the country do. They never returned and their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in the village the next morning.

A postmortem examination confirmed that the girls had been raped and died from strangulation as they were hanged while still alive. The girls belonged to a Dalit family, who are the poorest of the poor, illiterate or semi literate with little or no assets. The alleged perpetrators, who were arrested only after a public outcry and the local police officials investigating the crime, belonged to a higher class.

The incident has once again raised the specter of poor or no sanitation in villages. Lack of basic facilities, like toilets inside every household, is a root cause of several social and health related problems not only for women but also for men.

According to the 2011 census, 53 percent of households in India did not have toilets. The figure was much higher in the rural areas, almost 70 percent.

Several reports have indicated that a high number of rape incidents take place when women defecate in open fields. Women unlike men can step out of their houses only when it is dark, as extra responsibilities inside and outside their homes, family size (most families are at least seven to eight in number) and cramped surroundings do not give them the privacy for their ablutions.

Access to proper toilets, preferably inside each and every household, will help women maintain a measure of basic dignity and of course privacy. This in turn will reduce the risk of any such untoward incidents. Many parents pull girl children out of schools, as soon as they reach puberty, as most Government owned educational institutions have poor or no sanitation facilities.

india toiletLack of sanitation can lead not to only rape and assault but also health hazards. A number of health related issues including diseases like Urinary Track Infection (UTI), constipation and poor menstrual hygiene are a consequence of lack of sanitation.

While building toilets are important and a pressing need, it is important to generate awareness about hygiene and sanitation, especially among youth and adolescent women.

Jeevika Trust through its partners in Tamil Nadu and Orissa have constructed toilets in schools and homes and provided facilities such as overhead tanks and pipes and faucets to ensure running water and promote proper hygiene among students, adolescent girls and rural women.

 During the election campaign, Narendra Modi made a statement ‘pehle shauchalya, phir devalaya’ (toilets first, temple later). Now, with a Prime Minister who purports to understands the importance of toilets, it is important that the newly elected Government prioritizes this issue, and builds toilets in private and public spaces to end open-air defecation.

Support Jeevika Trust in building toilets and providing young girls and women the dignity, security and privacy they are entitled to.

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Will the new Government offer a People-centred Policy?

Following our recent election coverage and political analysis of poverty, Priya (our programme co-ordinator in India) gives her view on the outcome.

“If we have to build a modern India, then we will have to first give dignity to the Indian woman,” says Narendra Modi, the newly elected Prime Minister. Is this mere lip service to win the elections or will women enjoy a more equal status under the new Indian Government?

With an overwhelming victory for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies Narendra Modi promises to focus on people-centered policies and effective governance.  Will the rule of his Government consider the needs of disadvantaged minorities and live up to their inclusive manifesto?

india women

There is the pledge to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill, which has been pending approval by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) since 2010. The Bill will reserve one third of political seats for women to encourage equal opportunity and the political, social and economical condition of women is expected to improve drastically nationwide.

Schemes focusing on the welfare of the girl child in urban and rural areas of the country have been included in the Manifesto. It promises dedicated Women ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes), skill development for tribal minorities and all women Mobile Banks to boost employment opportunities. To emphasise progress in the personal security of women, the BJP intend to set up fast track courts to deal with heinous crimes against women and senior citizens, and open more hostels for working women.

child labour india

Health facilities for all will be provided with the launch of Universal Health Insurance and trauma centres in all districts. The Government proposes to invest 30 per cent of the health budget in promotion of preventative good health care.

For the first time in the BJP’s history, they have listened to the citizens representatives and a panel has been set up to enable NGOs to voice their grievances.  The NGOs are particular that candidates are of high calibre with clean records and not those who would run on muscle and money power. Basic issues like water, sanitation, illegal constructions and rehabilitation of slum dwellers are command demands, although it does not mention specific programmes for the welfare of disadvantaged communities.

At Jeevika Trust, with support from our partners in Tamil Nadu and Orissa, we engage with women from vulnerable and impoverished communities. Many are Dalits and Tribal villagers who face discrimination on a daily basis. The NGOS we work with serve as a connection between Government structures and local communities and create awareness regarding various schemes in education, health and livelihood. We can only hope that the policies of the new Government enable poor rural communities, especially women and children, to receive their entitlement to livelihoods, education, health and human rights that holistically serve the social and economic inclusion of disadvantaged communities.

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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’.

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.

Is Tesco the Answer for India’s Hungry Villagers?

All opinions expressed in this blog are those of the individual and not the official standpoint of Jeevika Trust.

The Indian government believe the solution to its starving millions lies in increased production and direct foreign investment.  This is supposed to cause a trickle down effect as the economy grows and one tactic has been the opening of the markets to multi-national companies.  As our blog has previously documented, the British government agree and have timetabled an end to British aid in 2014 with a renewed focus on a trade relationship.

At Jeevika Trust we have more of a grassroots approach, working with local NGO partners to support the most disadvantaged female entrepreneurs in livelihood development that harmonises with the environment and the individual.

starving india

Perhaps you heard in December about Tesco partnering Tata India and investing £68 million in expanding supermarkets.  This first significant move into the previously closely guarded retail market has been met with a wave of protest.  The convenor of the Confederation of All-India Traders has warned that like The East India Company historically they will come for business and end up controlling the country.  Shop keepers argue it will put many small and middle traders out of business.

India protest

The Indian government estimate 40% of food rots before it gets to market, due to poor transportation and middle men traders.  The disastrous impact of this was felt in 2013 when the price of onions, almost as much of a staple as rice, saw a 280% increase.

Some of the Dalits (traditionally the poorest in society) believe Tesco will help them out of poverty.  “At the moment the middlemen who control everything are high castes but there will be no role for middlemen and our firms will benefit. India’s new shopping malls have created the maximum employment opportunities for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe – the Dalits. But the government has promised that the supermarkets will procure from small and medium enterprises and 20 per cent of them will be Dalit enterprises,” said Milind Kamble, chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce (DICC).

If trade is sincerely the intention of both governments then it should be trade in both directions and I look forward to seeing Biotique on our high streets.

It’s worth remembering that in the UK we have had violent protests against Tesco for the same worrying reasons as the Indian shop keepers protests.  I believe that unless the introduction of Foreign Direct Investment is carefully managed, with advice being sought from local NGOs (as suggested in our tri-sector model for development) there is a very real risk of increased unemployment and poverty.

 

To support Jeevika Trust in developing the tri-sector model and opening fair options up for the people of India’s villages please donate here now

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CELEBRATE BEES, HONEY – and the NEW YEAR!

Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP) - our partner based in Odisha State on the north-east coast of India, with support from the UK Dept. for International Development – has been working for the last two years with 300 Tribal women in ten villages to produce honey.  

Traditionally these women and their menfolk collected honey from wild forest bees.  They would sell this unfiltered honey in unsterilized plastic bottles by the roadside in the hope of making a few meagre rupees.

Today the women are formed into Self-Help Groups which collect honey from the apis mellifera bee which produces it honey in wooden bee boxes made by village youths.  Together the women pool, filter, package and label the honey ready for sale in their village as well as in the local market and in other retail outlets.

For the first time, women are now able to generate an income, bank a percentage of their profits and use the balance as household income.  As a result, food consumption and family health has improved, many more children attend school and the women have gained confidence and now contribute more to family and village decision-making.

Bee keeper

The 300 women beekeepers also hold an annual Honey Fair – having now formed a Women’s Beekeeping Association – to market their honey and promote its use: it soothes sore throats, coughs and colds; and it is used in the Hindu Pūjā, a prayer ritual performed to host, honour and worship one or more deities, or to spiritually celebrate an event.  It is also used in cooking and as a food.

Since the apis mellifera bee has been introduced into their villages, the women and the local farmers have discovered that the amount and quality of their vegetables and crops like mustard and maize have improved enormously.  These villagers know better than anyone that – without the precious bee in our lives – essential vegetables and food crops would no longer be possible.

We at Jeevika now invite you to help us Celebrate Bees, their golden Honey and the New Year by making yourself a Strawberry Granola Parfait!

 Strawberry Granola Yoghurt Parfait

  • Slice a few strawberries (or banana, mango or other seasonal fruit) and mix with a little orange juice.
  • Take a few tablespoons of low fat yoghurt (or curd, as it is known in India) and mix with two teaspoons of honey (or more if you want it sweeter).
  • Break a few bars of Granola into small chunks.
  • Arrange alternate layers of fruit, yoghurt & honey, and granola chunks in a tall glass.
  • Chill in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!  Celebrate!!

 

To help JRP continue to enable Tribal women villagers to become self-sufficient beekeepers please go to

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Cyclone Phailin EMERGENCY RELIEF Appeal

Jeevika Trust is issuing an urgent appeal for donations after Cyclone Phailin struck the coast of eastern India on Saturday 12 October causing large-scale devastation within island communities that Jeevika supports there.

The cyclone has disrupted the lives of thousands of Indian villagers living around the Chilika Lake sea lagoon on the coast of Odisha state – an area where Jeevika has over the past 3 years established a valued presence supporting village livelihoods on the two islands of Mahinsa and Berhampur.  With 15 foot waves and 250 kmph winds the ‘shelter-belts’ of coconut and banana trees which have protected the villages have been largely uprooted, thatched houses flattened, boats smashed, fishing nets lost, goats and cows killed and kitchen gardens destroyed.

Our local partner organisation, Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP) has been working in the Chilika Lake area for many years.  Traditional fishing livelihoods had been decimated by pollution flowing into the lake and this had already caused widespread unemployment.  But JRP has managed to save many island families in the area from poverty by building the capacity of women to cultivate crabs, prawns and fish in island ponds which catch the monsoon water.

In a country which was recently ranked among the five worst in the world in which to be female,
this project has enabled women islanders to achieve a degree of independence, helping them to contribute to household income. In the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin, this exciting progress in the Chilika Lake community is now severely threatened.

Many ponds are now seriously damaged and the crabs, prawns and fish swept back into the sea and homes destroyed have left villagers living with neighbours or squatting in cyclone shelters.

Please – give what funds you can to help us rescue the Chilika Lake community from slipping back into extreme poverty.

The good news is that our crab project offers a strong framework for the area to rebuild. But it needs your help.

Please donate here.

Oxford University Symposium – The Dilemma for Rural India

Urbanisation or Village Prosperity?

Join us on 13 November 2013 at Wolfson College, Oxford to examine India’s vision for her rural poor and whether urbanisation is the only route out of poverty for India’s 800 million villagers.  India has reached a historic fork in the road towards the social balance that will serve her people best: she can either drift into the socio-economic model of urban/rural balance which ‘developed’ countries have typically followed during the past century, or she can grasp this chance to lead on a ‘third way’ between the market and Mao.

India Urban Slum

Two contrasting models of development will be debated – massive unplanned urbanisation versus decentralised rural development. Panel sessions will then look at key issues and international and historical case studies associated with both models, and finally, explore solutions to urban and rural poverty and the respective roles of government, business and NGOs.

India Village Women

Keynote speakers will be:

Prof. Bob Rowthorne, Emeritus Professor of Economics (Cambridge University) & Prof. James Copestake, Professor of International Development (University of Bath) Panellists include: Jens Lerche (SOAS) on the agrarian crisis, George Kunnath (Oxford University) on the Maoists, Alfred Gathorne-Hardy (Oxford University) on appropriate technology And Dr D. K. Giri (Schumacher Centre, Delhi) on the trisector solutions to poverty

Overview from a UK or Indian Government minister to be announced shortly

Space for this exciting event is limited – to register please email becky@jeevika.org.uk

Suggested donation for non-students is £15, to support Jeevika’s vital village livelihood projects in India. If you can’t come but want to contribute to the development of further knowledge of India’s future please donate here

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Things I Learned as a Volunteer in India

Two years ago, I had the wonderful fortune of being introduced to Jeevika Trust. I was just about to travel to India for the first time, and when I mentioned to a friend that I was interested in writing about development issues, he connected me with Jeevika.

During my ten months in India, I went on several field visits to Jeevika’s projects in Orissa and Tamil Nadu, and I’m forever grateful for the chance to witness island crab farms on Chilika Lake, walk with women through Tamil villages, and converse with Jeevika team members and partners alike about pressing issues. Here are three things India taught me as a volunteer:

 1. We all have something to give.

Before volunteering with Jeevika, I had never been to India, nor had I ever worked with an NGO. I felt inexperienced and unsure of what I had to offer people with far more knowledge than myself. But my time in the field with Jeevika taught me that we all have something to give, even if it doesn’t feel like we do.

As a writer, photographer, and blogger, I was able to help both Jeevika and its partners by taking photographs of projects and their beneficiaries, setting up our first blog, and even putting together a 16-page pamphlet. We all have skills that could be of tremendous value to an organization.

volunteer india

2. More is gained than lost in translation

My first task with Jeevika was to interview rural Indian women and write case studies about how they benefitted from participating in our livelihood projects. Although the prospect of telling these women’s stories excited me, I was hesitant about how we would connect, only being able to communicate through a translator.

I needn’t have worried. Although there were always details that got lost in translation, I was struck by how we still connected. Nowhere did I feel this more than in the Orissan village of Bebari, as I watched one woman I was interviewing rest her hand on the leg of another woman. Such a simple gesture – as with a smile or laughter – goes a long way in connecting with people.

 3. Change does happen.

When focusing on small tasks, it isn’t always easy keeping the end goal in sight – what ultimate effect is our effort making? Can we really make a difference in a country as large as India? But while visiting our partner organization SCAD in Tamil Nadu this March, I found my answer, through a 17-year-old boy named Sudalaimani.

SCAD cerebral palsy

Sudalaimani was born with cerebral palsy, but over the last five years, SCAD has provided him with therapy, treatment, and even surgery, to the point that he is back living at home. As Sudalaimani walked towards us on his own, and later showed us how he can now ride a stationary bicycle, I was overwhelmed with the awareness that change does happen, one person at a time.

Every small thing – every story written, every step taken, every hour of our time donated to an important cause – helps in making a difference.

To donate your time and skills please email info@jeevika.org.uk – if you cannot donate your time to changing the lives of Indian villagers for the better, donate your money 

Watch Dog Committees strike back!

Recently gang-rape of women has featured frequently in India – in Mumbai, in New Delhi and in Haryana and in other parts of India.  Indeed, a 2011 survey by Thomson Reuters Foundation, reveals that India is the fourth-worst place in the world to be a woman, after Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan, as a result of abortion of girl foetuses, human trafficking, sexual violence and poor education.

In the State of Tamil Nadu – where Jeevika’s partner organisation, WORD, works closely with Dalit village women* who represent some of India’s most impoverished women – protection of women against domestic violence and other forms of discrimination is a well-entrenched concept.

Within the village areas in which WORD works, a high level of discrimination and prejudice against the Dalit community still exists:   women suffer domestic violence from spouses – who themselves face discrimination and exploitation – and nearly two in five married women (37%) experience physical or sexual violence by their husbands.

The more frequent forms of violence that are perpetrated against Dalit women are verbal abuse (62.4% of total women), physical assault (54.8%), sexual harassment/assault (46.8%), domestic violence (43.0%) and rape (23.2%).

WORD – together with the support of Jeevika Trust and the Innocent Foundation is currently implementing a range of activities to support nearly 900 Dalit women who experience discrimination on a regular basis.

WORD Watch Dog trainingThe key to the change in the lives of Dalit women working with WORD has been their training as Watch Dog Committee members.  Together with training provided to local representatives of Panchayats (govt. councils), to the police and to other Women’s Self-Help Group members, they work collaboratively (with a woman lawyer, if necessary) to report and combat sexual violence and other forms of discrimination, including child labour and child marriage.

Members of the Watch Dog Committee initiative are simultaneously trained to generate family income through coir rope-making, tailoring and vegetable production which directly benefits their family members and builds confidence for these same women to engage in Committee activities that enable them to take control of their lives while reducing the level of violence and other forms of discrimination within their community.

Mrs Siva Muniyandi, WORD’s Director, says:

Our first Watch Dog Committee has been operational for less than a year now but already it has rescued two child labourers, has prevented a child marriage and the sexual abuse of a 17-year old girl.  Watch Dog Committees really do have teeth!

* The term ‘Dalit’ is interchangeably used with term ‘Scheduled Castes’, and these terms include all historically discriminated communities of India including those once known as ‘Out-castes’ & ‘Untouchables’.

If you would like to support Jeevika help WORD train more Dalit Women as Watch Dog members and to generate income to improve their village status, please go to