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:

Donate with JustGiving

Broadcasting for a better future with Kingston Green Radio

John Peel is one of my all-time heroes. His honeyed wisdoms, the depths of his respect for diversity and pure dedication to his beliefs (including seemingly hopeless cases like failing football teams) are still a cockle warming inspiration today.  This International Women’s Day (8th March) I had the pleasure of following in his footsteps, broadcasting the Jeevika cause into people’s living rooms via the wireless (or the computer, depending on how modern they are).

John Peel with VinylWith Jeevika Trust’s focus on revitalising communities in village India through women’s livelihood development, I was invited to host(ess) an hour long slot.  Kingston Green Radio is our local station featuring ‘quality informed programming in a discerning world’ and was on FM airwaves for an innovative Climate Week Special.

After getting lost en route in downtown Kingston I made it to the Kingston Environment Centre in the drizzle.  Inside was a hive of  volunteers, where I was made welcome and even offered a cooked breakfast! In our studio was veteran Sam, a founder of the movement, the lively Rosa my co-presenter and Kimberly who helped us find the music last minute online on an ipad!

In between Indian inspired tunes we shared stories of and debated travel, violence against women and cultures of inequality, including Bollywood movies (lack of) strong women and what an ideal nourishing life would involve.  I repeated Jeevika’s appeal to find people to do sponsored individual challenges to raise funds for our work and for friends to help us out locally, either at events or in the office!

Bollywood Movie Dabangg 2 We rounded off the show with Tagore’s poem urging India to awake into a country..

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

The Kingston Green Radio ethos of connecting the community in an environmentally integrated fashion for a healthier, happier future is something we have in common.  It’s gratifying to see practical solutions echoed globally! And in being involved to live the John Peel dream…

To listen to our programme visit mixcloud

If you can’t lend the women of India your time to make the difference then back us with your wallet by texting  ‘JTGD01 £x‘ to 70070 (where x =  sum you want to donate up to £10) or follow the link below

Celebrating women, championing their cause

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
– Gloria Steinem

International Women’s Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike since its birth in the socialist movement in 1911.

The United Nations designated 1975 as International Women’s Year and since then, women’s organisations and governments around the world have annually observed the day on March 8th by holding events that honour women’s advancement while reminding us of the continued vigilance and action still required to ensure women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.

International Women's Day in India

There have been significant changes – especially changes in attitude – towards women’s equality and emancipation in society, particularly within the developed world. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have already gained a fair share of equality.

The fact remains, however, that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics and, globally, women’s and girls’ education, health and the violence against them is worse than it is for men. In light of this, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) recently published a call to end all violence against women, featuring a letter from Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.

Nowhere is this inequality more clearly demonstrated than by women villagers in India – particularly those who belong to Scheduled Castes and Tribes: these women remain some of the most impoverished and disadvantaged women of the world. These are the women with whom Jeevika works.

International Women's Day in India

Working with our five partner organisations in the poorest villages, Jeevika helps women gain income-generating livelihoods that enable them to contribute to household income through beekeeping, organic compost and kitchen gardening, cultivation of crabs, prawns, fish and peanuts, etc.

We also work with villagers – both women and men – to help them construct water catchments and toilets for use in schools and their households, all of which improves health and hygiene and encourages children (particularly girls) to attend school.

Inspired by International Women’s Day – and your help – together we can achieve much more to bring equality to the lives of Indian women villagers and their families.

Please consider making a donation to help us make a difference to the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged women in the world!

Donate to Jeevika Trust

First photo used courtesy of EarthSky.