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

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.
Donate with JustGiving

 

 

#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:

Donate with JustGiving

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!

Donate with JustGiving

 

 

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

The buzz about beekeeping

by Lucy Ferrier, Marketing & Communications Manager at Jeevika Trust

A female beekeeper in Odisha India

It’s fair to say that village beekeeping and honey production has become one of Jeevika Trust’s best-proven projects, and it’s easy to see why. It’s low-cost, environmentally friendly, locally-appropriate and allows the women who take part to build sustainable livelihoods which not only benefit them, but their families and villages too. There’s lots of evidence to show that empowering women and giving them ownership over income generation helps to lift entire communities out of poverty, and the women themselves gain greater respect within society.

Aside from income generation, beekeeping has other, much wider benefits (you may be interested to read our Executive Director’s two-part blog “Bees in the big picture”). It is widely noted that bees are vital to life on earth, pollinating 70 of the 100 crop species which give us 90% of our food worldwide and making enormous contributions to the health of the eco-system.

Beekeeping 5 JRP.pngThrough our largest beekeeping project, the Madhu Network Project, village crop yields were doubled, providing additional nutrition for the community and allowing women to generate extra income through selling surplus produce. Though the majority of honey produced through the project is sold, some is consumed by the family, providing another highly-nutritious supplement (did you know that honey is the only food in the world that contains all of the nutrients vital to sustaining life?).

Between markedly increasing household income, improving crop yields, contributing to nutritional health and more widely to the health of the environment, the benefits of this kind of project are clear. We work to the ethos that “Small is Beautiful”, and beekeeping couldn’t be a better example of this – tiny honeybees and small-scale beekeeping can make a big difference to impoverished communities.

Jeevika Trust - beekeeping projects in IndiaWe’ve been supporting village beekeeping projects in rural India for ten years, directly benefiting hundreds of women and, as a result, thousands of family and community members (and let’s not forget the environment!). The UK government supported the Madhu Network Project, but our hopes of their support in expanding the initiative were impacted by DfID’s decision to remove India from its main aid programme. We have been fortunate to receive three smaller grants to help with the expansion of this project to villages and women we’ve already identified, but we are always seeking new funding to support this tried-and-tested, infinitely replicable project. To strengthen the project further, we also want to take honey marketing “to the next level” to help the women access larger markets and generate a better return.

That’s why we’ve recently launched our “Sweetest Gift” appeal to raise funds towards the expansion of the project, benefitting more women (and, as a result, family members and the wider community), and giving them a helping hand out of a life of poverty and dependency. To find out more about the appeal and to donate, please click on the image below.

Campaign logo - final - transparent smaller

Donate with JustGiving

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:

Donate with JustGiving

 

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.

Donate with JustGiving

 

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?

oOo

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 (www.jrpsai.org) 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 (www.mythrispeaks.org) 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

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

Donate with JustGiving