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.


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:

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Jeevika Partners extend helping hand to flood-ravaged Tamil Nadu

by Priya Anand, India Co-ordinator at Jeevika Trust

A flooded hut in Tamil NaduThe monsoon rains that lashed Tamil Nadu in early December 2015 were unprecedented and were the worst that the state had experienced in over a Century. They caused flooding across the State, bringing normal life to a stand-still. The human toll in the devastating floods was over 190. More than 2500 villages were badly affected and 60 percent of the capital city Chennai was under water. The District of Cuddalore was one of the worst-affected regions, where over 50 villages were under water. Apart from the death of 49 people, over 50,000 huts were damaged during the floods in Cuddalore district and hundreds of families spent weeks together in relief camps. Heavy damage was inflicted on standing crops, cattle and infrastructure.

Cuddalore was ravaged by a tsunami in 2004 that killed 640 people along the district’s 57 km coastline. Since then, it has been hit hard by multiple cyclones including Nilam and Thane, and the district’s cup of woes brimmed full with the recent rains. The armed forces—the army and navy in particular—and 50 teams of the National Disaster Response Force did a good job of mitigating the impact by rescuing stranded citizens and distributing essentials. The floods brought out the best in residents of Tamil Nadu and volunteers from nearby States like Karnataka, who provided support in the form of cash and relief materials. Impromptu rescue teams were formed to rescue those who were stranded and residents who were not affected opened their homes and offered food and shelter to victims. Corporates such as Cognizant, Tata Consultancy Services, State Bank of India and Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd. have also done their part by pledging funds to help victims. Several NGOs complemented the official machinery in delivering essential items to residents in the flood-affected areas.

Mithra Foundation distributing aid in Tamil NaduTwo of Jeevika’s partners in Tamil Nadu, Mithra Foundation and SCAD, played a key role in supporting flood-affected villagers. Mithra Foundation, our partner working with HIV positive individuals and their families in Trichy and Cuddalore districts, with support from various NGOs – including Jeevika – and individual contributors from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, was able to provide 23,000 kilograms of relief materials in kind to flood victims from 33 Flood Affected Villages in Cuddalore District. Essentials like food (milk, rice, oil and lentils), clothes (sarees, dhotis, children’s clothing, undergarments), sanitary napkins, torches, blankets and toiletries were also provided.

SCAD, which focuses on rural underprivileged communities was able to support victims in Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur and Tuticorin districts. It collaborated with local NGOs such as EKTA Nambikkai Centre, Killai, Cuddalore, GOD Trust, Institution Rural Development Trust, and Joseph Rural Development Trust in Kanchipuram to have an easy access to villages not reached by the Government.

distributing aid in Tamil NaduAfter a careful door-to-door assessment of affected villagers, especially women and children, SCAD provided relief kits to meet their needs. Flood relief kit materials included some 23 items including dry rations, dress, note books, oil, soap, food as well as basic things like bed sheets, dress materials, biscuits. etc. Kits have now reached 1325 families across four districts and over 2500 people from 24 villages received medical care from medical personnel in mobile vans. Close to 1500 individuals received essential items such as clothing, food items, blankets and mosquito repellants.

SCAD was able to effectively enlist the support of schools and colleges that are associated with it, and students and staff of both the rural development teams – as well as the educational institutions – played a key role in raising resources and collecting relief items.

Both Mithra and SCAD will continue to engage in rehabilitation efforts in the months to come. To find out how you can support their efforts, please contact us.

#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:

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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 (

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!

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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.

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Eliminating open defecation: More to it than meets the eye

by Priya Anand, India Co-ordinator at Jeevika Trust

November the 19th was World Toilet Day, an international day used to highlight vast global inequality when it comes to sanitation. Of the 2.3 billion people in the world who lack access to adequate sanitation, approximately a third (over 770 million) are in India, where open defecation (OD) is still widely practised. Over 50% of people in India either don’t use, or don’t have access to, a toilet.


The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), launched last year, aims to catalyse a nationwide commitment towards hygiene and sanitation and help generate lasting behaviour change among the people. Its goal is to eliminate OD from India by October 2019. While it is too early to say if it has been successful, the mission has not addressed several serious issues.

For one, the assumption that behaviour of rural populace will change once toilets are provided is an erroneous one. Can poor sanitation among the rural populace be equated to just open defecation or is there more to the problem?

Yes, there is a widespread resistance to using toilets among rural communities. Many people prefer defecating in the open, because of the erroneous belief that it is healthier. Deeply-engrained social and spiritual beliefs dictate toilet practices and many people believe that it is religiously pure, and socially acceptable, to put faeces far from one’s own house.


Several subsidy schemes identical to SBM have been introduced since 1999; over 9.5 crore (95 million) rural toilets have been constructed under the Total Sanitation Campaign and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. Yet, the Census shows only an 11% reduction in rural OD between 2001 and 2011. Studies show that in 20-49% of even those households which have toilets within the house, at least one member defecates in the open. The same studies also show that, apart from sheer non-availability of toilets, other reasons for OD are the poor quality, inadequate numbers and poor maintenance of toilets or lack of water supply.

The status of faecal treatment and disposal is also abysmal. Just about 34% of the population’s latrines are connected either to septic tanks or underground sewerage; the rest have pit latrines where the waste decomposes, usually in unhealthy conditions. Local bodies provide little or no services for septic tank cleaning. An informal industry flourishes to fill this gap and private septic tank emptiers dump this polluting waste on any available empty lot or water body. Therefore despite usage of toilets, land and drinking water sources remain contaminated. Over 3 lakh (300,000) children die due to diarrhoea each year.

IMG_0877Jeevika Trust in its mission to build toilets and change people’s behaviour in Odisha and Tamil Nadu provides end-to-end solutions. This has been done through rigorous community outreach and education, innovative toilets designs (bio toilets using bacterial digesters that decompose faecal matter in a swift and efficient manner), commitment to quality construction materials, repairing of bore wells and water pumps, provision of piped water supply – where possible from rainwater harvested on school roof-tops - and, most importantly, providing a sustainable solution that community members both value and use. In addition, Jeevika Trust plans to evaluate the impact they have on increasing toilet usage and, by extension, reducing instances of open-defecation.

Support Jeevika in its work to reduce open defecation and help rural communities understand the importance of healthy sanitation habits.

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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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