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

 

 

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

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.

Donate with JustGiving

 

[1] http://thewire.in/2015/09/27/only-a-change-in-government-behaviour-can-clean-up-india-11318/

[2] http://www.communityledtotalsanitation.org/sites/communityledtotalsanitation.org/files/media/Challenges_of_behavior_change_%20in_rural_north_India.pdf

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.

Donate with JustGiving

 

[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/89-lakh-toilets-built-in-rural-India-in-1-year-govt-says/articleshow/49190269.cms

 

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

 

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