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

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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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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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[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.

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

 

Nutrition is a core pillar of human development (UNICEF)

By Judith Crosland, Programmes Manager

On 12 October 2015, Angus Deaton – a British & American economist – was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his ‘analysis of consumption, poverty and welfare’. Of particular note is his work undertaken with Jean Drèze, a Belgium-born Indian development economist. Together they studied the nutrition and calorie intake of Indians. The authors found that the study of human body measurement in India – ie. the anthropometric indicators of nutrition – were among the worst in the world.

UNICEF supports this finding with some alarming facts -

  •  70% of children aged 6-59 months are anaemic. Children of mothers who are severely anaemic are seven times as likely to be severely anaemic than children of non-anaemic mothers
  • Only half (51%) of households use adequately iodized salt
  • The percentage of children who are severely underweight is almost five times higher among children whose mothers have no education
  • Undernutrition is substantially higher in rural than in urban areas.

Indian toddlerJeevika’s partner, WORD works with Tribal women to help mitigate their lack of nutrition. They do this by training women to grow a range of four millet crops which are known to have a much higher level of nutrition than other grains, particularly rice.

 

The millet seeds they sow are organic and the seeds are collected and exchanged with women farmers within the project as well as with male farmers outside the project activities in order to spread the production of millet.

Woman and child in fieldThis project has only just begun but we hope to be able to prove by the end of its three-year support by www.innocentfoundation.org that women and their children – indeed, all family members – involved in growing millet will be much healthier as a result.

Help Jeevika Trust to support, sustain and expand these activities by donating here.

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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:

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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.

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Project Narikuravar, our Indian Gypsies

Did you know that the gypsies of the world originated in Northern India? After a presence in India for some 1,000 years they dispersed to arrive in Mid-West Asia, then Europe, sometime between the sixth and eleventh centuries.

The gypsy community in Tamil Nadu with which Jeevika and its partner, Annai Mary Foundation work are known as the Narikuravar. The name Narikuravar is a combination of the Tamil words Nari and Kurava meaning jackal people, a name bestowed on them due to their highly honed hunting skills, with meat being the primary food on which they have traditionally survived.

During British rule the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 prohibited the Narikuravar from hunting and treated them with mistrust and suspicion. It was not until 2008 that India’s Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment recommended equal reservations for gypsy communities similar to those for Scheduled Castes and Tribes.

The stigma surrounding gypsies continues to exist: they still remain banned from entry into forests to hunt; they remain living on the fringe of villages subject to poverty, illiteracy and discrimination; and they suffer from poor nutritional health.

Narikuravar family, Indian gypsy family

Our Project Narikuravar in Tamil Nadu is designed to provide the Narikuravar villagers with a Govt. Health Card which gives them access to health services; to raise the awareness of the issues surrounding nutritional health, hygiene, STDs and HIV/AIDS.

Annai Mary Foundation will also work directly with the 250 Narikuravar villagers to form 100 women into Self-Help Groups to grow vegetables, cultivate mushrooms and poultry to supplement their diet as well as to become self-sustainable. There will also be cooking classes for adolescent girls and women to prepare nutritious food from their own resources, including soups and pickles.

Narikuravar family, Indian gypsy family

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

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Watch Dog Committees strike back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs Siva Muniyandi, WORD’s Director, says:

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

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

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