Gender | Blogs

  • Bidding adieu to 2016 : 10 best examples of practical solutions from India

    Ananta Prasad

    December 30th, 2016

    With a number of challenges on the field and off the field, the team in India has managed to deliver some good sustainable practical solutions in last couple of years. Moving ahead for an eventful 2017 and with added challenges and milestones, I thought of ending the year with looking back at the sustainable practical solutions we have served so far.

    Development is a process as we all know and in Practical Action the biggest learning so far I have got is how to make this process a sustainable one. Here I have documented 10 different projects and interventions which have been sustainable or aiming at sustainability delivering practical solutions.

    1. ACCESS cook stoves

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    Access Grameen Mahila Udyog, in Koraput which is nurtured by Practical Action has been instrumental in manufacturing and marketing of improved cook stoves. The cook stoves generate less smoke, save fuel and time.

    It has contributed to less carbon emission and has resulted in healthier living environment in rural tribal houses.

    2. SOURA RATH (Solar Power Cart)

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    Practical Action India developed a portable solar-powered cart (Mobile Solar Energy System) that provides energy for 72 hours to power mobile phones, laptops, lights and water pumps. The cart can serve up to a capacity of 5KW and can be used during the post-disaster emergency and is easy to be relocated from one place to another.

    This model is applauded by Government of Odisha and is now being showcased at the Solar Park for public. We strongly feel this can add value to the cyclone shelter houses if used appropriately

    3. SUNOLO SAKHI 

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    Young girls and women in 60 slums of Bhubaneswar have formed Sakhi Clubs and spreading the knowledge on menstrual hygiene among other girls and peers. Our innovative radio Programme ‘Sunolo Sakhi’ has broken the taboo and enabled a conducive environment for discussion on menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls. The first ever radio show on menstrual hygiene Sunolo Sakhi is instrumental in bringing about change in the menstrual hygiene practices and behaviour of these young girls resulting in better health.

    The comprehensive programme Sunolo Sakhi is also providing Audio book for visually challenged and video book for hearing and speech impaired girls in the State.

    4.  COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE 

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    Community led water management has helped this tribal village Sundertaila in Nayagarh district to be self-sufficient in getting clean drinking water. Not only practical solutions but introducing user friendly and sustainable technology options at the last mile and serving them with basic needs is something what Practical Action tries to invest in its program efforts.

    5. SMRE

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    18 years old Sunil Tadingi of Badamanjari is now a successful entrepreneur and continues education in Semiliguda College. Despite all odds he is able to mark this achievement as his village is now electrified with the help of a self-sustained micro hydro power generation unit.

    Badamanjari has set an example in Koraput district by generating around 40KW electricity to provide light to all the households of the village and people are able to watch TV and use fans as well. Rice hauler and turmeric processing units are also running with additional energy generated, as a result creating entrepreneurs like Sunil.

    6. Small wind energy systems (SWES)

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    60 poor families in Kalahandi district of Odisha once deprived of access to electricity are electrified now. The wind and solar hybrid system by Practical Action has solved the basic energy need of the villagers with street lights, home lighting and fans.

    Kamalaguda and Tijmali, these two villages are on the top of the hills where it was a day dream for getting electricity to fight with the night. Now, the villagers are capacitated to manage the systems by themselves without any external support.

    7. PROJECT NIRMAL

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    At the backdrop of poor sanitation facilities in small and medium cities of Odisha, ‘Project Nirmal’ supports two fast growing urban hubs like Dhenkanal and Angul municipalities with a pilot intervention for appropriate & sustainable city wide sanitation service.

    Project Nirmal aims at benefitting both the municipalities to set up Faecal Sludge Management systems by establishing treatment plants to treat the faecal sludge

    8. Safe and Healthy Environment for Children of Waste Workers

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    “I felt very happy the moment I received the Identity Card from the Dept. of Labour and Employment, Govt. of Odisha” Says Salima Bibi a 25 year old informal waste worker from a Slum near Dumduma under Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).

    Many informal waste workers in the state are being formalised and now accessing and availing their legitimate citizen rights.

    9. LITRE OF LIGHT 

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    Light comes from water bottles. Litre of Light is an open source technology which has been successfully experimented in 120 households in the slums of Bhubaneswar. It has now lessened the use of electric light during day time.

    Small children can even study and men and women can do delicate cloth weaving and other productive activities during day time with the light provided by these solar water bulbs.

    10. Safe and Healthy Environment for Children of Waste Workers
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    117 children of informal waste workers have been enrolled in schools in one day and are continuing their schooling; they were engaged in rag picking or related works previously.

    While working with alternative energy, Practical Action focuses on advocating and influencing the society for a step ahead towards meaningful development

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  • Keeping the hope alive

    Menila Kharel

    December 27th, 2016

    In my more than a decade long development journey, I have travelled a lot. I have reached to remote corners of the country and have listened to the voices of marginalised people. No place compares to Karnali region in remoteness and marginalisation. I had heard about it but got the opportunity to experience it only in the last October.

    I started my journey of Karnali from Kalikot district.  Kalikot is often referred as   ‘youngest district’ in Nepal as it was separated from adjoining Jumla district only few decades ago. It is also the district where the likelihood of people dying younger is higher than other districts in Nepal as the life expectancy is just 47 years.  Majority of people in the district make their living from subsistence agriculture.

    Galje is one of the many places I visited in Kalikot. It at is about 3 hours’ drive from district headquarter, Manma. Practical Action has been supporting a farmers group in Galje to embrace the commercial vegetable framing through its BICAS project.

    The topography of Galje was challenging and climate was hostile. However, people were very welcoming. I was particularly impressed with the gender composition of the group.

    After the observation of the commercial vegetable plots, collection centre and agro-vets, we held a discussion with the farmer’s groups to know more about their new initiatives. The vegetable farming was indeed a new endeavour for them as there is the monopoly of the cereal based farming in Kalikot district as in other districts of Karnali. There was good participation of females in the meeting. They were little bit shy at the beginning however as the discussion progressed they became more active. I believe my presence in the meeting also helped them to open up.

    I encouraged them to share their stories and experiences, which they did turn by turn. Each had different and encouraging story to share. I was particularly impressed by the story of Radhika Shahi, a young and energetic girl of 21 years.

    Radhika is a plus two graduate. Unlike many youths in rural areas who find little hope in their villages, she is determined to make a difference in her own village. She has chosen agriculture to make the difference.

    Radhika Shahi working in her vegetable farm.

    Radhika Shahi working in her vegetable farm

    “Though all the households in our village make their living from agriculture, it is often looked down as something for old and uneducated people. I wanted to break the stereotype,” she shared.

    “Like other families in the village, we were only producing cereal crops in our land. We had little knowledge about the vegetable farming. Though we used to receive some vegetable seeds from the Agriculture Service Centre (ASC) sometimes, we never took it seriously as we didn’t have skill and technologies required for vegetable farming. Neither, we knew that the vegetable farming is more profitable than cereal crops,” Radhika continued.

    “BICAS project convinced us about the benefits of the vegetable farming and provided technical trainings on the improved farming practices. It also introduced us to new technologies like poly house for off-season production. An agro-vet and collection centre has been established at the nearby market with the help of the project. As a result, we have easy access to seeds, fertilisers and pesticides from agro-vet. Likewise, collection centre has made the marketing of vegetable easier,” Radhika added.

    Growing vegetable in poly-house

    Growing vegetable in poly-house

    Last season, she made a profit of NPR. 48,000 (1USD = NPR 107) from selling bean, cucumber, cabbage and tomato.

    “I think if we have better technologies and the access to market, we can prosper from the vegetable farming.  Gradually, other people in the village are realising it.” She looked more determined and hopeful when she said it.

    Listening to Radhika’s story, I felt like Karnali is not without hope as it is often portrayed. Young and energetic people like Radhika are keeping the hope alive in Karnali.

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  • Knowledge is Power; #LetsdoPeriodTalk

    Ananta Prasad

    December 22nd, 2016

    Written by Pratikshya Priyadarshini

    A hot, sunny afternoon in the Sikharchandi slum of Bhubaneswar does not evoke the imagery of a drab, lazy life that it typically must. One can hear the din from a distance, hard rubber balls hitting against wooden bats, followed closely by the voices of young boys appealing instinctively to an invisible umpire. As we walk along the dusty paths, the roads wider than the adjacent houses, a number of young girls flock to us, greeting us with coy smiles. Young and old women, sitting on verandas, welcome us with pleasantries and call out to their daughters, “The Sakhi Club Didis are here!” We stop in front of a small pakka house, the purple paint shining brightly in the slanting afternoon sun while the rice lights from Diwali night hanging down the roof wait for the evening to be lit. 15 year old Sailaja comes out of the little door, wiping her hands and wearing an infectious smile on her face as she briskly lays down the mats for us to sit down. She then speaks to us about the Sunalo Sakhi program and her participation in it.

    Sailaja

    K. Sailaja Reddy, 15years old, Sikharchandi Cluster 2 Slum, Bhubaneswar

    Sailaja was 13 years old when she first got her periods. Anxious and fearful, she informed her mother about it. She knew very little about menstruation before the onset of her menarche. In fact, even after she got her periods, she had very little knowledge about the process and had harbored a number of misconceptions that she had begotten from her previous generations. She recalls that when she got her periods for the first time, she was isolated from everyone and kept inside her house owing to the customary practices of her culture. Moreover, she was placed under a number of restrictions by her family in terms of moving and playing, interacting with boys and men and speaking openly about periods. Sailaja had been using cloth to prevent staining back then. She was facing a number of difficulties in keeping herself clean since she had to wash the cloth on her own and dry it. It used to be inconvenient during the monsoons and winter as there would be no sunlight and the cloth wouldn’t dry up. Add to that, she was not even aware of the health repercussions that using unhygienic methods like cloth instead of sanitary napkins might bring about. Sailaja tells us that when the CCWD and Practical Action program ‘Sunalo Sakhi’ started in her community, a lot of young girls and women were reluctant to go and join the meetings. With the constant efforts of the community mobilizers, the Sakhi Club was created in the area as a forum for dissemination of knowledge and discussion regarding menstrual hygiene and related issues. A number of women and girls started actively participating in the programme. The community mobilizers used a number of strategies like audio visual screening, radio podcasts, visual charts, action learning, songs and dance in order to educate the participants about the various facts related to menstruation. They discussed the scientific reasons behind menstruation and busted many myths regarding periods. They also discussed various health issues pertaining to menstruation, ways to maintain hygiene during periods and practices to be followed for proper healthcare during adolescence. Gradually, the girls who were initially reluctant began to open up and started discussing their own menstrual problems with the community mobilizers who tried their best to clarify their queries. Sailaja herself was facing problems with her menstrual cycle. Her menstrual blood was thick and clotted which caused her severe abdominal pain and nausea. She spoke about it to the expert doctor on the radio programme ‘Sunalo Sakhi’ and the doctor advised her to drink 4-5 liters of water every day. She followed the doctor’s advice and noticed changes within a few days.

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    Sakhi Club Meetings in the Slums by ‘Sunolo Sakhi’

    Today the Sikharchandi Sakhi Club has 32 members. All of them, including Sailaja have switched to sanitary pads instead of cloth. Sailaja now changes her pads 3-4 times per day and disposes the used pads by either burning or burying them. She monitors her periods using a calendar. She uses the methods suggested by the community mobilizers like hot water press and ajwain water consumption to handle her abdominal aches during periods. Her problem with blood clot has also been completely resolved. She tells us that the conversation regarding menstruation has changed a lot at her home and in her community with most women now speaking openly about it and discarding the taboos and myths in favour of factual understanding. All the girls in the area now go to school during their periods while they were earlier stopped by their families. Sailaja now exercises regularly, eats a healthy diet and takes care of her health. She promises that she will keep spreading the message of the club among her younger friends and urge them to not be fearful or reluctant, to take care of their health and hygiene as well as to listen to the Sunalo Sakhi programme by Practical Answers on Radio Choklate so that their issues can be addressed.

    (Ms Pratikshya Priyadarshini, Student of TISS, Mumbai interned with Practical Answers and was engaged in Sunolo Sakhi project)

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  • Success for savings and loan associations in North Darfur

    Izdehar Ahmed Mohamed

    November 20th, 2016

    People living in poverty in the conflict-stricken area of North Darfur face a severe shortage of money for household needs. They either endure the hardships or try to find someone to borrow money from. When it comes to women smallholders, they lack money for inputs and other cash needs in their household’s.

    To address this problem, saving is a way forward. Those who can save then have funds for unexpected needs in the household and for timely investment in groups.

    Fatima stoves SudanPractical Action Sudan, in partnership with the Women’s Development Association (WDAN) initiated training of horticulture smallholders using the Savings and Loan Association (SLA) approach.

    SLA members save through the purchase of shares with a maximum purchase of five shares allowed per saving meeting. This allows for flexible saving depending on the surplus money members have. They meet weekly or monthly and continue saving for a period of nine to twelve months.

    The project officer for the Community Initiative Sustained Development project within Practical Action Sudan, explained:

    “The aim of SLA is to enable resource-poor households to access financial services in order to finance income generating activities that would increase their income and lift them permanently above the poverty line. It enables money to be available at the right time for purchase of inputs and other energy costs.”

    SLA groups are providing smallholder women with the opportunity to save and borrow flexibly without having to go to the bank. With this savings methodology there are no problems of high minimum deposit requirements, hidden charges, complicated procedures, or difficulty in accessing loans.

    The funds assist in building resilient communities and provide social safety nets, as they are used for inputs purchase, diversifying into other income generating activities, immediate household needs and provide room for assistance to members in case of death, disease or natural disasters. Such diverse services are not provided by local moneylenders, as they are not willing to provide for the poorest.

    The process is very transparent as it involves each and every member within the sharing and lending processes. The fund is shared out at the end of each cycle which is normally nine months to a year.

    This SLA methodology has proved to be a success.  This year 20 SLA groups have been established in Elfashir in North Darfur. Shares accrued range from a minimum of 500SDG (£62) to 700SDG from monthly savings. In addition, the groups also pay towards a social fund, which can be used, when a member is having acute problems, such as unexpected medical expenses.

    Villages using this method have been successful in helping women to learn about saving, to enhance social links within their communities and to make their first investments.

    The project team conducted monthly field visits to monitor the progress of loans saving committees. Committee members contributed an average amount of 25-30 SDG (£8) each month. 345 women have benefited and saved a total amount of 74,101 SDG. At the end of a cycle the money is distributed back to the group members. It is very important that every member’s money is placed in their hand.

    In total  879 households have accessed LPG through this savings program in Elfashir in different districts and 76 women have access to loans to establish income generation activities.

    Women were thankful to Practical Action and the Women Development Association Network for empowering them and enabling them to finance themselves and their family in the face of extreme economic hardship.

    Now I can confidently grow for the market because I have access to finance for inputs from my savings group. I was about to give up due to lack of money.”

    Access to clean sources of energy, livelihood and finance has led to the building of self-respect and self-reliance in the community.

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  • What I took home from the 2016 SEEP Conference

    Hopewell Zheke

    November 17th, 2016

    The 2016 SEEP conference was my second.  At my first. in 2012 I was one of the presenters on Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD)  this time I was a full participant. Thus I had time to follow proceedings as well as network.  I would like to share with you the learning I took home with me.

    Small business in MozambiqueThe theme of this year’s conference was ‘Expanding market frontiers’ and indeed we expanded the boundaries.

    As I prepared for the conference two tracks caught my mind ‘Enhancing Food Security through Market-oriented Interventions’ and ‘Getting and Using the Right Kinds of Evidence’. I liked these two tracks mainly because at Practical Action we have several projects on livelihoods and food security where we are using a participatory markets systems development approach to transform markets to become more inclusive and to benefit all market actors including the small-scale farmers. The second reason is that I have been working in the sector for some time now and one area I need to explore further is getting and using the ‘right evidence’. How do we measure, report and share systemic changes in the market system?

    However my most interesting learning was about how to integrate gender into market systems work. This is not a totally new concept, we have tried doing this for many years. But, quite honestly,we have not been getting the results we want.  This probably won’t happen overnight as some of the factors are so dynamic and cultural so much that they are difficult to change.

    One session was on Using ex-ante evidence to promote gender responsive market system change’. Ex-ante means ‘before the event’ so this focussed on using evidence that we collect to inform our program design. More often we rush to do a quick feasibility study and go on to design a program,  racing against deadlines. In such circumstances our design misses some of the critical data that we might need and we sometimes end up disaggregating data to men and women to tick the box on gender mainstreaming.

    Significantly this session focused on the need to centre attention on the skills women have and to come up with business models that either take advantage of these skills or build on them. That way, women take part meaningfully and are integral to the project design.

    Common business cases we discussed included women as an important market segment, capturing underutilised female skills/talent, improved reliability, improved productivity, improved quality, improved reputation, social impact and diversified distribution channels.

    In our recent projects we have had women taking negotiating roles with buyers and other market actors because they are regarded as the best negotiators. Have you ever wondered why most women are involved at the fresh vegetable markets? It is simple.Women  have the best negotiating skills. They are also involved in grading not because of their ‘patience’ but because they have the skill and eye for good quality. So a program built around women’s skills and capacities is better placed to address gender issues and enhance women empowerment.

    Moving forward we are going to use such thinking when designing our programs and also see how we can incorporate such lessons in our existing projects.

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  • Learnings from a gender sensitisation workshop

    Kopila Thapa

    November 10th, 2016

    Practical Action is committed to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment through all its work; through programmes, knowledge sharing, advocacy, external communications and organisational development.  It ensures gender considerations in all of its four programme areas –agriculture, food security and markets; urban water, sanitation and waste; energy access and disaster risk reduction.

    To stress the importance of gender analysis and develop gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) related project activities and indicators, Practical Action organised a gender sensitisation workshop on 14-15 September 2016 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

    The workshop was facilitated by Kamla Bhasin, a feminist activist and social scientist. Her work focuses on gender, education, human development and media. She is an advocate for equality between genders.

    Kamla Bhasin facilitating the workshop.

    Kamla Bhasin facilitating the workshop.

    The first part of the workshop  focused on the concept of gender and inclusion, masculinity and patriarchy, power relations, gender roles and work burdens, gender division of labour and gender relations on social inclusions.

    The second part was concerned with gender integration in project management cycle, the role of managers including monitoring and evaluation . The workshop aimed at sensitising the concept of gender and social inclusion on contemporary issues at global, regional and local levels and enhancing the capacity of the Practical Action’s managers to mainstream GESI during the project management cycle.

    More specifically, the workshop focused on lecture method. Some short movies related to gender based violence and One Billion Rising (OBR)  campaign were shown.

    Brainstorming sessions

    The workshop included different types of brainstorming sessions.  Male and female participants were divided into different groups and participants were asked to share their painful experience as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’.

    Female participants in group work

    Female participants in group work

    The entire group shared their experiences about gender when they were children. The women’s group found their life privileged before getting married and expressed that life after marriage somehow changed due to the expectation of domestic work from women.  The group came up with the outcome that the family is the basic unit of society and it is probably the most patriarchal. A man (father, grandfather, brother and so on) is considered the head of the household within the family and they control women’s sexuality, production, reproduction and mobility. The family where one learns the first lessons on hierarchy, discrimination, etc., continues these patriarchal values and so does the next generation.

    Group presentation by the male participants

    Group presentation by the male participants

    Changed forms of violence

    There are different types of violence and the forms of violence are changing based on time, regions and countries, for example female genital mutilations are high in African countries. Similarly gender based violence, sexual exploitation and harmful traditional practices are also forms of violence. These days cybercrime and child pornography are also types of violence.  Agricultural and crafts profession are on a decline and this might be the cause of new kinds of violence and engaging women in prostitution.

    Masculinity and patriarchy

    Masculinity is all about power and femininity is exactly the opposite of masculinity. Masculinity is social definition given to boys and men by societies. Nature makes male or female, and it gives the biological definition but society makes masculine or feminine. Patriarchy means the rule of father or the ‘patriarch’ and originally it was used to describe a specific type of ‘male dominated society’. In Asian context, it is used more generally to refer to male domination and the power relationship by which men dominate the women. As a result women are kept subordinate in a number of ways. In the context of South Asia, so called ‘Patriarchy’.

    Gender is all about ideology and mindset!

    Origin of patriarchy

    The origin of patriarchy dates from the beginning of human history – the barbarian age, pre-civilisation. Patriarchy, a concept that we experience in our lives, explains women’s subordinate position. During that period men developed weapons and women developed tools. Then women got involved in agriculture, crafts, social relationships and their mobility became limited to the domestic sphere. Gradually, the importance of women in the hunter gatherer economy was enhanced by the significance attached to the reproductive role of women. Female sexuality was not a threat and did not have to be managed since the community depended upon it. Female reproductive power was highly valued and female power was confined to motherhood.  And the male was involved in public spheres.

    Gender and gender relations and the gender division of labour are also not the same everywhere. It is specific to culture, location and time.

    Gender division of labour

    Gender division of labour also leads to hierarchy and inequality because men and women are not valued or rewarded equally. Even these days in some countries feminists are fighting for ‘equal pay for equal work’.  The allocation of certain tasks to men and women in productive processes also leads to issue of command and control over resources. Generally, women have three types of work in our societies.

    1. Reproductive work (Biological reproduction and social reproduction)
    2. Productive work
    3. Community and social work
    Even in this work there are certain roles divided between men and women. Gender division of labour leads to gender division of types of work and standard gendered labour.

    A highly effective workshop, I have ever attended”- Vishwa B. Amatya – Head of Programme, Energy

    Last two days gave us an enlightening experience. This has been an eye opener.”   Archana Gurung- Communications Officer

    Definitely a very fruitful time with Kamla Bhasin over the two days period. An amazing person we all fell in love with. ‘Man of quality is not afraid of equality’. We need more men to change now! “Strike, Dance and Rise Ladies”. Khommaya Thapa Pun – HR Manager

    A group photo with facilitator

    A group photo with facilitator

    The workshop was found to be a productive way to communicate the importance of gender analysis. Overall it supported the GESI planning process while developing the GESI related project activities and indicators.

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  • Online workshop on gender: process, challenges and possibilities

    Mokhlesur Rahman

    September 29th, 2016

    Recently, we had a virtual workshop on gender for Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP) project staff. Through participatory methods, the workshop was conducted and all participants enthusiastically shared their experiences and insights. However, Because of some technical difficulties, first day of the workshop could not be organized which was shifted to first half of second day! At the end of the workshop, some activities were identified to include into project and make it more gender sensitive!

    the process we followed;

     

    process

    Glimpse of the activities;

    1. Start of the workshop: sharing a quotation of Kamla Bhasin ( a well-known feminist activist & social scientist of South Asia)

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      “I know enough women who are totally patriarchal, who are totally anti-women; who do nasty things to other women, and I have known men who have worked for women’s rights their whole life. Feminism is not biological: feminism is an ideology.” ( Kamla Bhasin)

    2. Why Gender is important for development project like Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP) is being discussed;

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    3.  How PaP  project takes actions (can take action) to address gender inequality in households, women’s effective decision-making  is being discussed and share some of the examples from the region;

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    4. Integrating gender into project cycle: exercise is done for PaP project

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    5.  Mary Surridge ( Gender Consultant UK), Lizzy Whitehead (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Adviser) and PaP project staff (at Rangpur, Bangladesh)

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    6.  Lizzy Whitehead sharing her experiences and concerns through Sype conferencing;

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    7.  Group work on stakeholder analysis and logframe review;

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    8. Sharing findings of the group work; identified some areas where gender aspects can be incorporated

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    9. Final notes given by the Consultant Mary Surridge

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    Challenges:

    The workshop was virtual- for which high speed internet connection was required. But next day of the workshop, Prime Minister of Bangladesh visited the Rangpur and delivered speeches in number of events. There was plan from divisional administration to live telecast her speeches. Therefore, on 6th October internet connection was heavily disrupted which affected the workshop plan. Second important challenge we came across is inadequate time for the workshop. There were lots of associated issues to be discussed and participants had many observations and opinions to share- which could not be completed properly.

    Possibilities:

    The workshop alos showed us number of possibilities, which are;

    • It was a trial whether to go for this kind workshop. The experience suggests  for going
    • Identified areas for gender inclusion in the project.
    • Agreed to continue this kind of session within the project and beyond the project.
    • Agreed to conduct period gender assessment in the PaP project.
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    Conclusion:

    We have experience of organizing online meeting frequently but this was first time we tried to conduct a full workshop virtually. Even there were some technical problems in first day, but finally it was ended up with good spirit among the staff. Thus, we are hopeful to transform the project as landmark one for Practical Action!

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  • ‘Sunolo Sakhi’, let’s do the #PeriodTalk

    Ananta Prasad

    September 27th, 2016

    Written by Aurosmita Acharya, Journalist, DNA, India

    ‘Sunolo Sakhi’, literally meaning ‘Sisters, let’s listen’, was broadcast for the first time this year on February 6 on a community radio station in Bhubaneswar.

    Aiming to spread awareness and bust taboos, especially in slum areas, the radio show has been designed by a UK-based NGO ‘ Practical Action’ to take the first steps in educate people about menstrual hygiene.

    Scheduled to be taken forward with the help of city-based FM stations , the initiative that was launched in January is set to be expanded in its second phase. Girls and young women in slums are encouraged to discuss their issues during ‘Live Phone-in discussions’ and dispel all the myths that have been associated with menstruation with the help of an Adolescent Hygiene Expert Dr Chayanika Mishra.

    ‘Most families are shy discussing menstruation matters’mens auro1

    “When it comes to menstrual hygiene very few women and girls know about the proper hygiene practices. In a city like Bhubaneswar, a handful of urban girls are aware about it,” explains Ananta Prasad, Communications Officer, “In such a situation, we were more concerned about our slum communities. So, we designed this programme for adolescent girls and young women in the slums, who are mostly daily wage workers or students.”

    Speaking about the importance of such a programme in slum areas, Adolescent Expert Dr Chayanika Mishra further adds saying, “Most families are shy discussing menstruation issues. So, they tend to practice wrong and baseless customs. In rural or slum areas, people do not conceive menstruation as a normal bodily phenomenon and hence girls are looked down upon.”

    Explaining further she adds, “Male counterpart, many a times, make fun of periods or do not realise the difficulties that a girl goes through during this time of the month. Besides, girls or young women in these areas are seen to be following unhygienic practices that lead to infection and other diseases. Hence, the need for such a programme arises.”

    ‘Sakhi Clubs have been formed to enable change’

    Within a span of five months, the programme has gained a lot of popularity in the slums and has been receiving calls from young girls and ladies in the age group of 18 yrs to 35 yrs.

    At present, the NGO has been able to socially mobilise 15 slums in Bhubaneswar via audio podcasting, mobile film screenings, and focused group discussions and through knowledge materials. To enable a change in the mindset, Sakhi-Radio clubs have been formed where young girls and women are encouraged to listen to the aired show during the weekend and discuss on the same.

    Regular film screenings, focused group discussions, individual counselling, audio pod casting, radio listeners club are the medium of interaction and knowledge sharing means adopted under the project. The live radio show has helped immensely in initiating a change, according to the organisers. The show is scheduled to be aired once a week for duration of an hour, with the local FM radio partner.

    Interestingly, the programme intends to reach the visually impaired, hearing and speech impaired as well through audio and visual books. The audio books would socially mobilise the visually impaired while the visual books which would make use of sign language would create an awareness on menstrual hygiene amongst those who are hearing and speech impaired, informed Ananta.

    This article was first published here by the journalist from DNA.

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  • 10 reasons why Practical Action is the best organisation I have worked in so far

    Ananta Prasad

    July 13th, 2016

    Since, I started my professional work life on 1 April 2010, I have served 8 different organisations in just 6 years and freelanced for numbers of other organisations voluntarily and also as consultants before. I clearly remember 13 July 2015, the day I had joined Practical Action, it was just like any other organisation I had served before. However, I had started my journey with a small road accident on the way to my office, which keeps the date full of memories for me.

    A new organisation with a complete new team of people, I had not thought of being very comfortable but the people here made work life so easy, my conscience forced me to pen down this article. This is my return to each and every employee of Practical Action family for making it happen.

    In India, people are skeptical about those who work with NGOs. I have faced so many situations where I feel people do not welcome the fact that I work in an NGO. When it comes to marriage proposals or parents, let me be very honest, the development sector is not something most people/parents look at. Such ironies apart, I made up my mind to mention 10 reasons why I love Practical Action more than my previous employers, however I have served in media houses, corporates and NGOs earlier. As I am celebrating my one year completion in the organisation, this is my return gift to the people around.

    1. Small is Beautiful : A theory worth working for

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    The organisation believes in the famous theory of the founder EF Schumacher i.e ‘Small is Beautiful’. Even in work, I experienced this is so beneficial to start with small and then expand. Most of our projects are actually small and having the best impact but with a bigger future prospective. This organisation inherits this principle within you.

    1. Witnessing Technology Justice

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    21st Century while experiencing the all technological advancements this organisation continues to prove how Technology is being used for poor communities and challenging social disparities. A small villager in Badamanjari village of Koraput is experiencing electricity where the grid is still a dream. The smile in their face will make your day. #TechnologyJustice

    1. Experiencing innovations

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    Innovations are the key to Practical Action’s work. Though we are new in our operations in India, some innovations are unique indeed. The Small Wind and Energy System in Kalahandi providing electricity from both Solar and Wind through a hybrid system is definitely an innovation. The other country offices have so many innovations and I experience them through in-house communication. These innovations inspire me to think out of the box.

    1. A liberal organisation

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    The organisation is liberal in terms of work culture. You get lots of encouragement during work and also fun elements are added. The organisation gives scope to reflect on your mistakes and also your successes. It gives much scope for self-assessment. The regular Monday meetings keep me updated about all others work and I self-asses my week’s achievements and short comings if any.

    1. No hierarchy

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    I was surprised and glad when I had got a personalised mail from our the then CEO Simon welcoming me the day I joined. Though I work under my line manager, matrix manager and senior manager I still never felt a strict hierarchy imposing on me. All my managers are so supportive and have given me the scope to grow and work with a free hand. (PS : Not trying to impress my managers, my appraisal is already done)

    1. Too much to learn

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    This is something I love the most about the organisation. In our India Office, though a small team, we have experts from different areas. Working with my WASH team, Energy officer, Monitoring, the Admin I get to learn a lot of things. Even, I get to learn from the finance team about managing the finance in project management. If I talk about communication, my mates in Nepal, UK and other country offices are so well equipped with knowledge, I have learned a lot during the whole year. I thank them all for making my stay here with full of learning.

    1. Travelling is an integral part of my work

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    Oh yes! If you personally know me, then I am sure, you would have guessed how happy I am when I travel. And the organisation gives me scope to travel. Though these are official trips but, I get to learn from projects, people, and places. In a span of one year, I have had 11 trips to different project locations and out of which 4 are out of the state and one is out of country perhaps my first foreign trip to Bangladesh.  All such work travels basically give me exposure to new work and let me document things both visually and in print.

    1. I get umpteen opportunities to click humans and write stories

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    Well, I am a born story teller, which I believe and try to create more stories. This happens when i meet people, I click them and write stories. Stories of change and stories of technology justice, this has made me a frequent blogger. I hope to create more such stories in both visuals and words for you all.

    1. It allows and approves my creativity

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    This is one organisation, which has allowed and actually approved my creative thinking. Some projects have actually taken shape with my creativity and value addition from my managers and other team mates. Even in other events, I had given free-hand to think rethink and create some magic.

    1. I love my team

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    I love my team, each of them. They get me some delicious food every day at the lunch table. I am like the finisher if something is left from the lunch boxes. The foodie in me loves them for making myself little fat. Jokes apart, being the youngest member of the team, I have been pampered, being scolded when I deserved that, being guided which happens quite often and being taught with lessons which have made me a better professional and a far better person.

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  • K Madhabi : An Entrepreneur in the making

    Ananta Prasad

    June 28th, 2016

    IMG_2085 (Cópia)In India, for every woman, cooking is a primary job. In villages and the countryside, women take care of the household work including cooking, collecting firewood and preparation of food. Using the traditional cook stoves causes respiratory diseases for women and children. In addition women collect firewood from the local forest and which is life threatening and lots of physical toil for them. It also creates a threat for the forest and its conservation. Though in short run, nobody talks about such issues, these have a greater impact in the long run.

    A study in 2014 supported by Practical Action, ‘Gender and Livelihoods Impacts of Clean Cook stoves in South Asia’ states that, “women largely shoulder the majority of the burden they naturally become exposed to allied hazards while cooking. They also additionally get exposed to hazards collecting fuel.”

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    K Madhabi receiving Youth Innovation Fund award from Mr Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister, Odisha.

    All these questions and problems have a solution now with the efforts of a group of tribal women in Koraput district in Odisha. K Madhabi, the leader of the group has earned accolades for their honest efforts. A low smoke project, prepared by K Madhabi and her group, ‘Access Grameen Mahila Udyog’ won a prestigious Youth Innovation Fund Award from the Chief Minister of Odisha.

    12 women from 5 blocks gathered together and formed this women group under the able leadership of Madhabi. At 26 years old Madhabi is now a successful entrepreneur and able to show a path to many like her in the community.

    The cook stove prepared by the group is an energy efficient one which has reduced the smoke to zero level and the cooking time by up to 50%, according to many users. It also consumes less firewood in comparison to other traditional cook stoves.

    “The journey was full of challenges. All the women first time learned the mason work and now can manufacture cook stoves of their own. They have divided the work for marketing and Madhabi is leading them.”

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    K Madhabi, among other awardees

    As well as manufacturing, Madhabi is also instrumental in knitting together women from different villages and disseminating knowledge about using low smoke cook stoves. She advocates for a better living for all women and is pretty much dedicated for that. This cook stove has already been tested by the experts from Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology and the group has been registered under the department which deals with small and medium scale business units.

    “Life is not the same as before. We have been treated with much respect in our community,” says Madhabi. The group has been getting regular orders and they are working hard to meet the demands.

    Practical Action’s India office provided technical and financial support for this group through a project called ACCESS (Access to Clean Cook-stoves for Economic Sustainability and Social Wellbeing) funded by the Johnson Matthey.

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