Archive for March, 2016

Voice messages warn communities at risk of flooding

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 by

In 2010 Germanwatch estimated that Bangladesh sustained losses of US$ 1.8 billion in damages between 1993 and 2012 from a variety of natural disasters at a cost equivalent to 1.8% of GDP. The 1998 flooding that affected over two-thirds of the country resulted in estimated damages and losses of over US$2.0 billion, about 4.8% of GDP. Research revealed that improve early warning and weather forecasting (EWF) can reduce loss and damage to lives and property at community level due to recurrent multiple disasters.  A qualitative assessment shows that receiving voice messages via mobile phone saved crops with worth $50,000 for some flood vulnerable communities of Sirajganj, an upstream region in Bangladesh that recurrently faces flood. Voice messages were sent to 250 mobile phone users. This amplified to additional 10-15 households and motivated people living in areas at risk during the last year’s monsoon to prepare against an upcoming flood.flood

In 2015 dependency on nature and uncertainty of poor farmers like Anisur has changed because they received flood forecasts at community level. As a result they had the opportunity to plan for the flood and protect their lives and resources.

Practical Answers initiated this bulk voice messages system as an experiment during the monsoon in the Sirajganj district amongst people at risk.  This service system was designed for the Zurich Flood Resilience project in Sirajgnaj district.  The voice message from Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB, Flood Forecasting Centre) said that there was the possibility of raised water height and forecast a risk of flooding for the next five days for communities living by rivers such as Jamuna.

The original message created by BWDB was shared among a limited number of people. Practical Answers Zurich Flood project team collected the message and disseminated it to 250 stakeholders in  vulnerable communities.  It took an average of 36 hours to process and channell this message through a bulk voice message system to our responsive stakeholders.

Farmer, Anisur Rahman, lives in Paikpara village by the side of the river Jamuna in Sirajgonj district. He told us how he benefited from this flood forecasting system. He heard the flood forecasting information from a volunteer of the project named Asanur Begum.

“I have a small pond where I cultivate fish but that pond does not have sufficient boundaries that could protect my fish from flooding.  When there was lower rainfall I could save the fish as the pond did not submerge. Asanur apa, a project volunteer, organized a group meeting and shared the voice message about the rising water of the Jamuna river. Listening to her advice and after hearing the voice SMS I caught most of the fish from my pond and sold them for TK 6000 (£6).  Otherwise all my fish would be gone, as in past years and I could not get this amount of money. Short messages saved my fishes and helped me to earn money by selling the fish. So this message should be continued and we should all be responsive to the messages”.


Other contributors: Mokhlesur Rahman, Guru Das Biswas and Mohammad Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan

Impact of low cost irrigation technologies on livelihoods and women’s empowerment

Monday, March 28th, 2016 by

ICIMOD held an international workshop on water, livelihood and gender nexus recently in Kathmandu. We were also invited to share our experience.  The following is the full script of the presentation I made on the impact of low cost irrigation technologies (micro irrigation technologies) on livelihood and women empowerment.


The impact of irrigation on livelihoods is obvious. However, the impact of conventional irrigation schemes on the livelihoods of poor and marginalised households is not that obvious.  Marginalised households often live at the edges of the settlements, mostly in small numbers, making it difficult for the conventional schemes to reach them.

Google map

This Google map shows a typical village in western Nepal. The main settlement constitutes about 60 houses. Five houses are below the main settlement, at about 20 minutes’ walking distance. These houses belong to the poor, most likely to Dalits. Conventional irrigation would target the main settlement as there is often  pressure to reach the larger population as better value for money.

Extending the reach of the irrigation scheme to marginalized households is costly. The per unit cost would be very high and economically unjustifiable. Even if economic viability is discounted and the budget is not a constraint, the water is less likely to reach them, because there is not enough water, even for the main settlement.  Hence, some households will be left out.

There are thousands of similar villages across the country. You won’t find any village, even in the remotest part of the country, where there is no irrigation scheme of some sort; however, you will find such left out households in almost every village. Hence, large numbers of marginalised households are deprived of irrigation facilities. We promote the low cost irrigation technologies to cater the irrigation needs of such marginalised households.

The following are some of the  low cost irrigation technologies we have been promoting:

So, how do the micro irrigation technologies improve the access of poor and marginalised households to irrigation?

  1. Low cost irrigation technologies fill the void left out by conventional schemes.
  2. They increase water efficiency. Our mountains and hills are dry.  Limited resources we have are also shrinking gradually.  Hence, it is very important that we use our water resources wisely and efficiently. These low cost technologies help achieve this.
  3. Studies and our own experience have shown that low cost technologies are more sustainable. They have small and homogenous users. Hence, all the users have equal say in decision making and the distribution of water is more or less equitable. This ensures more ownership towards the technologies which help to improve their sustainability.
  4. Low cost technologies are affordable and simple to operate and maintain. This improves access of marginalized households to the technology.
  5. Low cost irrigation technologies also help in women empowerment.


This is Tula Devi Saud from Bajura. She literally had to beg to her husband to let her to grow vegetables on some of their land. In the rural areas, women rarely own land. Hence, they have little say in deciding how to use the land.  After much pleading, however, her husband agreed to let her cultivate vegetable in 0.5 Ropani (1 Ropani = 508.72 sq. m) of their land. But, there was no irrigation facility in their village.
She had to fetch water from a well about 20 minutes walking distance from the village. It would cost her 2-3 hours daily. Hence, she would produce only about 50-60 Kg of vegetable in a season which would earn her merely about five thousand rupees in a year. Thus, she was solely dependent on her husband for all kind of expenses.

Two year ago, they constructed an irrigation pond in the village. She actively participated in the construction. Now, she grows vegetables on 2.5 ropani of land. It takes her only about an hour to irrigate her plots. Now she sells 1200 kgs of vegetables a year. Last year, she made Rs 45000 from selling vegetable. Now, she supports her husband financially.  In fact, she gets her husband to porter the vegetable to the market whenever he needs pocket money.  This story pretty much explains the significance of micro-irrigation to women’s empowerment.

We can summarize as follows:

  • While the conventional irrigation schemes are more concerned with cereal crops, the low cost technologies are often used for cash crops, mainly vegetable farming. Often, vegetable farming is the only prospect for rural women, who are mostly illiterate, to earn money. So, the low cost irrigation technologies help.
  • Rural households have multiple water needs. And women are responsible for meeting the needs. Statistics tells us that 80% of the water needed in rural Nepal are met by women. The micro-irrigation technologies help to meet the multiple water needs. For example,  water in the jar or the irrigation pond can be used for irrigation, for cattle and maintaining household sanitation.
  • The low cost irrigation technologies bring the water closer to the house, which reduce their drudgery and save time and energy. It also allows them to attend other household chores alongside irrigating their plot.
  • Finally, the technologies are affordable and simple to operate. Hence, women can own and operate them on their own.

The 21st century is defined by technological revolution. However, its benefit is lopsided. The rich have greater access to technologies. The technological innovations are inclined to meet the desires of the rich than the needs of poor. However, it is invariably the poor who bear brunt of the negative consequences of indiscriminate use of technologies. In Practical Action we call this technology injustice, and seek to reduce it by promoting the low cost appropriate technologies. Micro-irrigation technologies are among the technologies which hold much promise for improving the livelihoods of the poor and supporting women’s empowerment.

Participatory planning and inclusive urban governance

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016 by

There has been encouraging evidence in influencing inclusive urban governance necessary to face future challenges of unplanned rapid urbanization taking place in most  developing countries including Bangladesh. Rapid growth of slums is an obvious part of unplanned urbanization. Bangladesh experienced the fastest urbanization compared to other middle income countries, with 6% growth rate per year since independence (UPPR, UNDP, 2011). The urban population was 30% in 532 urban centers (2001), which is likely to be 50 million by 2021 and may exceed 60 million by 2031 (CUS 2008, Bangladesh Urban Forum, 2011).

Urbanization is a process of development. However, unplanned urbanisation creates a lot of pressures on urban infrastructural services, like, water, sanitation, electricity, drainage facilities, etc. (UPPR, UNDP 2011) as they are often excluded from urban planning and development interventions. Besides pressures on infrastructural services, such rapid growth of unplanned urbanization and slums creates social problems that resulting in suffering for the city dwellers and urban governments.

The urban poverty rate is 21.3 %, while, 7.7% are extreme poor (HEIS, 2010). However, the urban extreme poor, mostly migrated from rural to urban areas are the main sources of laborers in different urban sectors and the urban economy now contributes 60% of the national economy. But slum dwellers suffer from multiple problems of housing, employment, water and sanitation. So, planned urbanization inclusive with the slum dwellers and low income settlement people is very vital.

participatory planningPractical Action has worked in 82 communities (slums) across 6 cities in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka from 2012-2016 with partners following a participatory planning process in collaboration with municipalities. A regional workshop was held on 28 February 2016 in Dhaka to mark the end of the project by sharing its learning and experiences, which, showed remarkable changes on the empowerment and living conditions of the extreme poor.  The project was funded by the European Union and UK Aid.

This blog is mainly based on the experiences and learning of Bangladesh (Faridpur and Jessore Municipalities). It is relevant to mention that the IUD-I project was implemented in Faridpur Municipality only from 2006-2009. The project covered 30 slums (24 in Faridpur and 06 in Jessore) with 10,962 people (5511 female and 5451 male). Most of them are day laborers, van/rickshaw pullers, cleaners, sweepers, pit-emptiers. Of those, a good number of the laborers are engaged in cleaning for the municipality, hospital/clinics and other Government offices. Open defecation is 6% and 8% respectively, in Faridpur and Jessore Municipalities.

Participatory planning is an effective tool in mobilizing, engaging and integrating a wide range of stakeholders including community, GO-NGOs and municipality.  It followed steps like community mobilization, formulation of a Settlement Improvement Committee (SIC) formulating Community  Action plans (CAPs) and building a Community Improvement Federation (CIF) in streamlining them in the governance, planning and delivery process of infrastructural services. SIC representatives formulated the Community Action Plan (CAP)/year based on assessment and their priority ranking with existing resources, those included identifying community problems, needs, actions and strategies for implementation. SICs, from the needs assessment, their prioritizing, validation and formulating CAP, engaged representatives of municipalities and relevant stakeholders and finalized the CAPs.


The process has made the opportunity of participation and empowered the urban poor to reach inclusive urban governance. The CIF (with representatives of all SICs) is now empowered to represent and influence the municipality, district and upazila level Local Government Institutions, IGA, education and other support services. Representatives of SICs and CIFs actively participate in municipality level meetings of TLCC, PRAP, GAP and WMSC and contribute to decision making process including government relief operations during disasters like floods, winter clothes distribution, etc.

waste collectorsFor the first time in the history of Jessore Municipality, the socially excluded Harijan community participated in a budget sharing meeting. All CAPs formulated by SICs are compiled and again shared and validated by the representatives of municipality, which they integrate with their own plan and make inclusive budget allocation.

Under PRAP and Gender Action Plan (GAP), the Faridpur Municipality has approved BDT 1,72,00,000.00 for urban poor people for infrastructure services in the fiscal year 2014-15, which, is higher than the previous allocation  of BDT 1,45,70,000.00 of 2013-14 and BDT 1,22,00,000.00 of 2012-13, which reveals the increased investment by the Municipality for the people living in urban slums, their participation and representation in urban governance and contributing to the urban development process. The Mayor of Faridpur has given a room for CIF Secretariat at the Municipality building, which has strengthened poor peoples’ participation and empowerment in inclusive urban governance process and contributing to the urban development, spporting SDG Goal 11 that specifically focus on inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for integrated and sustainable human settlement. The process is adopted in Government UPPR and UGIIP II projects, which need to be scaled up and mainstream throughout the entire urban governance process to the cause of a more safer city and urban lives of the city dwellers.

It’s just technology

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016 by

Just over a week ago 80 people converged in Edinburgh for two days of inspiration, collaboration and passionate debate about our shared future and how technology will shape it.what is tech justice?

What would a world with fairer access to technology look and feel like? What would it take to end the use of technology that harms others and the planet.  How must the nature of innovation change to support this?

Expert speakers helped us navigate through these huge, complex and at times overwhelming questions, offering their take on the most pressing injustices and challenges to creating a fairer technology system. And what we can do to make it happen.

Take a look at the short, inspiring talks from : Chi Onwurah MP, Ben Ramalingam (IDS), Matthias Huisken (iFixit), Ken Banks (, Fionsystemic changea Reid (Oxford fellow, former director of UKCDS) and Simon Trace (independent innovation consultant).

Each of them pitched their big issues: what is wrong with technology, and how it needs to change to make technology work for people and planet.

Key threads through all the talks and subsequent discussions were thatGet angry

  • The technology system is broken – and we need systemic change on a global scale
  • We need to get angry about technology injustice, only with passion can we create a lasting change
  • We must work in collaboration

That’s why Practical Action and the University of Edinburgh have created and launched an online hub hosting the outcomes of this first step in a collaboration and a wider conversation: take a look at the

passion to make a differenceFor deeper discussion of some of the issues arising from the talks and small group work, look out for subsequent blogs, next events join the discussion join our LinkedIn group.

World Water Day: a call to action on the extreme drought in Zimbabwe

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016 by

As the world celebrates World Water Day, the situation in Zimbabwe is still grim even though it has dropped off the news headlines. A serious drought gripping the country has left a third of the population facing food shortages and needing urgent aid.

female farmer in maize crop field in Zimbabwe impacted by the drought. The maize is dying while the weeds are thriving.

A farmer in Zimbabwe looks over her field of maize which has been affected by the drought.

The drought induced by the El Niño weather phenomena is the worst seen in Zimbabwe for three decades. It has had a catastrophic effect – devastating harvests, causing food prices to soar and leaving tens of thousands of cattle dead.

But there are simple technological solutions that could ensure drought-prone communities have access to water all year round. Such crises can be averted so they aren’t impacted by hunger and have to rely on food aid.

What is the current situation with the drought in Zimbabwe?

  • This time of year is the peak of the rainfall season in Zimbabwe. However, over 95% of the country has received less than 75% of what they would have normally received.
  • Dam levels are decreasing and boreholes are drying up. Women and children are forced to walk long distances to find water to survive. Each journey putting them at risk of attack as they walk alone, far from home.
  • Zimbabwe is dependent on maize as a staple food but as much as 75% of the crops have failed.
  • The corn that is a food staple for much of southern Africa is now so expensive it has become a luxury many can’t afford
  • Zimbabwe is facing its worst malnutrition rates in 15 years. Nearly 33,000 children are in urgent need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition.
  • 35% of households have inadequate water supply and water scarcity is exposing children to higher risks of diarrhoea, typhoid and other water-borne disease including cholera.

Practical Action needs your urgent help. In our project areas of Gwanda and Mwenezi the situation is worsening day by day. The crisis also affects livestock, with a staggering 2,000 deaths reported in the districts; forcing poor and vulnerable families to sell their precious cattle at rock bottom prices.  Livelihoods are in tatters.

How are Practical Action projects being affected?

I spokMartha Munyoroe to Martha Munyoro, our Communications and Knowledge Management Officer in Harare after she visited our projects in some of the worst affected areas.

“The situation in Zimbabwe is very bad,” she said. “The delivery of our agriculture projects has been affected as they are in low rainfall regions.”

  • We’re working on a seed multiplication project in Gwanda District but due to the lack of rain most of the demonstration plots are a complete write off. Many farmers did not even plant the crops due to the severe drought.
  • Our work with farmers in Mutasa District to improve their food, nutrition and income has been impacted. We were demonstrating good agricultural practices to improve farmers’ productivity. However, 80% of our maize crops are a in a very poor state and the rest are a write-off.
  • A project delivering water and sanitation facilities and championing health and hygiene behaviour has also been affected as water becomes scarce. The little water available is kept essentially for cooking, drinking and washing utensils. Taps for hand washing at some homes and schools can’t be used due to the unavailability of water, compromising the health of the communities.

What is Practical Action doing to help?

  • We’ve increased the number of new boreholes we are digging from 20 to 31 to try and increase access to safe water.
  • We’re trying to ration water for irrigating crops and promote climate smart agriculture practices such use in-field soil and water conservation techniques, which is paying off.
  • We’ve also identified great potential for fish farming and are currently working on 22 renovating or constructing fishing ponds.
  • Honey production has also been identified as a potential area and the project is now focusing on identifying interested groups for training and linking to the market.

The drought serves as reminder that communities vulnerable to changing weather patterns need longer-term help adapting.

There will be more droughts in Zimbabwe. In the past it was one big drought every 10 years, then it came to one drought every five years, and now the trends are showing that it will be one every three to five years. It’s climate change…it’s going to be the new norm.

Bringing lasting change to drought-hit communities

Practical Action is working with communities to bring lasting change – helping provide a permanent source of clean water and helping them earn an income so they can buy food.

In Himalaya in the Mutare District of Zimbabwe, we have been constructing a micro-hydro scheme and two solar-powered irrigation schemes to provide water to communities, particularly for farming which is a major source of income for rural poor people.

Farmers Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje have always struggled to get a good harvest from their two hectare plot due to lack of irrigation but thanks to the solar-powered irrigation scheme they are able to grow a variety of crops throughout the year.

Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje in their tomato field.

Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje in their tomato field.

“We have received a good income from the sale of the sugar beans and this has enabled us to send our children to school, buy food for the family and clothes for everyone,” said Lindiwe.

13-year-old Cornelius Mayengamhuru said the project will help generations to come.

Cornelius Mayengamhuru is all smiles!

Cornelius Mayengamhuru is all smiles!

He said: “I hope my parents will start to grow potatoes now that there is plenty of water being powered by electricity, so that I will be able to eat healthy. I study agriculture at school so when I grow up I want to be a farmer, own a piece of land here and develop my community. This project just came at the right time”.

We are also delivering solar-powered garden projects in Gwanda District, Zimbabwe.

54-year-old Janet Moyo, a vegetable and maize farmer in Sibula village, said: “This place is dry and water is a challenge. We have not yet received any rains since October. This project came as a miracle to us. Most farmers are now able to sell their excess crops to other people in their communities as well as other neighbouring communities.”

Janet Moyo watering her crops

Janet Moyo watering her crops.

60-year-old Masotsha Leslie Tshalibe said the solar powered projects have transformed the lives of people there.

“The projects enable families to increase food security and income generation and have also improved access to clean water as submersible pumps are buried in dry river beds and they tap directly from the water table. The water is clean and safe for households use.”

So many more drought-prone communities could get access to these simple technological solutions to give them access to water all year round.

This World Water Day we’re calling for action. We’re calling on donors and Zimbabwe government officials not only to address the imminent crisis but also to scale up technological development for agriculture, energy and water to help mitigate the impact of climate change on the region’s poorest people and help communities become more resilient to future weather events.

How can I help people impacted by drought in Zimbabwe?

And we’re calling on you to make a difference this World Water Day by giving an urgent donation today.

Inspiring pupils into STEM careers at the Big Bang Fair

Monday, March 21st, 2016 by

I was lucky enough to be able to  attend the Big Bang Fair last week . Young people from around the country were really engaged in finding out just what STEM was all about the potential STEM careers that they could go into.

Tomorrow's Engineers Big Bang Fair 2016

Pupils at the Tomorrow’s Engineers stand at the Big Bang Fair 2016

One stand that particularly impressed me was the Tomorrow’s Engineers, where pupils had the opportunity to see how engineers are involved in both disaster risk reduction, and saving lives post disaster.  A career in International Development may not be one that may particularly springs to mind when teachers/pupils think of STEM, but it is a path that many pupils find inspiring. It was great to see this organisation promoting the social side of engineering, which is something we have been told girls find appealing about our own support materials, particularly our STEM challenges.

It was also good to see so many of the CREST awards projects on display linked to sustainable and global issues such as energy saving devises and flood-proof buildings, and to hear the pupils speak so passionately about their project (even whilst munching crisps!!)

Well worth a visit so if you didn’t manage to take pupils there this year I would strongly recommend you look at it for 2017…hope to see you there!

Eva’s inspirational work in Kitale

Thursday, March 17th, 2016 by

Eva Nyamogo lives in Kitale in Kenya. She is a Community Mobiliser who works with her local community to improve their access to water and sanitation.

Eva in KitaleThree years ago, Eva received training from Practical Action on good hygiene practices, solid waste management and administration and management skills. This training has changed her life as she has the power and skills to work with her community to change their lives forever.

For the past three years, Eva has worked tirelessly to improve the conditions for her community. Before, they had no access to safe and clean drinking water. She said that people would have to walk 4 miles, every day; just to collect water from the stream, which was unclean and unsafe. People were often unwell and she explained that “they thought it was normal to be sick.”

The community now have access to a water kiosk, which provides clean water- for a small fee – every single day. Not only this, the time they spent collecting the water put immense strain on the women who would have to carry it back. The hours it took to collect water could have been spent getting an education or starting a business.

“I want women’s work to be easier. I want them to get a better education by reducing the time they take to collect water.”

Women, men and children would also be forced to defecate outside because there were no toilets, but Eva has managed to change this. Not only do the community now have access to clean water, they also have a toilet block, complete with showers. Eva has been instrumental in establishing the facility, which has grown to provide a laundry washing service to the local mechanics and it even has reliable energy.

Access to water and sanitation has completely changed life for people in Eva’s community, their health has dramatically improved because they are no longer drinking unclean water, they have a better understanding of good hygiene and they no longer have to defecate outside, which has brought dignity to the community members.

Thanks to your support, Practical Action has been able to work with Eva to empower her and help her to transform lives. She added “When you change people’s lives, you feel happy and because of Practical Action, we now talk to the county government.”


A glimpse of the lives of Sudanese women

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 by

I am an ordinary Sudanese woman. I grew up in an extended family that had an impact on my beliefs, behavior and attitudes.  I came across  stories about my grandfather and the difference in his way of raising his sons and daughters. Although he was illiterate he pursued the path of education for his sons  and struggled to do that with tremendous success, but when it comes to his daughters an interesting deviation from this track surprised me.  I was told that he pulled out of school one of my aunts who happened to be very clever  because she gained higher grades in her exams than my uncle.  Women have struggled in our country for centuries, but it’s not because of religion but rather a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of men’s domination of women.

Sudanese women peace building projectWhile I was growing up, my uncle, a university graduate, talked  to me about forbidden magazines and books.  I shared  all my reading  with  my father, but never felt the need to hide any book or magazine from him, a lesson which  I applied with my daughter. I never intrude on her privacy, never read or sign in to her social media profiles  or sneak behind her back. But this does not mean that she doesn’t understand  that there are lines she should not cross regarding our culture, norms and religion.

This is a complicated issue, it’s not just about a difference in behavior or ways of thinking between illiterate and educated men who have the ultimate power over females, but it is about the way they have been raised either to treat women as equals or not.

Women embrace certain  behaviours even if it is not in their interest. I remember once when one of my neighbours was visiting, I spoke about how I refrain from threatening the life of my daughters through the inhumane process of FGM.  All of a sudden they looked at me as if I were a total stranger and  treated me in a way that gave me the feeling that I should be ashamed of myself  for what I had done. At that moment I was totally devastated and depressed because to that point I believed that we in Sudan had come so far in the path of fighting FGM. But in reality we were still way behind and we should exert greater efforts to succeed in this battle.

No one has the right to deny women from feeling whole, from behaving naturally, from enjoying their lives and from feeling secure without being shocked and traumatized.

As females living in the Middle East and Africa we are surrounded with multiple threats and huge challenges but no matter how they try to break us we should fight back through collaboration, coordination and awareness raising because deep in our hearts we believe that at the end of this dark tunnel there is the brightness of a glorious future where women will fulfill their dream goal of equality, justice and equity.

Steps to bring Gender Equality by 2030 (perspectives on India context)

Thursday, March 10th, 2016 by

Celebration of International Women’s Day

The International Women’s Day 2016 was celebrated on 8th March 2016 worldwide starting from Individuals to NGOs to Corporates to Government Organisations and so on. Many corporate houses must have brought about voices of the stardom class to influence and advocate for gender equality. Many organisations celebrated by mandating a particular dress-code (including Purple) for the day to dedicate the women. Social Media and Media at large was busy sharing news about who celebrated and how. WhatsApp and Facebook was full of best wishes on Women’s Day, people tried their way of expressing thoughts and their feelings (I was one of them), sometimes I feel like a competition is going on among themselves as if my message was good, mine was meaningful, mine is in solidarity, mine is feminist and so on. There are organisations who are engaged to celebrIMG_20160308_160843ate this occasion through weeklong or month long series of events and there are others who just organised observation at a community level on that day, talking to women who they feel need empowerment. There are also agencies that organised workshops and talk shows to discuss on issues of women, their situation and debate upon what has been provisioned by government for the women. There can be numerous examples of the celebration and observation of International Women’s Day 2016. Somehow it has become a day to celebrate just like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, which it is not.

The Topic on IWD

From the very first year of my engagement with the development sector (1997), I have participated, contributed and facilitated organising International Women’s Day throughout in different capacities. The resource persons (both women and men) for the day would speak about women’s empowerment, giving rights to women, respecting women and all the best things that they can say about women as well define the cultural job distribution of women as cooking, taking care of children, fetching water, fetching fire-wood, cleaning dishes etc. They will also describe how women are being oppressed and exploited in the society, stories of gender based violence are shared, and instances of cultural practices which subjugate women are told and so on and so forth. This year also I participated in one of the International Women’s Day celebration at a community level. I was listening carefully to the resource persons who talked equally the same thing that was talked about 20 years back. This has struck me hard. Even though there has been so much development around, why are we talking the same things today which we used to say 20 years back? A child studying in STD X does not talk like STD I student, but we are still talking about the same issues repeatedly every year. This clearly indicates that our (development professionals) efforts have not been successful in working for gender equality across all sections and geographic locations of the country.

What has changed?

I understand that some aspects of women empowerment have definitely gone well for example SHG movement and economic empowerment though there are other grey areas inside it. There have been good examples of girl’s education and increased attendance to a certain level of education, there is still further need of improvement. There are examples of increased institutional delivery and reduced IMR and MMR, however there are still villages and towns not connected with better health facilities. There are examples of increased women participation in the work-force though exploitation and gender based discrimination cannot be side-lined. There have been many women led movements which were very good; the SHGs stopped selling of alcohol in villages where there was presence of high domestic violence. There might be increase in the reporting of violence cases against women but still it depicts the same mind-set of men for women that used to be.  When we see the situation of urban women, it somehow shows that we are developing and women are growing side by side, though it cannot be generalized to all the urban women (class, caste and religion). The situation of women still is the pretty much similar which it used to be decades back. I feel the only thing which has changed is the example of incidence or person. I realise there is something seriously wrong that we are doing.

We need to see where we have failed; we need to retrospect our strategy, our initiatives, our endeavours, our approaches as organisations as well as individuals. We need to bring about learning from the failures.

What should be our steps?

The theme of IWD 2016 talks about stepping up efforts for Gender Equality. WE SERIOUSLY AND CONSCIOUSLY NEED TO ACT UPON THE ISSUE IN EVERY SPHERE OF LIFE.

It is high time for change to happen at family level FIRST. If there is no change at family level, I don’t think it will change the community or the society at large. SECONDLY, it is the MEN who should change their mind-sets and therefore, I think it is time to work with men more on women’s empowerment than working with women. THIRDLY, as organisations we need to change our approach and focus to change small things which make big difference. Dr. E.F Schumacher’s small is beautiful is very much relevant in this issue too.

I pledge that, no matter what, I will do my bit through every sphere of my life to step it up for gender equality, what about you??


NB: it is based on Indian context and purely my personal perspective…

Five unique fundraising ideas

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016 by

Breaking news guys…fundraising can be tough. We get it. Your potential donors are bombarded with demands for their hard earned cash from breakfast to bedtime, so making your fundraising request cut through the noise can seem impossible. We’ve put our heads together and come up with some donation-driving schemes which are a little bit different, to keep your potential donors interested and stop you from losing your mind.

If you’re burnt out by bake sales and run down by races, why not try one of our unique fundraising ideas?

  • Used book sale.

used book saleBasically, it’s easier to make people give money if they’re getting something in return, so try dipping your toe into the world of second hand book-selling. Have an epic clear out of all your old books, and encourage your colleagues, friends and classmates to the same. There are few things more liberating than finally getting rid of that book on French philosophy you bought to impress the cute guy on your commute (just us?).

Once you’ve gathered your spoils, set up a stall in your workplace, or outside your house, and be prepared to haggle. You could even leave out some Practical Action literature alongside the books, so everyone knows that the proceeds are going to a great cause.

  • Karaoke evening.

Karaoke evenings are the cheesy chips of social occasions – you either love them, hate them, or you won’t go near them until you’ve had a few drinks. Whichever camp you fall into, getting your friends together for a night of caterwauling and showing-off is a great way to raise money.

If you’re based in London, we’d recommend booking your event with Karaoke Network, a comprehensive compendium of karaoke venues, including bars, clubs and restaurants. The song list has everything from Gangnam Style to Gangsta’s Paradise (though we’d probably choose to belt out some Britney).

Prices on Karaoke Network start from £4 per person, so charge slightly more than that for tickets and your event has the potential to raise a lot of money. It’s worth a try, as how often do you get to embarrass yourself on a night out and feel good about it the next day?

  • Language fines.

If you work in any kind of office environment, you’ve probably been subjected to corporate slang at one time or another, whether it’s someone wanting to “touch base” or someone else suggesting you “blue sky this”. In order to end this sickening behaviour forever, and raise some money for charity in the process, introduce fines for particularly egregious jargon use. Hey, it’s worth running this idea up the flagpole and grabbing some low hanging fruit (sorry).

  • Put on a festival.

put on a festival

Fancy yourself a bit of an Emily Eavis? Hosting your own music festival involves a heavy dose of mud, sweat and tears, but it will probably be an experience you’ll never forget.

We spoke to Emily at the Nozstock festival who gave us their top tips on putting on a festival, to help you throw a charity event to rival Live Aid.

‘Festivals are all about balancing many plates at once. The biggest challenge is keeping true to your vision, when there are so many amazing different directions you could go in. At Nozstock The Hidden Valley, we have always been devoted to being a festival that anyone can come to. We’ve had 4 generations of one family at the festival and we want to keep it that way.

Apparently, event organisation is in the top 5 most stressful jobs. To keep your head is key. Do whatever it takes to get perspective when things get stressful – take the dog for a walk, sit in a quiet place for a minute, make a nice comprehensive list, remember that it’s not life or death – it’s about having fun. Manage all that and you’ll probably be fine!’

  • Clean miles.

For a fundraising opportunity that’s super relevant to Practical Action, get your friends and family to sponsor you for every “clean mile” you travel. That’s basically a mile in which you use no energy to get from a to b – sounds doable right?

Cycling is one of the best ways to do this, and we’d recommend using an app to keep track of your progress.  Strava is popular, and with good reason. The streamlined, clean interface lets you know how many miles you’ve cycled or run, as well as your speed and how many calories you’ve burned. You can even share the results of your rides on social media so you can humblebrag about how much energy you’re saving. Practical Action are committed to ending energy poverty so you’ll be raising awareness too.

Whatever route you decide to take with fundraising, good luck! If you have any more unique fundraising ideas, why not share them with us on Twitter?