Archive for May, 2018

To the “WONDER WOMEN” of Kalikot

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 by

 

In one of the parched hills of Kalikot District that lies in remote Karnali Region of Nepal, there is a small village called Tilagufa. The Tilagufa dwellers who live at edge of poverty are eagerly counting days to welcome a pulley system that runs through gravity. In absence of motorable roads, people are forced to walk up and down the steep hills with heavy loads in their back. Women are mostly victimised to such drudgery with only a handful of men left in the village as most of them opt for labour jobs in India and gulf nations to make ends meet. Not only women rear children alongside goats and sheep, they are also the heavily worked domestic labours. In absence of men, they solely hold the baton to grow and process food for the family.

The face of feminisation of poverty looks scary and dark. Women ascending vertical hills to collect firewood, climbing tall trees leaning towards cliffs to collect fodder, walking barefoot to the scariest woods to graze cattle and carrying loads heavier than themselves on their back, not to mention with infants in the front; these sights are not uncommon. Drudgery of various kinds have led to many miscarriages and even uterine prolapse in worst cases with stories of many giving birth to lifeless child while on field all by themselves to come back home with empty hands and empty hearts. Stories like these are common for the women of high hills of Nepal yet their valour remain unsung and undiscovered. With a hope that the gravity goods ropeway that will soon function there will make lives much better, here’s a tribute with a fringe attempt to sign their glory.

 

Who could sail in the lost sea

The Wonder Women of Kalikot, Photo: G Archana

full of sunken boats of hopes and dream

on an ancient canoe of courage

in search of shore though full of debris?

 

Who would make way for sun ray  

in darkest room of locked up speech

drilling the walls of sorrow

to let the dim light say hello?

 

Who would endure the pain

giving birth to the child

full of everything but life

not once, but time and again?

 

Who would have buried new born faith

digging two feet deep and two feet wide

telling herself a lie

in her, there never grew a life?

 

Who would understand lifelessness better

yet standing tall and spirited

doing everything to survive  

as if nothing can upset her?

 

Her bruises blue and unmeasurable

Her creases rare yet youthful

Her body lean yet musical

Makes her nothing but so beautiful

 

So beautiful her smile

like sunshine on the Nile

May be she has borrowed

Colour from marigold for a while

 

And look at her fixing dear life

With nuts and bolts of undaunted valour

No complain, without any grumble

She makes an exceptional archetype

 

Everything that she can resist

She makes the happiest minimalist

Makes world’s pleasure look so foolish

And urban choices so childish

 

If you wanted to know who she is

She is the brightest star of universe

Guard of the mountains that’s adverse  

Trained by the nocturnal birds

 

You might need to travel back a thousand years

Crossing the seas and oceans of tears

To meet her, you’d need to ride on a horseback

May be enduring some nightmares

 

There lies her little hamlet

Which smells like her sweat

Glowing under a zillion stars

In the woods that screams her scars

 

That’s where you’ll find her gleaming  

Being so strong and beaming  

Captivating you in her story’s hymn

She is nothing but so sublime

 

If her stories were ever to be told

And her songs that are so bold

Full of dignity and solemn  

She is the unsung wonder women!

She is the unsung wonder women!!

 

 

Menstrual hygiene management – a basic need

Sunday, May 27th, 2018 by

by Makfie Farah & Nusrat Anwar

It is the twenty first century and menstruation, a natural biological system, is still a matter of social taboo. Women and girls cannot open up about menstruation and feel ashamed because of this natural bodily function.

More than 85% of the women and girls in rural areas still use cloth during menstruation and they dry these cloths in a hidden place – none of which can be considered safe hygiene practice. Many adolescent girls miss at least three school days during each menstrual cycle and only 1% of schools have menstrual pad disposal facilities. As a result, they lose scholarships and drop out of school, which leads to early marriage. In the academic curricula, there is a section focusing on MHM issues, but in reality almost every school avoids this chapter. Low-cost sanitary napkins are hardly available in remote and hard to reach areas.

SaniMart

Practical Action started SaniMart in 2010 in Gaibandha Municipality to stimulate and sensitize safe menstrual hygiene practices and recently added an incinerator for burning used napkins safely. This approach involved adolescent girls and initiated learning centres to promote low-cost and safe menstrual hygiene products. SaniMart also supported the practice of safe menstrual hygiene behaviours of adolescent girls and women. The main objective of this approach was to enrich the knowledge and skills of adolescent girls in the production and use of low-cost sanitary napkins. SaniMart has been successful in empowering girls by getting them involved in trading and other productive activities.

There is no doubt that SaniMart helped empower many adolescent girls. They helped their families with their earnings, learned how to trade, and promoted safe menstrual hygiene practice throughout the community.

Need to include all

However, there is another side of the coin we’ve missed – by making SaniMart an all-girl initiative, we still could not break the silence about menstruation. This is an approach that sensitized the menstrual hygiene practices among adolescent girls and women, but they did not include the participation of men in any step of the process. Thus, the inclusiveness of the approach only included half of the community people we worked with. The beautiful packets of the sanitary pads are still wrapped in dark papers so that no one sees what is inside when a girl carries that. We also came to know from one of the SaniMart girls that they hardly ever talk about their work in schools because there is a chance that their peers will make fun of them. And we would wonder when and how menstruation became a matter people can ridicule.

Menstruation matters – to everyone, everywhere

We still ask girls and women to go through this on their own without engaging their male counterparts.  Menstruation happens every month to almost half of the world population. We must have #NoMoreLimits to talk about menstruation with anyone who matters in our lives.

* Data source:  Bangladesh National Hygiene Assessment draft report 2014

 

 

Innovation in last mile distribution

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 by

The Global Distributors Collective (GDC) facilitated an ecosystem event at the Skoll World Forum on 12 April dedicated to ‘innovations in last mile distribution’.

Event hosts Practical Action, BoP Innovation Center and Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship ran a panel with practitioners from the Shell Foundation, EYElliance and Danone Communities. The audience, which included a wide array of participants from the private sector, social enterprises, multinational institutions and NGOs, had a lively Q&A session followed by a world café.

The event highlighted a range of key challenges and innovations in the last mile distribution (LMD) sector:

The panel – Liz Smith (EYElliance), Meera Shah (Shell Foundation) and Valerie Mazon (Danone Communities), moderated by Emma Colenbrander (Practical Action)

1. Working capital for inventory and consumer financing

LMDs struggle to access working capital for inventory because they are not selling at sufficient volumes to attract the interest of mainstream debt providers, and are seen as too high-risk to lend to. They manage this challenge using different approaches, such as providing sales agents with stock on consignment, but innovation is desperately needed to facilitate better access to capital.

The burden of providing consumer finance tends to fall to LMDs, but there is potential for manufacturers and intermediaries to play this role. There is significant opportunity to tap into MFIs, especially in countries like India where the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) sector is not as strong, but questions remain about how to de-risk this investment for MFIs. One innovation in consumer financing that Shell Foundation is exploring is digital lay-away schemes for customers to save towards down payments on products.

2. Demand creation and behaviour change

For complex products like eyeglasses and improved cookstoves, consumer education is needed to raise awareness and ensure adoption, but this is often expensive and inefficient. Broad campaigns can be a more cost-effective way of building demand and educating consumers than targeting individuals. Campaigns can be done nationally (such as those planned by EYElliance alongside governments) or on a local level (such as those done by Danone Communities using community ambassadors). Consumer campaigns must integrate LMDs on the ground in order to be effective and to ensure supply can adequately meet demand.

Meera describes how LMDs are typically underinvested in compared with product companies

3. Salesforce training

All participants agreed that salesforce training continues to be an enormous challenge in the sector, especially given high churn rates in sales teams and the need to adapt training to different markets. Classroom training is of limited value, so ongoing mentoring and support (and a small sales manager/sales agent ratio) is essential. Innovative training providers are emerging in the sector to support LMDs and some companies (eg. M-KOPA) have set up their own training universities. However, these services are either exclusive or very expensive, and tend to focus more on technical skills rather than sales and marketing. There is huge demand for more innovation in this space.

4. Opportunities to leverage economies of scale

EYElliance represents an excellent example of how collective approaches can work in distribution. EYElliance is a coalition of multi-sector actors working at system level to create change in the vision sector. They have had success in distribution of eyeglasses by tapping into the expertise of many members and learning from distribution methods in other product categories such as antimalarials, solar lighting and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs).

The following key opportunities were identified to leverage the power of the collective across the LMD sector:

  • sharing best practices and lessons learned through online platforms, in-person networking and exchange visits between LMDs
  • improving access to information, including by building a directory of certified peer-reviewed products
  • developing standardised metrics and measurement tools for M&E
  • bulk buying products to streamline procurement processes

5. Potential of emerging technologies to transform the sector

Liz Smith describes EYElliance’s collaborative model to achieve systems-wide impact in eyeglass distribution

Technologies that help gather data for operational intelligence are increasingly being utilised, for example software that can digitally track consumer behaviour. The next disruptive technologies are 3D printing which will transform manufacturing, and blockchain which will enable LMDs to track inventory through the supply chain and more effectively assess impact.

6. Product specialisation vs diversification

LMDs that use sales agent networks to sell complex consumer products generally need to specialise. Specialisation tends to be the most cost-effective approach because different skills and knowledge are required for different product categories, and also because LMDs have so many other functions to manage – logistics, procurement, finance, etc – that end sales need to be simplified to the greatest extent possible. However, LMDs can still achieve diversification across their portfolio by specialising at the sales agent level (ie, each sales agent only sells one product category) or by focusing on promoting different products during different time periods, rather than offering a basket of goods all year round. It has proven difficult to combine distribution channels for consumer durables like solar lights with FMCG products, although retail channels have more success than sales agent networks.

The hosts closed the session by showing great willingness to work on the discussion points raised through the Global Distribution Collective.

कालीकोटका “वन्डर वूमेन” का लागी !

Friday, May 18th, 2018 by

कालीकोटको तिलागूफा गाउँमा चाँडै ग्रभीटिबाट सञ्चालन हुने रोपवे सुचारु हुँदैछ । यातायातको कूनै सुविधा नभएका कारण पाहाडको टूप्पो देखी सडकसम्म गाउँलेहरू आफ्नै काँधको भरमा सामानको भारी बोक्न बाध्य छन् । यस्तो कार्यभारको प्रमूख बोझ भने महिला माथी परेको छ । घाँस–दाउरा, मेलापात, बालबच्चा र घर खेतको जिम्मेवारी त छ नै, साथमा धेरै पुरुष बैदेशिक रोजगारका लागी विदेशिने हुँदा, महिलाहरूको शारीरिक तथा मानसिक बोझ आकाशीदो छ । त्यस माथी पाठेघरै खस्ने जस्ता समस्याबाट प्रताडित तिलागूफाका महिलाहरूका लागी यो रोपवे एउटा बरदान भन्दा कम हुने छैन होला । रेपवेको पर्खाइमा आँैला भाँची रहेका यहाँका महिलाहरूको जीवनका भोगाइहरू बूझ्दा त यि महिलाहरू पो साँचो अर्थमा “वन्डर वूमेन” हून जस्तो लाग्ने ।

बाँदर पनि लड्ने भिरमा घाँस दाउरा गर्ने, आकाश छुने अल्गो रुखको टूप्पा चडि स्याउला काट्ने, नाङ्गो पाइताला लिएर बस्तू चराउन जंगल जाने, नौ महिनाको गर्व लिएर आफै भन्दा गरुङ्गो मलको भारी बोक्ने, बारीमा एक्लै बच्चा जन्माएर नवजात शिशु डोकोमा हाली घर ल्याउने…… यी कथाहरू यहाँका हरेक महिलाको दिनचर्या हो । यहाँका महिलाले छानेको जीवन त यस्तो होइन तर भौगोलीक कठिनाइ, सामाजिक मान्यता, गरिबी तथा यावत कारणहरूले गर्दा अहिलेलाई अरु कूनै उपाय पनि छैन । यद्यपि हामीले लाँदै गरेको रोपवेले केहि व्यथा त समाधान गर्ला, केहि घाउ त पूर्ला की । ओझेल परेका यी महिलाहरू, यी “वन्डर वूमेनहरू” को सम्मानमा समर्पीत एउटा भावनाः

कालीकोटे “वन्डर वूमेनहरू” फोटोः अर्चना गुरुङ्ग

आज मेरो आँसूले बनेको सागर बनी हेर 
मेरा भत्केका रहरहरूको ढिस्को बनी हेर 

मेरो घाउ अनि चोटको हिमाल बनी हेर

मेरो मर्मले भिजाएको सिरान बनी हेर
मेरो भक्कानोले फूटाएको पहाड बनी हेर 

मैले कोर्न नपाएको कलम बनी हेर

मैले देख्नै नपाएको बालापन बनि हेर
मेरो कोखले गुमाएका बालखा बनी हेर

तर कालो अधेरीमा जुनकिरी पनि बनी हेर
त्यो चोटको हिमाल माथी उदाउने सूर्य बनी हेर
मैले बुनेका सपनाको महल बनी हेर
मैले भिजाएका सिरानले दिने आड बनी हेर
त्यो नांगो पहाड भित्रको बल बनी हेर
मैले संसार देखाएको कोपीला बनी हेर
मेरा पाखूरा र पौरखकोे उर्जा बनी हेर

मेरो आँखाले देखेको प्रकाश बनी हेर

कूहिरो माक्रको ईन्द्रेनी बनी हेर
बादल भित्र लूकेको किरण बनी हेर
कालीकोटे भीरमा फूल्ने गुरास बनी हेर
कर्णालीको तीरमा बग्ने बतास बनीहेर

आज एक पटक तिमी ……….
मेरो पसिनाले भिजेको पछ्र्यौरी बनी हेर
मेरो सहासले कसिएको पटूकी बनी हेर
मलाई सजाउने मूस्कान, त्यो गहना बनी हेर
मेरो लामो रातको सूस्केरी बनी हेर
मेरा दरफरीएका हातको रेखी बनी हेर

मेरा ओझेल परेका कथा बनी हेर !
मेरा ओझेल परेका कथा बनी हेर ! !

Sustainable Energy for All Forum: Finding answers to the HOW

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 by

Sustainable Energy for All Forum

Energy access for all: the WHAT followed by the HOW

Energy access has been recognized as a golden thread to enable other SDGs, with successful earmarks such as the Paris Agreement and inclusion of a dedicated sustainable development goal; both of which urge the international community to find pathways to deliver sustainable energy access to the more than one billion unserved people. (more…)

Doing development in a digital world, and what does this mean for Practical Action?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 by

This is the first part of “doing development in a digital world“ blog series. You can read the second part here.

Practical Action has recently initiated a discussion – involving staff from the head office, and regional and country offices (RCOs) as well as Matt Haikin – on the subject of doing development in a digital world. What and how Practical Action can play role in this new paradigm?

Many digital technologies have already been widely adopted in (global) development. Mobile data collection and dashboard, for example, are now omnipresent. Multi-channel communication, such as a website, mobile phone and social media are used simultaneously to reach target audiences. Emerging technologies, such as big data and AI, have been tested to predict disease outbreaks.

The broader development benefits of digital technologies or digital dividends, however, is unevenly distributed (see picture). In many parts of the world people who don’t have access to the internet nor digital skills are unable to reap their benefits. Women, in particular, are being left behind in the digital revolution. From the project perspective, the concerns about the scale and sustainability in ICT4D, as well as in the broader development sector, remain acute.

 

Why digital dividends are not spreading rapidly—and what can be done (source: World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends)

 

DFID Digital Strategy 2018 to 2020 acknowledges the potential of digital technologies “to revolutionise the lives of the poor, unlock development and prosperity, and accelerate progress towards the Global Goals”. It lays out the strategy for achieving those ambitious objectives. Though slightly late in the game – for example USAID launched its digital strategy in 2014 and SIDA – in 2005 – the DFID digital strategy is nevertheless equally important, because it will impact the development sector especially in the UK and its priority countries.

As digital technologies come out of age, NGOs are adopting new ways of working, increasing investments into digital technologies, building their capacities, conducting research and participating in digital policy debates. NGOs which have the skills and capacity are indeed more prepared for the rapid changes in the sector. They also have the ability to assess and mitigate digital risks. Across the sector, we’ve also seen leadership playing important role for the success of digital technologies intervention.

Practical Action has aspiring goal “to transform the way technology is being used to improve the lives of poor people”. Digital technologies is inevitably to be part of it. What Practical Action can do to achieve this objective? In the process of the discussion mentioned above, several suggestions emerged:

  • A clear organisation strategy is required for integrating ICT4D across the organisation. What is our core proposition in ICT4D? Who are our target audiences and how can we reach them effectively? How can we align the organisation strategy with the government policies and regulations? Should we join coalitions like Data4SDGs, Internet Governance Forum, Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition and Alliance for Affordable Internet, and sign up to the Principles for Digital Development and Responsible Data practice, for example? Then the questions around availability of resources in term of time, financial and personnel.
  • Building capacity of staff members in the head office and RCOs. What is the organisation capacity to realise the benefits of digital technologies? Should we to provide staff members at all levels with digital literacy and data literacy skills? How can we reduce the skills gap in RCOs?
  • Providing technical support for staff members implementing ICT4D projects on the ground. Currently, we use the “community of practice” approach for sharing learning internally. Dedicated technical support may be required in the future. Do we need more hybrid ICT4D roles, i.e. those who possess understanding and skills in digital technologies and development, in RCOs? Or should we establish ICT4D central team to support operations in RCOs? Would hybrid structures and management models – halfway between centralised standards and local and flexible structures – be more suitable?
  • Improving the way we use digital technologies in projects. The application of digital technologies in DRR, WASH and Agriculture has delivered mixed results so far. How can we systematise and standardise our ICT4D approach? Can we adopt a technology principle to minimise the risks and improve project results? How can we ensure our digital solutions are widely shared and replicated?
  • Adopting digital technologies for measuring project performance. Monitoring and Evaluation is an area where digital technologies add value. In the past, we used different data collection platforms for research and M&E purposes. Have we identified pros and cons of these platforms? Is there a data collection and analysis platform that fits with our global operations? How can we collect good quality data, analyse and present it in the right format for target audiences?
  • New thematic work in digital technologies should be considered. Relevant examples are digital financial inclusion, last mile connectivity, gender and digital inclusion, the Internet of Things, digital rights, e-waste management and data for development. Latin America Office has experience implementing eGovernment projects in rural areas. Can we channel some of our ICT4D efforts to the critical issue in the region: improving citizen engagement, government transparency and accountability? Should we conduct research and advocacy-based evidence in the future, for instance, to fill the gaps in project interventions?

Using digital technologies in the context of development is no longer optional. NGOs are changing the way they do development. The mapping exercise and discussions on this subject should be seen as a starting point. This is an ongoing process, rather than an one-off one, and would require active participation from key staff members, coordination and organisational support.

 

More reading:

Haikin, Matt (2018) A landscape review of digital technologies trends; their use in the international development sector (ICT4D) and potential relevance to Practical Action. Internal Report. Unpublished.

This post was updated on 06/06/2018 with suggestion from Carlos Frias on eGovernment/Civic Tech in Latin America.