Arun Kumar Hial


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Posts by Arun Kumar


    March 23rd, 2018

    It was my first time to the United States and I was so excited about visiting US and participating in the UNCSW62. Before travelling, I almost told everyone close to me that I am going to the UN and that I have got an opportunity to speak about some of our work in India. As much I was excited, I was nervous too about the presentation, as it went several rounds of revisions with the CSW62 preparatory team (Charlotte, Loise, Patricia and me), but finally a decent presentation was all set to go. I had to speak more than what was written on the slides and so I sort of practised the presentation within myself. In the other hand, I thank Chris, who was getting all logistics organised at New York so that we have a good stay. I must thank Sarah Sandon for her guidance and for approving my participation in the CSW62.

    The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was held from 12-23 March 2018. Practical Action was represented by Loise Maina – Gender Advisor and Arun Hial – M & E Manager (Me) from India. Unfortunately, a third member – Patricia Monje Cuadrado, Chief fundraiser based in Bolivia was not able to travel to New York due to a family emergency.

    We were expected to participate and represent in FOUR separate sessions.

    The first one was ‘Empowering Women and Girls’ organised by NAWO. The National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO) is an umbrella organisation of over 100 organisations and individuals working to make gender equality a reality. The Alliance has been accrediting young women and men still at school (16-18) to the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women for over a decade. Loise Maina discussed relevant strategies to empower women and girls and provided some relevant examples from Practical Action’s work with rural communities. This session resulted in better understanding of the NAWO delegation on the overall purpose and context of the CSW2018 theme.

    The second session was ‘Innovation – using ICTs to empower rural women’ organised by ADVANCE who work in the priority areas of entrepreneurship, education and justice for women and girls.  I got the opportunity to share about how Practical Action is using media and ICT to raise awareness and share knowledge on menstrual hygiene amongst girls in India through the innovative ‘Sunolo Sakhi Project’. As a result of this presentation, people shown interest to get connected with us or get us connected with relevant organisations that can support in scaling up this programme. We have lined up follow up actions on this. Oh there was so many questions about the presentation, everyone wanted to know more about Sunolo Sakhi.. I would say about 90% of the questions were around my presentation, and of course it’s not because they did not understand what I said, but the questions were seeking more information about the program.

    The third one was “Increasing prosperity for rural women: Implementing gendered SDGs targets in goals 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16”. This session was organised by the UK NGO Alliance that works with partners based in the UK, as well as with local partner organisations across the world. Loise Maina, Gender Advisor shared about Practical Action’s work to increase incomes and link rural women farmers to sustainable markets in the cocoa value chain. This session was considered to be quite practical and helped to demonstrate proven interventions that can help improve rural communities’ livelihoods. Loise had prepared herself with a PowerPoint presentation, however, the session did not have opportunity for that and needed a five minute speech. Loise managed this so wonderfully with huge confidence and she was very clear on what she wanted to communicate with the audience. About questions, yes there were questions to Loise and they got relevant answers. This session was chaired by one of the Hon’ble MPs of UK.

    The fourth session was “Innovative Use of Media for Rural Women and Girls”. This session was organised by PRIDE which works with organizations across the region to ensure education that promotes holistic development options.  I could share experience from the implementation of the Sunolo Sakhi project in India that promotes awareness and education on menstrual hygiene through ICTs and media. This has created a space for Practical Action’s gender work and that is well accepted. This too was a quite engaging session, now some of the old faces have sort of accepted Practical Action doing Sunolo Sakhi kind of work.

    Apart from these four sessions, we were engaged in many of the side events suggested by Sarah and Charlotte time to time, it really helped us to get to the relevant ones. The overall experience in CSW62 was great and we could participate in number of sessions knowing about gender issues in different spaces as well as networking and connecting with new people and organisations. We have a list of follow ups to be done and have listed lessons learnt for those who will be taking part in future CSW events.

    We could also do some sightseeing together in Times Square and World Trade Centre etc.

    I was blessed and privileged to be one of the participants from Practical Action and it was worth attending CSW62.

    Look forward for the new connections and collaborations to take its own shape to benefit the underprivileged women and girls.

    JAI HO

    For more information, please contact


    Arun Hial (

    Loise Maina (

    Some more pictures

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

    March 10th, 2016

    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…

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  • ‘Team Building’ exercises are important for a Team as is nurturing a growing child

    February 11th, 2015

    All the staff of Practical Action’s Odisha office geared up for a two day team building program on 6th February.  Ram Krishna Surdeo (best known as RK) was the facilitator for the program. It is the perspectives one has, that matter the most and plays a vital role in understanding people and situations. Therefore, it is important that our perspective or ‘How I see it’ should be brushed up and tuned in for better performance with regard to building relationships with team members and achieving the team tasks. In a nutshell, our personal and professional values should drive us to be motivated and put our efforts towards contributing the task of the group while developing individually as well as a team.

    IMG_1129Early on Friday, 6th February we headed towards Puri, a 60 Km drive from Bhubaneswar, to a small hotel. I am sure everyone had some expectations about the program, some might have thought it would be one of the best outing along with others and for some it would have also been an opportunity for learning and getting closer to the team members. However, here is what happened.

    The program started on the dot of 10 am with a traditional lighting of lamp and after a short introduction, the facilitator straight away started interactions.

    Perspective Building:

    What do you mean by a Team? The answer was Grow, Bondage, Output, Achieve, Results, Strength, Coordination, Unity, Understanding and Goal. Things will be as we see it. By showing different pictures and asking the participants to share what they see, RK brought about the following facets of ‘The way I see …

    1. Myself
    2. Co-workers
    3. Organization
    4. Partners
    5. Community
    6. Various other stakeholders / organizations / government / media etc etc.

    Learning: Individually we see things differently from how we see them as a team. There is always a constant need of renewal of perceptions. We need to understand things in the perspective of the context. An efficient team can share perspectives of similar kind in each individual members.

    Task and People Orientation

    All the staff of Practical Action Odisha responded to a scientific scoring technique called TP Scoring which reflected the individual’s priority to relationships and tasks.  Some were good and some needed improvement. It was such an interesting scoring which started off with an exercise of writing a story from where the facilitator could make out where the individual focus was. This was a time of self-reflection for most team members, everyone was stunned with the results and so was I. Sometimes it is uncomfortable to know your own weaknesses, but eventually these weaknesses tell you to become better than you are. A sort of new zeal and spirit emerges from within, ‘I will do good’ and even we tend to compare what others have and how others are seen.

    IMG_1078Learning: Each member of the team has a specific level of relational and task orientation and everyone should strive to reach to the ‘high in relation high in task’ category.

    Tower building was one exercise in communication and strength building exercises which reflected how we behave in team tasks and how we should be. My team built a tower with 12 wooden cubes, another team was highest with 13 cubes. In the end of this exercise, our team thought we could have done more.. but we avoided taking risks.

    Tower Building Exercise

    Tower Building Exercise

    We saw many motivating videos and learnt that we need to set practical goals for ourselves and work to achieve these. There is always a need to push ourselves individually and as team for achieving newer heights.

    Overall: It was a time to explore individual and team strength which ultimately led us for self-reflections and triggered our motivation to bring the best out of us as individuals as well as groups to achieve the organizational goal.

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  • Hope for better life through micro hydro and PMSD initiatives in the Koraput district of Odisha

    December 15th, 2014

    Our day started at 6am and we headed towards Badamanjari (a project field site) over 60km from the district headquarter Koraput. We took about 3 hours to travel through good roads, bad roads, rough and rocky roads in the hilly terrains and passing by the highest peak of Eastern Ghats (Deomali). There was intermittent mobile coverage on our way and we could see very less vehicles usually over-packed with people. All of us traveling had a WOW feeling inside, that Practical Action is working in such interior pockets and delivering technology solutions and services to the poor where the poor benefit to the fullest. The closer we go to the village the more excited we were and a sense of belonging was mounting in our minds and hearts which outburst during the overwhelming welcome and response of the villagers.

    High Hills of Eastern Ghat

    High Hills of Eastern Ghat

    Badamanjari is one of the project sites of the Sustainable Micro-hydro through Energizing Rural Enterprises and Livelihood (SMRE) Project in Koraput district of Odisha. The village inhabits 93 households and is surrounded by nature and its greatest gifts, one of which is in the shape of a perennial water source which is used by the villagers for a Micro Hydro Project with a capacity of producing 30 KW of electricity. This project was supported by various donors and implemented by a well-known NGO from the district. The Project was initiated in 2003 and was commissioned to the people in 2006. The people got uninterrupted electricity up to the year 2013 and somehow there was problem with the machine and it did not work from then. The SMRE Project initiated by Practical Action in partnership with Koraput Farmer’s Association (KFA) aims to rehabilitate and renovate the Micro Hydro Project to function to its fullest potential and help people increase their income with the use of the PMSD approach.

    Badamanjari Village

    Badamanjari Village

    Suresh Tadingi (23) lives with his wife, daughter (2 years), brother, mother and grandmother in Badamanjari village. His ancestral property of over 6 Acres of agricultural land is being used by four families with a total of 21 members. He is busy in the agriculture and allied works throughout the year except January and February (during these months he goes to nearby town to work on contract). Even though they do farming of Zinger, Beans, Vegetables, Raggi, Millets (varieties) and Paddy, they live in a subsistence economy and it is not enough for everyone. It is the SMRE Project which has brought a light of hope for him, his family and the community at large.



    Suresh Tadingi, Badamanjari

    Suresh Tadingi, Badamanjari

    Suresh along with four other youth members are interested to take up Turmeric Processing Unit as one of their income generating endeavors through the SMRE Project. They will be responsible to collect raw turmeric from 9 nearby villages, process, package and market the products to gain profits. These five young men will get the agreed share of the earning and will share part of their earnings to the community fund from where it will then be used for benefits of the community and its members. If everything works well, then Suresh and others like him need not go outside of the village to work as daily wage laborers, but in the contrary they will get a dignified earning through the business of their own and multiply their income as per their efforts to live a better life in their own village itself.

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  • Traditional goat rearing in Odisha

    November 27th, 2014

    My recent visit to Manapalli (a small village in Odisha) brought about a story of traditional business families and their knowledge requirements.

    It is not always necessary that, if a person is engaged in some business traditionally for years, she/he might be proficient in the business or its trends. I found that these people are doing traditional business because it was their family forte or is a social status or an identity. Whether they lose or win they continue with the same sector of business (may be in small-scale), they normally don’t change like other communities living by doing business. The attitude that they have with these business sectors is that it was their ancestors who used to do this and that they HAVE TO DO, no matter how well they do it. One such case is about A Mangulu Patra and his Golla community.

    DSCN1672Manapalli is a village in the Practical Answers Project area in Khallikote Block of Ganjam District. Golla Community is the primary inhabitants of this village and they have their original inheritance from some part of Andhra Pradesh in India. The Golla community or caste is a cattle-rearing caste in Andhra Pradesh in India, are predominantly sheep, goat and cattle herders. The village has 397 households with population of over 1600. Almost every household does goat rearing as their primary or secondary income source.

    A Mangulu Patra is one among the others who do goat rearing for a living. Mangulu lives with his mother, grandfather, wife and two kids. He has about one acre of non-irrigated agriculture land from where he earns roughly about 16 bags (100 Killo a bag) of paddy a year after putting enormous efforts. The rice is tightly enough for his dependents to survive throughout the year. He depends on the income of the goat rearing business for all other expenses starting from health, festivals, food items etc. He owns about 120 Goats at present. He is able to sell about 30 heads every year cost ranges from INR 4500 to 5000. He has appointed one person to take care of the goats and pays about INR 35,000/- per annum + one meal a day. Like many others Mangulu has been rearing these goats and getting whatever profit from this since years. He has never calculated minutely about his profits and losses. However, the problem with the traditional business people is that, they just accept the loss very easily. One such case he explains us is about the diarrhea among the goats which normally comes with other diseases too, “such diseases happen each year to these goats, we try our best to treat them, if they are not cured, we sell them or we are at loss if they die” he said.

    When there was a diarrhea in goats last month, he requested the govt. vet service provider, after giving the medicine, it did not work. The Knowledge Facilitator under Practical Answers came to know about it, he then connected an expert to get the solutions. Mangulu did exactly as directed by the expert and few days later his goats were treated well. Now, he is happy and assured from Practical Answers to get any sort of information and knowledge support that he needs.

    There are others in his village that are having questions on goat rearing even though they have been doing goat rearing for years. It is planned to have an expert session on ‘Goat Rearing, its issues, problems and solutions’ in this village which would help other people like Mangulu to get their questions answered.

    Practical Answers program has been initiated from July 2014 to extend knowledge services to 1000 households in 10 villages under Khallikote Block of Ganjam District in Odisha.

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