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  • The rescuers


    July 31st, 2018

    One of my (not-so-pleasant) vivid memories, is witnessing overflowing sludge from the septic tank at our home when I  was studying at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). My mother, one of the smartest ladies I have ever seen, just rushed to the nearby refugee camp, known as ‘Geneva camp’ in search of rescuers. It was getting dark, and we were desperately waiting for the arrival of the rescuers to salvage us from the mess and to relieve us from the sight of utter disgust at the entrance of our home.

    Finally a troop of six people came with their ‘equipment’. Being a student of civil engineering, I was eagerly waiting to see the ‘operation’ with my own eyes. Despite my mother’s red-eyes and gesture of annoyance, I kept on observing with a hope of being a (devoted) engineer.

    They brought with them the necessary equipment – some ropes and buckets together with a drum full of (so-called) chemical. They started by pouring the chemical from the mini drum which was simply kerosene. They mixed kerosene with water to dilute the sludge inside the septic tank to bring it to an optimum consistency. They tied the buckets to ropes and started collecting the semi-solid sludge from the septic tank by dipping the bucket into the tank, and then carried that to the nearby open drain and dumped it manually in the shadow of the darkness of the night. The operation continued for hours and finally shut down early in the morning at the cost of some few hundred Takas after some heavy haggling with my mother.

    I had almost forgotten that memory in the midst of so many lovely and lively events of my life. When I entered my professional career, I discovered that many things have changed over time, in terms of technology, lifestyle and what not, but the story of the rescuers didn’t change much!

    I started my development career after switching from hardcore civil engineering and devoted myself to work on the waste value chain. At some point of time, I wanted to know how septic tanks were emptied and came to know that the same practice prevailed even after two decades!

    I continued my professional journey with the aim of turning ‘waste into resources.’ While working on the ‘waste value chain’, I found, people who are associated with managing waste as their day to day business, are the most neglected, deprived and vulnerable in society.

    After two decades, my rusty memory again came to light. I noticed that we are using our toilets every day and our faecal waste is deposited into septic tanks. When these septic tanks are full and start overflowing creating nuisance, only then do we look for some untouchable sweeper communities to clean up the mess. And they appear as our ‘Rescuers’ to clean it manually using the same primitive technology – a rope and few buckets.

    Unfortunately, even in the twenty-first century, people are cleaning human waste manually!

    Every year at least 30-50 people die while cleaning septic tanks because of carbon monoxide and other poisonous gas generated inside the tanks. We really need to think of their lives, dignity and health and safety.

    The stories of other ‘waste workers’ are not something rosy. Every day, no less than 20,000 tons of municipal waste are generated from our houses, offices, industries. The waste workers are putting their lives at risk for making our lives better.

    Among the waste workers, women are even more deprived. Despite clear indication of the payment of equal wage for men and women in the National Labour Policy-2012, women are getting much less than men, and this is a common practice.

    Nowadays, ‘waste’ is drawing the attention of many entrepreneurs. Some areas are booming like recycling plastic and mobile phones. But what is happening to the workers? What about their working environment? Wage parity? Dignity?

    Sanitation and waste workers of all categories are lacking dignity and risking their lives, and surviving in an unhealthy and sub-human environment. We need to work to safeguard their dignity, realise their rights, minimise wage disparity and secure their health and safety.

    I wish to continue my journey for my fellow brothers and sisters who are putting their best efforts towards making cities liveable. I want my memory to be replaced by a shiny new one.

     

     

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  • 7 actions to boost small scale green enterprise in Bangladesh


    July 26th, 2018

    The term “green business” is barely understood by the majority of people, even the business fraternity.

    There is no clear definition of “green business” in Bangladesh yet. People take it as a business that either contributes to keeping the environment green, in other words, unharmed, or that doesn’t produce anything that contributes to a carbon footprint. Most people also understand that responsibility for keeping our environment green and safe rests solely on our own shoulders.

    Green enterprise

    The question is whether we have done anything to protect our environment? The answer is both yes and no.

    The “yes” answer would come up with some cherry picked examples, but the answer “no” would be weightier,  because what we have done so far are just some unplanned initiatives that have turned out well. When I say unplanned, this does not mean that we don’t have any plan on paper – you would be amazed at the many wonderful papers and policies in place!  We are very good at writing documents like policies, laws, orders, etc., but lack the capacity and political will to put them into practice.

    So, what could we do to sustain and scale up green enterprises?

    Many ideas have been put forward, but I am going to share with you seven that I have picked up from a Learning Sharing Workshop, organised by Practical Action in Bangladesh, entitled, ‘Promotion of Green Enterprises for Accelerated Inclusive Green Growth’.

    1. We don’t have a government-approved definition of green business. Often small-scale green businesses are not considered by agencies that could have worked with and supported them. Therefore, this is essential to have a definition in place as soon as possible.
    2. With a government-approved definition of green business, entrepreneurs will get access to Micro Finance Institutes. At the same time insurance companies could open their doors to them to safeguard their business. Other private sector businesses will also join in.
    3. Small scale entrepreneurs are not holding back in spite of such an identity crisis. They are doing business which contributes to keeping our environment clean and safe. Our small-scale green entrepreneurs are mostly poorly organised and untrained, and they work in unhealthy conditions. The time has come to develop cooperatives for them. Unless they get organised, deprivation will continue, and they will be looked down upon. With unity, they will be able to achieve dignity.
    4. One of the important components of green business is organic fertiliser. Government needs to give especial attention into this. Every year we lose nearly 82,000 hectares of land in Bangladesh, and there are roughly around 2 million more mouths to be fed. We churn out the nutrients of our soil to produce more and more food from a gradually decreasing amount of land. At some point of time, our arable lands will stop providing us with food. Organic fertiliser is the only solution available to rejuvenate our soil. Now is the time for an orchestrated initiative to save our soil by promoting the green business of organic fertiliser.
    5. Kitchen waste could a good source of organic fertiliser. But, turning bio-degradable kitchen waste into fertiliser is not an easy task. It would take an orchestrated effort of different government agencies, private sectors, donors, NGOs and civil society groups. Effective and strategic partnerships to do this need to be put in place now.
    6. In the recent past, the collection, transportation and dumping of household waste (mostly kitchen waste) was managed by small scale waste vendors, commonly known as waste-pickers. Now that there is money to be made in this, vested interest groups have appeared to take over control of these. These groups are also controlled by the local political leaders. Strong steps need to take to give back these ventures to the real waste vendors, and provide support them to turn into green business entrepreneurs.
    7. With a government-approved definition of green business, a major public awareness programme needs to put in place so that people, especially unemployed people, will be inspired to start in this business.

    You may be able to add other actions to this list. But, one action, which is essential is that we all work together for this cause – locally, nationally and globally to ensure that more people become involved with green enterprise.

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  • Technology for Development


    June 28th, 2018

    Why is technology justice central to international development?

    As history demonstrates, technology provides a catalyst for change. Practical Action has been working on flood Early Warning Systems (EWS) for over ten years and we have seen not only technology adoption taking place but also social change occurring.

    At the Technology for Development conference the focus is very much on the former, but in my active participation and interaction with the conference delegates I am interested to explore the latter.

    Looking beyond the hardware

    Practical Action’s experience of developing EWS, demonstrates the benefit that new technologies can have on development. However, although technology may provide a jump in capability, understanding the nature of the change is vital if these developments are to be maintained. We need to understand the causal factors in adoption and what are the threats to this progress being maintained?

    EWS appear to have a transformational impact on the communities that they reach, although this transformation doesn’t take place immediately in synchrony with the delivery of the technology, there is a time lag between the rollout of the technology and the social change needed to embed the EWS into people’s lives.

    For EWSs the following greatly simplified process takes place:

    • Phase one – No EWS, the community lives at high risk, they may implement a basic observation based systems and flee at the onset of each flood event, but losses accumulate as population density and climate change impacts progress;
    • Phase two – EWS arrives but trust is not yet built so impact on behaviours is limited. Critical is the provision of reliable warning combined with the delivery of actionable warning that people can understand and follow;
    • Phase three – community members begin to trust the EWS system, they begin to rely on it as rainfall events, this starts to adjust behaviours, rather than fleeing when the warning is announced they prepare for the evacuation, and in the process they start to learn about what preparedness actions are the most beneficial;
    • Phase four – communities begin learning about hazard profiles, and that no floods are the same, they start to recognise critical impacts and trends in the hazard event, this learning leads to adaptations in their lives and livelihoods to limit loss and damage.

     

    At the Technology for Development conference we are hearing a lot about the success of the technology systems, but less about the impacts these systems have on people’s lives. People almost seem to be passive beneficiaries rather than components in the system. As we have learned, the EWS must become integrated into people’s lives. This will enable people living in flood prone areas to be empowered and informed to live with the risks they face.

    Looking at the roll out of EWSs, and how this is being reported in the key global agreement, we find a similar disconnect. Reporting for global agreements is too focussed on the technology roll out and not on the impact the technology has on avoided losses. Most systems are focussed too heavily on the monitoring and warning components and most systems are failing to reach the poorest and most hazard prone.

    Recommendations

    Investment in technology is vital if we are to deliver on the SDG’s, to put the Sendai framework for DRR into practice and to meet the global obligations under the Paris Agreement and hence avoid the disaster of climate induced change. Central to delivery under the Paris Agreement is the need for a financing mechanism under the Loss and Damage mechanism to ensure investment to put in place to ensure avoidable losses are maximised.

    EWS are vital transformational mechanisms, not as simple silver bullets but as catalysts for behavioural change. It’s not just the hardware but the orgware and software that also requires investment, time and patience, and the system must be owned and for the communities to ensure these benefits are delivered.

    Find out more

     

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  • Elevated hand pumps supply clean water during floods


    June 18th, 2018

    Dakshin Sahipur, a small village near the bank of the Karnali River in southern Nepal, gets flooded every year. Most of the residents here are former bonded labourers, freed after the Government of Nepal abolished the bonded labour system in 2002. The government provided five kattha of land (around 1.700 square metres) for each family for their sustenance. However, the land provided was prone to flood during monsoon and drought for the rest of the year.

    One of the residents, Phoolbashni Chaudhary, 45, explains:

    “Every monsoon, our land gets flooded, we lose our crops and more often we lack clean drinking water. Our hand pumps get submerged in flood waters for more than a week. Even after the flood recedes, small water beetle like insects come out with the water for a month.”

    a. Common hand-pump in Phoolbashni’s house. b. Phoolbashni Chaudhary carrying water from raised hand-pump

    The hand pump is a major source for drinking water in this area. But because of its height it is submerged during floods. Flood water enters into the hand pump and contaminates the water. When the flood recedes, small water beetles come along with water from the pump and people can only use the water after filtering it through cloth.

    The government provides water purification tablets as part of the relief materials after the flood recedes. But because the information on the use of these tablets was unclear, people used to put all the tablets directly into the hand pumps.

    Khadananda Jaishi, a neighbour of Phoolbashni shyly said,

    “We had no idea about the use of the water purification tablets so we used to put the tablets directly in the hand pumps and simply filter the water to remove the insects. Now we understand, why we used to fall sick after flooding!”

    Things are different now for the residents of Dakshin Sahipur.   Community members have constructed an eight foot tall raised platform for the hand pump along with a deep bore system for irrigation. They use the hand pump for drinking water during monsoon and irrigation at other times.

    Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP) provided 60% of the cost of building the raised hand pump.  Practical Answers, the knowledge service of Practical Action, is supporting the communities to develop the knowledge and skills required for different livelihoods by providing relevant training.

    Thanks to the deep bore irrigation and the training, member of the community have started growing vegetables commercially. Khadnanda Jaishi was able to earn NPR 40,000 (£278) selling sponge gourds and pumpkins in the three months’ from March to May this year.

    Phoolbashni happily said, “We don’t need to worry about drinking water during the monsoon and we are making the best use of it in other months of the year as well.”

    She added, “We had never thought we will be able to grow vegetables in this dry and sandy soil but now we are making profit of at least NPR 5000 (£35) a month.

    It has really changed our daily routine and life.”

    Khadananda and Phoolbashni busy in their vegetable garden

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  • Saving seed and grains from flood


    June 12th, 2018

    Chandra Bahadur Rokka Magar and his neighbours in Tikapur Municipality, ward 5 of Kailali district, face the wrath of floods every year.

    Chandra Bahadur showing water level during flood

    Magar says, “Our village is near the Karnali River, so we face flood very often. In some years the floods are more disastrous. In 2014, floods swept away all of our belongings and it took more than a year to recover.”

    Magar and his neighbours lost their standing crops to floods. The stored seeds and food grains were soaked with flood water. And due to stagnant water and prolonged rainy days, they were unable to dry the seeds and food grains in time and lost them completely.

    Thanks to a government river engineering project, for the last three years, they have not faced such disastrous floods. A dyke constructed along the river bank has protected the village from flooding. However, last year the floods damaged  the dyke and the villagers are worried about flooding this year.

    Chandra Bahadur standing in front of his raised grain storage

    Magar is anxious, “If the government does not repair the dyke on time, we’ll need to be prepared to face the floods again.”

    Learning from the previous flood damage and with the guidance of Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP), Magar and his neighbours plan to plant a flood tolerant rice variety this season and have built a raised grain store on a 36 square foot platform 4.5 feet above the ground.

    Magar says, “Even if the flood level is not always disastrous, we face flood regularly. Our seeds and grains used to get damaged every year. So with the guidance of NFRP staff, we have constructed raised grain storage. I can store 12 quintal of grain (1 quintal equals to 100 kg) in it, safe from flood.”

    This time Magar and the other farmers of Tikapur will have grain to eat and seeds to plant when the floods recede.

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  • Solar powered irrigation is helping communities fight water scarcity


    June 8th, 2018

    By Menila Kharel and Sujan Piya

    The impact of climate change on water resources is alarming. Increasing temperature is causing higher evaporation which causes extreme drying of lands leading to droughts across the world. Melting snow in the Himalayan Region has been affecting fresh water resources in the plains. Erratic rainfall with high run-off affects ground water reservoirs. All these factors off-set the supply system of water, affecting agriculture based livelihoods in most of the hilly areas of Nepal. Jumla District, one of the remotest hill pockets in Karnali, is no different.

    Jumla holds huge agriculture potential. In fact, it is popular as first organic district, a super zone for apples and for the indigenous Marshi rice. Here, agriculture mostly relies on rain. But erratic rainfall and extreme winds have affected production in recent years.  Alternatively, the beautiful Tila River and natural water reservoirs are other sources of water. But communities have no means to use water from these sources. With the acute water shortage, the huge agriculture potentialities of Jumla has not been fully utilised.

    In this context, Solar water pumps are demonstrated in four areas (Dhaulapani-2, Kudari-1 and Raaka-1) of Jumla District along the bank of the Tila River under the Practical Action’s BICAS project, funded by the European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA). These pumps are irrigating 8 ha of land and directly benefitting 130 households. Farming communities have now started inter-cropping in apple orchards and vegetable farming. For the last few months, Solar Powered Irrigation (SPI) has brought smiles to the faces of Jumla’s farming communities. When it was first introduced in their district, they did not believe it could lift water and help them to irrigate their lands.

    “It seems like a miracle to us. We never had any idea about solar powered irrigation. With the regular availability of water, we are excited to expand apple orchards,”

    Min Bahadhur Thapa, chairperson of solar pump user committee

    Reducing drudgery  

    Agriculture is mostly undertaken by old people in Jumla. Youths have left the district either for education or for employment in India and the Gulf countries. The one and only way to irrigate lands was to manually carry water from Tila River – an arduous job. Solar pumps now have helped both men and women farming communities avoid carrying loads of water for irrigation. They have saved significant labour and their time can be used for other income generation options.

    Business model for sustainability “Pay for Water”

    There is no electricity in the areas where solar pumps are demonstrated. Thus, these have been good option for the farming communities of Jumla. Solar water pumps are easy to operate and maintain. The pumps are socially and economically sound as they are cheaper than diesel pumps in the long run and demand no virtual labour.

    Solar pumps lifting water high up to 102 m in  two stages in the hill in Jumla/Photo: Luitel A

    The pumps are demonstrated under the grant scheme. SunFarmer, a renowned private sector company for solar pumps supported the installation of the pumps and training for local people. The locally developed skilled human resource will take care of maintenance if needed. The SPI system also leveraged funds from Prime Minister’s Agriculture Modernisation Project (PMAMP) and mobilised the community to contribute labour. SPI is managed by a user committee consisting both male and female members. The chairperson of the committee is responsible for operating pump and distributing water for communities. Communities are adopting “pay for water” scheme. Under this scheme, each household pays a fee for using water on a monthly basis. The amount collected is deposited in bank and will be used for care and maintenance of the pump. This “pay for water” scheme will allow the community years of sustainable use of the solar pumps.

    Scaling up solar powered irrigation

    Simple to use, labour saving and cost effective solar pumps have high potential for scaling up in Jumla and other  regions of Nepal where there is no electricity. Currently, the pumps are demonstrated under a grant scheme. Grant models are effective for demonstration or managing risk for farmers who have never used the technology before. The replication of such technology requires communities’ acceptance of the technology and willingness to pay, local government’s priority to promote technology and, more importantly, the private sector seeking a business incentive to expand their supply network. Financing such technology in rural hilly areas is a key issue for widespread use of such technology. Due to high transaction cost and higher risks, financial institutes rarely prioritise these areas for lending.

    Scaling up solar pumps will turn these barren lands to lush green fields/ Photo: Luitel A

    The payback period is often high when farmers invest but this can be minimized by adopting different business models like py-as–you-go, enterprise model of solar irrigation and water marketing, contractor model etc. The government of Nepal also provides huge subsidies for solar pumps. As per the Nepal’s renewable energy policy, farmers get 60 per cent grant, paying 40 per cent upfront. For women, the grant is greater – 70 per cent instead of 60 per cent, provided the ownership of land on which pumps are installed remains with women. After the pumps are installed, “pay for water” scheme ensures the sustainability of the solar pumps.

    The solar powered irrigation is a climate smart technology, helping drought-hit farmers to irrigate their lands and increase agriculture production in rural areas of Nepal.

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  • From porter to proud agri-entrepreneur


    June 8th, 2018

    The inspiring story of Nara Bahadur Rawat

    Far from the madding crowd, a man who has toiled his whole life lives a quiet life. An immigrant worker to India and now back to his dwelling at Jumla, Nara Bahadur Rawat (47), is happy with his life. And why wouldn’t he be? Life in Jumla is full of vicissitudes and Rawat’s journey has been an uphill task. It’s not all easy for him.

    Nara Bahadur Rawat smiles for the camera

    I didn’t like the way I was treated by my employers in India. I was addressed ‘Bahadur’ (whether I liked it or not) and I had to carry heavy items on my back to multi-story buildings.” We were speechless when he showed us his permanent strap marks on his forehead that he got from carrying heavy items for years. His pain of emotions was heavy than the burden he carried on his back.

    Rawat lives in Jumla, one of the remotest part of Nepal in Karnali Region. After he returned home two years ago, life took a U-turn for him. Today, he earns more than 1 lakh rupees (Approx.695 GBP) every year from his one ropani (500 square metres) of land. Rawat who is a lead farmer was introduced to new variety of seeds, technology and improved practices in vegetable farming including market access by BICAS ( Building Inclusive and sustainable growth capacity of CSOs in the Agriculture and Forest Sectors) project implemented by Practical Action funded by the European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA) that works on building the capacity of local organisations to promote inclusive and sustainable growth; and increase the income of the households from agriculture and forest-based enterprises.

    Nara Bahadur Rawat showing his farm.

    Rawat with his wife live with seven children and studying from Grade II to Bachelor’s level. It’s a huge responsibility. Yet Rawat is joyous and grateful because he now can afford education with good food for his family. “I could barely afford salt and oil for my family,” remembers Rawat. His eyes lightened up with proud saying he is now able to manage nutritious food and vegetables to his family. Now he has plans to lease more lands to expand the commercial vegetable farming. He is now a proud agri-entrepreneur.

    The demographic dynamic baffled us. Most youths of Karnali have migrated for earnings. Elderly people and women were busy working on farms and we could hardly find any young men. We hope Rawat and his work can influence youth to work in own land and lessen the burden on elderly and women of Karnali. Rawat’s story has changed the perspective we look at development; every individuals’ enthusiasm contributes to country’s development. The strap marks on Rawat’s forehead may be reminiscent of his past but the smile and confidence he wears now indicate the bright future ahead.

     

     

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  • Collaborative mapping creating local flood resilience with global impact


    June 1st, 2018

    Worldwide, floods are becoming more intense and unpredictable every year. Communities in developing countries face many barriers to protecting themselves, their homes and their livelihoods from these floods. But a new digital mapping approach, developed by the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, is helping people to understand this risk, prepare for floods and protect themselves.

    The data gap that undermines resilience

    It’s vital for communities to be able to plan for flood events: by identifying safe places to go and by protecting their buildings, livestock, crops and other infrastructure. But in developing countries this planning is made difficult by a lack of accurate information. Without detailed local maps communities don’t know where the risks or safe places are, or where to find resources to support them, like safe shelters, clinics, or safe sources of drinking water. When community maps do exist they are often hand-drawn, inaccurate and useful only to a small number of people.

    A typical community risk map

    The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance (ZFRA) has developed an approach to address this issue: we have been working to combine collaborative digital mapping techniques with community-based mapping methods.

    Bringing local knowledge to a global scale

    To bridge the data gap in local information we used OpenStreetMap, an emerging open-source platform which is based on contributions from people all around the world: from engineers and humanitarians to mapping enthusiasts. These contributors use aerial photos, GPS and low-tech field maps to give accurate and up-to-date information about their location.

    We were able to take the information provided by this new technology and combine it with the local knowledge of volunteer mappers, who compared the digital information with what they could see on the ground.

    Using this combination of local and global knowledge, we were able to produce highly detailed information which is more accurate, easier to update and easier share. With this information,  more people can be better informed about the risk they face, and so make decisions to keep themselves safe.

    Use case: collaborative digital mapping in Nepal

    In the Karnali river basin in Nepal – , where flooding last year alone killed 135 people, destroyed 80,000 homes and resulted in an estimated £61 million worth of crops lost –   we mapped over 50,000 buildings and 100 km of road thanks to the efforts of a dozen local social workers. They identified agricultural land, community forests, safe shelters and irrigation canals: information which had previously not been captured. This allowed communities to visualise their risks, resources and resilience in a way that was impossible before.

    Comparison of hazard map of Chakkhapur community before and after digital mapping approach

    What this means for flood resilience

    This approach is an exciting step forward which means that communities will have access to information which is specific to their location and helps them to make decisions based on the risks they face and the resources they have. When we know not just where floods are likely to occur, but where, for example health posts, schools and water pumps are, we can think about what risks the flood itself poses to a community: Will safe drinking water be contaminated? Will people have access to health care? Will children be able to get to school or will the roads be washed away?

    This means that communities can plan effectively and take the most effective action to protect themselves from the impacts of flooding, whether it’s raising water pumps so that they are above the anticipated flood water level, relocating supplies or reinforcing roads.

    So far, we have applied this approach in Nepal, Peru and Mexico. There is huge potential for this mapping approach to build resilience in hazard-prone communities around the world.

    Read more:

    Full paper – Integrated Participatory and Collaborative Risk Mapping for Enhancing Disaster Resilience

    Policy Brief – Participatory digital mapping: building community resilience in Nepal, Peru and Mexico

    Related Post – Flood Dynamics in the Karnali River Basin

    Related Post – Floods and Landslides in Nepal, August 2017

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  • To the “WONDER WOMEN” of Kalikot


    May 29th, 2018

     

    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!!

     

     

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  • Menstrual hygiene management – a basic need


    May 27th, 2018

    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

     

     

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