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


    September 27th, 2016

    Written by Aurosmita Acharya, Journalist, DNA, India

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

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

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

    ‘Most families are shy discussing menstruation matters’mens auro1

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

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

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

    ‘Sakhi Clubs have been formed to enable change’

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Faecal Sludge Management in Odisha; The new sanitation challenge

    Healthy communities are the outcome of effective sanitation practices. Life and livelihood of people largely depends on their health and hence, sanitation holds a major role in it. Thinking beyond toilet, it’s time to ponder about treatment of the human waste and reuse it for the betterment of environment and a healthy life.

    As per the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP 2011) India contributes to 58 per cent of the world’s population defecating in the open. And according to last census in 2011, an overwhelming 1.7 lakh households (48.33%) or 8.5 lakh people in the slums of Odisha defecate in the open.

    It is noted that, if 1 truck of sludge is exposed unsafely then it is equivalent to 5000 people defecating in open. In this context, if we go by the mission of toilet for all, there will be a huge amount of scarcity of water and also the faecal sludge will be the next problem we will have to face.

    Looking at the smart approach of our urban planners and urban development practitioners, now it is highly essential for all urban settlements to come up with solution to deal with faecal sludge. Having proper disposal and a well-planned faecal sludge management is highly needed and should be given much importance in the current context. What if we achieve the objectives of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and we achieve hundred percent toilets in the state and country. And we do not have a sludge management policy which will lead the disposal of solid sludge into our river bodies and also open field. What are we aiming at!!! From open defecation to mass defecation, where are we heading?? Are building toilets will solve the problems or will create a new sanitation challenge??

    Let’s look beyond, while addressing a problem also let’s also address the broader sanitation challenges ahead. According to report by Odisha Water Supply and sewerage board, out of the 60 Lakh people staying in 23 Urban local bodies, 31 percent approx. are defecating in open and among people using toilets, only 49 percent households have septic tanks.

    This is again sad, that only 2 per cent liquid waste are treated in the state and 98 per cent either percolates to ground water or adjoining water bodies through surface drains without treatment. Waters from Rivers such as Brahmani, Daya, Kathajori can hardly be used for further drinking water purpose. Discharge from insanitary latrines, sewage flowing in drains, effluent from septic tanks, septage, and rampant open defecation are polluting the environment and having adverse health impacts to all of us residing in the state. At present no ULB other than Puri has any sewerage system inside the urban limits. This is shocking and we need to act upon it immediately.

    Here, comes the solution. The Faecal Sludge Management and treatment is the need of the hour. The untreated human waste what we call faecal sludge needs to be treated. Be it household level or institutional level, it needs to be treated and an appropriate system needs to be in place if we want healthy life and healthy community.

    There are few things which can major take away for an effective FSM policy and management. Decentralized FSM can be a good demonstration on these public utilities and Possibility to introduce decentralized FSM in newly developing areas, public institutions like schools, universities, hospitals, apartment etc is something which needs to be addressed by planning bodies. A conducive environment for private sector and the promotion of PPP model in FSM Private Sectors will create more scope for funding opportunity for infrastructural development. Onsite sanitation solutions seemed necessary to disseminate with sanitation stakeholders for their possible promotion.

    If we look at the government initiatives, now Septage management in nine cities / towns of the State (Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Berhampur, Baripada, Balasore, Bhadrak and Puri has been included under ‘AMRUT’ launched by GoI. The draft DPRs for septage treatment facility in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur and Baripada has been prepared by OWSSB. Pre-requisite measures like land identification and acquisition are in progress. In order to regulate construction, cleaning, maintenance, treatment and disposal of septage in urban areas, government has formulated the Odisha Urban Septage Management Guideline 2016. Government has taken steps for procurement of 86 nos of 3KL Cesspool Emptier for 57 ULBs. All these information has been shared by OWSSB in public domain but still there is a long way to go.  There has been experiments faecal sludge treatment in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Philipines, Argentina, Ghana and Brazil etc. Even in India there have been few experiments in Bangalore. But no urban local body has come up with a proper plan of action for the same. However, in Odisha the state government has partnered with few philanthropic organisations and there has been two pilot projects of faecal sludge management are happening in Dhenkanal and Angul Municipality. If these proved efficient use of faecal sludge then Odisha can be the pioneer in setting up a system for disposal of human excreta.

    Further to add on, the amount of water being wasted in toilet, if the faecal sludge treatment is not combined with waste water management then, in coming days, there will be a huge scarcity of water. This may also lead to dearth of drinking water, which may break the nerves of any government creating challenge for the urban governance.  When a comprehensive sanitation plan is being developed, faecal sludge management must be integral part of every sanitation plan, which builds on on-site sanitation facilities. Sludge management is an indispensable part of the maintenance of these facilities. However, in reality sludge management is often neglected in sanitation planning because the need for it is less apparent than it is for the provision of water supply or toilet facilities. Even when a sanitation plan foresees a component for sludge management, its implementation is often impaired for the same reasons. Sanitation planners and decision-makers must recognize the importance of sludge management.

    As we have seen the adverse impacts of human excreta causing harm to human health and hygiene now, its time we must be proactive. With the campaigns of building toilets we must be tighten our belt for proper disposal mechanism. On the eve of toilet day, the urban sanitation planners must look at the mechanism of proper faecal sludge management.

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


    July 13th, 2016

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

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

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

    1. Small is Beautiful : A theory worth working for

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

    1. Witnessing Technology Justice

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

    1. Experiencing innovations

    JULY (2)

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

    1. A liberal organisation

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

    1. No hierarchy

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

    1. Too much to learn

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

    1. Travelling is an integral part of my work

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

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

    MARCH

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

    1. It allows and approves my creativity

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

    1. I love my team

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

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  • K Madhabi : An Entrepreneur in the making


    June 28th, 2016

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

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

    IMG_2035 (Cópia)

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

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

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

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

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

    IMG_2073 (Cópia)

    K Madhabi, among other awardees

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

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

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

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  • Life light and livelihood: Konds of Badamanjari made it possible


    June 17th, 2016

    To talk about the future is useful only if it leads to action now ~ EF Schumacher

    Despite all efforts to provide basic amenities of life to tribals in the state, there are still a large number of places deprived of daily needs such as electricity and adequate transport. Similar is the case for many Konds residing in hilly terrains of eastern ghat of hills. Such is a village Badamanjari, in the valleys, surrounded by sky touching mountains. Though it’s just 20km away from the Semiliguda in the koraput district, but it will take more than hours to reach the village because of the uneven and hilly roads.

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    The approach road to Badamanjari

    18 years old Sunil Taring of Badamanjari is able to speak in English and now is a successful entrepreneur and continues education in Semiliguda College. Despite the odds he is able to mark this achievement as his village is now electrified; not with the state grid but by building a self-sustained micro hydro power generating unit. Badamanjari has set example in the district by generating 30KW electricity to provide light to all the villagers and in addition they are able to watch TV and few households have fans as well.

    Sunil is running a rice and flour mill and earning handsome amount of money, as more thhan 15 villages are dependent on the rice mill. Same is with Suresh Tadingi who has also set up a unit for turmeric processing.  IMG_2353Other agricultural products are also processed here. Both of these youth have set up example in the village. Both these units however is sharing 30 per cent of its profit every month to the Micro Hydro development fund which is being created for the regular maintenance of the unit. Life in this village is now more ease after the installation of the micro hydro units.

    A total of 110 household in the village are now electrified and leading a better life. In addition to self-sustain the micro hydro units, every individual household is contributing a token amount every month which is being used for the operation and maintenance of the unit. This village is using the natural water source to generate electricity. The water from the natural springs are the new source of generating electricity.IMG_2362

    It is worth mentioning here that in 2006first time this micro hydro unit was set up by the WIDA (Integrated Rural Development of Weaker-Sections in India). However the same became defunct and stopped producing electricity in 2011. But now it has been scaled up and made more sustainable by Practical Action, a UK based NGO with local support from Koraput Farmers Association. Practical Action also linked and supported the livelihood option alongside the electricity generation which is a new and innovating angle.

    Though efforts are being made to provide electricity to everyone in the country but these hilly terrains may need some more years to be lighted from the grid sources. However, micro hydro-electricity is the new solution to such needs to provide better life and solve the livelihood issue of people like Badamanjari. Decentralised distribution of electricity is something which the government should take it up in large scale.

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  • How should we approach faecal sludge management?


    June 8th, 2016

    Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) being the need of the hour, planners and policy makers must invest time and energy in research. As this is completely new to India and yet to develop a market and demand, I got an opportunity to visit Indah Water Konsortium, Malaysia to see their faecal sludge and sewage treatment sites.

    INDAH WATER KONSORTIUM SDN BHD (IWK) is the national sewerage company wholly-owned by Minister of Finance Incorporated and operates as a private company under the Company’s Act. It is responsible for providing sewerage services, operating and maintaining over 5,750 public sewage treatment plants and 13,000km networks of sewerage pipelines since April 1994 when it was awarded a concession to provide nationwide sewerage services. It is also entrusted with desludging over 1 million septic tanks and managing the sludge that is generated.

    Oxidation Pond

    Oxidation Pond

    They have a mixture of modern as well as early age technologies and are planning to replace all the old technologies with modern mechanical systems over the next few years. Along with some of their senior staff I visited Mechanical Dewatering Unit, Sludge Drying Bed, Trenching site, Geo tubes, Imhoff Tank, Aerated Lagoon, CSTP and SBR. Being a non-technical person, I won’t go into the details but rather, highlight the learning and outcomes that every planner in India trying out FSM should keep in mind.

    Highly mechanized equipment is the standard feature of most of the treatment sites at present.  There are several logical reasons for going for mechanical treatment plants, however one important reason is such plants do not require much land. Usually the land costs are very high in Malaysia. But one needs to accept that mechanical plants really need technically competent people to manage, operate and maintain them.

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    Imhoff Tank

    The energy in form of electricity they use is huge. I learned that 40% of the treatment unit’s expenditure is on electricity. This adversely affects the business model of FSM. I also visited Imhoff Tanks which are a zero energy based treatment technology. However as the mechanical units have many advantages over older technologies they have to go for these. In this context, solar or green energy could be used to increase sustainability and make it an economic business model.

    Initially IWK had not taken into consideration the use of end products like the dried sludge and the treated water. Now they are facing problems disposing of the dried sludge though they are able to release the treated water to the river and have started reusing the treated water in few of their offices. I was told that given a chance to begin again they would start with proper planning for the reuse of the end product. In such a scenario it’s very important to plan out the disposal of all the output. Reuse for something meaningful is something the planners must look at. In our projects in India, we are looking at using sludge as manure and there are other possibilities as well. But to a great extent the prior planning of reusing treated sludge or waste water is something which will change the fate of the FSM plan.

    The fixed tariff for providing treatment services did not increase at a rational rate over the years. The government could not increase the cost because of the fear that people might not react positively.  So the company faced a severe loss. However, the government decided to take over responsibility and took over the company, originally started as private company. This means the government decided to subsidize the whole business for political reasons, which creates an important question as to whether there was a business plan!

    Three of their units are making profit because the users are able to pay a higher amount for services like emptying and transportation as most of their users are commercial buildings. But is it possible in an Indian context? Centralised systems if not privatised may suffer losses. If privatised, could be properly regulated to serve all classes of people, adding another dimension to FSM in India.

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    CSTP

    Building legislation is something we can think of in a country like India. Here is Malaysia, a builder who constructs more than 30 houses has to provide a treatment plant and hand over it to IWK to maintain and operate. This helps ensure the availability of an adequate number of treatment plants in most of the locations which ultimately help the environment.

    The relationship between the local authorities and the federal government is worth discussing. Previously, sanitation was the job of local authorities but when this treatment plan was built the federal government took over responsibility. Now the local authorities are taking no interest in the work. Sometimes getting land for different process of treatment is becoming difficult. In a country like India, where a 3 tier system exists, planners need to ensure they keep all of them engaged in the work. The system should be developed in such a way, people responsible for the FSM must be accountable anda  social audit is a must for the same reason.

    I was amazed to see the work they are doing. While open defecation is unknown to Malaysia I belong to a country where around half the population are practising open defecation, half the toilets are used as store rooms and whoever uses the toilet is not bothered about their sludge treatment. But this visit really gave me a hope. If we can become OD free as our Prime Minister has proclaimed, then we need a reality check with our sludge management systems and policies. Practical Action and some other organizations have started the process but we have a long way to go and much still to be done.

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  • Nature-Climate-Life-Livelihood


    June 2nd, 2016

    These women from Koraput are trend setters

    The magnificent, green natural landscape with elegant tribal culture and life style of Koraput district also has gender inequality and acute poverty. According to a Practical Action study, most women in these hilly terrains depend on firewood for cooking though they suffer from eye itching, respiratory issues and shortage of firewood leads them to walk far away.

    In an experimental innovation with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, local women from Sailabala have emerged as the manufacturers of low smoke ‘Access cook stoves’ which use up to 50% less firewood than traditional stoves plus save a lot of time.

    Access stove india - CopyJambati Jani of Cherengaguda village of Padmapur GP is very satisfied with the new cook-stove which she got from the Paraba (a local festival). Now her single thatched house is not getting blackened by smoke nor is the cooking time so long. She is able to finish cooking sooner than before after using the ACCESS cook stove. It has also reduced the regular eye itching and respiratory issues along with giving more time for productive work.

    Sailabala SHG from Puruna Dumuriput village has sold almost 30 such stoves and, along with 11 other entrepreneur groups, they are marketing and selling cook stoves. These groups came together to form ACCESS Grameen Mahila Udyog (AGMU), which they have registered as a small scale industry to care of climate change and nature. They have started keeping a log book to assess the impact of the cook stove. Informally they claim that cooking time has been reduced to up to 50% as has the use of firewood. Their efforts have opened a window on rethinking development. To serve the needs of different lifestyles, solutions can be found that keep nature and climate issues in mind and restore the natural balance. Project Access is exhibiting this at this moment in Koraput and these women are the flag bearers.

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  • The future of Puri is hazy: Climate concerns qualms the citizens


    May 2nd, 2016

    Being world famous for its spiritual importance and religious tourism Puri is not an unknown city for all. However, the issues in the city are being ignored continuously. The city witnesses a flow of more than 50 lakh people in a year. This number is huge and so as the issues that are close to the factors that affect the climate of this small historic city in eastern India.

    This is further to the global action towards changing climate pattern and philanthropic efforts, Vasudha Foundation initiated a workshop among the city based thinkers, environmentalists, practitioners in partnership with Practical Action Foundation. The workshop “Sustainable and Climate Resilient Puri-Resources and Actions” witness a good number of diverse audiences working in Puri from different domains.

    Concerns related to water, sanitation, health and hygiene was major as shared by the participants. Issues related to proper drainage system, treatment of waste water, rain water harvesting was the suggestion which most of the experts focused on. A major concern was also raised regarding the ground water depletion of the city and its preparedness for tackling such crysis in future have emerged as a challenge now.

    IMG_3161Similarly making the city with proper green cover was raised by many thinkers during workshop. Valuable suggestions like road side and beach side plantation, enough mangrove plantation were suggested to tackle the scorching heat at this east coastal city. It is noted, the city used to be alternate capital once upon a time during summer because of its weather which is just history now.

    In order to reduce the carbon emission and pollution, few concrete suggestion came which was doable and available government officials also appreciated the same. Promoting cycling, restrictions on diesel and petrol run rickshaws and to introduce electronic auto rickshaws was among few suggestions. To have a check on the unwanted death of sea fishes and tortoise, some thinkers also suggested on battery or solar run fishing boats inside the sea which was highly appreciated by many.

    But while discussing all these, the governance and civic engagement was something which seem hurdle for every possible development and actions. Hence, the workshop concluded with key action points so as to have a proper enforcement of existing laws and have a proper coordination of all line departments.
    This workshop was jointly organised by GermanWatch, Vasudha Foundation and Practical Action with support from Commonwealth Development Knowledge Network with an objective assess the finance needs for Climate Compatible Development (CCD) in second-tier cities like Puri and analyse the extent to which existing sources can meet those needs and what innovative local, national and international sources, including direct access modalities for cities under the Green Climate Fund.

    The workshop was attended by people from the hotel industry, fishermen community, different key government departments and civil society members of Puri City.

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  • ‘Sunalo Sakhi’ : An experiment that needs further support


    April 4th, 2016

    “Sunalo Sakhi” is a small demonstration project started under the banner of Practical Answers at the beginning of 2016. The local partner CCWD happily agreed to partner with us for 3 months to implement the program in 15 slums of Bhubaneswar. This Bhubaneswar based NGO has strong grass root level presence and as this project was for a small period. We decided to use the already existed groups formed by the local NGO for the successful running of the project.

    The project focussed on educating adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene. Many development organizations have comprehensive programmes on and around this issue. But what made us different from others is the multi faceted campaigning through radio shows, podcasting, individual counselling, focused group discussion, and film screenings in slums and in nearby high-schools.

    We are happy to share that in Bhubaneswar we broadcast the first ever radio show exclusively on menstrual hygiene.

    Some of the notable achievements of this three month project are;

    1. Through radio we are reaching out to directly around 2000 young girls and women in 15 slums
    2. Through our community outreach programme we are reaching out to more than 3000 girls and women.
    3. Through film screening we are reaching out to more than 500 school going girls
    4. 15 Kishori Clubs have been revived with 386 members and many change agents have been identified to keep on sharing the knowledge with their peers

    As the radio has a 25 KM radius cover of Bhubaneswar it is reaching even more adolescent girls of the city than those in our project area. During the radio shows our community workers are ensuring their presence in the field where the adolescent girls are able to ask their questions through telephone calls and our resource person is immediately answering the questions.
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    It was really nice to hear the experiences of Usharani, Babita and Auropriya in the sharing workshop. Auropriya said that these shows helped her to prepare herself as she was about to attain puberty. Now she knows how to maintain hygiene during her periods. Usharani and Babita said that this has really helped many young girls as they were not able to ask anyone their concerns and the radio shows have addressed many of the issues of their fellow girls.

    The project has successfully identified many blind beliefs associated with menstruation and developed knowledge products to address those. There are 436 slums in the city and many girls are deprived of such knowledge. I must accept we need further resources to expand the programmes. Hence, we are exploring partnership with some of the like minded organizations. But there are a few key things that I hope the project team will work on:

    1. Sharing our recordings with other community radio stations managed by non-profits and requesting that they broadcast these in their operational areas
    2. Sharing the knowledge products with other organizations
    3. Ensuring Kishori club members keep sharing their knowledge with their peers.

    The sharing meeting opened up new windows to educate more girls in different regions. Using community radio across the state, this kind of programme can now reach out to thousands of other girls in need of resources.  Technology has now forward a step in witnessing a change in the hygiene practice of young girls and we wish to spread this knowledge with more communities.

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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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