information and stories about India.

Study Hall Educational Foundation
Numerous studies have indicated a strong association between poverty and education. Out-of-school rates are the highest in poor countries such as India. Poverty and a lack of education have an inextricable connection, creating a vicious cycle difficult to escape. Illiteracy and lack of schooling keep young people from obtaining better-paying jobs as adults, making it near impossible to ever rise up from poverty. In low-income countries, girls are more likely to withdraw from school — or never attend — than boys. However, the organization, Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF), is transforming the lives of girls in India.

Daughters Cannot Attend School

There are several reasons why many girls in India do not have access to education. In rural areas, even if school is free, parents must pay for books and transportation. Parents typically believe educating girls is a waste of money, and would rather have them contribute to family income.

Often, girls stay home to look after younger siblings. Additionally, many end up in early marriages as soon as they reach puberty against their will. These factors could explain why the literacy rate for males 15 and older in India is above 82%, while for girls and women, it is barely 66%. Yet just one extra year of schooling can increase a woman’s earnings by up to 10%, thereby helping to raise her out of poverty.

Help for Girls in India

A nonprofit organization is working to change these daunting statistics. Study Hall Educational Foundation has a history of transforming the lives of Indian girls. Through a network of model schools and outreach programs, it promotes girls’ rights, enabling their access to schooling. Foundation administrators believe a lack of education directly affects a girl’s future ability to earn good wages and to escape poverty.

Urvashi Sahni, Study Hall’s founder, is an activist who became married as a teenager. She had two daughters by her early 20s, and later lost her sister tragically — burned to death over a dowry dispute. It was that anger and frustration that inspired Sahni to found Study Hall. Her work to promote gender equality and education has impacted more than 5 million children, according to the Foundation.

A prime example of Study Hall’s pioneering work is the Prerna Girls School in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Founded in 2003, its enrollment has grown to more than 1,000, providing accessible and affordable education to girls from marginalized, low-income communities — most of whom would not have the opportunity to study otherwise. Many of the girls come from local slums, working as domestic help for neighbors. Although many also come from abusive homes, that fact has not abated their excitement to study and eventually join the professional workforce.

From Slums to Orchards

Another Study Hall program is GyanSetu — or Bridge of Learning — a network of support centers operating from small huts in slums and rural mango orchards. Children attend an accelerated learning program before enrolling in formal schools while continuing to receive supplementary education and support.

Increasing schooling among those 15 or older by just two years would allow nearly 60 million to rise out of poverty, according to UNESCO. That has a better chance of happening thanks to programs like those administered by Study Hall Educational Foundation, helping Indian girls have a better life.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Hippopx

House of Trade
House of Trade is a new platform based on an ancient method: bartering. Inspired by the sneakerhead community, the House of Trade offers a fresh take on fashion sustainability while reducing the exploitation of underpaid workforces in developing countries and providing a safe and efficient method for sneakerheads to trade their sneakers.

House of Trade: A Trading App for Sneakers

One of only five startups chosen for the 2021 Covintus National Technology Accelerator program, House of Trade is a trading app for sneakers: an app that allows sneakerheads to use their new or lightly-used sneakers as “closet currency” to trade items with other users. House of Trade facilitates each trade using a mail-in system, ensuring authenticity and trustworthy bartering commerce.

Founded in April 2020 by Chris Holloway and Keren Nimmo, the team behind the scenes at House of Trade represents diversity and supports the colorful world of sneakerhead culture on a weekly YouTube podcast called Kicks of the Trade. The trading platform does not end with sneakers — the team plans to expand the platform to include the trade of a variety of other items, from luxury handbags and watches to streetwear and sports cards.

A Trading App’s Role in Fashion Sustainability

House of Trade reduces fashion consumption by offering its users a solution: the user’s unwanted items can stand as “closet currency” for the items they do want, lessening (or even eliminating) the need to buy factory-new fashion.

The fashion industry has a significant impact on the environment. The industry produces 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, equating to more than all the emissions of “international flights and maritime shipping combined.” In addition, the fashion sector stands as “the second-largest consumer of water worldwide” in a world where 785 million people go without access to clean drinking water. On top of this, the fashion sector contributes to “20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide.”

Pollution is especially detrimental to developing countries where the U.S. fashion industry outsources 97% of manufacturing and where toxic wastewater from factories often ends up in rivers and oceans. For example, in India, a country where the sacred but polluted Ganges River supports one of the most densely populated regions in the world, 88 million people lack access to safe water. One of the contaminants that make the Ganges unsafe is chromium, a compound for dyeing fabrics and tanning leather.

How Outsourcing Fashion Manufacturing Exacerbates Poverty

The outsourcing of manufacturing exacerbates conditions of poverty in countries where exploitative working conditions go unregulated. As an example, Nike as one of the largest makers of footwear globally sold a record 25 shoes every second in 2018. In general, Nike’s sales average 780 million pairs of shoes annually. However, the manufacturing of Nike’s massive product line is outsourced to more than 41 different countries.

By outsourcing to developing countries, Nike and other major sportswear brands can maximize production at minimum costs. But, low overheads for big companies come at a high price for the people who work in the factories. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), a worker rights coalition that comprises more than 235 organizations in more than 45 nations, the average salaries of factory workers in Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia (countries where Nike contracts much of its manufacturing) are 45%-65% lower than the average “living wage.” To put this into perspective, in March 2020, the Global Living Wage Coalition reported just 7,446,294 VND ($321) as the monthly living wage for a person in urban Vietnam.

House of Trade Offers a Solution to Fast Fashion

Several advocates and unions have called out leading fashion and sportswear companies for prioritizing profits over the well-being of workers, the planet and humanity at large. With these issues coming to the forefront, many consumers across the world aim to make conscientious shopping choices to alleviate these impacts.

At the forefront of fashion industry reform, the House of Trade offers an alternative to factory-new consumerism while ensuring that sneakerheads and fashion enthusiasts have access to the styles, brands and quality they desire. In a “global sneaker resale market” that projections have determined could expand from $6 billion in 2019 to $30 billion by 2030, platforms such as House of Trade are in the ideal position to maximize profits while providing a solution to alleviating the impacts of fast fashion.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Poverty in India
In August 2021, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India will spend $1.35 trillion to improve the country’s infrastructure. The infrastructure plan called “Gati Shakti” will create jobs that can potentially reduce poverty in India by increasing household income across the nation and improving the economy at large. The plan also intends to expand the “use of cleaner fuels to achieve the country’s climate goals.”

The Gati Shakti Plan

The specifics of India’s Gati Shakti plan were not immediately announced, but amid the country’s economic decline and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Modi claims the plan will increase India’s economic output, which decreased by more than 7% in 2020. Specifically, “the plan will help local manufacturers compete globally and create new avenues of future economic growth.” In addition, Gati Shakti will help India “become energy independent by 2047,” by transitioning to “a gas-based economy” and developing India into “a hub for hydrogen production.”

How Better Infrastructure Can Reduce Poverty in India

Studies show a clear link between improved infrastructure and poverty reduction. Better infrastructure may help reduce poverty in India in a variety of ways. Improved infrastructure has the ability to increase economic activity in the country by minimizing “production and transaction costs” and increasing “agricultural and industrial productivity.”

Infrastructure leads to job creation due to the demand for labor in both the development process and the ongoing management and maintenance of the infrastructure. Therefore, impoverished and disadvantaged people can participate in an economy that they once had no place in.

Even though income-related aspects of poverty are at the forefront of the issues better infrastructure addresses, better infrastructure also has non-income advantages, including “health, nutrition, education and social cohesion.” These aspects improve the quality of life for people across the nation. Overall, better infrastructure has the potential to contribute to reaching the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

How Infrastructure Improvements Contribute to SDGs

  1. SDG 2: Zero Hunger. Malnutrition and food insecurity are significant problems in India, with more than 200 million citizens lacking “sufficient access to food.” Modern infrastructure can help improve people’s access to food by promoting better productivity (particularly among farmers) and by helping to decrease production costs. Decreased production costs can drive prices of food products down, making them more accessible to the impoverished.
  2. SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Adequate health infrastructure means more people will have access to health care services, especially impoverished people in remote locations. Better health infrastructure will increase the number of in-hospital births, which will reduce both the infant mortality rate and the maternal mortality rate. This reduction will come as a result of the presence of skilled birth attendants and access to hospital equipment in case of emergencies. India’s current infant mortality rate stands at a staggering 28.771 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  3. SDG 4: Quality Education. Road infrastructure influences the attendance and enrollment of students in schools. This also affects the quality of teachers attracted to a school. More school facilities mean education is more accessible to children in remote locations. More than 27% of Indian youth find themselves “excluded from education, employment or training.” Education infrastructure is essential because education helps people acquire the skills and knowledge to obtain higher-paying, skilled jobs that can help them rise out of poverty.
  4. SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, according to The Indian Express, almost 200 million more Indian people could face poverty by the close of 2021. Ultimately, this means that more than 50% of the Indian population may live in poverty. Under SDG 8 is target 8.7, eliminating child labor in its entirety by 2025. Families tend to resort to child labor when they need extra income to meet their basic needs. India’s infrastructure plan can potentially help reduce poverty in India by providing adults with more job opportunities and by increasing household income, negating the need for child labor. Similarly, parents marry off their young girls to take the economic burden off the household, hoping that the girls’ husbands will economically provide for the girls. However, with increased household income and more employment opportunities, families can bear the costs of taking care of all their children. Then, marriage will be an option and not an economic necessity.

For all these reasons and more, better infrastructure can reduce poverty in India, improving lives throughout the nation.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Flickr

End Poverty in India
Between 2005 and 2006, there were 640 million people experiencing multidimensional poverty in India. Multidimensional poverty means the people are lacking more than just finances, they are also lacking clean water, electricity, access to healthcare and education. By 2017, that number had dropped to 365 million, a 271 million improvement. Massive strides have occurred in India to improve living conditions. In July 2019, 99.45% of the country had access to basic sanitation, compared to only 40% in previous years, this is all apart of the process to end poverty in India.

About End Poverty

End Poverty in India is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that began in 2009 with the goal of reducing poverty in India. End Poverty currently focuses on helping uneducated girls, struggling women, small farmers, agricultural farmers without land and traditional craftsmen, among others. Currently, its work occurs in the states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Delhi. The organization develops and implements self-sustaining programs to act as a catalyst for social impact. Its four main areas of program intervention are sustainable livelihood creation, girls’ education, rural development and civil society development.

 4 Poverty Reduction Programs that End Poverty Implemented

  1. Sustainable Livelihood Creation: At End Poverty in India, sustainable livelihood creation provides equal opportunities to those who are less privileged. The organization helps individuals create sustainable, independent livelihoods with limited reliance on external resources. The interventions that End Poverty in India implemented include sustainable farming, dairy farming development, women’s economic empowerment and a skills training and vocational education program. Recent accomplishments include planting 5,759 saplings in India as part of the sustainable farming intervention between 2019 and 2020, bringing the total of planted saplings to 41,579 since the program began.
  2. Girls’ Education: Education is a constitutional right in India, but female literacy often lags behind that of men. For example, in Tijara, Rajasthan the literacy rate among females is only 38.88% in comparison to 75.01% among males. One of the most notable programs that End Poverty started is the Kishori Shiksha Program (KSP), which is a one-year, intensive “catch-up” education program for adolescent girls who are no longer in school. As part of the KSP Program, End Poverty in India helped 304 new students enroll in school and 126 girls were able to complete their literacy classes. KSP trains local women in course delivery, teaching methods and record keeping. The organization then supplies both teachers and students with learning materials.
  3. Rural Development: The 2011 census illustrated that 68.84% of India’s population lived in rural villages. Over the last few decades, various groups have worked to alleviate existing issues in rural communities, including End Poverty in India. Under its rural development program in Tijara, the organization created the Village Development Group (VDG). It will act as coordinators accessing government plans, supporting rural development and making requests based on the needs of their village and tracking the requests through the various levels of government until they reach completion. End Poverty participates in VDG’s meetings and provides help in the preparation and processing of documents and decisions. Accomplishments include opening 147 new bank accounts, installing 45 hand pumps and providing 160 families throughout 19 villages with solar-powered LED light panels.
  4. Civil Society Development Program: In Indian culture, the idea of civil society organization is deeply important and has been a major reason for the increase in NGOs. Civil society organizations have contributed to the well-being of many communities in India. However, End Poverty has found that many of them still struggle with basic issues such as a lack of funding, structured planning and recognition. These issues were the catalyst for End Poverty to create its N/Core program, which helps early-stage nonprofits that focus on poverty reduction. Mentors of the N/Core program work with the heads of the new nonprofits to speed up their progress and help them create adaptable models for economic development.

End Poverty in India’s work is important and has helped significantly to reduce poverty, but it has more work to do. The organization hopes that its four programs will make a significant difference and provide individuals with the opportunity to live better lives.

– Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Newborn Health in India 
Maternal and newborn health in India is a pressing issue. Women die every day before and during childbirth, yet 90% of these maternal deaths are entirely preventable with adequate healthcare. Poverty exacerbates maternal mortality, with about 94% of maternal deaths occurring in lower-income nations. In lower-income nations, the common obstacles in receiving proper healthcare include the inability to afford healthcare services and a “lack of information.” Distance also plays a factor, particularly in rural areas where clinics and hospitals are scant and many women cannot easily travel to these facilities. ARMMAN is an India-based organization that aims to improve maternal and newborn health in India.

Maternal Healthcare in India

Even if a woman makes it to the hospital for childbirth, the services she receives may be subpar, putting her health at risk. Without proper hygiene protocols in place and well-trained medical staff to assist them at health centers, women can die from infections, severe bleeding, “high blood pressure during pregnancy” and delivery complications. These factors account for almost two-thirds of maternal deaths and all of them are avoidable.

Maternal health poses an urgent problem in India. The latest available data indicates that India’s maternal mortality rate (MMR) stands at 113 deaths per 100,000 births in comparison to the world average MMR of 11 deaths per 100,000 births in higher-income countries. In fact, pregnancy complications are the leading “cause of death among girls between 15 and 19 years of age” in India. These statistics also reflect the broader issues with Indian healthcare — it is inaccessible, unaffordable and low quality. Although it will be difficult to reform the entire healthcare system in India, organizations have a commitment to improving maternal and newborn health in India.

ARMMAN

ARMMAN is one such organization working to improve maternal and newborn health in India. This Indian nonprofit dedicates efforts to improving the quality of life for mothers and their newborns. Dr. Aparna Hegde founded ARMMAN in 2008 after witnessing the death of a pregnant woman due to circumstances that were entirely preventable with appropriate guidance. ARMMAN leverages technology to help both women and healthcare workers. So far, the organization has helped more than 26 million women and has trained more than 212,000 health workers across 19 Indian states.

Apps and mobile technology play a central role in ARMMAN’s programs, providing education and monitoring the well-being of pregnant women. The organization’s Mobile Academy is a maternal and child healthcare course that aims to keep health workers up-to-date with “knowledge of life-saving preventative health behaviors and improve the quality of their engagement with new and expecting mothers and their families.” The audio-based training can be accessed via voice call and is available in five of the most common local languages. Another project, mMitra, allows pregnant women and mothers of infants to access “a free mobile voice call service,” which provides “timed and targeted preventive care information weekly/bi-weekly directly to the phones of the enrolled women.” mMitra has reached 2.5 million women so far.

Arogya Sakhi Program

AMMAN’s Arogya Sakhi program is a home-based child and maternal care program. Arogya Sakhi “trains women health entrepreneurs (Arogya Sakhis) from communities in resource-poor rural areas to provide home-based preventive care” and other necessary tests and screenings to “ensure early referral during antenatal and infancy period.” This service is essential because healthcare workers attend only 37.4% of births in rural areas, a gaping difference in comparison to a birth attendance rate of 73.4% in urban areas. Arogya Sakhi helps diminish this gap, giving women the skills to help their communities. Armed with medical kits and an app that guides them through proper procedures, the Arogya Sakhis assist people in their community with care, diagnosis and births. The Arogya Sakhis charge a minimal fee for their services, allowing them to gain financial stability and pull themselves out of poverty.

Maternal health remains a pressing issue in developing countries, but organizations like ARMMAN work to improve access to high-quality healthcare services for women and their children.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

india-its-cinema-and-its-poverty
India is a country that has strived to combat its rampant poverty over the past few decades. It is also one of the most well-known countries on earth, not just because of its population, but also because of its cultural influence. India’s poverty and cultural significance intertwine with its massive and diverse film industry, which comprises several languages and genres and which has an extensive history within the country. There are several smaller “sub-industries” within India, the most profitable and recognizable among them being Bollywood, which caters to a Hindi-speaking audience. There is also Parallel cinema, which is more of a movement than an industry. This article is going to examine various aspects of Bollywood and Parallel cinema relating to poverty. Here is some information about the relationship between India’s cinema and poverty.

Bollywood’s Impact

Bollywood represents mainstream Indian cinema, and as a result, has more influence regarding Indian poverty and its representation. Bollywood represents 15% of India’s film industry and produces 40% of the entire industry’s income, meaning that it is a significant driver of economic growth. Since it is almost as large as Hollywood, Bollywood provides plenty of opportunity for people from low-income backgrounds to find within the industry a job that can lift them out of poverty. Some prominent examples would be actors such as Johny Lever, who had to drop out of school in seventh grade and had to work odd jobs until he found resounding success in Bollywood comedy films.

Exploitative or Ground-Breaking?

Parallel cinema represents India’s independent, arthouse cinema and strives for more realistic portrayals of poverty. While its content generally attracts a limited audience, Parallel cinema can still have a tangible effect on poverty in India. A prime example of this would be the film “Salaam Bombay!” (1988), the debut of filmmaker Mira Nair. This film takes place in the slums of India and focuses on the daily lives of the children living there. The film features real children living in these slums instead of child actors, adding to the film’s social realism and commentary. The film became an internationally recognized work of Indian cinema and went on to win several awards in film festivals worldwide.

A much older Parallel film is “Awara” (1951), which Raj Kapoor directed. This film tells the story of a man who turns to crime so that he can financially support his mother, but then he attempts to lead a better life when he falls in love. Parallel films like “Awara” and “Salaam Bombay!” might not be able to influence India’s economy on the same level as Bollywood, but they do an important job by not only bringing global attention to poverty in India but also by representing it through realism as well.

Despite the awareness India’s film industry has raised for the country’s poor, there have been concerns about the exploitative and reductionist nature of such films. This criticism focuses mainly on Bollywood, but some Parallel filmmakers have garnered attention for this as well. Bollywood’s films have represented poverty, but have often received accusations of romanticizing it because of the use of dance numbers in numerous films. There are also films, such as “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), which make poverty peripheral to the plot.

Parallel Cinema’s Depiction of Poverty in India

Whereas Bollywood has received accusations of exploitation, people have called out Parallel filmmakers for cultivating an image of a poverty-stricken India. Nargis Dutt, a contemporary of the late Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, criticized his Apu Trilogy films for his depictions of poverty. She argued that they were only popular because Westerners “want to see India in an abject condition.”

To summarize, the relationship between India’s cinema and poverty has a long history and many tangible consequences. In addition to raising awareness and bolstering the economy, Indian cinema is also capable of misrepresenting poverty in India by either trivializing it or exaggerating it.

– Wesley Mba
Photo: Flickr

Baked Goods Against Poverty 
There are more than 15 million senior citizens over the age of 65 who are at or below the poverty line. They often struggle to pay their health and mortgage bills, and they frequently have a lack of access to transportation or have experienced job loss. Not to mention, older women are more prone to experience poverty than men because of wage discrimination and their roles as caregivers. Luckily, in some parts of the world such as Austria and India, organizations are using baked goods to fight poverty. Here is some information about some of these organizations and what they do.

Eat My Cake

Saloua Sahl, a French graphic designer, started Eat My Cake in Pondicherry, India to provide local women employment and space to build confidence. Sahl moved to Pondicherry to volunteer at a special needs school when she first decided she wanted to give back. The local women in this town experience poverty and toxic male masculinity. When Sahl came up with her idea for the bakery, she knew that the local women grew up in the kitchen, so pastries were not an issue for them to learn how to make. Sahl recounted a situation of abuse when a worker did not show one day because her husband bashed a coconut on her head. Stories such as these are what inspire Eat My Cake to keep going because it gives women the opportunity to garner incomes.

Sahl said, “We don’t have the solution. … The fact that you can have an income, send your children to school … this is the start of the solution.” With the use of personal funds and donations, Eat My Cake opened in December 2016.

Vollpension BakAdemy

Vollpension BakAdemy is using baked goods to fight poverty, specifically elderly poverty in Austria. It does this by employing seniors to host baking courses so they can provide for themselves and rise out of poverty. Since October 2020, Vollpension BakAdemy has provided more than 100 online courses headed by elderly teachers to more than 500 students. Starting on October 15, 2021, the program began offering international courses. For these courses, seniors receive a care package including schedules and hardware before they begin.

The Reason These Organizations Are Important

In Austria alone, poverty affects approximately 226,000 seniors while 542,000 are single seniors. Furthermore, every third person over 65 lives alone.

According to Vollpension, “The [U.N.] increasingly observes poverty and interdependencies in particular in older women in richer countries, as well, due to outdated pension systems, missing credit periods, etc. This is the reason why old-age poverty is becoming an increasingly bigger problem in OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries.”

The idea to use baked goods to fight poverty not only helps people living in under-resourced communities such as Pondicherry, India, find jobs but also restores their self-confidence. Additionally, through using their love for cooking and sharing their secret recipes, many impoverished people in Austria and around the world are lifting themselves out of poverty.

– Dayana Garcia
Photo: Flickr

Yogis around the world fighting poverty in India
Yoga originated thousands of years ago in northern India. As a sacred, spiritual practice, the goal of this subtle science is to bring harmony between the body and the mind. According to Dr. Ishwar Basavaraddi, those who experience this oneness of existence are in yoga. However, unfortunately, in the motherland of yoga, people are living in extreme poverty, which is hindering them from reaping yoga’s divine benefits and connecting to their higher self. As a result, Kayoko Mitsumatsu founded a nonprofit organization called Yoga Gives Back in 2007 to fight poverty in India.

Mitsumatsu said that “We want to give back to the source of yoga. With over 150 ambassadors in 20 countries worldwide, YGB uses yoga to bring opportunity to impoverished women and children in India.”

Targeting Women and Children

India has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, and 60% to 90% of girls face sexual harassment or violence in public spaces. As a result, Yoga Gives Back is targeting women in the hopes of helping women and girls catalyze independence and a better life.

Plus, YGB has deemed women “the best poverty fighters” as they often use their success to uplift their family’s status and fund their children’s education. “To do this, they provide microloans to poor people who are unable to get traditional bank loans due to their lack of collateral,” Mitsumatsu said. The work of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammed Yunus inspired this microloan program called “Sister Aid.” Yoga Gives Back began with 50 microloans, and after 14 short years, it now provides 550 microloans.

Addressing Education Needs

Even though female illiteracy rates have dropped nearly 20% since 2000, Indian women are still less educated than men on average. The sooner that impoverished women and children in India receive help, the better. According to UNICEF, with the largest population in the world (including 253 million adolescents), India stands to gain socially, politically and economically if they succeed. Education is a way to promote this success.

The Scholarship for Higher Education (SHE) from Yoga Gives Back funds 400 students with a five-year scholarship. Without this assistance, impoverished women and children in India would have no other way to continue their education.

Yoga Gives Back Future Goals

 Eventually, YGB hopes to build a centrally-located digital center, bringing the internet, computers and opportunity to an otherwise rural village. Not only would this center increase learning overall, but it would also allow microloan recipients to participate in eCommerce. Plus, computer education has become standard, and this is a way to ensure that Indian children do not fall behind the rest of the world.

Poverty in India 

Poverty in India has long been on people’s radar. With yoga growing in popularity in the West, it is only right to honor and recognize the place where this practice came from. Yoga has a plethora of core values and morals to live by. Notably, it highlights the interconnectivity of all beings and things, how people are not separate and how people are one. Yoga Gives Back embodies this value by recognizing the suffocating poverty that plagues India and doing something about it. It is using the practice of yoga to give back to the source of yoga, which, in turn, is helping fellow humans in need.

– Cameryn Cass
Photo: Unsplash

Inside Rainbow: The Women’s Outfit for Underprivileged Brides
In 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the highest global poverty increase occurred in India. Experts estimate that the number of those in poverty has increased from 60 million to 134 million people in under a year. With the poverty rate in India growing due to the pandemic, weddings are a luxury that some women cannot afford. However, a group of female entrepreneurs is working to provide free bridal wear to women in need, giving underprivileged brides a chance at their dream weddings.

Starting a New Idea

Rainbow: The Women’s Outfit is a boutique that Sabitha Nasar runs. She is a female entrepreneur opening her first boutique in Pappinisseri town in Kerala’s Kannur district. She first began her donation project after noticing some women were struggling to afford clothes for their weddings. As weddings in India can last around three to four days, bridal wear can be quite expensive.

Women typically only wear bridal wear once, so many consider it an extravagant, luxury expense. However, Nasar feels that everyone deserves a chance at the perfect wedding. Thus, she opened her boutique for exclusively donated outfits during the COVID-19 pandemic, a devastating time for the underprivileged in India.

After coming up with the concept of donated bridal wear, Nasar decided to reach out to friends and family on social media, asking for their unused clothes. She created a YouTube video that has since gone viral, garnering over a million views. Since then, designers and the wealthy have donated their wedding clothes and jewelry to Nasar’s shop. Due to the success of her outreach, donations arrived from Mumbai, Delhi, Dubai and even the U.K. Women were eager to help out, contributing clothes, footwear, handbags, jewelry, bedsheets and makeup sets.

The Process and the Impact

After the video’s release, Nasar continued her mission with the help of more than 20 other women. The women use a WhatsApp group called Agora and organize drives to raise money and donations for underprivileged women. Since they began their work, the women have collected hundreds of dresses, helping underprivileged brides and promoting sustainable practices. Nasar ensures that each of the dresses is of the utmost quality.

She dry cleans the dresses and provides the brides with alteration facilities. Nasar does not believe in compromising the quality of the dresses. She wants to make every bride feel like a queen. If a regular customer is interested in one of the donated dresses, Nasar negotiates with the bride to donate the price of the dress to an underprivileged woman.

The effects of a sustainable and female-led business are productive in combating global poverty and befitting the impoverished. Donating and upcycling practices to promote ethical fashion is important as many large clothing companies do not pay employees a living wage and force them to work in unethical conditions. Additionally, supporting women entrepreneurs helps reduce poverty as high levels of female economic participation lead to fewer slowdowns in economic growth.

Looking Forward

Planning a wedding can be stressful for any bride. However, thanks to Rainbow: The Women’s Outfit, more underprivileged brides do not have to worry about the expenses of bridal wear. In addition to helping the brides to be, Nasar’s boutique promotes a progressive culture of female entrepreneurship and ethical fashion. Nasar’s mission helps to make the world a better place, one bride at a time.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Pixabay

TikTok Brings Prosperity for Rural Farmers in China and IndiaSocial media app TikTok has turned some rural farmers in China and India into content-creating celebrities. The platform also provides many people with considerable income, giving some farmers an escape from poverty. However, it is uncertain whether this form of agricultural entrepreneurship will become widespread.

TikTok Brings Prosperity for Rural Farmers

TikTok is an app that allows users to watch, create and share short videos on their phones. Its parent company is ByteDance, based in Bejing. TikTok is quickly becoming one of the most used social media platforms. CNBC reports that by July 2020, TikTok had more than 680 million global users. TikTok’s popularity has spread even to rural areas, notably in China and India. In the past few years, many rural Chinese and Indian farmers have made profits, sometimes in the millions, from ad sponsorships and selling crops through the app.

Improved internet and smartphone access in rural China and India partially account for TikTok’s success among these farmers. According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), 70.4% of China’s population had access to the internet in 2020. In just four years, between 2016 and 2020, internet access in rural areas went up nearly 23%. Of Chinese internet users, almost 100% use their phones to access the internet. While the number of internet users is smaller in India, there have been large increases in internet access. In 2020, India’s rural internet users increased 13% according to the ICUBE 2020 report. Now about 43% of India’s population has internet access and all active internet users use phones.

Visual Appeal and Good Timing

TikTok utilizes primarily audio and visuals, rather than text, allowing those with less education to easily navigate the platform. In China and India, there are education gaps in low-income agricultural areas. Thus, influencers in rural areas with low education have been able to create popular content. COVID-19 travel restrictions also necessitated that farmers find new ways to sell their goods. Many turned to video creation. Quarantine meant that more consumers were not only watching farmers’ TikTok videos but also desiring fresh produce for homecooked meals.

TikTok Stardom and Urbanization

TikTok provided several benefits to low-income rural farmers in China and India. TikTok allows growers to sell directly to consumers. This has been especially popular in China, where e-commerce is widely used. In addition to increased income, the possibility of TikTok stardom offers respect often denied to low-income rural people. The LA Times quotes rural Indian TikTok sensation Gaikwad, who states, “But I got respect, legitimacy and confidence. We are poor people. We have never received any attention in life. All we have gotten is disdain and scorn. TikTok turned it around.”

Agricultural TikTok videos enticed consumers too. The number of rural TikTokers boasting 10k+ followers was six times higher in 2019-2020 than it was in 2018-2019, Bloomberg reports. Videos of open spaces and abundant fields provide a quaint image of country living — a mental escape from bustling cities. This comes at a time in which people in China and India are continually moving into urban areas. Between 2000 and 2020, the percentage of China’s population living in urban areas increased about 26%, according to the World Bank. In India, the percentage of people in cities increased about 7% during that period.

TikTok Bans

While TikTok continues to benefit many Chinese farmers, India banned the use of TikTok on June 29, 2020, allegedly for national security reasons. This ban followed a 2019 ban, which the government claimed was due to TikTok’s lack of regulation regarding pornographic content. India lifted the 2019 ban after TikTok took down videos of concern. The 2020 ban however appears to be permanent. Indians cannot access their terminated accounts.

Other countries worldwide have also banned or are considering banning TikTok due to concerns about personal data security and possible inappropriate content. Because of this, it seems the platform may have a limited reach in rural areas outside China for now. China also has technological advantages that other developing nations do not yet have, including 56% internet accessibility in rural areas and a strong e-commerce system. Both contributed to Chinese farmers’ TikTok success.

Utilizing Creativity for Prosperity

Relying on TikTok as a means of income in low-income agricultural areas has its drawbacks. Yet, this phenomenon demonstrates how rural farmers in China and India can harness creativity, adapting to a changing world. Farmers found ways to share agricultural knowledge and convey humor, crossing class divides. After India banned TikTok, rural influencers quickly switched to other platforms, including YouTube, Instagram and Indian-based apps. While it may not be exclusively through TikTok, as internet and smartphone access increase, perhaps more gregarious growers will soon find abundance through social media.

– Annie Prafcke
Photo: Unsplash