information and stories about India.

Addressing Gender Equality in IndiaIt’s clear that improvements are immensely needed in order to bridge the gap in gender equality in India. The country ranked 130 out of 168 for the Gender Development Index. Fortunately, the United Nations Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, attended the #WeSeeEqual summit in Mumbai on Feb. 18 to address issues of addressing gender equality in India, the Middle East and Africa as well as potential solutions.

Puberty and Hygiene

Many adolescent girls in India are not educated about how their body changes during puberty or the importance of having adequate hygienic methods. Discussing the topic of menstruation is taboo, which leads to many misconceptions. According to a report conducted by the Dasra Foundation, 71 percent of girls had no knowledge about menstruation until their first period. It was also discovered in this report that 70 percent of the mothers surveyed believed menstruation was “dirty,” which further perpetuates shame felt by young girls when puberty starts.

Young girls and women who menstruate are also treated differently, one cultural tradition that remained until recently was that women who have reached menstruation age were not allowed to visit temples. Poor sanitary facilities in schools and other public areas is also a pressing issue. However, at the #WeSeeEqual summit, U.N. Women and Procter & Gamble (P&G), an American multinational consumer goods corporation, teamed up and pledged to educate more than 23 million adolescent girls over the next three years on puberty and hygiene in India, the Middle East and Africa.

Women-Owned Businesses

Although the economy in India is impressive, it could improve even more if women were more involved in the workforce. Only about 26 percent of women in India work. There are many social and religious constraints preventing more women from working, including household chores and motherly duties, which are normally placed on women. More than 70 percent of home-makers in India stated that they would prefer at least part-time work if given the chance.

If the employment rate of women were raised to the same level of employment for men, about 240 million more women would be included in the workforce. This would also mean that the world’s biggest economy would be 27 percent richer. P&G revealed at the #WeSeeEqual summit that it would aim to spend $100 million on working with women-owned businesses and improving female education in India, Middle East and Africa over the next three years. At this summit, P&G and U.N. Women also committed to using their voices to spark conversation and motivate change.

Looking Ahead

It’s important for organizations to use their resources and power to encourage equality in areas of the world that need it the most. U.N. Women and P&G addressed gender equality in India in an impactful way by discussing important issues, such as women in the workforce and adolescent girls being educated about menstruation and proper hygienic methods. Summits like #WeSeeEqual encourage change and help address important issues and potential solutions that will hopefully improve the situation around the world.

– Maddison Hines
Photo: Flickr

In India, Farmers Suicide is a Complex Problem
In 1995, India saw its first few cases of farmer suicides. Since then, according to a 2010 report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there has been a baseline of 15,000 farmers committing suicide every year since 2001. In total, the agency revealed that over a quarter of a million farmers (256,913) have killed themselves between 1995 to 2010 alone, which amounts to 45 farmers a day.

A more recent 2015 study about farmers’ suicide in India suggests that there has been an average of 12,000 suicides in the agricultural sector every year since 2013. As of 2018, the Bureau has not published any new statistics on the epidemic, but India is likely not on the path of solving the problem.

Farmers’ Suicide in India and its Causes

More than 8 percent of Indian farmers have landholdings below two hectares. These farmers have such a fragmented and small holding, and others deny them the benefits of mechanization, modern irrigation and other investment-based technological improvements, thus limiting productivity.

The overarching problem of water scarcity in India adds to this already weakened infrastructure. Estimates put India’s groundwater use at roughly one-quarter of the global usage, and needless to say, it is a quickly diminishing resource for those in rural areas especially.

Without access to water, farmers have relied on seasonal rains for their yield, the unpredictability of which can lead to either severe droughts or floods that prove to be a recipe for crop failure. Climate change is a problem that exacerbates these sorts of uncertainties.

Whatever income farmers manage to scrap is meager and depends on factors such as the prevailing market situation or the cost of greedy middlemen. As a result, profit is rare and this forces small and marginal farmers to take out expensive loans to fund the farming process, thus they get caught in debt traps.

These same small, two-hectare farmers made up 75 percent of the 5,650 suicides that the National Crime Records Bureau recorded during 2014; further data points out that in 2,474 suicides out of the studied 3,000 farmer suicides in 2015, the victims had unpaid loans from local banks. This information suggests that severe socioeconomic adversity, such as crop failure or debt-burdens, is a predominant cause of farmer suicide.

India’s agricultural sector accounts for almost 20 percent of the country’s GDP, making prompt attention to the tragedy of farmer suicide important not only from a humanitarian point of view but also an economic one.

Solutions

Protecting farmers from spiraling down a pit of debt is, of course, a compelling starting point. A few policy solutions, according to Indian psychiatrists, Mahesh R. Gowda and T.S. Sathyanarayana Roa, in their journal “Prevention of Farmer Suicides,” are:

  1. Small and marginal farmers should pool their farmland to leverage the advantages associated with larger land holdings, such as the use of modern and mechanized farming techniques.
  2. Farm loans at soft interest rates should be available to farmers, and loan recovery procedures need to respect human rights; farmers should not deal with private money lenders.
  3. Fair prices for farm products should be mandatory and there should be a direct reach for farmers to markets in order to eliminate middlemen.

Farmer suicide is a complex problem in India, but the solutions are doable if the government correctly implements initiatives, such as the ones above. Lives are on the line, after all, and being quick to action is of the utmost importance.

– William Cozens
Photo: Pexels

antenatal care in IndiaIndia is home to one-fifth of all births but has no monitoring systems for basic maternal health and nutrition. A research brief published by the rice institute finds that India has far worse maternal nutrition rates than sub-Saharan Africa – a region much poorer with higher fertility rates. With improper antenatal care being linked with long term effects on the height, weight, cognition and productivity of a child, global attention has been brought to the antenatal care inequalities found in India.

Antenatal Care in India Today

Access to antenatal care in India depends strongly upon the geographic location and socioeconomic status of expectant mothers. Between 50 and 74 percent of expectant mothers in India receive prenatal care services – with a large gap in the distribution of these services.

According to a study done in 2011, 357,777 women in Delhi received at least three antenatal care check-ups, more than the entire state of Uttarakhand which had 153,202 women receive the same level of care.

Further studies showed that  “some states, such as Kerala and Goa, more than 93 percent of women used ANC [Antenatal Care] four times or more, while in Bihar and Nagaland, this figure was less than 17percent,” highlighting the substantial inequalities of access to antenatal care in India.

Current Government Initiatives

Currently, several government programs are in place to increase access to antenatal care services throughout India but have not shown largely promising results. India’s largest program for improving neonatal health, Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), uses cash incentives to encourage birthing in hospitals.

However, a study done in 2014 found that the cash transferred to new mothers is much less than advertised, due to how much of it goes towards paying for delivery services – which are meant to be free. In addition, this program only encourages women to give birth in hospitals, rather than address pressing maternal health problems in India – such as maternal nutrition and low birthweight.

Meanwhile, the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) government program dispenses 5,000 rupees for expecting and lactating mothers. However, this is only available to first-time mothers.

The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is intended to give food to expectant mothers and their children but is poorly implemented – with less than 30 percent of women having received food the ICDS program during their last pregnancy.

Looking Ahead

In order to improve access to antenatal care in India, studies suggest “policy and programme managers should shift from improving the ‘average figures’ to the ‘distribution’ of programme/health care indicators across the sub-groups of populations which need them most.”

The rice institute also notes that rather than rely on outdated surveys for indicators of maternal health, the government finally establish a national monitoring system allowing policymakers to view changes in maternal health over time.

With proper government oversight, the future of antenatal care in India looks promising, as suggested by a study published in The Lancet found that mortality rates for neonates declined by 3.3 percent annually between 2000 and 2015 due to government intervention.

– Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Unsplash

Plastic waste in IndiaPlastic waste in India has collectively reached 8.3 billion tons throughout the past 70 years. This is inclusive of plastic bags, plastic bottles, packaging, straws, spoons and forks and much more. To picture how much 8.3 billion tons would look like, compare it to 1 billion elephants or 822,000 Eiffel Towers.

Plastic Poses a Threat to the Sea Life

This immense amount of plastic waste in India often ends up polluting the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It acts as entrapments to the natural habitats. When ingested by fishes, the chemicals that compose the plastic poisons them and make them inedible for consumption. In other cases, plastic packaging such as the rings for canned sodas pose as a threat to wildlife like Turtles as it can strangle them. Additionally, the sea creatures view plastic waste as predators that interfere with their natural food consumption. This makes these animals starve as they find it difficult to approach their natural food source.

Plastic Waste in India Affects the Livelihood of Fishermen

Fishing is one of the primary occupations for people living on the coasts of India. For many, that is the only source of income. The problem of plastic waste in the sea is affecting the livelihood of fishermen to a great extent.

Recently, fishermen and women in India have begun to filter through, wash and sort the plastic collected from the sea. Those that are too damaged or far too recycled, are further recycled. While the plastic that is in near-perfect form is shredded and sold to construction companies. It is shredded into a consistency finer than confetti and used to build up the asphalt used to pave roads.

Using Plastic to Construct Roads

There are various benefits to using recycled plastics over regular plastics, especially in terms of constructing roads. By using recycled plastic, one can save approximately 1 ton of asphalt. In addition, cost wise, it provides approximately 8 percent profit. Furthermore, addressing the influx of plastic waste in India paves way for new jobs for many unemployed citizens.

In terms of quality, roads constructed with the help of recycled plastic tends to be more durable against weather conditions such as floods and high temperatures. A variety of smaller plastic shredding businesses have risen in order to support this new form of construction.

The Process of Utilizing Plastic Waste

The process involved in constructing roads from recycled plastic is relatively simple. First, the different kinds of plastic wastes are sorted, cleaned and dried. Then, it is shredded into a fine confetti texture. After that, it is melted at 170 degrees Celcius. To this, hot bitumen, a mixture used to build roads, is added. Once this mixture is complete, it is further mixed with asphalt concrete and laid out into foundations.

This technique of utilizing plastic waste to build roads has been already put to practice in 11 states throughout India. Some of these places include Halls Road, Ethiraj Silai Street and Sardar Patel Street. Currently, 100,000 kilometers of roads have been built.

One of the leading cities to implement this technique is Chennai. So far, 160,000 kilograms of plastic have been reused. In turn, 1.035 kilometers of road has been built. By following the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle, plastic waste in India is being redirected to better the country.

Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

Child Mortality in India
Child mortality rate, according to Our World in Data, is defined as the probability that the newborn baby will die before reaching the age of five. It is calculated as the percentage of babies that do die before this age, per 1,000 births. Similarly, the infant mortality rate is the number of children deaths occured before the child reaches his or her first birthday, per 1,000 births. Over the course of world modernization, the child mortality rate has declined greatly, in some areas more than others.

Child Mortality Statistics

In 1990, one in 11 children died before their fifth birthday worldwide, whereas in 2017 that number has more than halved and only one in 26 children died before the age of five. This positive trend can be attributed to improvements in the health field, education and technology, as well as many other factors. The drop in child mortality rate is not exclusive to developed countries, because the developing country of India has also seen tremendous declines in mortality rate over the past several decades.

Child Mortality in India

In India in the 1960s, anywhere between 20 percent and 25 percent of children died before their fifth birthday. This trend continued through the end of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st. As of 2015, only 4.8 percent of children are projected to die before they turn the age five. Despite the declining child mortality in India, the country still contributes significantly to the world’s children mortality rate, as it still has negative statistics of 42 deaths per 1,000 live births. The main causes of death for children under the age of five are highly preventable, given the right tools. The most prevalent cause is pneumonia, followed by newborn infections, birth complications and malaria. If more women in India were receiving effective prenatal health care, the numbers would likely drop even more.

The Decline of Child Mortality in India

The declining child mortality in India can be attributed to a number of factors. India saw a great increase in the funding of health care initiatives in the first two decades of the 21st century. The percent of GDP used towards public health was 1 percent in 2004 and jumped to 1.4 percent in 2014, which is a 40 percent boost over the decade. With increased funding towards health care, the country is able to set up set up health infrastructures in areas that did not have any and train community health workers. These trained health workers could serve as the frontline in the mission to improve health in India, and women and newborns would benefit greatly from the extra care.

The elimination of communicable diseases such as polio and tetanus also play a huge role in the declining child mortality in India. There are also plans being put in place for the elimination of more diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis in years to come. While the public health system is not yet in a place to focus on curing diseases, they are aiming for much funding at prevention.

While the declining child mortality in India has been a success for the country thus far, there is, of course, still a long way to go. One of the main areas that could be significantly improved is the time and health care to the women before the child is even born as not enough pregnant women are engaging in prenatal checkups, and many don’t have traditional deliveries in medical institutions. If both these practices were increased, child mortality would drop even more and children would have a better chance at living a healthy life from the beginning. Additionally, the continued improvement of water sanitation and hygiene would improve the lives of all people in India, and certainly contribute to healthier children.

Although the child mortality rate continues to drop in India year after year, the country still needs to understand that this battle is not won. While all citizens must participate in order for the country to continue the positive trend, the government must focus on improving the health care system and devote the attention to the mothers and young children.

– Charlotte Kriftcher

Photo: Pixabay

causes of human trafficking in India
Human trafficking, defined as the illegal trade of humans most commonly for the purposes of sexual slavery and forced labor, currently claims an estimated 24.9 million victims worldwide, and the Global Slavery Index estimates that 8 million trafficking victims live within India’s borders. In 2016, there were 8,132 human trafficking cases reported in India, a 20 percent increase from 2015, and there were 23,117 people rescued from the human trafficking system.

Of the people rescued, 60 percent were children, women and girls accounted for 55 percent, 33 percent were trafficked for sexual services, and 45 percent were trafficked for forced labor. While much of the global pervasiveness of human trafficking can be explained only by extreme poverty, political instability and war, the causes of human trafficking in India are more nuanced.

Causes of Human Trafficking in India

The causes of human trafficking in India can be explained in part by gender-based discrimination, responsible for the deaths of approximately 239,000 girls under the age of five in India each year. Gender-based discrimination is a cultural norm in India, as sons are considered more useful to the family than daughters. This heavily patriarchal society leaves girls with limited access to education, leading to gender gaps in both literacy rates and financial earning potentials.

According to the 2011 census, the literacy rate was 82 percent for men and 65 percent for women, and according to the 2013 census, men were paid 25 percent more than women. As a result of gender-based discrimination, the sex ratio in India is greatly skewed.

Because there are far more men in India than young women, bride trafficking, or the illegal sale of women for the purpose of marriage, is becoming more prevalent in India. In the more rural Northern states, where the sex ratio is worse than the national average, bride trafficking has become a norm. More than 90 percent of married women in these Northern states have been sold from other states, some as many as three times, often first becoming brides as preteens. Gender-based discrimination in India has perpetuated a societal structure that strongly favors males over females to the point of self-destruction, as men are unable to find wives, thus driving demand for the human trafficking of women in India for the purpose of marriage.

Sex Trafficking

Another cause of human trafficking in India is a lack of opportunity in India’s poor communities, especially for uneducated women, to provide for their families. In 2012, only 43 percent of women in India worked regular wage or salaried positions. Victims of sex trafficking in India are predominantly young, illiterate girls from impoverished families in rural states. Although poverty is decreasing in India, 28 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line.

Poor communities are especially vulnerable to human traffickers, as they often offer better job opportunities or debt relief to lure victims. With limited opportunities to make money, offers like these are hard to decline for young women. Sex trafficking victims average 10 to 14 years of age, down from its previous average of 14 to 16, because younger girls are thought to be less likely to carry sexually-transmitted diseases.

Forced Labor

The causes of male trafficking in India is primarily tied with forced or bonded labor. Bonded labor, defined as a system of forced or partly forced labor under which a debtor accepts an advance of cash for a pledge of labor, by the debtor or any member of the debtor’s family, for the benefit of a creditor, is deeply entrenched in India’s social structure. While bonded labor was abolished in India in 1976, many industries who rely on bonded labor schemes for their workforces have turned to the human trafficking trade for workers in their spinning mills, granite quarries and brick kilns.

Like the bride and sex trafficking trade, forced labor traffickers recruit victims from poor, rural areas of India, promising lump-sum payments at the end of their contracts. Workers are meagerly compensated for their labor, and terrible working conditions provoke illnesses that lead to wage advances and loans that keep the worker in lifelong debt to their contractors.

Solutions

The Government of India has been making strides to address its human trafficking problem by heightening its border security, increasing its budget for aid to trafficking victims and drafting an anti-trafficking bill. In February 2018, the Union Cabinet passed the Trafficking in Persons Bill to be voted on by Parliament. If passed, the bill would criminalize aggravated forms of trafficking and establish a national anti-trafficking bureau, along with locally stationed anti-trafficking units. This bill also includes methods to rehabilitate victims, addresses physical and mental trauma and promoted education, health and skill development.

Additionally, the Rescue Foundation, established in 2000, helps to investigate, rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking in India. Rehabilitation programs include education, computer training, legal aid and counseling. As a result of the Rescue Foundation, more than 5,000 victims have been rescued and more than 15,000 have been rehabilitated and repatriated.

The causes of human trafficking in India include gender discrimination, a vulnerability of the impoverished population and the desperation of the impoverished to support their families. Trafficking industries in India are taking advantage of the plight of India’s disadvantaged and impoverished population for the benefit of others, as trafficking victims are rarely paid as they’re promised.

However, human trafficking in India seems to be endangered as the government progresses in reducing human trafficking in the nation by increasing its border security, aid for trafficking victims and passing the Trafficking in Persons Bill to Parliament. Moreover, nongovernmental organizations like the Rescue Foundation have been successful in rescuing, rehabilitating, and repatriating victims of trafficking back to their families.

– Jillian Baxter
Photo: Flickr

Solar power in Developing countries
Since its inception 45 years ago, the Barefoot College has trained 1430 people from poor communities to install and maintain solar-powered electrical systems. This was mainly started with the aim of introducing solar power in developing countries.

The most remarkable fact of this program is that all of the students in the solar engineering program are women and they enter with absolutely no prior formal education. These solar engineers return to their villages with a sense of opportunity and independence not only for themselves but also for the community at large.

The founder of the program, Bunker Roy, recognized that the people living in the poor communities are immeasurably knowledgeable about the world around them and the needs of their people. Roy’s vision to bolster the use of solar power in developing countries started with the construction of the first Barefoot College in Tilonaia, India in 1977. It now operates in 100 countries around the globe and 15 states throughout India.

Impact of the Barefoot Program in Afghanistan

According to ALCS 2016-17 survey, only 26 percent of the population in Afghanistan had access to the electrical grid in the years 2011-12. In five years, that number got increased by five percent with around 31 percent of the population enjoying access to the grid. Yet, this access was heavily concentrated within urban areas. The majority of the people living in rural regions of Afghanistan were still yearning to come out of the dark.

The idea of Barefoot College – to enhance the use of solar power in developing countries – became a boon for many in the rural areas. In 2007, merely 2 percent of the households in Afghanistan were powered using solar panels. Today, that same figure has reached 59.4 percent at a national level and 73.2 percent in rural areas. While it’s impossible to tell how much of this success can be attributed directly to Barefoot College, Bunker Roy and his colleagues have undoubtedly made a significant impact.

In his 2011 TEDTalk, Roy shared the story of three illiterate Afghan women who had never left their homes. They came to India and trained to become solar engineers. On returning to Afghanistan, they electrified 100 villages, set up workshops and trained 27 more women to follow their footsteps.

One of the three women, a 55-year-old named Gul Bahar, provided solar electricity to 200 houses herself. She also took the opportunity to educate the head of a large engineering department in Afghanistan on the difference between AC and DC.

Today, more than 84 engineers have been trained by the graduates from Barefoot College to provide a fundamental service to thousands of Afghans in need. Afghanistan is now well on its way to becoming a fully electrified country with 97.7 percent of households having access to electricity. The difference between the electrification of rural and urban homes is also quickly disappearing.

Impact of the Barefoot Program in Honduras

Access to electricity in urban areas of Honduras has reached 100 percent, but one-quarter of the people living in rural areas are still living without it. These same areas are also subject to extreme poverty, severe droughts, and increasing uncertainty in the agricultural industry. Without access to electricity, families are dependent on kerosene lamps that provide poor light, emit toxic chemicals when burned and increase the risk of fire outbreaks.

With help from the Indian Government and the Small Grants Program (SGP), Barefoot College sought to improve the dire situation that the agrarian communities of Honduras find themselves in. Four women from different corners of Honduras were chosen to travel to the original Barefoot College campus in Tilonia, India. Iris Marlene Espinal, Carmen Lourdes Zambrano Cruz, Alnora Casy Estrada and Ingrid Miranda Martinez came to the campus without knowing how to read or write. However, through their practical knowledge, strong will and rugged resourcefulness, they returned home as solar engineers.

These four women have successfully installed 207 85-watt solar panel systems that power lamps, televisions, radios and cell phones for 54 families across Honduras. Without this new technology, the children of a small village called Los Hornos were unable to study indoors even during the day and were showing signs of respiratory issues. To further improve the quality of education for young children in Honduras, the engineers are installing solar systems in schools. The teachers there can now utilize modern technological tools in their lessons.

Seemingly small, incremental changes, like the introduction of solar power in developing countries, have massive implications for the quality of life in poor communities. As Alorna Casy stated in an interview with the UNDP, “We brought back a lot of knowledge to benefit our communities and, in a sense, to help them to escape from poverty”.

Enhancing Access to Solar Power in Developing Countries

In 2016, Barefoot College began the Pacific Island Solar initiative and is still working toward the initial goal of providing new technologies to 2,800 houses across 14 Pacific Island Countries. To date, 10,000 solar installations have already been completed and the construction of a Barefoot College located in Fiji has been approved. The institution is, thus, unstoppable in its mission to revolutionize the use of solar power in developing countries.

The new campus will provide solar engineering training alongside courses in Digital Technology Skills, Financial Literacy and Inclusion, Environmental Stewardship, Women’s Reproductive Health and Nutrition, Micro-enterprise Skills and much more.

Bunker Roy built his first college with the help of 12 “barefoot architects” who couldn’t read or write. Since then, the institution continues to empower those who lack resources but are intelligent enough and in desperate need of a future that fully utilizes their potential. Thus, the idea of enhancing access to solar power in developing countries will definitely spread light in many more dark corners of the world.

John Chapman
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in India
India is one of the countries with the highest rates of child marriage. Approximately 27 percent of women are married in the country by the time they turn 18. Out of the total of 29 states in India, the states of Bihar and Rajasthan lead the country with 69 percent and 65 percent of girls married under the legal age, respectively. The mean age when girls marry in these regions is only 16.6 years and more than 13 million girls in India remain child brides.

Causes of Child Marriage in India

The prevalence of child marriage in India is caused mainly by social traditions and poverty within many states. Young girls are often deemed an economic burden by their parents. The greatest expenses that families must bear are paying for education and housing and these expenses increase as a child gets older. To alleviate the economic pressure that female children create, they are transferred to a husband, that can be viewed as a guardian.

The rates of these unions have decreased in girls under 15 years of age, but have increased between in girls aged between 15 and 18. After the marriage, the male guardian becomes responsible for the female child. The child is often subjected to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Nearly 39 percent of husbands report either sexual or physical abuse toward their wives.

Health Risks and Education

The health of the child is put at greater risk because of sexual violence. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are two times more likely to die in childbirth. The lack of protection also exposes them to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Young women aged from 15 to 24 years are 44 percent more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than men from the same age group. This is due to many factors including lack of access to adequate health care services and inter-partner violence resulting in unsafe sex.

In addition, these child brides have less educational opportunities than girls who are not subjected to early marriages. They are directly correlated due to the fact that new brides are expected to be mothers and homemakers. This relationship goes both ways, as girls who have access to secondary and higher education are three times less likely to marry by the age of 18.

Preventing Child Marriage in India

India itself only reports that 27 percent of girls were married in the country by the time they are 18. This percentage has decreased from 50 percent in the last decade. India lowered child marriage rates drastically with new legislation. The country began improving the situation in 2006 with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. This act outlawed marriage in girls below the age of 18 and boys under the age of 21.

However, this act has had negative effects on the regulation of child marriage. Marriages in states like Bihar and Rajasthan are more of a social construct rather than a matter of legal documentation. The rates of child marriage remain high in these regions due to cohabitation of an older male guardian and a female child. This cohabitation is usually accompanied by a ceremony declaring martial union without registering it with the state.

It is much more difficult to regulate cohabitation, but the country drafted legislation to prevent this type of union. In 2013, the National Action Plan to Prevent Child Marriage was introduced nationally. This strategy aims to effectively end child marriage in India and make it a child protection issue. While the act is not yet finalized, as of 2017, men can be held legally accountable if they are involved in child marriages. India’s Supreme Court ruled that sex with an underage wife is considered rape. This offers an opportunity to regulate child marriage, even when it is performed as a social exchange without official documentation.

Moreover, India has joined the South Asian Initiative to End Violence against Child Marriage and UNICEF’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. The country is making great strides to prevent this violation of human rights.

Women Peer Groups

When the state fails to protect the children, the women of India rise up. An activist grassroots movement of boycotting underage marriages has been incredibly effective. Over 100 Women Peer Groups are set up across five rural Indian states. These independent groups and individuals work to stop marriages in person, lobby for legislation against child marriage and improve resources for children that find themselves in these situations. Malti Tudu is one of the members of these groups that now comprise of over 2,800 women dedicated to ending illegal unions.

Child marriage is a definitive issue that the Indian government is focusing on. Through new legislation and governmental strategies, along with the aid of grassroots movements, the country can effectively create a safe landscape for children, especially young girls, to grow in.

Emily Triolet
Photo: Pixabay

Reducing Poverty in India
India, one of the most populated countries in the world, is a country that has benefited from the use of programs that are utilizing technology. Several programs have been implemented in the last decade that can serve as real examples of how technology is reducing poverty in India.

Reducing Poverty in India

Data from 2012 indicate that India contains the largest number of people living in poverty, at 270 million, with 80 percent of the poor living in rural areas. Most of these people living in rural areas rely on agriculture to make a living, and because men are leaving isolated villages to try and work in urban areas, women make up almost 50 percent of India’s self-employed farmers.

In 2016, the Prime Minister of India introduced a national policy aiming to double the farmers’ income by 2022. He advocated for a three-part strategy under which one-third of the farming sector should focus on traditional crops, such as paddy and sugarcane, one-third for poultry, beekeeping and fishery and one-third for planting trees to produce timber.

Crop Insurance Scheme

The Prime Minister also implemented a Crop Insurance Scheme to help farmers. They have to pay just 2 percent of the premium for kharif crop or those harvested in the summer season, and 1.5 percent for rabi, crops harvested in the spring, and the horticulture will be fixed at 5 percent. The balance premium will be paid by both the state and central government. India derives about 17 percent of its GDP from agriculture, and because crop output can change due to weather, this crop insurance scheme gives farmers a safety net.

Nano Ganesh

Another use of the technology in reducing poverty in India is Nano Ganesh. This is a mobile-based remote controller that is used to control water pumps from a mobile phone with mobile signal connectivity at both ends. The app is used as an interface between the high voltage starters and the low voltage GSM modules, which allows for farmers to turn the water pumps on and off and to check how much power is available.

Farmers can also check the water levels in the storage tank as well. This app saves farmers from making the long trek to distant water pump sites and also saves them from waiting on site to switch the water pump off when irrigation is complete. Since the app was introduced in 2003, it has over 60,000 installations in India reaching 480,000 people living in rural areas.

National Identity Card

India’s national identity card project was established in India in 2009 and represent yet another successful step in reducing poverty in India through technology. The goal of the program is to issue an identity card to each of the country’s over 1.2 billion residents. The card contains a unique 12-digit number that is linked to each person’s fingerprint and iris scans. Eventually, the card is expected to improve India’s basic education and health systems. The card could help check attendance of students and teachers in rural schools as well as the presence of doctors in rural health centers. It is also intended to serve as the basis for building a complete health information system.

In addition, the ID card is said to be sufficient for opening a bank account. Currently, over 50 percent of India’s people currently do not have bank accounts, and 90 percent of the bank accounts that had been initiated about a decade ago under a policy of opening bank accounts for all people living in India are now either closed or unused.

India is the second most populated country in the world. Due to this reason, and the fact that a large percentage of the population lives in poverty, the country’s government must do everything it can to improve the situation and alleviate poverty. Technological improvements and their usage were out of great help in reducing poverty in India, and future steps should be also taken in this direction in order to improve the situation in the country.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Education in India
India, the home of 1.2 billion people, is a vast and diverse country. While the overall literacy rates have been on the upward trend recently, rising from 64.8 percent in 2001 to 74 percent in 2011, there are still approximately 1.7 million children who are out of primary school.

Education in India

Within the country, there are also vast differences in the literacy rates among the different regions and states. The highest ranking state by literacy in the country in Kerala with 93.9 percent while the lowest ranking state, Bihar, has a literacy rate at 63.8 percent.

The main barriers that prevent children from accessing education in India are poverty, gender discrimination and lack of resources in schools as teachers lack training and schools are overcrowded. On the national level, 41 percent of schools lack basic hygiene service. There is either no facility or no water. The gap between male and female literacy rates has shrunk from 21.59 percent in 2001 to 16.68 percent in 2011 and the increase in literacy during the same period is 6.9 percent for boys and 11.8 percent for girls. However, there is still a persisting gap in the overall literacy rates as 82.1 percent of males are literate compared to 65.5 percent of females.

Child Labor

Children from marginalized underprivileged groups face other barriers to accessing education in India. They are often victims of trafficking, sexual and labor exploitation as well as domestic service. Some are forced to work to repay family debts. Forced child labor in India is primarily in the garment-making and quarrying industries.

Some children also perform dangerous work producing bricks. According to UNICEF, around 11 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working. The government has made efforts to deal with child labor, passing legislation such as the Child Labor Act, but the problem persists.

OSCAR Foundation’s Work

The OSCAR (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) Foundation aims to keep children in school by teaching underprivileged children from the poorest communities life skills and values through football. Children in the program learn not only to play the game but, more importantly, to value the education that empowers them to reach their full potential. The kids involved in OSCAR’s programs go on to become role models and make a positive change in their communities.

Akshay Chavan, a 16-year-old boy, has been with the organization for seven years. He is a player, coach and leader, currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce in St. Xavier’s college in Mumbai. As a young child, he suffered from an injury with lots of complications. In the 2017 Annual Report for OSCAR Akshay confessed: “On the first day itself, I felt welcomed. The coaches encouraged me to play, and the rest of the team was very supportive. They motivated me when I felt low. I developed a strong connection with OSCAR friends and started feeling confident enough to fight for myself.”

Founded in 2006, this nonprofit organization’s main goal is to prevent children from dropping out of school and improving education in India. So far, they have directly or indirectly impacted over 3,000 children in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Ut Delhi. The organization nurtures and develops children’s talents and encourages them to become leaders and responsible citizens. OSCAR has three core programs: Young Leader’s Programme, Football Programme and Education Programme.

The Young Leader’s Programme aims to give young children the opportunity to create their own careers and make a change in their communities. Children older than 17 years in the football program who show potential to be good leaders are selected and go through a training process of workshops in football coaching and personal development.

The Football Programme teaches children from ages 5 through 22 not only football skills but also how to be consistent and value their education and focuses on girl’s empowerment.

The Education Programme is specifically aimed at children who struggle in school and provides them with educational assistance. They currently help 400 children in subjects like Hindi, Maths and English. As part of that program, the Foundation has three projects. They provide tuition and additional classes to pupils who experience difficulties in learning, teach children computer skills and offers scholarships to children from low-income families to complete their higher secondary education.

Poverty Alleviation

Over 30 percent of the world’s children living in extreme poverty are located in India. While everyone is negatively affected by poverty, children suffer the most detrimental effects. Living in poverty stunts their development, limits their access to education and keeps generations stuck in the cycle. Low-income communities have other issues related to poverty like substance abuse, early childhood marriage and gambling because education also influences morality.

Education and literacy’s positive outcomes are endless. They are linked to an overall improvement of the quality of life- life expectancy, infant mortality, nutritional levels, migration and other aspects of life. The OSCAR Foundation started out by addressing community issues in the Ambedkar Nagar slum in Mumbai and has grown to reach thousands of young people. By doing something as simple as holding several football sessions a week, they are transforming children’s lives and constantly improving children’s education in India.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr