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Mining for Mica
The majority of the world’s mica comes from India, more specifically the country’s eastern states. Jharkhand and Bihar, two regions in the country’s eastern states, are where the majority of the mining for mica happens. In fact, around 60% of the world’s mica comes from those two regions. Before mica ends up in shiny eyeshadow and many other makeup products, it passes through many networks’ middlemen and wholesalers; it also crosses many borders. Thus, it is nearly impossible to trace the origins of mica and the harsh reality that children frequently mine this mineral.

About Mica

The makeup industry is a prominent part of Western culture. Some common beauty products are powder, eye shadow and eyeliner. Upon close examination of what is in these products, the realization has emerged that they all have a common ingredient, mica. Mica, also known as muscovite, is a natural mineral. Because mica is a mineral, it requires mining. Mica has the appearance of flakes and is rather flexible. It is light in weight and relatively soft.

Mica and Child Labor in India

Children mine mica illegally in India as they have small frames and can easily access the minerals underground. These children generally do not have an education and are unable to attend school due to their families’ lack of funds. Children as young as 5 years old must work long hours in the mines to make money for their families. Estimates have determined that around 4,545 children in Jharkhand and the surrounding region are not attending school. Moreover, the hazardous work environment negatively impacts their health. Cases such as tuberculosis, skin infection, respiratory infection, asthma and head injuries are not uncommon. Many children have supposedly died while working in the mines. However, because mining is illegal, local officials frequently cover them up, thus making an actual fatality count rather difficult.

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF)

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) is a foundation that strives to end all violence against and exploitation of children. It is doing so by ensuring child protection through research, innovations, awareness generation, promoting partnerships and participation. Since 2005, KSCF has been working in mining areas where children illegally work as laborers. It raises funds to send many children to school. It intends to rescue all children from mining and send them to school. KSCF regularly issues saplings to the children and encourages them to plant them. This is an effort to spread awareness of their environment.

There are 171 counselors in 150 villages of Jharkhand who create awareness against sending children for mining and other social issues. KSCF has freed over 3,000 children from mica mines and 80,000 children from child labor across multiple industries.

Though mining for mica is still illegal in India, many children and adults continue to do it to provide for their families. Moreover, many deaths have occurred but people have not reported them for fear of losing income. While India still produces mass amounts of mica, the help of organizations like KSCF should gradually help eliminate the use of children in mica mining.

– Candice Lewis
Photo: Flickr

end child marriage

It is entirely possible to end child marriage in the coming decades. Ending child marriage will also lead to more prosperous and responsible communities that are capable of overcoming global challenges, such as poverty.

Adolescence is a critical time that should allow girls opportunities to learn, grow, and decide their futures. However, that will not be the fate of more than 700 million girls who are alive today that were forced into marriage before they were 18.

For these girls, their marriage effectively ended their potential to contribute to their community, interrupted their schooling, and placed them at increased risk of severe domestic violence.

Every day, 37,000 girls under the age of 18 are forced into child marriage worldwide. One in three are in India. There have been many efforts to end child marriage in India, and the country has seen quality achievements. Government programs have been able to reduce child marriage from 47% in 2006 to 27% in 2016. This number is still alarmingly high.

The national and state governments, along with United Nations agencies and civil society organizations, are implementing new initiatives to right the social evils of child marriage and gender inequality. In Bihar, the chief minister himself is steering the launch of a statewide campaign against the deep-rooted harmful practices of child marriage.

In support of Bihar’s upcoming campaign, Gender Alliance — a network of 234 like-minded civil society organizations in the state —launched a high-tech tool to end child marriage in the form of a mobile application called Bandhan Tod, which means “break your shackles.”

Bandhan Tod launched in September 2017 and is available on the Google Playstore. The app has many unique features that will help girls stand up against child marriage. Bandhan Tod is a holistic solution for addressing the interlinked issues that perpetuate child marriage. The app offers free education on child marriage and the laws against it, inspirational messages to boost confidence and information on government programs that provide support and opportunities for gender empowerment.

The app also features an SOS button that instantly notifies the entire network of Gender Alliance members when a girl needs urgent help to stop a child marriage.

In order to evaluate the app’s success, Bandhan Tod’s design includes features to measure outreach, impact and changes in knowledge through automatic mapping of geographical location, age, and gender. This feature does not compromise confidentiality and will ultimately advance the ability of the app to contribute in large part to the programs working to end child marriage.

Bandhan Tod received a little over 1,000 downloads in the first week after its launch. Engagement within the app is also a huge success: “the average time spent on the app from people is generally around 7 minutes per session with an average of 100 sessions daily,” Nadeem Noor, head of United Nations Population Fund in Bihar, told The Borgen Project. “The data from the initial few days indicate that the app can be used successfully to reach end users and spread the required message.”

This app has the potential to be an indispensable tool in the struggle for gender equality and in ending all forms of discrimination against women. As part of a larger initiative, the Gender Alliance will “embark upon taking this app to front line functionaries of government departments who have a primary role in addressing the issue” Noor said.

Additionally, the Gender Alliance is working to connect the SOS function directly to the Women Police set-up in Bihar to increase their capacities on counseling the families and implementing the laws against child marriage.

Bandhan Tod was created with the needs of adolescent girls in mind. Providing young girls with basic awareness on women issues and the effects of child marriage is absolutely imperative.

In addition to offering rational, effective and quick systems that are responsive to citizens in their times of need, the initiative is working to make institutions of governance more responsive and accountable. The strides that Bandhan Tod has made thus far towards the fight to end child marriage is astounding.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Bihar
Bihar is one of the poorest states in India as approximately 55 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. There is an overwhelming need for quality health care facilities and workers in this region. In the past ten years, the World Bank Group and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have made great strides toward the improvement of healthcare in Bihar.

The World Bank’s collaboration with the Bihar Government led to an increase in the accountability and accessibility of healthcare from 2005 to 2008. By 2008, the number of outpatients visiting a government hospital grew from 39 per month to almost 4,500. The number of babies delivered in healthcare facilities also increased from some 100,000 to 780,000.

Bihar’s infant and maternal mortality rates are higher than India’s national average. According to the Sample Registration Survey in India conducted in 2013, 208 women per 100,000 died during childbirth. Furthermore, 28 out of every 1,000 newborns die within their first month of life.

Most of these deaths are preventable if basic care is provided to women and newborns during and immediately following childbirth. Unfortunately, the infrastructure of healthcare in Bihar falls short in nearly all required categories, including the number of health assistants and nurses.

According to the Huffington Post, there are not enough nurses in Bihar to allow for lengthy off-site training to prepare nurses for treatment of postpartum hemorrhage or premature births while also keeping health facilities adequately staffed.

In order to improve maternal health and newborn care, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with the Bihar Government launched a Mobile Nurse Mentoring Program called AMANAT.

Through AMANAT, nurses in public health facilities are mentored on-site by mobile nurse mentors, who ensure that basic standards of care are provided for pregnant women and newborns.

The program has greatly improved healthcare in Bihar for women and children before and after deliveries since its implementation in 2012. A few of these improvements include:

  • The administration of the correct use of oxytocin to induce labor has increased from 9 percent to 59 percent.
  • The use of sterile instruments by nurses during deliveries has increased from 13 percent to 43 percent.
  • The implementation of mothers breastfeeding has increased from 49 percent to 72 percent.

The number of stillbirths declined from 19 to 12 per 1,000 live births due to improvements in basic care practices. AMANAT was implemented in 160 public health facilities across Bihar and is expected to be administered in 240 over the course of this year.

There is a long way to go in creating a stable system of healthcare in Bihar. However, these crucial improvements made by the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bihar’s Government have saved and will continue to save countless maternal and newborn lives.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: World Bank

School_Lunch_India
In 2001, the Indian Supreme Court mandated the implementation of a mid-day school lunch program with the explicit goal of feeding 120 million Indian children daily. For years, this program has been credited with increasing school attendance throughout India, as well as serving as a boon to a large malnourished population. This school lunch program has come under considerable scrutiny when, in a single day, two separate schools shut down with ill children-25 of which have died this past week. While politicians dodge accusations of corruption, many have made it clear that without adequate regulation, this program faces an uncertain future.

In 2001, the developing nation of India was, as it is today, plagued with undernourished and undereducated children. While entering the arena of developed nations was, as it is today, a major goal of India, the government understood that with undernourished and undereducated children, their goals would be harder to meet.

It may come as a surprise to many, but India has had a long culture of ensuring food for their young. Dating back to 1925, the Mid-Day Meal Program has grown from providing food to disadvantaged children of the Madras Municipal Corporation to feeding 120 million across the country.

The benefits of such a program are multi-faceted. On one hand, the program serves as an incentive for children to attend school and become educated. Where students don’t have adequate nutrition, lethargy makes learning near impossible. Through strict nutritional requirements, the program aimed to curb this issue. On the other, the program gives young children the nutrition necessary for healthy mental and physical development.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development reports “food norms have been revised to ensure balanced and nutritious diet to children of upper primary group by increasing the quantity of pulses from 25 to 30 grams, vegetables from 65 to 75 grams and by decreasing the quantity of oil and fat from 10 grams to 7.5 grams.”

Without any doubt, India’s recent economic growth has been impressive. Yet, despite the countries bourgeoning transformation into a powerful player, certain growth indicators remain stunted. With the United Nations Children’s Fund has reported that India boasts one third of the words undernourished children, programs such as the Mid-Day lunch program are crucial to further development.

With the events of the passed week, this program is under fire. In a matter of hours, 25 children from the Bihar state went from a health, happy disposition to vomiting, diarrhea, and death. Concurrently, in a nearby Bihar district, 60 children were hospitalized after exhibiting traits food poisoning.

After cursory investigation, the culprit was found to be cooking oil stored in a used insecticide container. With this revelation, charges of corruption levels of deregulation have been levied against all levels of government. Saurabh Sharma, a representative of New Delhi non-profit JOSH, has stated that “the government has no monitoring system about the quality of food”, he continues “the school principal will blame the private contractor who will blame the government for paying as little as four rupees [6 cents] per meal.”

With an incensed citizenry, many feel the program, or at least the breadth of the program will suffer unless adequate regulation is implemented. Without any doubt, such a program is absolutely necessary and absolutely zero patience should be afforded to government corruption. India’s future depends on it.

– Thomas van der List
Sources: Unicef, MDM, Christian Science Monitor, CNN
Photo: International Science Times

Malnutrition in IndiaIn a nation with the growth potential of India, it is somewhat remarkable to discover that the country has a higher rate of malnourished children than sub-Saharan Africa. This may not be reflected equally across all Indian states, however, taken as a single entity new data compiled by state governments shows that only 65% of Indian children lie within the ‘normal’ category of child nutrition. This data, released by the Integrated Childhood Development Services (ICDS), divides children into three categories for nutrition: normal, mild to moderately undernourished, and severely undernourished. Meaning that 35% of Indian children are on some level undernourished.

Naturally, these figures vary greatly between states, with the state lagging most behind, Bihar, reporting 82% of children being undernourished, including 26% severely. Intriguingly though, the richest states do not necessarily correlate to the most successful in combating child malnutrition. Even in Delhi, nearly half of children are reported as undernourished. This is a reflection of other factors besides income and high growth rates that play a significant role in child nourishment, including public provisions of healthcare, water, and food security.

Despite programs and policies designed to alleviate this issue, a lack of proper governmental supervision and implementation has led to India recording the highest rates globally of stunted growth, malnourishment, and anemia in children. Equally devastating though is that malnourishment not only weakens those who suffer it physically but mentally as well.

A recent global study of children in developing regions showed significant differences in learning ability based on nutrition levels. And where learning is secondary to surviving, malnutrition places youth at a severe disadvantage across the board. And, like physical stunting, there comes a point in a child’s development where it is too late to reverse the effects.

For India as a nation, tackling malnutrition is the first step in improving the outlook of society as a whole.

– David Wilson

Sources: Indian Express, The Hindu, Silicon India
Photo: Flickr