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Indian women
The coronavirus is disproportionately affecting women across the globe, setting back progress for global gender equality. Confined inside homes, women are shouldering more of the housework and childcare than their husbands, fathers and brothers. In India, a country where women are expected to fulfill homemaking roles, the gender disparities in housework between men and women are only growing more apparent, especially as more women exit the workforce. For Indian women, domestic unpaid labor consumes hours of their days and limits them to a life of financial dependence on their partners or a life of poverty. In India, two-thirds of the population lives in poverty. With the unemployment rate being as high as 18% for Indian women, compared to 7% for men in India, it’s inevitable that women make up a large percentage of this impoverished population.

Women’s Unpaid Role in India

While men in India complete less than an hour of unpaid labor each day, Indian women spend six hours of their day on unpaid labor. In comparison, men around the world typically spend around two hours a day on unpaid labor, while women spend four and a half hours.

Although the time and energy women put into cleaning and caring for children and the elderly are essential roles in economies, housework isn’t widely recognized as a form of labor. As part of their domestic responsibilities, Indian women must also retrieve water from wells, a chore that spans several hours and multiple trips in one day. Often lacking the aid of technology, Indian women must cook, clean and do laundry by hand.

Because women in India bear the burden of housework, they can’t maintain stable jobs outside their homes. This requires them to rely on their partners. This is in part due to the traditional patriarchal system India upholds. From a young age, Indian women are trained to fulfill roles inside the home. As a result, Indian women are excluded from the workforce, and young girls are pulled from schools to work inside the home, jeopardizing their education.

This reality has only grown over the years, as more and more women have exited the workforce. Over the past decade, the percentage of women in the workforce has dropped from 34% in 2004 to 25% in 2018, compared to the nearly 80% of men who work.

Why Female Employment Is Declining

The decline in female employment directly impacts Indian women’s risk of falling into poverty, as they are unable to financially support themselves. But up to 64% of women said they had to be responsible for housework as there were no other family members who would perform these responsibilities.

With a population of over 1.3 billion people, it’s increasingly difficult to secure a position in the Indian job market, and work positions designated for women are slim. On top of this, upon completing the same job as men, women earn 34% less in wages than their male coworkers. For women who manage to secure a job, their time is stretched thin as they complete both paid work and unpaid work. As a result, they are less likely to spend time on education, cultural and leisure activities.

There are exorbitant economic losses, though, when women are not welcomed into the workforce. According to an Oxfam report on female unpaid labor, the value of global unpaid labor performed by women amounts to at least $10.8 trillion annually, or, as the study suggests, “three times the size of the world’s tech industry.” By putting into context the monetary value of unpaid labor in society, the true economic loss of excluding Indian women from the workforce is undeniable.

In a step toward creating a more inclusive workforce environment for Indian women, the country passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act in 2017. The amendment increased the number of weeks for paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks. But this act hasn’t led to a significant change in female workforce employment. Instead, the act could continue to negatively impact female employment. Newly responsible for covering the cost of additional paid maternity leave, companies may be less inclined to hire female workers.

Combined with the recent growth in female education and declining fertility rates, India’s economy is primed for welcoming women into the workforce. But the country must strike a balance between paid and unpaid labor, a gendered expectation rooted in Indian tradition.

Closing the Gender Gap: One Indian Woman’s Petition

One Indian woman is especially determined to redefine gender roles in India. Juggling unpaid labor at home along with her involvement in a charity for reproductive justice, Subarna Ghosh realized she was shouldering the majority of housework —particularly since the pandemic forced her family to stay home.

In July 2020, Ghosh decided to draft a petition on Change.org and describe her experience as a working woman in India expected to perform the majority of the housework. “Unequal distribution of unpaid household work has rendered the harshest blow to women across India during this lockdown. Yet, women’s care work continues to be invisible and no one wants to address this gross imbalance,” she wrote.

Directing her efforts at India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ghosh concluded her petition by calling on Modi to encourage Indian men to equally fulfill their share of housework. The petition has received over 75,000 signatures, mostly from women who stand in solidarity with Ghosh and relate to her experience.

Ghosh’s petition reflects the persistent struggle for female equality in India, as one woman’s experience echoes the experience of thousands. Only when women in India are given the same opportunities as men will they be able to earn their own financial independence.

Grace Mayer
Photo: Flickr

Kerala's Response to COVID-19The South Indian coastal state of Kerala has a population of over 35 million people and a large expatriate population. The state reported its first COVID-19 case in January 2020. Kerala’s response to COVID-19 included quickly implemented response measures drawn from its recent experiences with other crises and emergencies, such as the NIPAH virus outbreak in 2018 and the Kerala floods that caused massive damage and mass evacuations.

Early contact tracing and quarantining of people infected with the virus, along with continued testing for community transmission, has helped control overcrowding in hospitals. As the numbers continue to rise, Kerala’s government has put measures in place to mitigate the economic and social crises that may arise from the pandemic. In addition, Kerala’s response focuses on providing key resources for its people and protecting vulnerable groups. The relevance of these initiatives becomes more pronounced as the pandemic carries on.

Using Technology to Spread Awareness

Kudumbashree is a poverty eradication and women’s empowerment program. In response to the pandemic, the organization has created three groups on WhatsApp, a popular messaging platform, to educate members and spread awareness about COVID-19. Its campaigns, such as Break the Chain, emphasize the importance of washing hands. Kudumbashree’s motivation campaign focuses on encouraging wholesome, healthy choices and activities for citizens to engage in during lockdowns.

Community Kitchens and Shelter

Another key part of Kerala’s response to COVID-19 are kitchens organized by panchayats, or village councils. These kitchens offered free meals to those affected by the pandemic. Kudumbashree also organized free shelter and meals for migrant workers from other states, as well as those in quarantine or isolation. In addition, budget hotels have offered low-cost meals, which are packed and distributed at canteens or kitchens and delivered to homes. Free childcare centers for young children, called anganwadis, ensure free groceries and meals are delivered to the homes of children enrolled in their programs.

Psychosocial and Employment Support

During the pandemic, Direct Intervention System For Health Awareness (DISHA), a 24/7-telehealth helpline, has contributed to Kerala’s response to COVID-19. The organization has reported receiving several thousand calls from citizens each day, many about mental health concerns. DISHA refers these callers to the District Mental Health Program (DMHP), which consists of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and nurses in each district of Kerala. DMHP supports citizens under psychological stresses that arise from the pandemic, including substance abuse and withdrawal symptoms. In addition, DMHP checks on quarantined citizens  to ensure their mental well-being. The helpline, mental health services and medication provided by DMHP are free of cost.

To help citizens find work, the National Rural Employment Generation Scheme (NREGS) guarantees 100 days of employment for people above the age of 18. Usually, women over the age of 40 are the main demographic that makes use of the program. With the onset of the pandemic and resulting unemployment, however, the NREGS program has reported high enrollment even among youth.

Reverse Quarantine for Senior Citizens

More than 17% of people living in Kerala are senior citizens. Intending to protect this population, the state government implemented reverse quarantine, a strict stay-at-home requirement to keep those above 65 away from people who may be infected. Also, the government moved vulnerable senior citizens residing in highly affected areas to institutional quarantine centers to ensure better care. Additional measures for Kerala’s older adults include regular check-ins for senior citizens who live alone.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise worldwide, Kerala’s response to COVID-19 may ensure safety, care and recovery, both in citizens’ personal health and in the economy. This is especially true for the state’s more vulnerable citizens. If these methods succeed, Kerala may provide a model for other communities around the world.

Amy Olassa
Photo: Flickr

volunteerism in IndiaAs the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 continues globally and conditions remain unclear for many people throughout India, what started out as a 21-day lockdown has since been extended for high infection areas until June 30th. The country has slowly started re-opening a variety of businesses and organizations by the Ministry of Health Affairs despite a spike of 68,566 reported cases from May 25 to June 3. The vulnerability of poor and homeless people throughout India poses an additional threat to the already fragile hunger crisis underway. Luckily, volunteerism in India is saving lives.

Migrant Workers and Homelessness

There are currently more than 1.7 million homeless people living in India. During a nation-wide lockdown, this is extremely problematic with lacking resources and little capacity at homeless shelters. Previous to the lockdown, an estimated 250 million Indian people were living underfed or malnourished. According to statistics gathered over the course of the last three months, these numbers have increased by 22.2 million. Many migrant workers trying to return home were forced to isolate in conditions that put their health and livelihood at risk. In many of these places, following social distancing guidelines is extremely difficult if not impossible.

Homeless shelters in India are working to get as many people off of the street as possible; however, this comes at a price. When the country went under strict order and work was quickly put to a halt, migrant workers had no choice but to begin their journey home. Many shelters houses more than 10,000 migrant workers and homeless people. This results in limited masks and sanitizers becomes an added issue on top of limited food and space. For nothing more than “a ladle of poorly cooked food poured roughly into a plate or plastic envelope”, masses of people would stand in line for hours, uncertain of when their next meal may come.

How Volunteerism in India is Saving Lives

Once lockdown restrictions began to lift, the community of India wasted no time giving back to those most vulnerable. The reliance on government programs during crisis can be taxing, specifically when there is not near enough meals to cover the amount of people in need. Many charities and organizations saw this need and teamed up with locals to shine a light on the issue. Together, they urged the government to provide aid as soon as possible. Here are a few stories of how volunteerism in India is saving lives.

Project Mumbai

Khaana Chahiye, created by Project Mumbai, in an initiative that continues to work tirelessly to provide meals for thousands of migrant workers and displaced people during the lockdown and pandemic. The initiative does not discriminate against who receives the meals; however, the focal point of this initiative is to feed as many homeless and migrant workers as possible. During this time, the organization averages an output of 70,000 meals per day to the poor. Luckily, the consistency of this output has sustained the lives of thousands. The organization also offers ways for civilians to bring attention to areas in need not being reached.

How An Individual Has Made a Difference

Local Tagore Government Arts and Science College Principal Sasi Kanta Dash, PhD, has always dreamt of helping his community. Dr. Dash knew that the lockdown could go on for a number of months and saw the need for positive change. At the beginning of the lockdown, he gathered a group of volunteers and started by feeding 250 people on the very first day, and the “immense satisfaction at the end of the first day catalyzed the actions on the future”. Over the course of 40 days, Dr. Dash has served more than 10,000 meals to the elderly, sick and poor across India.

The reality for thousands of people in India means limited access to preventative measures for the coronavirus, extreme food scarcity and the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. Although this can be daunting, with the help of local heroes like Dr. Dash and Project Mumbai, the goal of sustenance for all becomes that much closer.

– Katie Mote-Preuss 
Photo: Flickr

Himalayan Cataract ProjectIn 1995, Dr. Geoff Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit launched the Himalayan Cataract Project to eliminate curable and preventable blindness in under-resourced Himalayan communities. The two founded their innovative campaign after recognizing that cataracts account for 70% of unnecessary blindness in Nepal. Cataracts, or cloudy, opaque areas in the eye that block light entry, occur naturally with age. Poor water quality, malnutrition and disease tend to exacerbate the issue in developing countries.

For years, Dr. Tabin and Dr. Ruit had seen Nepalese villagers take blindness as a death sentence. “It was just accepted that you get old, your hair turns white, your eyes turn white, you go blind and you die,” Dr. Tabin told the Stanford Medicine magazine. But after Dutch teams arrived in Nepal to perform cataract surgery, he explained, “People came back to life. It was amazing.”

The Strategy

The Himalayan Cataract Project delivers sight-restoring cataract surgery at a low cost. Dr. Ruit’s groundbreaking procedure lasts 10 minutes and costs just $25. Today the organization has succeeded in providing permanent refractive correction for well over 500,000 people.

In an effort to leave a more sustainable impact, the project works from a “train the trainer” model that empowers community health providers and enhances local eye care centers. Rather than simply treating patients in need, specialists introduce new methods and technology to strengthen the practices of existing clinics.

As a result of these and other advances, the blindness rate in Nepal has plummeted to 0.24%, similar to that of Western countries. The Himalayan Cataract Project now operates in India, Tibet and Myanmar. Dr. Tabin has also initiated training programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ethiopia. He hopes to see the same successes here as achieved in Asia.

The Link Between Blindness and Poverty

Addressing blindness is a critical step in the fight against poverty. Blindness prevents able-bodied workers from supporting themselves, shortens lives and reduces the workforce. Children of blind parents often stay home from school as they scramble to fulfill the duties of household caregivers and providers. In short, blindness worsens poverty, while poverty magnifies the risk of blindness.

The Himalayan Cataract Project aims to break the cycle of blindness and poverty. Studies have shown a 400% return on every dollar that the organization invests in eradicating curable and preventable blindness. Their procedures stimulate the economy by helping patients get back to work.

Individual success stories continue to power the organization. Adjoe, a 40-year-old mother from Togo, traveled to Ghana for surgery when she determined that her blind eye was hurting business. As a street vendor selling beans, she saw customers avoid her stand for fear of contagion. She consulted Dr. Boteng Wiafe, a partner of the Himalayan Cataract Project, who performed oculoplastic surgery and gave her a prosthetic eye. Carefully matching the prosthetic to the size, color and shape of her good eye, Dr. Wiafe ensured that Adjoe could return home to provide for her family once again.

Response to COVID-19

In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a halt to live clinical training and elective surgeries, but the backlog of blindness continues to grow worldwide. Meanwhile, concerns about the virus may dissuade blind patients from seeking treatment for the next several years.

While eye care has been suspended, the Himalayan Cataract Project is using this time to redesign and restructure their programs so as to emerge even stronger than before. The organization is also working to equip partner clinics with information and resources to keep their patients safe. Some communities have even taken part in the shift to remote education and implemented a virtual training system.

Despite the uncertainty of the months ahead, the Himalayan Cataract Project remains firm in its commitment to fighting blindness and poverty. Its partner clinics around the globe have been tireless in their efforts to affirm that the poor and vulnerable will receive the eye care they need once patients can receive in-person treatment again.

Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr

a new kind of bindiWhether wealthy or poor, the women of India are proud of their heritage and embrace their unique culture. One of the most noticeable components of Indian women’s culture is the bindi. While the rest of the world views it as a simple accessory, this tiny dot that sits in the middle of the woman’s forehead is a key element of reflecting Hinduism. Today the bindi is capable of being more than a religious adornment. The Life Saving Dot is a new kind of bindi that provides its wearer with a daily dose of iodine.

Iodine Deficiency in India

Iodine Deficiency Disorder, or IDD, is especially common in India due to the lack of iodized soil and nutrition. The Life Saving Dot has not only directly improved women’s health, but has also brought attention to the importance of including iodine in the everyday diet.

IDD is common especially in India for a number of reasons. The soil in India is famous for its lack of iodization, leaving crops with an insufficient amount of iodine. A majority of Indians favor a vegetarian diet and rarely eat seafood, which is another important source of iodine. A lack of iodized nutrition and a simple lack of awareness are the main contributors to IDD in India.

Iodine deficiency leads to a number of health issues. It is the largest contributor to brain damage which is often permanent. IDD is especially common among women as it affects pregnancy and can lead to breast cancer. Although IDD can have severe consequences, the disorder itself is easily preventable with a sufficient daily dose of iodine.

The Life Saving Dot: How it Works

The technology of the Life Saving Dot is comparable to that of a nicotine patch. The wearer absorbs the nutrients through her skin while wearing the patch. The Life Saving Dot provides the wearer with 150 to 200 micrograms of iodine when worn for at least four hours. While most women wearing the Life Saving Dot report beneficial results, the effectiveness of the dot will depend on certain factors such as skin thickness and even weather. The precipitation level of the current climate has the potential to affect the effectiveness of the dot.

This small dot has had a tremendous impact on the overall health of Indian women. Women wearing this bindi have reported a decrease in headaches, a common side effect of iodine deficiency. Costing only 10 rupees (equivalent to 16 cents in USD) for a pack of 30 dots, it is easily accessible to women of all income levels in India.

Impact of the Life Saving Dot

While the Life Saving Dot has a clearly direct impact on women’s health, perhaps the most important success of the dot is the awareness it created. The greatest contributor to IDD in India is a simple lack of awareness of the importance of iodine. An easy and effective way to combat iodine deficiency is by cooking with iodized salt. However, a significant number of Indian households were unaware of its importance.

India has made great progress in the search for IDD alleviation. According to a recent survey conducted from October 2018 to March 2019, awareness of iodized salt benefits is at 62.2% in urban areas and 50.5% in rural areas. Out of the 21,406 households included in the survey, 76.3% now have iodized salt in the home.

Awareness of iodine necessity increased due to media and the efforts of the Life Saving Dot. This new kind of bindi allows women to represent their proud culture while protecting their health. The direct health benefits of the Life Saving Dot are awe-inspiring and the awareness it presents is life-saving. By improving the awareness of the importance of incorporating iodine into one’s diet, families are protected from goiter, pregnancy complications and even brain disorders. Thanks to a small dot on the forehead, Indian women and their families are protected from IDD and the potential health risks it brings.

– Brittany Carter 
Photo: Flickr

hunger in IndiaIndia has a constantly growing population of more than 1.3 billion. While its economy is booming, its unequal wealth distribution has created an issue for a large portion of the population. Over the past few decades, hunger in India has remained a prevalent issue for the population.

Undernourishment in India

Almost 195 million people (15% of the population) in India are undernourished. Undernourishment means that people are not able to supply their bodies with enough energy through their diet. In the 1990s, 190 million people in India were undernourished. That number remains the same today. Lack of proper diet leads to stunted growth for children; in India, 37.9% of children under the age of five experience stunted growth due to undernourishment.

Malnutrition in India

Malnutrition is one of the bigger implications of the overarching problems India has to deal with: a wide range of hunger, extreme cases of poverty, overpopulation and continually increasing population, a poor health system, and inaccurate national statistics due to the aforementioned overpopulation.

According to the 2018 Global Nutrition Report, India will not reach the minimum nutritional goals by 2025 set by the World Health Organization. With 46.6 million children stunted in growth, India “bears 23.8% of the global burden of malnutrition.” These goals include “reducing child overweight, wasting and stunting, diabetes among women and men, anemia in women of reproductive age and obesity among women and men, and increasing exclusive breastfeeding.”

Action Against Hunger

As a result of all these issues, there are organizations that are trying to help India in its pursuit to provide food to all. Action Against Hunger raises money through donations and uses these funds to provide sustainable food for impoverished areas of the world. For 40 years, they have been operating worldwide and have helped 21 million people in just the past year.

Action Against Hunger facilitates field testing and train small-scale farmers in sustainable practices. Additionally, the organization provides clean water to communities and helps populations in times of natural disasters or other conflicts.

Action Against Hunger launched its program in India in 2010. With a team of 144 workers, they helped over 75,000 people in just the last year. Much of their work has caught the attention of state governments. For example, they have partnered with the Indian state of Chhattisgarh to “offer technical support in the fight against malnutrition,” and plan to do so with other states as well. In Rajasthan, the organization executed the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition program. As a result, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand recognized the organization for its advocacy efforts.

Moving Forward

While India may not reach the WHO goals in five years, progress continues to spread across the country. Each year, India is reducing the number of people who are malnourished. Organizations such as Action Against Hunger partnering up with local and state governments are the first step in helping pave the way for a hunger-free India.

– Shreya Chari 

Photo: Flickr

It is easy for many to take the internet for granted. Roaming around the city, chatting with friends and staying connected with family using mobile applications is possible only because of internet connectivity. One might argue that the internet comes as a luxury element post healthcare, energy, food, shelter and education. The Internet can help people with communication and decision making. For example, farmers can charge their yields at a reasonable price post referring to market prices on the internet. They can even predict weather and harvest accordingly. Money transfers from people across the city can occur instantaneously. This list never ends. Now the internet giant Facebook is teaming up with a company to provide free internet. Here is why Facebook added Reliance as a friend.

Why Facebook Wants to Provide Free Internet

Back in 2015, Facebook experimented with Free Basics for providing basic internet services to the rural population of the world. However, things did not go according to Facebook’s plan because of the regulatory conditions across telecom sectors in different parts of the world. It violated net neutrality laws. After public consultation, the Indian telecom regulator banned Free Basics. Since then Facebook has been eagerly waiting to do something about it.

There are more than 400 million WhatsApp users in India. Added to this fact, Facebook’s core platform has more Indian users than any other country. However, half of the Indian population is still offline. Facebook wants to target that new user-base.

Reliance’s Jio Initiative

Reliance’s Jio initiative succeeded in doing what Facebook was not able to do. It succeeded in providing mobile phones and the internet at a very low cost. It was able to do so because of the revenue generated from other divisions of the organization and the exorbitant loan that Reliance opted for. This move wiped out the telecom sector foundation in India. Competitors such as Vodafone Idea and Airtel lost millions of customers to the new Jio network.

Internet services and call services were provided by Reliance Jio at free of cost in 2016. This move forced competitors to charge less, which in turn, resulted in the internet revolution. Most of the poor population across India started using mobile phones and the internet. As of December 2019, more than 370 million people across India had subscribed to the Reliance network

How Facebook Added Reliance as a Friend

Facebook’s failure in the past to enter Indian markets with the Free Basics concept taught the company an important lesson. Starting from scratch will not work all the time. Acquiring an existing player was an easy choice at this point. Mark Zuckerberg was intelligent enough to detect Jio’s achievements. Added to this fact, the market capitalization of Reliance was down because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Indian National Rupee was at all-time low-value trading around 76 INR for 1 USD. After recognizing these facts, Facebook acquired 10% of the stake in Reliance India Limited at $5.7 billion. Facebook can leverage Reliance’s data for targeted advertisements. It will realize a significant jump in advertisement revenues from the Indian region.

Benefits of Increased Internet Access

Education is not available to everyone. Fortunately, people from poor backgrounds can get access to quality education through the internet. Poor people can access online education sites like Unacademy, Coursera and edX at free of cost. Added to this fact, people search and apply for jobs mostly through the internet. All jobs are highly interconnected these days. Thus, the internet would certainly provide intangible benefits to the rural population.

Millions of people could come out of poverty because of free internet access. Economic growth, employment and productivity of a country will improve significantly because of the internet access provision. In fact, Internet connectivity can generate $6.7 trillion of the global economy and create new jobs. India is the second-largest market for internet connectivity ranked only below China. It has around 600 million internet users.

Moving Forward

Around 30 million local stores in India were not online yet. Reliance’s latest experiment JioMart is working towards enabling this dream. Local Kirana stores can connect to the entire Indian population through the internet. If WhatsApp pay is leveraged on this occasion, possibilities will become endless. Owing to all these facts, accepting Reliance’s friend request was a strategic move towards achieving Facebook’s dreams.

– NarasingaMoorthy V 

Photo: Flickr

demonetization in India
In 2016, India’s new government, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, launched an initiative that replaced all 500 and 1,000 rupee bills with the new 2,000 rupee bills. The initiative sought to eliminate illegal money, or “black money,” and prevent people from conducting illegal business deals. Unfortunately, the initiative also affected the poor the most. The replacement of bills brought on a massive disruption to the overall economy, especially due to the cash shortages experienced by many throughout the nation. Here are five ways demonetization in India has affected poor communities.

5 Ways Demonetization in India is Affecting the Poor

  1. Market vendors had to shut down their shops. Typically, market vendors farm on a daily basis and sell their production. The drop in customer traffic, however, forced the market vendors to shut down their shops. Since these laborers work without an official employment contract, they make up a part of an informal economy. As a result, without a regular flow of customers, it becomes hard for these people to survive. The majority of this informal economy depends upon cash transactions.
  2. The ban of the 500 and 1,000 rupee bills has tremendously affected migrant labor workers. Migrant labor workers are those who travel to find work every year. Similar to the informal economy, these laborers typically rely on cash transactions. Due to the fact that such cash transactions occur privately, without the interference of the banks, the demonetization policy makes it even more difficult for these migrant laborers who already travel far from home, leaving their families behind, in hope for a decent job.
  3. Demonetization has also negatively impacted small business owners who serve food on streets. Due to the fact that the citizens had only 50 days to exchange their notes, customer flow completed stopped for many businesses. Additionally, many of these small business owners could not afford to stand in the long lines outside of the banks. For a wealthy family, losing an income of a few days does not make a big difference. However, for the poor, losing the income of even two days has an impact. As a result, people began skipping meals to keep their businesses running.
  4. The low-income, working class people suffer from the new policy. Typically, working class people have basic jobs with fairly low wages. Due to the fact that there is a shortage of cash flow, many low-income workers are experiencing delayed salary payments. As a result, it becomes difficult to run households. This especially becomes a problem when there are children who are going to school with high fees, or if there is a wedding in the house. Additionally, young adults getting ready for college also faced difficulties, since their parents were unable to afford to pay high college tuition.
  5. Demonetization in India has also negatively affected daily-wage workers. Since the implementation of demonetization, daily-wage workers, such as maids and housekeepers, have found it increasingly difficult to manage their lives. Cash shortages makes it difficult for them to get paid on time, which leads to skipping meals or working twice as much but for low wages. It also becomes hard for these workers to buy basic necessities or even pay education fees for children. As a result of financial strain, some children might have to do small jobs in order to bring in more money.
While demonetization in India initially had a negative impact on the poor, this was caused mainly by the transition. The Modi government has described the policy as a “fight for the poor against the corrupt rich,” and the problems poor communities faced are alleviating now that the economy is rebounding. Despite the chaos demonetization created, Modi has high approval ratings in India. In the future, it is essential that the government put in place better protections for the poor when making such a significant change, to ensure Indians are not suffering.

– Krishna Panchal 
Photo: Flickr

Goals for Girls: Sports and Empowerment“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they can understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination,” said South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. More than 240 million people play soccer. At least 30 million girls participate in the sport. Goals for Girls helps young women across the globe score their own goals and celebrate empowerment.

Goals For Girls

Goals for Girls changes the world of young women. It started with a team of 16-year-old soccer players who opted to impact the world through soccer rather than compete at an international tournament. Now, Goals for Girls has teamed up with funding agencies, new partners and stars of the U.S. women’s national soccer team to teach and develop young women into agents of change through soccer. The organization aspires to give each young girl the tools to become a world changer.

Sports offer many psychological and physical benefits for girls and women. People who participate in sports benefit from a more positive body image, self-concept and overall well-being. In 2016, Saudi Arabia sent four women to compete in the Rio Olympics. This historical move represented a forward shift for women in Saudi Arabia. Before, they had faced discrimination and had restricted rights; they still do.

Maria Toorpakai, a Pakistani squash player, uses her sport to face and fight the Taliban. She gained their attention as she rose to fame. She moved to Canada to train, but she hopes to go back to Pakistan to bring sports to boys and girls. The U.S. women’s national soccer team is paid one-fourth of what their male counterparts are, but it is paving the way for the equal pay movement.

India

India hosted the first Goals for Girls program in 2014. The program tackled awareness, communication, teamwork and goal-setting. These are the four international summit pillars of Goals for Girls. The organization aimed to facilitate activities that help with issues the young girls faced on a regular basis like gender-based violence, child marriage and education inequality.

Child marriage has been practiced for centuries in India. In 2016, 27 percent of marriages were child marriages. Luckily, this is improving. Child marriage has decreased from 47 percent in 2006. Child marriage facilitates the cycle of poverty which enables malnutrition, illiteracy and gender discrimination. Child marriage also perpetuates a cycle of gender-based violence and education inequality.

Girls are more likely to be pulled from educational opportunities. Additionally, girls who marry young tend to have lower educational levels and are perceived as an economic liability to their family. UNICEF is working with the Indian government to forgo child marriage through girls’ empowerment, which aligns with the mission of Goals for Girls.

South Africa

South Africa became a country of focus after the launch of the program in 2007. In South Africa, the program centers around the aforementioned international pillars, but the activities are tailored toward issues plaguing girls in South Africa like HIV, teenage pregnancy and education inequality.

There have been strides made in recent years to combat the HIV epidemic. Despite having the largest antiretroviral treatment program globally, South Africa still has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. Poverty, along with gender-based violence and gender inequality, perpetuates the discrepancy between gender and HIV rates. In 2016, South Africa implemented the “She Conquers” campaign to increase economic opportunities for women, prevent gender-based violence and keep girls in school.

Sports have been a platform for change for many women on a global scale. Goals for Girls is working to make that change even stronger. It is providing girls with education, teamwork building skills and important life skills. Its ultimate goal is women’s equality.

Gwendolin Schemm
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Kashmir
Many countries around the world do not have sufficient access to clean water and two of the most deprived counties are India and Pakistan. Both countries are seeing rapid population growth, but they also lack the proper infrastructure to provide their citizens with water. There is a long history of conflict between the two neighbors, and the heavily disputed Kashmir region has added to the conflict. The water crisis in Kashmir should be the focus, however.

Background on Pakistan

Pakistan is in eastern Asia, bordering Iran, Afghanistan and India, as well as sharing a small border with China. It is the sixth most populated country with around 207 million people. The country also borders the Arabian Sea to the south. It recently ranked 140 out of 180 countries in the quality of water and sanitation on the Environmental Performance Index. Regional conflict, arid land, inefficient sanitation and water conservation resources have contributed to Pakistan’s lack of clean water. In Pakistan, about 21 million people are without clean water.

Background on India

India has the second-largest population in the world at 1.3 billion people and it lives within an area smaller than the United States. Despite many improvements to water facility access, India still lacks the adequate resources necessary to provide its large citizenry with clean water. Rapid urbanization has caused sprawling urban areas, where the people who live on the outskirts have no access to water unless they build wells.

Close to 600 million people are facing acute water shortages, and 21 cities might run out of groundwater by 2020. Both India and Pakistan commit much of their water to agriculture. India is a grain-producing country, which requires large amounts of water. India and Pakistan both have very low groundwater levels due to using it for farming.

The Indus Treaty

In the 1960s, the two neighbors agreed on a treaty to allocate the water that flows through the Kashmir region. The World Bank brokered the treaty, called the Indus Treaty, in an attempt to properly divert the water that flows into India and Pakistan throughout the disputed area.

Both sides have threatened to leave the treaty. Indus is the name of one of the longest rivers in Asia and its tributaries provide many countries with water. As the conflict over the Kashmir region has risen, the Indian government has threatened to divert one of the rivers by building dams and ultimately reducing the amount of water that flows to Pakistan.

India is also looking to build a dam in the Rari River. Since the creation of the treaty, the Rari River has been one of the main sources of water for Pakistan coming from the Kashmir region.

The Feud Over Kashmir

In 1834, the Sikh Empire annexed Kashmir, but after the war with Britain, the British gained control in 1846. Kashmir ultimately became part of Britain’s Indian colony, with the name Jammu and Kashmir.

Britain relinquished control of India in 1947, after which the Pakistani and Indian nations emerged. Pakistan controls the northern part of Kashmir, while the more southern Jammu and Kashmir are under Indian control. At the time of the British withdrawal, the ruler of Kashmir wished to stay neutral and maintain control over the region.

Kashmir has undergone long disputes. It stands at the northernmost point in India, and to this day, looks to obtain as much autonomy as it can from the Indian government. Both Indian and Pakistan lay claim to the Kashmir region and the region has been the basis of two of the wars between the neighboring countries. In fact, one of the wars was the first war between the two nuclear-armed nations.

As a way to maintain control over the region, the Indian government recently revoked the special rights afforded to the Muslim population in the Kashmir region and took many steps to diminish dissent. These steps included sending troops, enforcing a curfew, shutting down telecommunications like text messaging and internet services and arresting people the government deemed political prisoners.

Many in the region look to obtain independence or even to succeed in Pakistan since their Muslim majority sees Pakistan as a more welcome nation to be a part of. Pakistan and India have fought over the divided region to maintain control, but just recently, India looked to use the region as a weapon against its neighbor. After a suicide attack in February 2019 on Indian soldiers, which the Indian government blamed on Pakistani backed militants, relations between the countries have worsened with both sides threatening the other, and the conducting of airstrikes against Pakistan.

The Conclusion

The disputed Kashmir region will only increase in importance as both India and Pakistan face growing populations and decreasing groundwater levels. India and Pakistan are two of the most water-scarce countries in the world, so the water coming from the Indus River system is essential. The water crisis in Kashmir is affecting both countries, and both countries are working to improve access to clean water. There are also many organizations making it their mission to provide people with clean water.

UNICEF has promoted WASH programs to provide communities with education and resources on the importance of hygiene. Groups like charity: water has dedicated itself to providing clean water to countries in need, including Pakistan and India. It does this by building wells, improving sanitation to ensure clean water remains clean and other techniques to obtain and maintain clean water. With better techniques, the water crisis in Kashmir should diminish significantly. Also, the use of water as a political tool would no longer be a viable option.

– Jared Hynes
Photo: Flickr