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Fighting Poverty in Fashion, Brands That Give BackWorking conditions in the fashion industry are often less than ideal. Despite providing job opportunities for workers in impoverished countries, many of these employees make 42% to 55% under a living wage. When fighting poverty in fashion, improving workers’ rights is paramount to helping better the industry. Donations through third-party charities are a common way organizations have provided their support for changing the fashion industry. However, this charitable work is often criticized for its lack of actual change seen by the workers. As such, three companies have found a more productive way to help increase transparency, sustainability and worker’s rights. In an effort to change the fashion industry, Lucy and Yak, Girlfriend Collective and ABLE  have all shown creative solutions and fast success as clothing corporations in developing countries around the world.

Lucy and Yak

Lucy and Yak started in New Zealand. Chris Tenwick and Lucy Greenwood began their journey traveling the world, creating tobacco pouches, which they sold to travelers visiting the country. The couple headed back to the U.K., where they sold vintage clothing and homemade overalls out of their van, named Yak. They traveled to China, India and Thailand looking for a production company and landed on three tailors in Rajasthan, India. In Rajasthan, nearly 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. One of the biggest components of GDP growth for Rajasthan is industry, making Lucy and Yak’s choice of location a profitable and impactful one.

Since 2018, the team of three grew into 50, opening job opportunities for many. A new, climate-controlled and ethically sustainable factory stands to produce Lucy and Yak products in the rural region of Rajasthan. With this factory, the company can provide compensation higher than the minimum wage for the area and support their workers’ individual needs. Greenwood and Tenwick often visit the team in India as oversight for production and to catch up with their old friends from the van days. Overall, when fighting poverty in fashion, Lucky and Yak pave the way for a standard of ethical production.

Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective is an activewear company based out of Seattle, Washington. Bottles, cotton industry scraps, recycled nylon and polyester all make up Girlfriend Collective’s clothes. The company currently sources its recycled materials from Taiwan and its core production comes from Hanoi, Vietnam. The Hanoi factory in the Phu Tho province is an area dedicated to sustainable poverty reduction. It is also an SA8000-certified facility, meaning the factory is held to a sustainable and ethical standard of fair wages and safe worker’s conditions.

Moreover, Girlfriend Collective supplies its workers with free lunch and dinner, guided exercise breaks and health checkups every six months at the factory. Worldwide, Girlfriend Collective has been acknowledged for its success. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization have applauded Girlfriend Collective for its efforts. Thus, with its mission to ensure health and safety for its employees, Girlfriend Collective has made its mark in fighting poverty in fashion.

ABLE

ABLE is a women-owned fashion company that dedicates itself to the advancement of women worldwide. Its international employment program began in Ethiopia with the production of scarves. Since 2019, the company has expanded similar programs in Mexico, India and Brazil. One of the company’s overall goals is to educate its consumers on wage inequities. Around the world, 98% of people making clothing cannot make a living wage. Women comprise 75% of this figure. ABLE has also solidified its own evaluation system called Accountable. With this system, ABLE can hold itself accountable and continue making a positive impact on its company.

The Future for Fighting Poverty in Fashion

In efforts to alleviate poverty around the world, these three companies are taking the lead. Their oversight has impacted impoverished communities in Vietnam, Ethiopia and India in a new and positive light. Overall, by ensuring living wages, safe working conditions and women empowerment, Lucy and Yak, Girlfriend and ABLE are helping to fight poverty in fashion.

– Julia Fadanelli
Photo: Flickr

3D printed homesAn important part of fighting global poverty is providing people a safe place to live. 3D printed homes offers a new solution, as this new method allows for fast and cheap mass-production of affordable housing.

What is the Current Demand for Affordable Housing?

Before the pandemic, approximately 2% of the world’s population was classified as homeless. In addition, over 20% of the world’s population lacked adequate housing. Demographic trends point to an acceleration in population growth worldwide, coupled with the decline of average household size, the global need for affordable housing is increasing rapidly.

The UN estimates—with ‘medium growth’—the world’s population will reach over 11 billion people by the end of this century. Furthermore, environmental instances have displaced millions of people around the world, make it harder to live in some places. The need for affordable housing is clear, however, new 3D printing homes could be the answer to producing quality affordable housing around the world.

What does 3D Printed Housing Offer?

Compared to traditional housing methods, 3D printing is faster and cheaper. Moreover, 3D printing offers environmental benefits. By limiting construction and waste the method is carbon neutral or even negative. With millions of people living in poorly constructed homes made with scrap metal and dirt floors, 3D printed homes promise a safer and better-quality living environment. Living in slum housing can not only make it harder to succeed in school or at work, but the dangerous living conditions can present physical health risks.

3D printed homes are made to last. 3D printing creates a hybrid concrete mortar that hardens while printing. As a result, the tool can mass-produce ‘housing kits’ with the structures needed to build a home.

Current 3D Printing Examples

In the city of Chennai, India, the country is seeing its first 3D printed homes thanks to NGO Tvasta. “Traditional construction is tedious and time-consuming. People are increasingly getting left out as affordability is limited, or settling for low-quality homes,” said Adithya Jain, the company’s CEO. They built the first house in five days. Additionally, they used 30% less of the budget than planned and produced less environmental waste in the process.

In El Salvador, an American company ICON has successfully replaced slums with 3D-printed housing. They have designed a 350-square foot home which was assembled in approximately two days. “Something that sounds like science fiction is real… This is meant to be long-term sustainable housing,” said Jason Ballard the co-founder of ICON.

3D Printing’s Promising Future

As the demand for affordable housing continues to increase, there will be a need to invest in technology that allows us to keep up with the demand, giving everyone the opportunity to live in safe and quality housing. 3D printed homes have the potential to help end global poverty and the worldwide housing crisis.

– Alex Muckenfuss
Photo: Flickr

women farmers' movement in IndiaIndia is experiencing one of the largest and longest-lasting protest movements in world history. It has seen continuous protests for about seven months, most prominently in New Delhi, the capital city. Hundreds of thousands of protestors have gathered to support the movement, in which farmers demand the repeal of three agricultural laws passed by India’s government in September 2020. Women, many of them farmers, are leading these protests.

The Farm Laws

The three laws passed are known as the Farm Laws. They allow for the privatization of agricultural markets. While the government stated that the Farm Laws would “give expanded market access and provide greater flexibility to farmers,” protestors say the laws will push small farmers into poverty by curtailing produce prices and favoring large corporations.

Women’s Role in Agriculture

Women are prominent in the farmers’ movement protest scene for multiple reasons. The laws can affect both their work as farmers and their family lives as spouses to farmers. According to India’s National Council of Applied Economic Research, women account for more than 42% of India’s agricultural labor force but own only 2% of farmland.

In 2019, more than 10,000 agricultural sector workers in India committed suicide, partially due to financial hardships. Widowed women were left to provide for themselves and were often unable to gain rights to their husbands’ farmland due to gender-biased inheritance traditions.

Women’s Role in the Protests

The farmers’ protests and women’s role in them have received mixed reactions from the public and the government. S.A. Bobde, the Chief Justice of India, asked, “Why are women and elders kept in the protest?” Bobde asked advocates to encourage women to stop showing up at protest sites. However, women responded to his remarks by yelling “no” into microphones and continuing to protest.

Jasbir Kaur, a 74-year old farmer, told Time Magazine, “Why should we go back? This is not just the men’s protest. We toil in the fields alongside the men. Who are we — if not farmers?” On Christmas Eve, protestor Amra Ram, the vice president of the All India Kisan Sabha, acknowledged the work and importance of women in the farmers’ movement in India.“Women farmers are fighting the battle at the threshold, and we are here to follow them,” he said.

Global Response

Despite governmental dismay toward the protestors, there is support for the Indian farmers’ movement across the globe. Solidarity protests have been held in Great Britain, the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, women celebrities such as singer Rihanna, climate activist Greta Thunberg and author Meena Harris have used their Twitter platforms to stand in solidarity with the Indian activists.

“We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters,” Harris tweeted in February.

India’s foreign affairs ministry accused foreign celebrities of being dangerously “sensational” after Rihanna’s tweet reading “why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest” increased anger toward India’s government officials.

History of Women in Protests

A large female presence is not new in Indian protest scenes. In the 1960s and 1970s, women activists stood up against gender violence and the economic exploitation of women. Their efforts drew the attention of the United Nations, which called for the reassessment of social conditions for women in India. That led to the founding of the Committee for the Status of Women in India (CSWI) in 1974.

More recently, in 2012, protests following the gang rape of Jyoti Pandey demanded public safety reform for women. India passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 2013 to address concerns about sexual violence.

In India, women protestors have historically been persistent in demanding reform. Women are propelling the farmers’ movement in India, one of the largest protests in history. However, the Indian government has yet to repeal the Farm Laws as protestors demand.

– Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr

Self-sufficient Energy Production in OdanthuraiOdanthurai, a small village in Tamil Nadu, India, is the first in its region to incorporate wind, solar and biogas energy into its community. India is running out of the resources normally used to receive electricity. Since imports are expensive, using solar energy will boost the economy in the long term. Using solar energy will also help many villages, such as Odanthurai, to gain access to clean electricity. Self-sufficient energy production in Odanthurai will help many villagers gain access to clean electricity and, as a result, alleviate poverty.

Why Odanthurai Converted to Self Sufficiency Energy

When farmer Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam was elected council president of Odanthurai, he became invested in the development of the community and village as a whole. Shanmugam fought for access to cleaner water, as well as better sanitation and roads. He then began realizing that implementing these additions, such as the installations of street lights, drinking water plants and filtering points, was increasing the village’s electricity bills. In an India Climate Dialogue interview, Shanmugam admitted that “the electricity bill was only INR 2,000 (USD $30) when I joined, and it increased to INR 150,000 (USD $2,220) in just two years.”

Shanmugam realized that change was necessary in order to sustain Odanthurai without causing extensive electricity bills. In the long run, clean energy would allow for a reduction in power bills. Electricity bills were making up 60% of the council’s expenses. This was a hindrance that prevented them from implementing any other developmental changes. Shanmugam began looking into alternative means of energy.

Implementing Clean Energy in Odanthurai

The first change Shanmugam made in Odanthurai was to replace the electricity-run water pump with a biomass gasifier. The resulting cost showed a reduction from the previous cost by almost 70%. This was a significant cutback from the state of the village’s electricity beforehand. Additionally, Shanmugam established two solar lights in Odanthurai. This was a step toward renewable energy that saved the village a total of 5000 INR.

The success of biogas and solar energy bolstered interest in exploring alternatives for electricity. Eventually, the council bought a windmill. The resulting energy that the windmill created was enough to sell to the state as well as pay off the local villages’ bank loans. Shanmugam’s statement on the self-sufficient energy production that he helped to effectuate was simply, “[The village councils] in India should take steps to address development on their own. If this can be done in Odanthurai, it can be done anywhere in India.”

Clean Energy’s Role in Poverty Reduction

While clean energy such as biogas, solar and wind energy is important for the environment, it also has a strong link to poverty reduction. The cost of installing electricity in the village was infringing on their budget for developmental changes. Using clean energy, which reduces power bills, can help alleviate poverty by allowing impoverished communities to focus on other necessary improvements such as hygiene and education.

According to a 2015 report by Synapse Energy, harnessing renewable energy allowed the state of California to save more than $15 million in the first six months. This can be similarly applied to other regions in the world, as the long-term costs are proven to significantly decline over time. As a result, villages can focus on areas that need further development without spending a majority of their budget on electricity bills.

Organizations Providing Assistance

While Shanmugam and the village council were able to implement self-sufficient energy production in Odanthurai, other activists and organizations are also taking action toward advocating for clean energy. Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is a non-governmental organization that provides solar energy to underprivileged regions around the world. SELF points out that 14% of the global population lacks energy access, which is a whopping 0.9 billion people. Since 1996, SELF has conducted its projects in about 25 countries around the world. Some of their notable projects include providing excess energy from solar vaccine refrigerators to power medical equipment. It also has been improving online learning in South America and powering telemedicine in the Amazon rainforest.

Self-sufficient energy production in Odanthurai acts as a powerful example to the rest of the world. Clean energy has the power to change the world and alleviate poverty. It is time for other communities and countries to look toward self-sufficient energy options and see how they can improve the lives of their people.

– Esha Kelkar
Photo: Unsplash

TechnoServe Bolsters India’s Economy with CoffeeThe coffee industry continues to flourish as the product dominates markets in most parts of the world. Due to its popularity, coffee holds its economic value well, providing sustainable income to those in the industry. India produces a portion of this commodity. However, some regions lack the infrastructure necessary for the industry to prosper. One nonprofit called TechnoServe bolsters India’s economy with coffee.

Andhra Pradesh

TechnoServe provides an avenue through which the farmers of Andhra Pradesh, a town in India, can grow coffee more efficiently. This region of India is a nontraditional growing region. Coffee production in India originated from a desire to prevent further felling of trees for cultivation. The coffee industry provided a means of employment for the locals who live in the region. While this region has viable production capabilities, small land sizes and poor agricultural practices limit the yield potential. TechnoServe works alongside these farmers to solve these problems and assist in expanding the market potential.

Coffee was introduced to Andhra Pradesh, India, in the ’60s by the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department (APFD) to end the slash and burn agriculture that dominated the region. Ideally, by introducing a new type of cultivation, fewer trees would be cut and burned. The APFD hopes this will protect the forest and encourage sustainable communities within the region. This area specializes in Araku Coffee — globally recognized for its high quality and popularity. The Specialty Coffee Association rated Araku Coffee as a world-renowned coffee with an 88-90 out of 100. Even with the coffee’s success in the global market, many farmers still struggle to experience individual economic stability.

Impact of TechnoServe

One aspect of coffee cultivation TechnoServe hopes to address is the picking of coffee cherries. Unlike a typical harvest, coffee cherries ripen at different rates, making it imperative for farmers to pick only the individual ripe fruit. This labor-intensive task requires focused knowledge of coffee ripening and the skills to recognize when the coffee is ready to be harvested. When farmers pick underripe fruit, it lessens the overall quality of the coffee produced. Because this is a nontraditional growing region, many farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India, do not have access to the knowledge necessary to improve these practices. TechnoServe’s assistance has provided these farmers with training and knowledge to bolster economic potential.

One result of TechnoServe’s influence is that farmers no longer need to rely on village middlemen for economic stability. Due to a lack of consistent income, some farmers ended up indebted to middlemen who were sought out to help families do things such as send their children to school. This debt trap limited the potential of many who found themselves incapable of digging themselves out.

Another aspect of TechnoServe’s training program is the involvement of the whole family. Palika, a farmer from Andhra Pradesh, India, explains how — when he wanted to expand his business and learn new coffee cultivation techniques — his wife also learned. Learning together built a partnership between the two with a common goal as they moved up the value chain.

Importance of TechnoServe

India’s coffee market, historically, remains export-oriented. However, with the increasing popularity and usage of small-scale farmers, facilitating these exports prevents farmers from maintaining a decent profit. Some farmers lose at least 10% of the production potential to local traders. TechnoServe hopes to end these losses by utilizing farmer producer organizations (FPOs) to take the product to market.

Utilizing the FPO market for coffee sales will improve the economic potential for farmers like Palika who hope to make their businesses profitable. Through the transformation of cultivation practices in Andhra Pradesh, India, Technoserve bolsters India’s economy and continues to instill hope for the future of Araku’s coffee industry.

– Kate Lucht
Photo: Flickr

Deglobalization Amid COVID-19COVID-19 has disrupted trade markets throughout the world. Due to this, many are speculating that the world is in a state of “deglobalization.” Deglobalization is a term that holds two meanings. One propagates the idea that local manufacturers are in danger of foreign competition. The other describes “periods of history when economic trade and investment were in decline.” Moments of deglobalization include World War I, World War II and the 2008 financial crisis in the U.S. Both events led to economic downturns in many other countries, which led to periods of distrust toward globalization.

Deglobalization in India

India has experienced more than 50,000 deaths due to COVID-19. In addition, India has many unreported COVID-19 cases due to poor surveillance infrastructure. The country has also experienced a rise in unemployment, destructive floods and a falling GDP. India has seen the world’s second-highest virus infections and there is still uncertainty about when the country can go back to normal. However, the government’s new trade policies are predicted to help India’s economy bounce back. India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry expressed, “A key driver for India to achieve the USD 5 trillion mark in an expedited time frame would be boosting exports, both merchandise and services.” Reaching this goal would improve domestic manufacturing and service sectors through the addition of efficient infrastructure funded by the government.

However, President Mobi’s movement of taking agriculture sales into the free market has caused massive disruption. India’s agriculture is the largest employer in the country. The government has been controlling wholesale markets, securing food buyers and setting price guarantees. This globalized approach will cut guarantees set by the Indian government and force farmers to go further into debt to secure stability in a competitive field. Farmers who have entered the free market before the bills reported high rates of debt and suicide attempts. Reform to create an open market that doesn’t favor farmers is deeply controversial in India.

Nepal and Trade Restrictions

Just like India, Nepal is looking to reunite with the global market. Nepal’s unemployment rate is reaching 40% on a federal level. The informal sector employs most employed Nepalis, who gain income through unregulated markets and illegal services. An estimated 500,000 people enter the country for work while only 200,000 actually find work. The Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry has a plan to reduce trade deficits caused by the pandemic by 50% and help Nepalese manufacturers through government-funded projects. President of the federation Shekhar Golchha, claims that “If the vision paper is implemented honestly, there will be an investment of $150 billion in the upcoming decade. Of the total investment, around $108 billion will come from the private sector.”

Trade with China has also been an issue for Nepal internationally. In February, Chinese traders created a blockade restricting 2,000 containers loaded with clothes, shoes, cosmetics, electronics and industrial raw materials. As China holds itself to be the “factory of the world,” it has deeply affected smaller countries. During the blockade dispute, Nepal found itself in violation of the “One China” law. A month later, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli created the Make in Nepal-Swadeshi campaign. The prime minister intends for this campaign to start taking underemployment out of international hands.

The Philippines and its Relationship with China

The Philippines has been hit very hard by COVID-19 just as the country was beginning to recover. International trade in the Philippines has continuously declined since the beginning of the lockdowns and the overall trade income is 20.2% lower than in 2019. However, aid from foreign countries, such as China, has helped the Philippines during this time of need. On January 16, 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged to donate 500,000 vaccines to the Philippines. Wang has also approved an infrastructure agreement to fund $400 million to the Filipino government for bridge infrastructure and $940 million for a railroad cargo project.

The Philippines has historically been lagging behind other East Asian nations in manufacturing export. Graft, low autocracy and overarching oligarchs controlling agriculture production and property contribute to holding the country back. During the Plaza Accord in 1985, these factors led to the Philippines losing out on a significant wave of Japanese investments. By the 2000s, the country’s GDP became stagnant. Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19, reflects that the pandemic has shown how vulnerable the Philippines is to the lack of international help, stating, “For 2023, we envision for self-sufficiency and readiness for the pandemic and other disasters with the modernization and integration of our healthcare system.”

As 2021 continues, nations are deglobalizing for one reason or another, and shifting international relationships will determine the future of foreign affairs. While developing countries need economic assistance, international support has been seen to complicate domestic production in certain sectors by allowing foreign influence to dominate industries. Deglobalisation can bring a new form of globalized affairs and political leaders should rethink their investment in free markets, looking more into domestic action to keep citizens off the poverty line.

– Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in IndiaGender inequality is still a prevailing problem across the world today. India is one country among the many engaging in the fight for gender equality. One prominent issue within this gender struggle is the disparity in pay. The strive toward equality within the country requires a greater focus on the gender wage gap in India. This pay gap is perpetuated by multiple factors, which must be tackled from a variety of angles. Two key areas for improvement lie within the education system and job market. In order to diminish the pervasive gender wage gap in India, the country’s educational and occupational discrepancies between men and women need to be addressed.

Barriers to Equality

Indian women often receive an insufficient amount of education and preparation for the workforce. On top of this, the educational training they do obtain tends to be of poorer quality. The literacy rate for women in India is around 70% while the literacy rate for men in India is 84.7%. Due to lower quality in education, women are less likely to attain higher-paying jobs. In fact, the participation rate of Indian women in the labor force has declined over the past 20 years and is significantly less than the world’s average. A high percentage of women who do find work do so in vulnerable employment situations. Around 80% of employed women work in rural areas in the agricultural sector and very few women work in the paid labor market. Comparatively, unpaid work accounts for only a quarter of men’s time. As a result, the wage gap between men and women widens.

This is if women can succeed in pushing against the social norm that women should stay at home and care for children. Oftentimes, women must take on the position of caretaker, which leaves less time for pursuing careers outside of the home. This societal standard has furthered educational and occupational inequalities. Investment in education is geared more toward men because women are labeled as future homemakers. Additionally, women face discrimination in the workforce due to the assumed idea of motherhood. Women are viewed as potential mothers who do not have time for the job and thus receive unfair pay. Accompanying the role of child caretaker, women in India generally hold a lower status than men. This leads to women being treated unfairly, one way being through smaller wages than men.

Commit2Change

The movement to decrease the gender wage gap in India is not without aid. NGOs are joining the fight for equality from all around the globe in numerous functions. One international NGO working specifically with young girls in India is Commit2Change. Its primary goal is to educate orphaned girls in India to transform their lives and provide a pathway to a bright future. Commit2Change believes educated women can help remedy gender inequality, especially in the job market.

Commit2Change works with young girls to instill academic knowledge, self-worth and the importance of community aid and involvement. Its educational programs help its participants to thrive holistically in all of these elements, especially educationally. Commit2Change has reached more than 4,000 girls, helping 98% of them to enroll in secondary school, 89% to pass exams and graduate and increase their interest in education by 82%. Commit2Change is undoubtedly fulfilling its goal of helping girls succeed through the power of education.

A Promising Shift Toward Gender Equality

The hurdles women must overcome in relation to education and job opportunities greatly influence the gender wage gap in India. To tackle these issues, Commit2Change along with similar organizations are paving the way for equality in the workforce. Commit2Change prepares young girls for a technologically advanced workforce, which can help them obtain high-paying jobs. It achieves this by providing quality education and adaptive life skills programming. As Commit2Change and other NGOs continue to educate and support women and young girls, the ultimate end to the gender wage gap in India may be an attainable goal.

Philip Tang
Photo: Flickr

Bipolar Awareness in IndiaIndia is the second-most densely populated nation in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people. Of that number, more than 82 million citizens suffer from bipolar disorder, according to data from 2019. Bipolar disorder in India often goes undiagnosed and untreated for reasons ranging from ancient superstitions to the cost of treatment, but, bipolar awareness in India is steadily progressing.

Bipolar Disorder in India

Improved bipolar awareness in India exemplifies how a concerted effort can reduce stigma and create an affordable and readily available avenue for treatments such as therapy and medication. Indians, mostly women, have been disowned and abandoned by family or a spouse after receiving a bipolar diagnosis. In a country where the consequences of a mental condition are isolation and disconnection, the need for awareness and education is paramount.

A nation that once attributed bipolar disorder to demonic spirits, planetary alignments or a sinful past life, has come extremely far in its understanding of the illness. But, the stigma surrounding the disorder is still prevalent in India, and many, especially those from rural locations, believe bipolar disorder is a choice or an illness reserved for the rich and privileged.

BipolarIndia Organization

One resource improving bipolar awareness in India is the organization BipolarIndia. The community was created in 2013 by Vijay Nallawala, an Indian man that suffers from bipolar disorder, and his mentor and friend, Puneet Bhatnagar. BipolarIndia’s mission is to create an empathetic, judgment-free environment for bipolar people to find information, treatment, and most of all, support from those that can relate to their struggle.

BipolarIndia hosts a National Conference every year on World Bipolar Day to create awareness for the illness and educate residents from all over the country. In 2015, the organization began hosting monthly support meetings for individuals to speak with peers that can understand their struggle. It has also recently developed a way for patients to receive real-time support through the Telegram App when they feel they may need immediate help. Resources such as the Telegram App are invaluable due to the lack of mental health professionals in India.

The Mental Health Care Bill

Data from a 2005 report shows that there are only three psychiatrists per million citizens and only 0.06% of India’s healthcare budget goes toward improving mental healthcare. The Indian Government passed a Mental Health Care Bill in June of 2013 laying out a mission to improve bipolar awareness in India as well as reduce stigma surrounding all mental health issues. The bill has been undergoing revisions and policy modifications based on the guidance given by the Indian Association of Psychiatry.

Efforts to Raise Awareness

The government’s efforts to raise awareness about the complexity of bipolar disorder and the number of Indians that suffer in silence is vital to the disorder being understood. The Indian government aims to provide communities with adequate care and reliable information, leading the nation to a better understanding of a complicated mental disorder.

Bipolar awareness in India has improved with private organizations such as the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) funding research on effective treatments and raising awareness across the globe.

Also fighting for bipolar awareness, Indian celebrities, including Deepika Padukone, Rukh Kahn, Yo Yo Honey Singh and Anushka Sharma, have stepped forward and opened up about their personal battles with bipolar disorder, combatting the stigma surrounding the illness.

The Road Ahead

Bipolar awareness in India has slowly improved but still has a long way to go. If the government aims to change the attitude toward bipolar disorder and improve treatment, a significant investment in research is vital as well as a comprehensive understanding of the disorder.

–  Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

Improving Education in KashmirThe conflict in Kashmir has disproportionately affected education due to a variety of national as well as domestic threats. Children, in particular, are being significantly affected, Education in Kashmir was halted far before COVID-19 affected the rest of the world. Improving education in Kashmir is essential for poverty reduction.

Political Unrest and COVID-19

In August 2019, Article 370 of the Indian constitution that applied to Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated. Repealing this article revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous ‘special status’ as a state. As a way to curb anticipated unrest in the state, the Indian government blocked internet and phone lines. This crisis along with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has put the future of education in Kashmir on shaky ground, reflective of its political landscape. Between 2019 and 2020, schools in Kashmir officially functioned for as little as 100 days.

Internet Connectivity in Kashmir

According to the latest census, 68.74% of Jammu and Kashmir’s population are literate and males are 20% more literate than females. Roughly 27.21 % of the state of Kashmir live in rural areas where access to education is a key issue, especially during COVID-19. Over time, the Indian government has facilitated low-speed internet to select areas up to the speed of 2G. The issue is that a higher speed of internet is required for classes to be facilitated via Zoom, Skype or to be watched on YouTube. Other than the children, educators, college and graduate students are faced with a continuing lag that has affected education in Kashmir. The government has whitelisted some websites and restored higher speed connectivity in some districts of the state.

Aawo Padhain

The Directorate of School Education Kashmir has set up “Aawo Padhain” (Come Lets Study). It is a portal that is filled with E-content and video-based classes for children to continue studying during the lockdown. The center is also equipped with a free Child-Line for children in need of aid and assistance. Additionally, Whatsapp has become a portal for teachers to send educational videos to students. While this initiative addresses the issue of continuing education during COVID-19, more needs to be done to address the other issues that affect education in Kashmir. Improving education in Kashmir will have benefits that are far-reaching.

Education Reform

The National Educational Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), approved by the government on July 29, 2020, was introduced to implement changes to education, with special focus on Jammu and Kashmir. The policy is based on the pillars of “access, equity, quality, affordability, accountability” and will transform India into a “vibrant knowledge hub,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the success of such a policy depends on its implementation. Its effectiveness, or lack thereof, will be seen in due time. For successful educational transformation, Kashmir also needs well-qualified teachers, access to electricity, the internet, computers, technology and libraries. Furthermore, country-wide internet bans should not be allowed.

Kashmiri students have lived in a life of lockdown longer than the rest of the world has, with their education impacted long before COVID-19 came about. To bridge the overall gap in education in Kashmir, it is essential for the country to receive assistance to implement educational reform for improving education in Kashmir.

–  Anuja Mukherjee
Photo: Flickr

Farming Reform in IndiaToward the end of November 2020, more than 250 million people around the Indian subcontinent protested for farming reform in India. Protestors are pushing back against the three-piece legislation passed by the Indian Parliament which attempts to liberalize the agricultural sector by increasing Indian farmers’ access to bigger markets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, argues that the recently passed agricultural bills intend to grant farmers autonomy and increase their income. However, Indian farmers fear these laws will threaten their livelihoods by leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by powerful agricultural corporations.

The Indian Agricultural Sector

The agricultural sector is an essential part of the Indian economy, as it generates livelihood for nearly 60% of the Indian population. Despite the vital role of Indian farmers, the agricultural sector only makes up 15-16% of the subcontinent’s GDP, leaving farmers grappling for livelihood. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, almost three million farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995. Having one of the highest suicide rates in the agricultural sector, Indian farmers have long suffered despair from tyrannical policies, debt, low income and climate change inducing production risks. On September 28, 2020, the Parliament attempted farming reform in India by passing three bills that the government and Modi claim will benefit farmers’ livelihoods by decreasing financial burdens and increasing profit.

The 3 Farming Acts Passed

Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act

  • Allows for intra-state trading, inner-state trading, electronic trading and e-commerce of produce.

  • Abolishes the imposition of government-determined financial burdens.

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act

  • Withdraws the previously determined list of essential commodities.

  • Removes stockholding restriction on essential commodities.

  • Demands that levying of stockholding limit on produce emanates from increased price.

The Reason Behind Protests

With support for farming reform in India from all over the world, hundreds of thousands of farmers and those in solidarity have taken to the streets with a common goal: to have the acts repealed. The laws spark deep worry that transitioning to a free market will enable powerful agricultural businesses to take advantage of the farmers, potentially leading to loss of land, income and autonomy. Indian farmers, who sell their produce at a set rate, are certain that a market-aligned system will solely increase private equities welfare while continuing to forbade domestic benefits. Farmers are also concerned that differences in business objectives could leave farmers at risk of financial consequences from market unpredictability. Finally, farmers are fearful that the abolition of stockholding limits will empower corporations to distort prices for personal monetary reward.

Global Support for Indian Farmers

There is a consensus among Indian farmers that their agricultural sector requires reform. Although the new laws of farming reform in India promise to improve farmers’ livelihoods and freedom, the lack of trust in a market-friendly reform and the government’s incentive has prompted a collective demand for change. As the protestors persist with force, the demand for alternative farming reform in India is being heard by Prime Minister Modi who is beginning to listen to farmers’ concerns. The exploitation of farmers continues to spark global support for farming reform in India from organizations, advocates, politicians and humanitarians until fairness and justice is achieved.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr