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Empowering Women in India Through SewingOver the last decade, empowering women in poor communities has become a focal point in India. That is because about 50.7 million people live in extreme poverty in India, yet, as of 2019, only 20.7% of women in India are part of the labor force. Moreover, the country has recently seen a drop in its GDP from 6.1% to 5% and is attempting to recover from its uncertain economy. As a result, one solution that many nonprofit organizations and the government have recognized is investing in the population that is living under the poverty line. Specifically, many groups are empowering women in India through sewing.

Today, being able to sew can be an acclaimed vocational skill. Over the past decade or so, embroidery has become an empowering tool for women in India, and a traditional craft. With this understanding, nonprofits have implemented many initiatives in India to empower women and help their families out of poverty.

Sewing the Seeds & Samugam Trust

Sewing the Seeds is a nonprofit organization that partnered with the NGO Samugam Trust to begin a women’s sewing initiative. The plan supports women in impoverished communities by creating economic stability using creativity and the traditional craft of stitching. Bruno Savio and Gayle created Sewing the Seeds to use sewing to empower women in India living in poverty.

Savio’s father opened the Samugam Trust in 1991 to support the educational training of the underprivileged, the rehabilitation of leprosy patients and those who are physically challenged. Bruno Savio has continued his father’s legacy as director of Samugam and partner of Sewing the Seeds. Gayle backpacked across India about 40 years ago. During her journey, she saw an opportunity to empower women in the country through vocational training.

Savio and Gayle recognized that more than 50% of women in India are illiterate, and only 29% of women in India are actively employed. Additionally, those who are employed are paid 46% less than men holding the same positions. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust realize that investing in women is smart economics and essential to reducing poverty. With this in mind, the initiative provides the training, financial assistance, materials and communal space to empower women while preserving local craft traditions.

Samugam Trust has supported the initiative since 2011, with the first collection of products introduced online in 2018. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust have supplied training and machines for 130 women. The importance of this initiative is to empower women in India in a way that is holistic and long term in its support.

Shakti.ism

Shakti.ism also supported empowering women in India through sewing by launching a sustainable livelihood project. The starting goal is to reach out to 10 tribal and disabled Indian women to provide vocational training. To successfully supply these resources Shakti.ism is partnering with Samugam Trust and Sewing the Seeds to empower impoverished women. Recently, they chose 10 women from diverse backgrounds including disabled mothers.

Shakti.ism continuously raises money to cover instruction fees, supplies, daily stipends for trainees and administrative costs such as quality control. Most products are crafted from repurposed saris (a traditional Indian woman’s dress) and are to be sold online. Shakti.ism is empowering women in India as a way to support families living in underprivileged rural areas of India, as well as decrease the wage disparity while increasing the trainees’ self-confidence and skills.

Usha Silai School

Included in the community-based initiative is Usha Silai (sewing) School. This initiative has reportedly set up over 15,000 sewing schools across India with the support of the Digital Empowerment Foundation NGO and Sikana. To further their reach and enhance their programs, Usha and Sikana co-created a video program to train illiterate women. The enhanced program has increased the initiative’s outreach while providing skills to gain a livelihood to women in rural India.

The Digital Empowerment Foundation supplies technological information for rural citizens to use to their advantage. For example, they supply internet-dependent tools that can provide access to training and create socioeconomic equality. Specifically, they provide internet and digital tools in rural community centers that partner with Usha Silai School.

Community-based initiatives that provide sewing empowerment for women in poverty have been essential for the growth of rural India. Sewing has become a highly desired vocational skill and is a powerful tool for those living in poverty. Recognizing the long term impact of vocational training, NGOs provide this solution-based approach across India to bring self-confidence and skills to women.

– Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr


As COVID-19 continues to spread in India, the government issued, nationwide lockdown remains in place. That being said, India, like many other nations around the world, had to switch their students to online school. The high poverty rates in India have made the transition difficult for some. The upper and middle-class citizens have the resources to effectively make the transition. However, those living in, or close to the poverty line, find it difficult to make the switch. Only about a third of the nation has access to the online school curriculum. Most poor communities don’t have access to computers, tablets, or even smartphones. Because of this, children and teenagers in these communities can’t get the materials they need in order to continue their education. To allow their children to keep up with academics, families had to purchase expensive technology, which they do not know how to use. Because of the lockdown, most families don’t have a stable source of income, thus purchasing expensive products becomes difficult. Families can find the transition even more difficult to manage because they have trouble communicating with their children’s schools and teachers.

What Are Poor Communities Doing to Support Education?  

As India switches to online school, poorer communities are trying their best to stay in touch with schools and teachers in order to support the education of their children. Many families are allowing children to use the only smartphone they have in the house so that the children can continue to learn online. With only one phone in the house, getting a quality education becomes difficult, especially if the family has more than one child. Families that do not have smartphones have been going to neighbors’ houses and asking to use their phones, in order to keep their children in school. 

While families are managing education through the use of smartphones, their children are not getting the same quality of education as they were in person. Many children have complained about experiencing stressed eyes, while others have complained that, while they are getting their work done, they are not learning.

What Are Schools and Teachers Doing? 

Schools and teachers are trying their best to help support the children during their transition to online school. Many institutions are developing online apps and allowing students to use them for free. However, despite the apps being free, without access to service, it becomes difficult for students to use them. Many families in India lack proper electricity and internet services, which prevent them from attending their learning sessions. To address barriers like this, a school in New Delhi distributed phones to students who came from poorer communities, so that they could access daily lessons. 

Many schools are also starting WhatsApp chat groups so that students can stay up to date and get their work done with all the help they need. Teachers are also sharing lessons through WhatsApp so that children who can’t make it to the online session can learn from those. Yet, with poor Internet and restrictions on the number of people allowed to congregate in a group, it is hard for students to access their daily lessons. Many students and families are not familiar with how to use the apps and other online resources, thus they can’t join the digital learning sessions. 

What is the Government Doing? 

In order to assist students in poorer communities, the Indian government has taken several steps to ensure that the transition to online learning does not negatively impact the education of students throughout the nation. Due to the increase in students attending colleges, the Indian government has decided that students can get online degrees. Typically, upper and upper-middle-class citizens have the money to attend college; however, this will allow students from poor communities to stay at home and assist the family, while also working towards a degree. That being said, it can be difficult for these citizens to get a degree through a phone. 

The government is also keeping the public updated about the initiatives ministers are taking in order to support the students. The initiatives include online courses for teachers to help them provide a better learning experience as well as non-technology courses to support students who don’t have instant access to technological equipment. The Indian government has also taken other initiatives in order to strengthen the online education system to make sure the quality of education stays up to date without affecting the costs.

While these initiatives have done a lot to support students from poorer communities in their transition to online school, a lot more can be done. The government is requesting organizations to develop computers that students can temporarily borrow. The Indian government is also planning to provide 5G services in areas with poor quality internet service, which will allow students in those places to get the quality education they need. With the proper policies and initiatives in place, students coming from a poor community may not only get a proper education but also use that education to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. 

 – Krishna Panchal
Photo: Pixabay

mental illness and poverty in India
There is a web of denial that people weave around the issue of mental health in India. Most families and communities refuse to see mental health as a serious concern. Adding on to the stigma, there is also a lack of physicians available to treat mental illnesses and those affected often go unchecked. While mental health can affect individuals of all income levels, there is a significant link between mental health and poverty in India.

The Relationship Between Mental Health and Poverty

Specifically, there is a cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India. A case-control study conducted in Delhi from November 2011 to June 2012 found that the intensity of multidimensional poverty increases for persons with severe mental illnesses (PSMI) compared to the rest of the population.

As people receive diagnoses of mental illness, their work performance and social status decrease. Without much treatment available, these individuals continue to suffer in silence, slowly falling back from their jobs, families and friends. These individuals lose employment, which means they have a lack of income, ending up without a support system and resulting in poverty. In particular, women with severe mental illness (SMI) or those who are a part of the lower castes (Untouchables or Shudras) suffering from SMI are more likely to face multidimensional poverty. Because society often looks down on women and individuals of the lower caste system, they are the least likely to receive treatment or assistance when they receive a diagnosis of mental illnesses.

On the other side of this relationship, poverty, which many describe as a lack of employment and income, aggravates mental illness. When individuals do not have the necessities for survival, mental disorders such as depression or anxiety can develop and intensify. Without treatment, these disorders build up, eventually leading medical professionals to diagnose individuals with SMIs. Out of those in poverty, women, individuals of the lower castes and individuals with SMIs suffer the most, as they have the hardest time finding work or receiving external help.

In short, untreated mental illnesses can lead to or further exacerbate poverty, but unchecked poverty can cause mental illnesses as well, creating this link between mental health and poverty.

In an attempt to fix the cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India, the government, doctors and businesses have taken action which aims to increase treatment and guarantee more rights to persons with mental illnesses.

Past Actions by the Government

In 2016, the Parliament in India passed the Mental Health Care Bill. This law replaced the older Act which stigmatized mental health and prevented people from receiving treatment. The new legislation provides state health care facilities, claiming that anyone with mental illness in India has a right to good quality, affordable health care. Individuals with mental health now have a guarantee of informed consent, the power to make decisions, the right to live in a community and the right to confidentiality.

The hope is that the act will help people from all levels of income because if an individual cannot afford care, the government must provide treatment. Even in rural or urban areas, mental health care is a requirement and the government is working to build access to such facilities. Anyone who violates or infringes on the rights of those with mental illnesses is punishable by law.  The government is hoping that by taking legal action for individuals with mental illnesses, society will slowly stigmatize the issue less, increasing overall acceptance.

Individuals and Organizations Taking On Mental Health

As the issue of mental health persists, doctors in India have attempted to integrate their services of mental health within the primary health care system. Since 1999, trained medical officers have an obligation to diagnose and treat mental disorders during their general primary care routines. Furthermore, district-level mental health teams have increased outreach clinical services. The results have shown that if people receive treatment in primary health care facilities, the number of successful health outcomes increases. In the future, doctors are looking to expand services into more rural areas, hoping to offer more affordable care to those in severe poverty because there is such a significant link between mental health and poverty.

Alongside medical professionals, businesses are using the shortage of mental health care treatments in India to expand their consumer outreach; these companies rely on technology to bring together a global community of psychologists, life coaches and psychiatrists to help individuals through their journey. Using AI, companies like Wysa can use empathetic and anonymous conversations to understand the roots of people’s problems. Companies, such as Trustcircle, rely on clinically validated tests to allow individuals to determine their depression, anxiety or stress levels, enabling them to understand when to seek help. These companies are all providing free or drastically low-costing help, giving people feasible access to the treatment they need. The hope is that with quicker and cheaper access to treatment, people can address mental health on a wider scale.

Further Action Necessary

Despite the increasing support for mental health, there is a great deal of change that needs to take place. Currently, only 10 percent of patients suffering from mental illnesses receive treatment in India; while all patients do have the right to treatment, the shortage of money and psychiatrists hinders the accessibility. India spends as little as 0.06 percent of its budget on mental health, and there are only 0.3 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in the country. India needs to primarily focus on changing the societal culture regarding mental health. By educating children from a young age about the importance of mental health and acknowledging that mental illness is real and valid, the overall acceptance of mental health can increase. Changing the stigma surrounding mental health will enable more people to pursue jobs in treating mental health, increasing access. The cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India can only be broken by giving people, regardless of income, social status or gender and equal access to mental health treatment.

If India does not take a more aggressive stance on the issue of mental health, the country could face serious problems in the future. The World Health Organization predicts that if mental health remains unchecked, 20 percent of the Indian population will suffer from some form of mental illness by 2020; additionally, it determines that mental illness could reduce India’s economic growth by $11 trillion in 2030. Essentially, the cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India must break to enable optimal growth in the future.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Pixabay

India's Center for Policy ResearchEstablished in 1973, the Center for Policy Research (CPR) is a non-partisan nonprofit think tank designed to produce better public policy that shapes Indian life. Its unique team draws from a diverse set of occupational backgrounds to confront social issues with a multi-dimensional lens. Some highlights include Shyam Divan, Senior Advocate for the Supreme Court of India; Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, former Indian ambassador to the EU and well-known historian and Vinita Bali, former CEO of Britannia Industries Ltd.

India’s Center for Policy Research, located in the heart of Delhi, divides its research into five main categories:

  1. Economic policy
  2. Environmental law and governance
  3. International relations and security
  4. Law regulation and the state
  5. Urbanization.

The following will breakdown these subgroups in an attempt to decipher just exactly what the organization supports.

Economic Policy

The think tank recognizes the necessity for growth and productivity for the maintenance of a healthy economy. What makes it stellar is its commitment to equity

For example, one of their most recent projects involves the analysis of India’s “Special Economic Zones” and who truly benefits from their implementation. The organization’s non-partisan and nonprofit approach liberates them from the bias of special interest groups that oftentimes heavily influence the outcomes of these “case studies.”

These sentiments are echoed in another of the group’s economic policy projects. It is a campaign to officially define the characteristics of the country’s middle class. This could serve as a critical step in enhancing the rights of millions of Indian citizens.

Environmental Law and Governance

The goal of India’s Center for Policy Research is to establish a clean and sustainable environment. To address this, the group focuses their programs on pivotal topics such as Delhi’s air pollution, water use in rainfed agriculture, overall water policy and state action plans on environment sustainability.

International Relations and Security

The CPR’s international relations and security division is more in tune with typical slants on the subject than the other divisions. But, it still has some standout components. In the quest to understand India’s past and present role in the shifting global order, the think tank vows to research international relations from traditional and alternative perspectives. This aspect is very important as it deviates from the usual one-dimensional historical viewpoint.

Law, Regulation and the State

This sector of the CPR delivers a sort of institutional examination of the country of India. The purpose is to identify the relationship between laws, institutions and Indian life. It consciously aims to figure out the implications of these entities on basic rights such as land and intellectual property.

This category unites the others to land rights and dialogues on Indian politics. The hallmark project in this section is labeled “Balancing Religious Accommodation and Human Rights in Constitutional Frameworks.” This project is especially important because it targets issues with the country’s constitution that suppress rights, providing a direct opportunity to rework the country’s unequal beginnings.

Urbanization

This final subset is focuses on the rapid effects of urbanization currently taking place in India. The process of urbanization comes with a range of different challenges such as personal issues with governance and citizenship, to material issues regarding infrastructure. Because of this, urbanization holds a very multifaceted array of projects. These aim to work in unison to uncover the connection with urbanization and its effect on how people engage with the state.

Overall, India’s Center for Policy Research is tackling many different issues and challenges that India faces today. If it helps enact effective policies in its five focused areas, it could help boost India’s already growing economy and even eliminate its national poverty.

– Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

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

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

Farmers’ Suicide in India and its Causes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions

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

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

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

– William Cozens
Photo: Pexels

e-Commerce Industry in India
The e-commerce industry in India is growing at an unprecedented rate and is estimated to be worth $150 billion by 2022. This industry is expected to generate employment throughout the country; it includes e-travel, e-tail and e-financial services. Fashion retail is around 30 percent of the online retail searches and may reach as much as $35 billion by 2020. This will be a significant source of employment for women and minorities.

Supporting Digital Commerce

The Government of India has supported this sector through initiatives such as Digital India and Startup India. Digital India is a campaign to increase access to digital technology throughout the country by improving infrastructure, spreading awareness about digital technology and digitizing government services. This campaign has been endorsed by several high profile companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Other major initiatives, such as the GST (Goods and Services Tax), have coaxed the economy away from cash transactions towards the digital economy.

The Government of India has involved various stakeholders from the private and public sector to create an updated e-commerce policy that recommends improving the regulatory mechanism and enforcing certain protectionist barriers. The draft version of this policy includes providing data protection for users, giving more control to the founders of e-commerce and encouraging domestic production.

Helping Women Become Successful Entrepreneurs

The e-commerce industry in India is expected to generate more than a million jobs by 2023; this will not only increase jobs in the corporate sector but also in industries such as logistics, warehousing, customer care, human resources and technology. This will benefit many Indians in both urban and rural areas.

Studies show that more than 70 percent of online sellers come from smaller towns, and more than 20 percent of them are women. Thus, e-commerce encourages women entrepreneurship and adds to the growth of the economy. Creating opportunities for women to be economically independent helps fight gender norms and make progress towards economic equality of the sexes.

Many women are selling products within the fashion, health and wellness as well as handicraft industries. The ability to work from home is a convenient and effective way to earn a living, and it also supplements family incomes. Studies show that empowering women has a huge impact on the health and well being of the family.

An online portal named Mahila-e-Haat is an organization that facilitates a direct interaction between vendors and buyers. It provides support to women who wish to gain financial independence; this group is expected to help 125,000 women nationwide.

Craftsmanship on the Rise

Global as well as local companies are contributing to the market by expanding the workforce. Many traditional craftsman and artisans have been able to use this platform to sell their products. Now, they can continue the age-old traditions of craftsmanship while at the same time break free from the traditional costs of the middleman.

Plus, the e-commerce industry in India is empowering small manufacturers since many e-commerce companies are employing experienced craftsman, many of whom were not formally employed before, but rather, worked with their families unofficially.

– Isha Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Universal Basic Income in India
Universal Basic Income (UBI) refers to an unconditional sum of money given by the government to all citizens, via cash transfer, regardless of their wealth. The goal of such a scheme is to guarantee that all citizens of the country are able to support themselves and fulfill their basic needs.

Benefits of Universal Basic Income

Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India, believes that Universal Basic Income will be a reality in some states in the country within the next two years. He argues that such a scheme will be more effective and easier to administer, compared to other welfare programs administered by the government.

The Economic Survey of 2017 highlighted the benefits of Universal Basic Income in India as a means to alleviate poverty. The report mentions that such a scheme must first and foremost be unconditional and universal, and thus it will promote social justice, productivity and economic equality. The poor would be empowered to decide how to spend their money most efficiently, based on their individual needs.

Individuals would also have the ability to select their employment conditions more carefully, instead of being forced to work in exploitative conditions simply because of the desperate need to provide for themselves and their families.

The report asserts that UBI is an effective scheme, and should replace existing subsidies that are given with the lofty aim of alleviating poverty. However, it also makes a specific mention that the political climate might prove to be an obstacle to achieving this goal. Universal Basic Income in India cannot replace state capacity but it could and should complement it.

UBI would especially empower women by providing them with greater economic independence. Having their own reliable source of income would enhance their agency, make them less dependent on men and will be a step to narrow the gender inequality and the overarching sway of patriarchy.

Such a scheme would also encourage citizens to utilize financial systems and establish credit. Not only will this enhance the financial knowledge of citizens, but it will be profitable for banks in India. Allowing previously socioeconomically marginalized groups to access formal credit systems will reduce their reliance on informal loans and exploitation by moneylenders.

Critics of UBI

Critics of Universal Basic Income argue that giving unconditional cash to citizens will encourage them to spend it recklessly on alcohol, gambling and drugs and that this would actually reduce the incentive to work. However, basic income experiments conducted in a village in Kenya over a 12-year period show that most participants used $22 per month allowance on basic necessities and did not squander the money.

The UBI pilots in India were funded by UNICEF and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and operated in rural villages of Madhya Pradesh, in 2011. These pilots showed largely positive results- the beneficiaries were using the money wisely by investing in education, household expenditure and food. A report published by SEWA found that unconditional cash transfers helped improve productivity, financial stability and health of the people.

The pilot study measured only the short-term impact of UBI, and critics argue that the long-term impact cannot be measured so easily and thus we cannot really assess if the scheme is feasible.

This innovative approach offers the prospect of empowering the poor and providing them with basic necessities. Previous studies have shown its positive impact on poverty alleviation on social, political and economic levels.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about hunger
India has struggled with inadequate food and water access over the last few decades. The country’s rapidly growing population has drawn the attention of the world, and several states and organizations have answered the call to address hunger. Following are 10 facts about hunger in India:

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in India

  1. About 15 percent of India is undernourished. This statistic may not initially seem significant, but 15% of 1.34 billion people is roughly 199 million people. To put this in perspective, 199 million people is more than half of the United States. Currently, organizations such as the Fight Hunger Foundation have begun to battle the issue, but it remains prevalent.
  2. One-third of food gets lost or wasted. According to the Indian Food Bank, 40 percent of vegetables and 30 percent of cereals produced are lost due to inefficiencies in the supply chain. New agricultural methods and the overall industrialization of India have sought to increase efficiency.
  3. Women account for 60 percent of India’s hungry population. For the last 65 years, CARE India has emerged as a leader in addressing the issue of hunger in developing areas by focusing on women’s health, education, and access to necessities. The NGO has impacted 24.1 million people directly and 85.8 million indirectly.
  4. 3,000 children die every day from hunger. Those that survive have a high chance of living with hardships in the future. Organizations like Save the Children have turned to India to help decrease this number through aid in the form of food, hygiene, and education.
  5. Around 30 percent of newborns die from lack of nutrition. The Healthy Newborn Network has started to raise awareness regarding the issue because not enough is being done to address this specific aspect of hunger. Improving prenatal care is crucial in sustaining a healthy, growing population.
  6. 21 percent of the population lives on less than $1.90 per day. $1.90 is not nearly enough to live on sustainably. Programs set up by organizations such as Global Aware allow individuals in privileged areas to help solve the problem.
  7. India ranks 97th in addressing hunger. The country’s condition is worse than many believe. Despite being an economic powerhouse, India lacks the resources to properly fix its hunger issue. Foreign aid from other nations has helped in remedying part of the problem.
  8. India is not poor, yet hunger remains an issue. India’s GDP has significantly increased over the last two decades to 2.246 trillion USD. The misplacement of resources and predetermined cultural norms, such as the caste system, have prevented the state from moving forward.
  9. The government, on many levels, has been inefficient in improving the issue. Politics have hindered progress through a lack of effective programs. Inadequate funding has resulted in significant hurdles to solve the issue, and India’s political system must be mended before any real progress can be made toward addressing hunger issues.
  10. The situation has improved. Since 2008, India has climbed five spots in the world ranking from 102 to 97. While there is still substantial room for improvement, the data show that progress is underway. The country’s ranking on the Global Hunger Index has decreased in the last two decades and could improve more given the increase in aid provided by private organizations.

These facts about hunger in India underscore the necessity of policies and programs to improve the living conditions of many of the country’s citizens. Although the country is in dire conditions, progress is being made toward a better life for India’s population.

– Mrinal Singh
Photo: Flickr

poverty and overcrowding
The world is experiencing rapid population growth and urbanization. Advances in medicine have allowed for increased life expectancy as well as decreased infant mortality, while birth rates have largely remained unchanged. This combination of circumstances has lead to great growth; between 1999 and 2011, the population increased by nearly one billion people.

The population increase has led to rapid urbanization. People migrate to cities with the promise of economic or educational opportunity, technological advancement and access to health care. It is estimated that by 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

This urbanization of cities that are neither prepared nor equipped to deal with overcrowding places strain on both natural and manmade resources alike. The following is a list of five cities suffering from both poverty and overcrowding.

Five Major Cities Dealing With Poverty and Overcrowding

  1. Mumbai, India: With a population density of 171.9 people per square mile, India is notorious for overcrowding. Mumbai is no exception, with a population near 23 million and a population density of almost 70,000 people per square mile.Mumbai serves as India’s commercial hub and is home to the Bollywood industry, making it prone to migration. Yet, those with hopes of Bollywood often end up in prostitution or organized crime. The population has doubled in 25 years, leading to many slum neighborhoods.In fact, half of the population of Mumbai lives in overcrowded, unsanitary slums that comprise only eight percent of the city’s geographic area. Although great wealth exists throughout Mumbai, poverty and overcrowding continue to increase.
  1. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Being named the most densely populated city in the world in 2015, Dhaka suffers from overcrowding and poverty alike. It has also been named to lists of least livable cities and fastest growing cities.Its population is over 18 million, with a density of 114,300 people per square mile. Roughly one-third of Dhaka’s residents live in poverty, with two million inhabiting slums or without any form of shelter.
  1. Lagos, Nigeria: Lagos is Africa’s fastest growing city. In 2017, the population was 21 million; the U.N. predicts that this number will rise to over 24 million by 2030.Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and a lagoon, Lagos is Nigeria’s commercial capital. Yet, 300,000 people live in slum neighborhoods and make a living by fishing out of hand-built canoes.  One-fifth of the city’s residents live in poverty.The slum houses are fashioned from scrap-metal and elevated on stilts to protect against flooding. There is little access to clean water, electricity or quality education. The majority of slums are built along the coast, causing friction with the wealthy as well as the government, which has evicted many communities on faulty logic in order to seize the land.
  1. Manila, Philippines: Manila has a population of 1.7 million and a land area of less than 10 square miles, leading to a high population density of over 170,000 people per square mile. Manila serves as the Philippines capital and home of its banking and commerce industries.In Manila, 600,000 people live in slum districts, which are ridden with disease and malnutrition. Many kids do not attend school, as parents are often forced to choose between feeding the family or sending the kids to school.
  1. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Ulaanbaatar boasts the highest population density on this list, with over 760,000 people per square mile. The influx in population resulted in unplanned neighborhoods known as “ger” areas, which house 60 percent of Ulaanbaatar’s population but are vulnerable to natural disasters and lack water and sanitation sources as well as electricity.A number of expensive apartment buildings mark the city’s skyline, yet many of these buildings remain empty due to the high cost of living. The government intervention has tended to benefit the upper-income subgroups, rather than those living in poverty.

Poverty and overcrowding are endlessly entwined. Rather than placing a halt on migration and urbanization as many cities have attempted, lack of affordable housing, quality water and sanitation facilities, education opportunity and food shortages ought to be addressed. Cities must respond to the growing demands that come with overcrowding in order to help alleviate poverty and decrease hardship.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr

sex trafficking in India
The trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. This profitable industry generates an estimated $99 billion each year. Unsurprisingly, women and girls make up 96 percent of victims of sex trafficking. The action of sexual exploitation is a human rights violation. This exploitation robs these women and girls of integrity, dignity, health, security and equality.

Sex Trafficking in India an Ongoing Issue Despite New Laws

Sex trafficking in India continues to be lucrative and persistent, and poverty is a major factor. Many vulnerable women and girls are lured into the industry because of the promise of employment. When these women and girls are faced with the harsh reality of poverty, hunger and homelessness, many of them see this as the only option. Matters of poverty are sometimes so severe that parents will sell their own daughters into the trade. These women and children have no other options because they do not possess an education or the skills or the resources to escape sex slavery.

Although India’s Parliament passed a bill amending laws concerning sexual violence and making sex trafficking a criminal offense in 2013, this law will only be so successful. Trafficking is profitable, and corruption is widespread. Traffickers can easily pay off police officers to avoid the deserved charges, which leaves women and children still very much at risk and unprotected.

Sudara Provides Employment Opportunities for Sex Trafficking Victims

A mission-driven company exists on behalf of these women and children to not only empower them, but to provide them with dignified employment opportunities. Sudara is an online store that sells items such as clothing, bags, jewelry and children’s toys, yet there is so much story behind each of these items.

Sudara started in 2006 by partnering with a sewing center in India and taught six women how to sew a pattern for loungewear pants that have been named Punjammies. The previous year, founder Shannon Keith had just returned from a trip to India, where she heard many stories of women who were sold into sex slavery and women who were being picked up off the streets by local pimps.

From the beginning, Sudara’s focus and goal has remained the same: to empower women to live in freedom from sex slavery through safe, sustainable living-wage employment. Every pair of Punjammies robes and slouch pants are made in India, and every style is named after a woman at one of the centers.

Fifteen years later, Sudara has multiple sewing center partnerships with people from all over India and the United States. One of these center partners, Ivana, provides women who are at high risk of trafficking with valuable skills training on computers and tailoring. In addition, the center also offers counseling services for every woman as well as on-site childcare for their children.

Sudara’s mission also emphasizes providing a level of care that allows a woman who has been a victim of sex trafficking in India to heal from her past and facilitate training that leads to a self-sufficient future. Because of this, Sudara pays the sewing center partners a premium that goes towards medical care and counseling. This premium also goes towards job placement services and micro-loans for women who would like to start a business of their own.

Sudara’s Nonprofit Arm Helps the Most Vulnerable in India

Sudara also created a nonprofit organization, the Sudara Freedom Fund, to further its social impact goals. The donations made during checkout at sudara.org go towards the Sudara Freedom Fund and have helped fund safe housing for women escaping sex trafficking in India, equipment for new or growing sewing centers and back-to-school programs.

With the continuous support of donations to the Sudara Freedom Fund, one of their most recent successes is the Sunetha Home, which opened in 2017. The Sunetha Home is providing safe housing, meals and an education for 10 girls living in a red light district of India.

Although companies such as Sudara and its nonprofit, the Sudara Freedom Fund, are putting their efforts towards creating freedom for hundreds of women and girls who are at high risk of sex trafficking in India, it is not enough to end sex slavery once and for all. To do that, it is necessary to break the cycle of slavery for the next generation and the generations after that. By supporting Sudara and other philanthropic organization, many people are doing their part to combat the sexual exploitation that millions of women and children face.

– Angelina Gillespie
Photo: Flickr