This is a blog published by Population First as part of its communication and advocacy efforts. Through "Laadli Oh Meri Laadli" we plan to reach out to a number of people from media and other sectors. The aim is to create a platform for sharing of information, discussions and exchange of views on issues relating to gender and social development.
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Building resilience by investing in
Dr Shiny Varghese
Image: Gaon Connection
While Greta Thunberg, a Swedish
teenage environmental activist has been championing the cause of climate change
and many nations have lent support to her cause, there still needs to be a
concerted effort to act against climate change which requires investment in sustainable
infrastructure for quality services
and high political commitment. Change will not be possible with only leaders or
activists like her speaking for the cause, but the community needs to come
together to build a carbon neutral world. In most countries, rural women and
girls face myriad challenges and bear the brunt of climate related disasters, we however tend to forget the
important role they play in building climate resilience. The International Day
of Rural women recognizes “the
critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in
enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and
eradicating rural poverty”
Rural women and girls play a very
important role in agriculture, food security and nutrition, land and natural
resource management. Globally, one in three employed women work in the
agriculture sector which is time and labour intensive. These women are however
neither adequately recognised nor compensated for their work. They also have
limited or no access to stable and secure working conditions and social protection (International Labour
According to Oxfam (2013), around
80 percent farm work in India is done by women. Women and girls are also
responsible to collect fuel and water in most households which are arduous
tasks and pose risks to their health and well-being. They also hamper their
ability to get good education, access to livelihood opportunities and be
In Maharashtra sustained drought has
resulted in crop failure, groundwater level depletion, increased climate risks,
food insecurity and uncertain cash flows in
absence of diversified livelihoods. This has made farming economically unviable
for small and marginal farmers. Women and girls have suffered the most when
access to natural resources and agriculture has been compromised. Women farmers
are as productive and enterprising as their male counterparts, but have lesser
access to land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets and high valued agri-food
chains and hence no control over financial matters.Socio-cultural barriers and discriminatory
norms further hamper women’s access to productive resources and undermine their
hard work even though their workload is increasing due to out-migration of men. Most gender and development indicators
reveal that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and in turn
experience poverty, exclusion as well as the effects of climate change.
The United Nations calls for
empowering rural women as a pre-requisite for fulfilling the vision of Sustainable
Development Goals (SDG’s) and this year’s theme for the International Day of Rural Women, "Rural women and girls building
climate resilience" reiterates the fact that a sustainable future is
unthinkable of without involving rural women and girls.
One of the most effective and
efficient ways to tackle threats posed by climate change is by addressing
gender inequality. Realizing that financial independence is a crucial element
of empowerment which will enable women to address gender inequality and respond
to climate change, we at Population First initiated a program titled Action for
Mobilisation of community health initiatives (AMCHI). One of the many aims of
the project is to improve women’s access to employable skills. It was felt that
this would enable them have access to resources and in the long run empower
them to take decisions at the individual, family and community level.
In 45 villages of Shahapur Block
of Thane District, a program on vermi-composting was initiated. The program not
only addressed issues related to declining agricultural yield by promoting
organic farming but also created rural women entrepreneurs. Through this
initiative, 45 vermi-composting units were created and are being run by 450
women across 45 villages. The program has not only improved women’s financial
capacity but has also helped in promoting leadership which is essential to
reduce the effects of climate threats.
empowerment of women by prioritizing sustainable livelihoods and rights will
play a critical role in women adopting low – carbon technologies, spreading
knowledge about climate change and help respond to climate change through
agricultural production, food security and natural resource management.
Agriculture Organization. (2018). Climate Change: United Nations Climate
Change Conference. FAO.
Organization. (2017). Trends for Women 2017. Geneva: World Employment
Picture Source: UNMIK UN Mission (unmik.unmissions.org)
In 2012, the
United Nations declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child
to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality and
discrimination faced by girls around the world. This day provides an
opportunity to highlight, discuss and take action to advance rights and
opportunities for girls everywhere.
We at Population First have been working to empower
adolescent girls in Shahapur Block of Thane Districtas part of our Action forMobilisationof Community Health Initiatives (AMCHI)
Project. As part ofthisprogram wesensitise families and communities to
create an enabling environment for girls to be enrolled and retained in schoolso that they canreach their full potential.We also work towardsenhancinglife skills of adolescents bybuilding their health, social and economic
perspectives ongender andincreasingpossibilities of their leadershipatthe communitylevel. We do this by providing adolescentgirls with information on physical, sexual
and reproductive health and linkingthem to appropriate services.
International Day of the Girl Child wewould like to sharesome feedbackfromthe ground. Theseare the stories of ouradolescentgirlsfromAmbarje village of Shahapur Block of Thane
Thirteenyear oldPranali, who is studying
in the ninth grade, takes pride in stating that she is part of theEnjoy Groupof adolescent girls formed as part of theAMCHIproject. She says“we are a total of42members in the group. As part of the group meetingswe were given information on a range of
subjects. It was for the first time I attended a session on body mapping and
got to learn aboutbody parts especially
the reproductive organs.I would like to attend more such sessions
as there is no other place from where we can get information like this. Even
our teacher at school does not talk to us about these issues”. She further adds
that the facilitator creates a nurturing and learning environment in the group
andtheydo not hesitate to ask even the most
Pranali’sfriend, 13 year oldAkankshaadds; “menstruation is
a subject that is never discussed either at school or amongstfriends. At the group meeting we were told about why menstruation
occurs, how to maintain hygiene during our periods and how to wash and dry menstrual
cloth and dispose menstrual pads. We were
also informed of a scheme about low cost sanitary napkins being available through
the school. We discussed this with our teacher, who after a fortnight helped us
get these pads. Each girl can now buy a packet of six pads for seven
The sessions have not just helped the girls to understand their
bodies and physical health requirements better, but also built their communication
and negotiation skills as shared by Praṇali who says “we were told in the sessions that
we should eat green leafy vegetables, salads,peanuts, jaggery and channato help improve our haemoglobin levels”.At school we get a peanut and gur ladooevery day, however the ladoo tastedvery bad. After the session we formed a
small group and informed our principal about the same. We told her that the ladoo was so
bad that most girlswere throwing it
every day. She talked to the person in-charge of the Ahaar scheme andensured that the ladoo we get tastedbetter. We could do this only because we
got the information that such a ladoo is good for improving our health and learnt to put our point of
view to our teachers and adults clearly.”
commit to invest in our elderly…this International Day of Older Persons
Consultant, Population First
ageing is an inevitable consequence of the demographic transition experienced
by most countries across the world. Declining fertility and increasing
longevity have resulted in an increasing proportion of elderly persons aged 60
years and above. As per the 2011 census, India had around 104 million elderly
persons – 53 million females and 51 million males. The number of elderly in the
60+ age group is expected to increase to 320 million by 2050, constituting 20%
of the total population. Given the nature of demographic transition, such a
huge increase in the population of the elderly is bound to create several
societal issues, magnified by sheer volume.A majority of the people at 60+ are socially and economically poor. Elderly
women are more vulnerable on all fronts compared to elderly men. Nearly three
out of five single older women are poor and about two thirds of them are
completely economically dependent.
elderly are more vulnerable due to poor health. A high proportion of the
elderly reporting poor health are the oldest old (Age 80+), poor, illiterate
and widows. A recent study
shows that a significant percentage of the elderly have acute and
chronic morbidities. Morbidities are more prevalent in elderly women compared
to elderly men, especially in urban areas. The study also showed that nearly
two thirds of the elderly reported suffering from at least one chronic ailment
like arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc. They also
lack access to health care facilities.
vulnerability of the aged is aggravated by urbanization and a recent shift from
the joint family system to nuclear families. This has a huge impact on the
psychological and emotional health of the elderly, leading to neglect, lack of
respect and sometimes abuse and exploitation.
has traditionally been the primary source of support for the elderly in India.
The elderly depend
primarily on their families for economic and material support. In spite of the
strong preference to live with families, one in ten elderly women lives alone.
With nuclearization of families, the traditional support system for the elderly
is dwindling, making them even more vulnerable. Social isolation amongst the
elderly is another critical issue of concern.
The profile of
elderly indicates low level of educational attainment particularly amongst
elderly women. Over half the elderly report not having formal education with a
higher proportion, almost two thirds amongst women.
among elderly men in India is as high as 39% as against 11% amongst women.
Although work participation amongst women is low, they contribute to family
chores enabling other adult family members to work. A majority of elderly (71%)
work due to economic necessity and not by choice. This is particularly true of
elderly women. There is a close link between current work participation and
poverty and illiteracy.
Older women are particularly
disadvantaged, facing structural, social and economic inequalities throughout
their lives. The experience of widowhood in Indian society is generally
associated with many deprivations and has many implications for the health and
well-being of older women. Further, certain
traditional widowhood practices result in situations of violence and abuse and
pose a serious threat to their health and well- being. Widowhood is one
of the leading factors associated with poverty, loneliness and isolation, as a
widow suffers indignity, often losing her self-reliance and respect. Many
widows are ignored by both family and society, including their own children and
are left to fend for themselves.
Poor health, age
related morbidities, income insecurity, illiteracy and physical and economic
dependencies are factors that tend to make the elderly, especially elderly
vulnerabilities of the elderly, the Government of India drafted the National
Policy on Older Persons and has initiated and implemented several programs and
schemes for social, economic and health security of older persons.However access to these schemes and programs can
On this International
Day of older persons, it is important to focus immediate attention on
creating an enabling environment and decent living for the elderly, especially
women. For this, it is suggested that Government, Multilateral agencies and
Corporates invest in:
studies to understand increased morbidity and disability amongst elderly women,
despite their longer life expectancy.
greater resources for geriatric care, especially care of elderly women.
health promotion programs with outreach facilities and other services such as
medical insurance to meet the long term care needs of elderly women.
financial insecurity amongst the elderly women by formation of Self-Help Groups
(SHG). These SHG’s would be formed with an objective of improving their
livelihood and enabling them to become economically active through small loans
and other required support.
convergence between various government departments for improved access to services
and schemes for the elderly
and assuring the participation of elderly women in the process of development.
laws that discriminate against women with regard to property and inheritance
rights, providing housing support for elderly women who are property less and
creating employment opportunities for them free of discrimination.
training programs to build life coping skills of elderly women.
services for older disabled women and disabled women who grow old.
India (2012), ‘Report on Status of Elderly in Selected States of India, 2011’