Saturday November 18, 2017

Village Women Entrepreneurs in Uttarakhand set New Standards, Educate other Women

Village woman working on the agricultural fields.
village women entrepreneurs who have taken the Sanitation initiative are role models for others. VOA

Rishikesh, June 14, 2017: Sanitation initiative has not only acted as a spring board for the employment facilities but has also ensured 360-degree improvement in hygienic conditions. The major factor of it is that it has even encouraged the women entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector. It is to be noticed that agriculture is considered to be the backbone of nation’s economy.

Women like Rajeshwari Devi and Beena Devi who work as daily wagers and struggled to win the square meal a day as they belong to the lower strata of the social ladder and suffer the pains of poverty.

They are members of an association of 25 women who come from Lal Dhang and other neighbouring villages in Haridwar district of Uttarakhand. Moreover, they are also active participants in the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All) initiative. WASH initiative will encourage women all over the villages and other backward areas like slums to engage themselves in the entrepreneurships.

This group of women are toiling hard together to collect sufficient funds to build healthy and hygienic infrastructures like toilets with would revolutionize the physical setup of the villages. They will then sell these toilets to raise funds to fight against the environmental woes such as pollution and diseases. Everyone in the village could have access to safe and clean drinking water as well as toilet facilities. This step will help in putting a halt to manual scavenging and open defecating tradition in India.

“We have faced problems of not having a toilet at home. So when they approached us for the project, we immediately said yes. We belong to a conservative society, so people opposed our decision to step out of the house for this,” says Beena.

According to the PTI report, she says that she is happy that the women have learnt something which will enable them to have a better future for their kids.

Rajeshwari states that rather than demoralizing them, hurdles have only encouraged them to never lose faith in themselves. Now they are even deciding to take the initiative of ensuring the toilet facilities in the surrounding villages. They have been trained by the World Toilet College situated at Parmarth Niketan. Rajeshwari also informed that they have also attended a training seminar in January and after that built the first toilets in Veerpur.

“Now we can build twin pit pour flush toilets on our own.We have just built toilets in Veerpur village in Rishikesh which has been commissioned as Ganga gram now,”says Rajeshwari.

This month, two villages were selected: Veerpur Khurd in Dehradun and Mala in Pauri Garhwal which are situated on the banks of the Holy River Ganga to transform them into the ‘Model Ganga Villages’. Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) joined hands with the Union Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry to accomplish this task.

After building the desired infrastructure and remodeling the environmental conditions, these women will take the initiative towards educating and spreading awareness among other women. They will educate them about bio digester toilets encouraging them to grab the employment opportunities which are knocking at their doors.

According to Samuel Herbert (field officer of the project), women can only do this social work during the non-agriculture season as they are entrepreneurs themselves. Moreover, some villages are in remote areas where it is difficult to reach during monsoon. Despite of these obstacles, women are determined enough to overcome these and earn self employment.

Chidanand Saraswati who is a co-founder and co-chairman of GIWA appreciates these women calling them as the role models for others with this sanitation revolution. He said that teaching them to build bio digester toilets was a simpler task consuming relatively low-cost technology for treating human waste.

– prepared by Himanshi Goyal of Newsgram, Twitter: @himanshi1104

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Home is Where Mountains Are ! Rundown of 7 Mountains in India

Beautiful mountains in India
Manali in India. Pixabay

Sep 20, 2017: Mountains are simply attractive, but the blooms and lush greenery creates a lovely shading which makes them appear even more alluring. India is blessed with such splendid sights and eye soothing mountain ranges.

Take a look at these 7 magnificent mountains in India

Valley of Flowers, Uttrakhand

Beautiful mountains in India
Valley of flowers, Garhwal Uttarakhand India. Wikimedia

Valley of flower is situated in Uttarakhand, also Known as God’s own land. The impressive panoramas of the mountains and valleys of the downtown ought to be exceptionally noted. This place is brimmed with distinction.

Chandratal Lake, Himachal Pradesh

Beautiful mountains in India
Different colors of Chandratal lake. Wikimedia

Its magnificence is conceived by its snow-clad mountains, waterways, and lakes. There befall peace and solace by seeing them.

Beautiful mountains in India

Rohtang Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Beautiful mountains in India
Rohtang Pass, Manali. Wikimedia

The wonderful valley of Rohtang Pass here gives a feeling of paradise on earth. In the meantime, the magnificence of the Solang valley adds four moons to the perfection of Rohtang.

Kanchenjunga Mountain, Sikkim

Beautiful mountains in India
This is the view of the great Kanchenjunga Mountain range in Sikkim taken in the morning at a freezing temperature. Wikimedia

Every scene of Kanchenjunga situated in Sikkim is unmatched and wonderful in itself. The mountains secured with snow, streams ascending through the mountains heighten the magnificence of this place.

Beautiful mountains in India

Pithoragarh, Uttrakhand

Beautiful mountains in India
Aesculus indica, Horse Chestnut, Pithoragarh, Himalayas. Wikimedia

This area is the easternmost Himalayan region in Uttarakhand, also known as the little Kashmir. High Himalayan mountains topped with snow, emerald grasslands and meadows is a sight full of astonishment.

Ranikhet, Uttrakhand

Beautiful mountains in India
Ranikhet (Beauty of Himalaya valley). Wikimedia

Located in the Kumaon mountain, the Ranikhet slope is arranged amongst Nainital and Almora. It is encompassed by woods from all sides, the name of the slope of Ranikhet, which is named after Rani Padmini. The excellence of this place are the fundamental focuses of fascination.

Beautiful mountains in India

Rishikesh, Uttrakhand

Beautiful mountains in India
Monsoon in Rishikesh. Wikimedia

The bright slopes and valleys spread over the city makes the place even more alluring.

Prepared by Naina Mishta of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

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Monsoon Bliss: Drenched in Rain Kutch is a Must Visit (Environmental Feature)

The monsoon brings out a different facet of Kutch, the brown transforms into green

Rann Utsav in Kutch. Pixabay

Bhuj, Sep 09, 2017: White, fluffy clouds hanging low over green hills, little pools of still water teeming with migratory birds and an omnipresent cool breeze — the semi-arid region of Kutch in Gujarat transforms into a completely different avatar during the monsoon.

And although winter — the time detailed as “ideal” to visit this region — shows you a side of hers that’s truly unique, Kutch makes for a pretty picture during the rains, perfect for a rejuvenating holiday.

Nestling on the country’s western border, close to the Arabian Sea, Kutch had recently been in the news for the cyclonic storm-induced thundershowers that lasted five days. Before that, and like the rest of the state, floods had also hit the region in July.

“Heavy showers are normal during the monsoon,” local taxi driver and long-time Bhuj resident Anwar Khatri said, indicating that the heavy rainfall was not out-of-the-ordinary. “But in the last three-four years, we have had very scanty rainfall. The monsoon brings out a different facet of Kutch, the brown transforms into green.”

Kutch occupies an important geographical location when it comes to birds, said ornithologist Jugal Kishor Tiwari, since it falls on their migration route. His organisation, Centre for Desert and Ocean (CEDO), works on wildlife conservation and promotes nature tourism.

And although the winter is a brilliant time to spot a host of migratory birds, one can indulge in some bird-watching during the monsoon as well. CEDO, which is based out of Moti Virani village, some 400 km from Gujarat capital Gandhinagar, organises tailor-made tours of such nature.

A visit to Kutch would however be incomplete without witnessing its rich treasure trove of handicrafts. Ajrakh (block printing), camel leather craft, Bandhni, different forms of weaving, bellmetal craft, Kutch embroidery — the list is endless — and nothing beats the wonder of watching an artisan work on his or her craft.

After the devastating earthquake in 2001, several NGOs took up the initiative of supporting artisans and their art, even reviving some, and helping them find suitable markets to showcase and sell their products beyond the state’s and the nation’s borders.

There are many such NGOs within a radius of 10-15 kilometres from Bhuj — the point you will either fly down to or reach by train — and one can visit their campuses to see some of these exquisite crafts take shape and understand the story behind them from the artisans themselves. Some names to look out for would be Shrujan, Khamir, and LLDC (Living and Learning Design Centre).

About eight kilometres from Bhuj is a village called Bhujodi, which has the Ashapura Crafts Park set up for artisans to display and sell their work. Again, one can meet weavers, tie-dye artists, block printers and others here. Needless to say, it will leave you wanting for more shopping bags to fill!

From the well-known to the lesser known — a monsoon visit to Kutch would also remain wanting without a trip to one of its pristine beaches. Mandvi is the closest to Bhuj and there are many resorts close by with their own private beach enclosures. The high point of the beaches here — Pingleshwar, about 98 km from Bhuj, a hidden gem — is witnessing the marine life. Jelly fish and hermit crabs are a common sight and the multi-coloured sea weeds look extraordinary.

Also Read: History of Rigvedic river Saraswati

If the children are more in the mood for some fun and frolic, Mandvi has ample opportunity for water sports as well — which may be restricted when the weather is grey. But a ride on a camel would more than compensate for that!

With the temperature hovering on the pleasant side of the scale and a constant breeze, one can also opt for some historical sight-seeing. The Aina Mahal, with its blue tiles, Venetian-style chandeliers and walls studded with mirrors, is a must-visit. Next door is the 19th century Prag Mahal, a brilliant example of Italian-Gothic architecture.

As you travel around the place and move on the fringes of the main town of Bhuj, it is difficult to miss the vast expanses of agricultural land with acres after acres of pomegranate plantations, palm groves and cotton fields — all this thanks to drip-irrigation, which has brought about a sea-change in the region’s crop pattern. With the green hills in the backdrop, it’s a sight to behold. Soak it in, for, with the changing season, Kutch will soon reveal a different face. (IANS)

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Movie ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ is an Effort by Bollywood Filmmakers to End Problem of Open Defecation

Toilet, a Love Story is the tale of a bicycle shop owner’s struggle to build a toilet for his wife, who abandons him because she refuses to go into the fields like other women in the village

Toilet: Ek Prem Katha
The Bollywood film, "Toilet: A love story" hopes to trigger change in sanitation habits in a country where open defecation in villages is common and considered healthy by many. VOA
  • Bollywood film turns the spotlight on open defecation in the country
  • The theme has resonance in a country where half the 1.3 billion people defecate in the open
  • The film highlights how women, faces covered, venture into fields before sunrise under cover of darkness

New Delhi, Aug 24, 2017: India’s glitzy Bollywood movies and toilets have little in common, but they came together in a recent film that turns the spotlight on one of the most unglamorous challenges the country is tackling — open defecation.

Starring a top hero, Akshay Kumar, Toilet, a Love Story is the tale of a bicycle shop owner’s struggle to build a toilet for his wife, who abandons him because she refuses to go into the fields like other women in the village.

It is inspired by the true story of a woman in central India who walked out on her husband because there was no toilet in the house.

The theme has resonance in a country where half the 1.3 billion people defecate in the open, exposing them, particularly women and children, to diseases.

Indian schoolchildren participate in a rally to mark World Toilet Day in Hyderabad, India, Nov.19, 2014. India is considered to have the world’s worst sanitation record despite spending some $3 billion since 1986 on sanitation programs, according to government figures. VOA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is racing to build millions of toilets to meet its pledge to end open defecation by 2019. But as it turns out, the problem is not just about access to latrines, but changing behavior in a society where many people consider this a healthy practice.

Resistance to latrines

“People associate it with Ayurveda (a traditional system of medicine and health), you get a morning walk, you get fresh air, all kinds of reasoning which they come up with,” said Nikhil Srivastav, research director at the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics in New Delhi.

Campaigners point out that statistics on the latrines constructed in thousands of villages are meaningless because barely half are being used.

Starring one of India's box office heroes, Akshay Kumar, the film tells the story of a bicycle shop owner's efforts to overcome his father's resistance to building a toilet in the house after his wife walks out on him because she refuses to go into the fields to defecate.
Starring one of India’s box office heroes, Akshay Kumar, the film tells the story of a bicycle shop owner’s efforts to overcome his father’s resistance to building a toilet in the house after his wife walks out on him because she refuses to go into the fields to defecate. VOA

The widespread cultural resistance to latrine use in rural India is also born out of beliefs that pit latrines are impure and polluting, and that you cannot have a toilet under the same roof as the kitchen.

Bollywood’s influence

The film addresses some of those problems as the protagonist meets with powerful opposition when he constructs a toilet in the house because his infuriated father, an upper caste Hindu, believes it violates age-old tradition.

Can the film help by sparking a conversation around sanitation, especially in rural India? Bollywood after all is one of the country’s major influencers.

Also Read: UN Gives a Thumbs-Up to Movie ‘Toilet-Ek Prem Katha’, Appreciates Stars for Addressing Health And Pollution Issue Through Film

“The fact that someone is willing to put their money and make a movie about it, I say great. If it is going to trigger off 50,000 people, who started to think differently about the issue, it has value,” said V.K Madhavan, who heads WaterAid India.

The issue is emerging as an important one: Last week a woman in Rajasthan state was granted a divorce after judges ruled that her husband’s failure to build a toilet at home amounted to “physical cruelty” as she had to wait until dusk before going into the fields.

The film highlights how women, faces covered, venture into fields before sunrise under cover of darkness.

Caste system and old habits

Another stumbling block in the campaign to popularize toilets is India’s centuries-old caste system, in which only lower castes are supposed to clean toilets. Many villagers are rejecting the basic latrines being built because the pits would have to be emptied manually once every few years, a task the aspirational lower castes are no longer willing to do and which others also shun.

“So often these latrines get taken away, broken down, used for storing cow dung cakes or other things,” Srivastav said.

An Indian woman walks in a field after relieving herself in the open, on World Toilet Day on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Nov. 19, 2014. Some villages have public bathrooms, but many women avoid using them because they are usually in disrepair and men hang around and harass women. VOA

Toilet Anthem, released by filmmakers to promote the cause of sanitation, underlines the paradox of a country where vast progress in areas such as space and technology and an aspirational middle class stand in stark contrast with deeply rooted traditional beliefs across thousands of villages.

“While mankind has progressed far enough to journey to Mars and scale Mount Everest, 54 percent of India defecates in the open,” goes the anthem.

Sanitation experts however stress that the battle will have to be won softly and warn that some cases of zealous officials coercing people to use newly constructed latrines to meet India’s target of ending open defecation may be counterproductive.

“If you have to deal with [the] cultural nuances around it, deal with old habits, you need to get feet on the ground to be able to talk to people, convince them gradually over a period of time. It does not happen overnight,” Madhavan said.

Prime Minister Modi has praised the film as a “good effort to further the message of cleanliness.”

Whether it will actually have any impact remains to be seen, but campaigners are digging their heels in for a drawn-out effort. (VOA)