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Stories of Change

The Difference One Light Can Make

This is Jowallah, a single mother of two, whose husband passed away roughly two years ago. In the 1980’s, when her village was displaced by the construction of a government sponsored hydro-electric dam (ironically the village was never provided electricity), she was allotted one acre of land that provides enough food to last the family four months of the year. Every month, Jowallah receives 200 rupees from her husband’s pension, To fill the remaining nutritional and financial gaps, Jowallah can typically find work breaking stones into gravel or doing odd jobs in neighboring villages. When the work is available, Jowallah can earn an average income of 500-600 rupees per month.

Jowallah owns 1 kerosene lamp that gives off as much light as a small candle. On average, she pays 20-25 rupees per litre of kerosene and consumes approximately 6-8 litres per month. In other words, around 20% of her income is spent on home lighting. To purchase the fuel, Jowallah walks over 4 km (about 2.5 miles) each way and is limited to a ration of 1 litre per trip. Total time to buy kerosene is about 3 hours.
When we asked how more light could help her live, the response was surprising and encouraging.

Jowallah explained that her last two hours of daylight are often spent preparing dinner, which cuts into the time she could use to make additional money. That extra two hours of light per night, the women can make “leaf plates” (literally plates made out of leaves), which they can sell in the nearest city for roughly 10-20 rupees per day, almost doubling their income.

Even more surprising, was how inspiring these visits to the villages have become. Jowallah and her neighbors don’t evoke sympathy; they are proud people and very hard workers. They’re held back not by skill or drive, but rather the lack of access to some of the most basic and fundamental tools needed to rise out of poverty.  The technology at its core seems so basic, yet we’ve learned the incredible impact a light can have on the dignity and livelihood of the people who use them.


Football to spread awareness against social evils

In a bid to raise awareness among people about social evils like alcoholism and child marriage, a novel programme called “Football for Social Change” (FSC) was launched by a UK-based organisation in Odisha’s Koraput district.

Around 32 youths, including four girls, belonging to scheduled caste and scheduled tribes and in the age group of 15 to 20 years, have been selected for the programme.

“As football is popular among rural youths, the programme aims at educating and empowering youngsters through the game. It focuses on creating awareness against the social evils”, said Sanjit Pattnaik of SOVA, a local voluntary organisation that has tied up with the UK-based Skill-share Internationals for implementing the project.

The coaching programme will relate laws of football to social issues in a unique way, so that the participants enjoy the sessions.

“Football teaches team work, time management and handling pressure which will be used while spreading awareness against social evils. The youths will be taught to handle pressure on field, which will reflect in their daily life, too”, said Ashok Rathod, a Mumbai-based football coach who will be coaching the youths at the camp.

“In football, if a player does not pass the ball in time, rival team snatches it. The same rule can be applied to one’s life. One must do the right thing at the right time in life. For example, at the time of attending schools, one should not do other things and become a dropout,” he said.

The participants are also confident that the training will boost their confidence and self-esteem and will be helpful in building valuable life skills.

“It’s a new experience for us. Getting knowledge about social ills while playing football sounds unique. We are hopeful that after being aware of various social evils at the camp, we will be able to inform other youths in remote areas and can bring about a social change,” said Sahadev Bodonaik of Lankaput village.

During the training programme, the youths will be provided free food, travelling allowances and necessary sports gear. After completion of the training programme, these youths will form football clubs comprising 15 people each in their respective villages.

In the next one year, these clubs will organise at least 16 workshops in their respective villages to spread awareness against social evils. Once these youths form football clubs to their villages, skill-share International will continue to support them. (PTI)


                                          Grain banks rescue tribals from rain, exploitation
SAVING FOR RAINY DAY: The tribals of Koraput district of Orissa are now able to do without borrowing from money lenders.
Like her fellow tribals, Bati Jani of Puki village in Orissa’s Koraput district is unfazed by the onset of monsoon. When several other tribal families are taking loans from the middlemen to maintain their family, 42-year-old Bati has not approached the landlord for the last three years.

Instead, she is taking a loan of grain from the grain bank in her village with a nominal grain interest to maintain her seven-member family.

“Three years ago, we were forced to borrow from the money lender to maintain our family during the rains. The grain that we used to produce went into paying the money lender,” she said.

But those days are past for the hundreds of tribals of Koraput district. “We have developed our grain bank with contribution from the villagers and with support of South Orissa Voluntary Action (SOVA), one of the leading NGOs in the district,” says Gopa Jani, the president of the village committee of Puki.

For setting up the grain bank, each and every household in the village contributed food grain, including paddy and maize. In addition, SOVA contributed an equal quantity to make it a corpus fund of food grain. The grain was stocked in the traditional way in bamboo baskets to protect from insects and managed by a village committee.

“A borrower has to pay an interest of two kg and one kg for 10 kg of maize and paddy, respectively,” says Jani. The loan is repaid by the borrower after harvesting. Puki village has 69 households with a population of 244, and no one now approaches the money lenders for loans, he said.

“The grain bank helps a lot during the lean period from July to September, when we do not get any work,” says Arjuna Mallick of Chemiaguda village in Badakerenda panchayat.

In his village, with 22 households, mostly Kandha tribals, people borrow grain mostly in the rains.

Since last three years, grain banks have been setup in 18 villages in three panchayats of two blocks including Koraput and Kunduru.

“About 928 households of these villages have benefited from the grain banks,” Sanjeet Patnaik, president, SOVA, said. “We are trying to setup more grain banks in coming years,” he added.

The tribal people in Koraput, generally practice podu (shifting cultivation) and collect minor forest produces. Koraput has about 50 per cent tribal population.



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