Monday, September 03, 2012

Challenges of Gender Equity and Health Education Facing India

FSD's interns Julian Cooper, Caroline Patterson and Jessica Nelson took to the web to share the outcomes and challenges of their work abroad and spread awareness about the issues facing the communities they worked with this summer. Julian spent his internship working with the grassroots organization, Vikalp Sansthan (JVSS), in Jodhpur, India. Their mission is to fight the gender-based inequality and violence that is still prevalent in India’s patriarchal society.

For his project, Julian organized a cricket tournament for the boys in the community that included sports training, but also workshops on the importance of female education, improving the boy-girl relationship in society, and violence against women. The recreational backdrop provided a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the boys to open up and discuss these sensitive, but pressing issues. “I felt the biggest achievement of the workshop was the shift in the way the boys discussed gender-based violence and gender-based inequality,” Julian recalls. “They no longer looked at girls as though they were objects controlled by Indian society and tradition, but as individuals with dreams of their own.”

Jessica and Caroline interned with our partner PCB Trust to tackle limited health education for female sex workers in the surrounding communities of Jodhpur. They interviewed one hundred sex workers and documented their difficulties in accessing HIV testing and treatment. Distance and transportation costs prevent these women from taking advantage of the only free HIV testing center in the area. The interns were surprised to discover that one tenth of the sex workers they interviewed did not understand the causes of HIV, while one fifth had never heard of condoms. Working with PCB Trust, Caroline and Jessica developed strategies for the many complex obstacles facing sex workers.

Although these challenges may seem insurmountable at times, they had a good perspective on the roles of interns in the field. Comparing their challenges to a parable about a boy’s effort to save hundreds starfish that washed up on shore, she said, “We certainly can’t expect to clean up the whole beach in a 9-week internship, but maybe our educational materials can help throw one starfish back into the water. That would be enough for us.”

A Poultry Farm for Sustainable Community Development in Kenya

Sustainability Times Three!

Aman Bali of Duke University spent nine weeks in Mombasa, Kenya, working with the organization Total War Against AIDS Youth Foundation (TWAAYF), based in the Likoni district. Together, they designed and developed a community project that embodies the spirit of sustainable development and FSD’s model approach.

In the Likoni district, widespread poverty and disease have affected community members of all ages. Children, though, are especially impacted: many parents are either afflicted with disease or unable to provide them with an education and basic resources. TWAAYF works to support these youth by offering them a haven from the streets, basic education--and a chance at a better future. However, a lack of sufficient funds can sometimes hinder their mission of youth empowerment. Using a grant awarded through FSD, Aman and TWAAYF put a project in motion that will both empower these children and produce consistent funding for the organization.

The idea—creating a poultry farm on TWAAYF’s grounds based on egg laying—reflects a tridimensional approach to sustainable development. First, the program will be a source of reliable income generation for the NGO. Second, it will teach children about nutrition and improve their diets, and it will give them valuable professional experience through capacity building and skills training. Third, by reinvesting a portion of the profits into the maintenance of the project, its sustainability is assured.

Aman helped to build the coop and led health and diet education classes for the children, and TWAAYF will continue on with poultry farm training sessions and the development of the program. Aman reflected that although he encountered several obstacles and complexities over the course of the project, the experience was extremely rewarding: “The most inspiring part of my work was probably just seeing all the good that was being done by my organization through the children. Between their orphanage, their community school, and their project rehabilitating street children, I saw first-hand TWAAYF's dedication to the children they are helping. Not a single child I came across during my time there seemed unhappy, a testament to the work they are doing.”