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South Asian Development News
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New Center Developmental Disabilities

Ummeed Child Development & Disability Centre in association with Cipla Foundation has inaugurated the new therapy centre in Mumbai.

( Source: thehealthsite.com, Posted: Jan 17, 2017)
 
A City Goes Green

With oil from plastic bags, paver blocks from debris, the Indian city of Thane is set to go greener.

( Source: DNA India, Posted: Jan 17, 2017)
 
New Malayalam Movue Explores Consumerism, Greed

Pinneyum (Once Again), released in late 2016, told the simple story of a man and a woman who go against the wishes of their families and relocate to a new town only to find life getting messier and tougher every passing day.

( Source: Civilsocietyonline, Posted: Jan 17, 2017)
 
Empowering home-based workers in India

Harvard South Asia Institute and Tata Trusts showcase project findings on Economic and Social Rights of Indian women.

( Source: OneWorld, Posted: Jan 17, 2017)
 
Village Sets Sanitation Example

Badhuwar village in Narsingh district, Madhya Pradesh, has achieved total sanitation and became an Open Defecation Free (ODF) village in 2007.

( Source: Sify, Posted: Jan 11, 2017)
 
Caring for Mental Health of the Poor

MindPiper started by Dr SA Basir, provides clinical mental health care to the low-income families in underserved communities in Delhi.

( Source: DNA India, Posted: Jan 11, 2017)
 
Need for Cadre for Midwives

Public health experts, nurses and NGOs working in women and child health programmes are keen that the government create a special cadre of nurse-midwives for rural India.

( Source: CivilSocietyOnline, Posted: Jan 11, 2017)
 
Tribal Hamlet in Odisha Becomes Eco-Tourism Destination

In Koraput valley, Odisha, Desia provides a quintessential Odisha experience backed by the warm hospitality of the local community trained by Yugabrata Kar.

( Source: BetterIndia, Posted: Jan 10, 2017)
 
Khoon: Supplementing Blood Banks

Founded by a 16-year-old college student, Chethan M, Khoon is an organization working towards arranging for blood when blood banks and all other sources fail.

( Source: BetterIndia, Posted: Jan 4, 2017)
 
Manipur Bets on Eco-Tourism

The state Tourism Department, in collaboration with private players, has come up with an innovative idea of state-funded homestays in far-flung corners

( Source: TheWeekendLeader, Posted: Jan 4, 2017)
 
Indonesia Sets High Environmental Ambitions

At a roundtable with major Indonesian palm oil, rubber, and pulp and paper companies, United Nations environment chief explored ways to move forward on their zero deforestation pledge.

( Source: OneWorld, Posted: Jan 4, 2017)
 
Remembering Chipko After 40 Years

Women in the Himalayan villages hugged trees, braving the axes of loggers with government permits, and stopped the felling of mountain slopes. This is simple but effective way of protest that marked the Chipko movement.

( Source: DownToEarth, Posted: Jan 4, 2017)
 
Changing Homes, Changing Lives

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust has helped 300,000 women as the biggest provider of loans and assistance to low-income women in the housing sector.

( Source: CivilSocietyOnline, Posted: Dec 27, 2016)
 
Green Roofs and Urban Climate Change

If there is a park, garden or vegetation on a rooftop, it is called a green roof. The aim is to keep buildings cool and curb carbon footprint. Buildings absorb a lot of heat, and growing vegetation on the roof can keep it cool.

( Source: DownToEarth, Posted: Dec 20, 2016)
 
Storybooks for Children in Slums

Katha, an NGO based in Delhi, has been educating kids in slums and publishing books for them since 1988.

( Source: BetterIndia, Posted: Dec 20, 2016)
 
Easing the Last Journey

Antim Yatra provides all funeral services under one roof in Delhi. They ask for their requirements, check for pundits, cremation grounds, provide the death certificate and if someone dies abroad we make arrangements to shift the body to their home.

( Source: CivilSocietyOnline, Posted: Dec 20, 2016)
 
Banning Commercial Surrogacy

The upcoming Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 regulates altruistic surrogacy and prohibits commercial surrogacy in India.

( Source: IndiaTogether, Posted: Dec 20, 2016)
 
Community Based Forest Governance

Pachgaon Gram Sabha received forest rights over 1006 hectares under the Forest Rights Act in June 2012. It was the first village in the district of Chandrapur to receive CFR title deeds. Since then, the village has been exercising its rights of collection and sale of bamboo as well as protection and management of its forests.

( Source: DownToEarth, Posted: Dec 13, 2016)
 
Rating Primary Health Care Centers

GRAAM, a wing of SVYM, an NGO in Mysore runs a project called Arogyashreni (ranking healthcare). This mobilises villagers to assess and monitor the functioning of PHCs according to the facilities and services it provides. As people rate their PHCs, they begin to realise the services it can provide.

( Source: CivilSocietyOnline, Posted: Dec 13, 2016)
 
DU Students Adopt Soda Village in Rajasthan

While volunteering at slum settlements of South Africa, Lavanya Garg, a 22 year old student, saw the potential of doing something similar back home in India. Almost 70% of India’s population lives in villages so this is where Lavanya decided the focus should be. Also, the country has the largest number of youth in the world. Lavanya saw this as an opportunity to bring together the villages and the youth through a volunteer programme. She discussed the idea with her friend Kavya Saxena and the two decided it was worth pursuing.  “Many of my friends said they would love to help but when I searched the internet for ways in which college students in India could volunteer, I found nothing,” says Lavanya.

That’s how Asmat was born in 2014, as a platform for college students to volunteer.

[caption id="attachment_76038" align="alignnone" width="1200"]asmat2-fb An Asmat volunteer with villagers in the winter of 2015. Credit: Asmat[/caption] Asmat means “we the people” in the local language of a tribe in New Guinea and it seemed like an apt name for an organisation that was not just aimed at helping rural people but also providing an enriching experience for youngsters. The NGO brings batches of about two dozen college students to villages for two weeks, where they immerse themselves in the rural life while trying to make a difference to the people. For now, the NGO is working exclusively in Soda village in the Tonk district of Rajasthan. The village’s claim to fame is its MBA-educated female sarpanch, Chhavi Rajawat. Chhavi, 39, is reportedly the youngest sarpanch in India, and also an inspirational figure for many, including Lavanya. Chhavi is also an alumnus of Lady Shri Ram College. Lavanya said they reached out to her for guidance when they started the NGO. The sarpanch invited them to visit Soda village in December of 2013, and the team decided this was the place they would launch their programme. “The media makes it look like Chhavi has already resolved all the problems that were there to solve,” Lavanya says. “But that is not true. We found there are many issues that volunteers can help the villagers with.” Asmat’s first batch of college students went to work in the summer of 2014.

Their efforts were centred on providing complementary informal education to primary school students, raising awareness about health issues and menstruation, and helping people take advantage of government schemes.

[caption id="attachment_76037" align="alignnone" width="1200"]asmat-fb A session on gender issues organised by Asmat in the summer of 2014. Credit: Asmat[/caption] Although Asmat has attracted funding from a corporate sponsor and individual donations in the past, the group often funds its volunteering trips itself. The average cost per person per day comes to about Rs. 300 but the NGO is trying to push that down to Rs. 150. The organization recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise Rs. 1 lakh to fund a health campaign in Soda village where doctors from Delhi have been invited to provide free health checkups for villagers.  The campaign has raised around Rs. 60,000 so far, and Lavanya hopes they will meet their target soon so they can organise camps this December. The Asmat team has 16 permanent members and is headed by Lavanya and three other co-founders. Lavanya, who did a Master’s in Development Studies from Yale University after finishing her Bachelor’s in India, also works as a researcher studying the conditions of garment workers in Bengaluru. [caption id="attachment_76039" align="alignleft" width="169"]aleena_nituji Aleena Khan with the woman who came up to thank her in the winter of 2015. Credit: Asmat[/caption] Up until now, 120 volunteers, many of whom are students at Delhi University, have participated in the Asmat programme. The trips are organised during the summer and winter vacations to allow maximum participation. Lavanya says they try and recruit school as well as college students. All applicants have to send their CVs and also fill out a questionnaire before being called for interviews. The forms include questions like: “What kind of problems do you think rural India faces?” and “How do you think we can raise awareness about taboos like menstruation?” Asmat looks for people who are not just passionate but also sensitive and capable of thinking on their feet. Working in villages has its own challenges. Lavanya remembers a time when a village woman confronted her during one of the sessions, saying that she, Lavanya, was a city girl and did not have any idea about the realities of village life. Volunteers should be driven to help others but they also need to have the presence of mind to deal with difficult situations, says Lavanya. But there are also moments that are gratifying for the Asmat team. For example, a village woman once approached Aleena Khan, an Asmat volunteer, and gave her a tight hug; she said she was ever so grateful to Asmat for raising awareness about menstruation. “’I enter the kitchen and make food, put out the pickle and even present offerings to God while I’m having my period. God loves us, he doesn't bother about purity or impurity; we are always pure for him,’” the woman said. The Asmat team had not just created awareness about the issue but also introduced the woman to sanitary napkins, encouraging her daughters to use them as well. While Lavanya is happy with the stories of change that have emerged from the village, she says her aim is to do something more long-lasting. “We are looking to do something more sustainable in Soda,” she says, “and also hoping to expand to other villages.” You can contribute to Asmat's crowdfunding campaign here.

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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( Source: BetterIndia, Posted: Dec 13, 2016)
 
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