Notes

Breaking away from an oppressive tradition: Devidasi Vedhike

Professor Rajendra from Bangalore, who introduced us to the work of Dalit activists working to eradicate manual scavenging and obtain rights for safai karmacharis, told us about an organization working for the rights of women who were sexually exploited through the traditional practice of devidasi, or “dedication” of young women to a temple.  The majority of devidai women come from the Madiga subcaste, one of the most oppressed among the Dalit community.  We met some of the people involved in the Devadasi Vedhike, or Devadasi Resource Center (DRC), which works to raise issues that the devadasi community faces, and help children of the community access education and job opportunities that will allow them to break away from this oppressive tradition.
Our conversation lasted a couple of hours and by the end we had more questions than answers.   The levels of patriarchy and oppression are deep and multilayered.  For now I am only noting the people we met, as we stay in touch with this group perhaps we will understand more about the methods of the Vedhike and whether they are effective.

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Notes

More retreat notes

Project Training

Rashim talked to a few of us today and mentioned that the training for new project coordinators had changed in recent years.  Earlier the training covered both project quality as well as project admin and today it emphasizes admin responsibilities.  As a result project coordinators are not oriented to learning about the kinds of quality indicators we were talking about yesterday such as political awareness, linkage with grassroots movements and potential for social change. Secondly they are weak in following up, reading reports, visiting, learning and advocating for the cause on which our partner is working, and asking critical questions that would help improve the work and further the cause. Continue reading

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Notes

Retreat Day1 Notes

In any talk or discussion there will be what we say and what we leave unsaid.  We often overlook all that we leave unsaid, which often includes insights more penetrating than anything we have said or can say.  The retreat held space for us to venture into the unsaid, sometimes to say it and sometimes simply to acknowledge it.

The silent sessions were an opportunity to think without talking, without filtering what we could say from what we could not.

Wittgenstein once wrote, “What we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.”  It is essential to have time for silence.


We opened the retreat with 5 minutes of silence followed by 5 minutes of silent reflection on the following questions:

  • What makes AID special to you?
  • What makes you special to AID?
  • What are your hopes from the retreat?

We then followed this with a round of introductions and a brainstorming session on the strengths and weaknesses of AID.

Some of the later sessions also started with a few minutes of silent reflection.

After lunch the topic of discussion was – what should be our aims and how should we get there?

A meta-discussion ensued on whether these should be short, medium or long term goals, whether their scope should be broad and visionary or narrow and operational, and if measurable, on what scale?  Should goals guide the organization or strictly define the scope of its activities?

From the various long and short range goals listed, some were shortlisted for break-out discussion on day 2.

We then heard from Suri and Somu about the techniques that they had used to mobilize volunteers and supporters in campaigns in which they were involved.

Evening spread out against the sky and we moved outside to talk about the decision-making processes in AID.

Afterwards, in response to a global call for solidarity with the farmers facing crises in India, we held a candlelight vigil. Kiran and Suri talked about their visits with farming families affected by debt and suicide, and several volunteers shared thoughts about what we could do.

Maryland, 19 September 2015. Candlelight Vigil in solidarity with farmers facing crisis in India

Maryland, 19 September 2015. Candlelight Vigil in solidarity with farmers facing crisis in India

After dinner people met in small groups to discuss Publications, Treasury, AID Audit, and other matters.

 


 

more details to follow

 

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Notes

Unindicated Hysterectomies

While clearing up after lunch yesterday I mentioned to Uma Auntie and Samyuktha that the women in the villages were having hysterectomies after going to the doctor for such a small thing as white discharge. As I had learned this just before leaving I did not have time to find out more, and in any case I myself would have to learn more about this before I could try to advise them though in one sense anything is better than what is happening now. One could wish that they saw a better doctor who would give them the right advice but my fear is that once they see a doctor the likelihood of getting medicine and surgery just shoots up. And the doctor says that the patient wants action, the patient says that she was following the doctor’s orders. So how to get out of this loop – better not to enter it.

“I know a doctor couple who have been campaigning on this issue, do you want to meet them?”  asked Uma Auntie. Continue reading

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Notes

Of stitching and stitches

As we were preparing to leave Appalagraharam, a young tailor named Jaya came over to Nirmala’s home to meet me.  She had not been at home the other day when we went to visit the other tailors in the village.   She had stitched the bags with multiple compartments that we would market as carry-all totes, or the equivalent of diaper bags though with a name that does not suggest the use of diapers.   Maybe Baby Totes. She had also stitched the new model nursing kurta, with a V-shaped front and snaps.

Among our new tailors, she was stitching the most neatly. So I looked even more closely at her work, to generate a checklist so that we would have a flawless product that people could order directly from the village and receive by post, without my serving as an intermediary.

As I examined the seams and snaps, she and Nirmala started talking quietly. After a few minutes Nirmala told me, “ఆవడికి చాల రోజులు నించి ఇక్కడ నొప్పి ఉంది”  (she has been having pain here), pointing to the chest area. Continue reading

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Ease of Doing Business Rankings, Social and Environmental Safeguard Policies

Some background reading to understand why people are  calling for the world bank to stop ranking counties on “ease of doing business”and stop weakening its safeguard policies:
World Bank:  Ease of Doing Business  & World Bank’s Doing Business Infographic
World Bank:  Safeguard Policies  & Proposal to review & update Safeguard Policies (2014)
Letter opposing this draft from 99 NGOs / civil society networks from Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe titled:  World Bank’s Draft Safeguards Fail to Protect Land Rights and Prevent Impoverishment: Major Revisions Required (July 2014)

Bank Information Centre PRESS RELEASE: World Bank Breaks its Promise Not to Weaken Protections for the Poor and Planet

Critique written by Bretton Woods Project: Dangers of dilution: World Bank’s new weak environmental and social framework

Our Land, Our Business: How World Bank Rankings Impoverish SmallHolder Farmers and other reports by the Oakland Institute. 

Oakland Institute Press Release: Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, and NGOs Take to Streets in Ten Cities Demanding an End to World Bank’s Morally Bankrupt Development Continue reading

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Conference, Notes

#AIDconf2014 Notes from Day1

AIDCONF2014# Day1

In spite of our late arrival last night we got up in good time thanks to jet lag.  We were in Ramesh’s “second home,” which meant that even though we had seen on the guest-host spreadsheet that Kamayani and we were both hosted by Ramesh, we did not meet because Ramesh has two houses and she was in one and we in the other.  Also in our house were William Fontenot, an environmental advocate from Louisiana, and Sridhar Vedachalam, formerly of Cincinnati and now of Ithaca.  All of us were up by East Coast morning.  William and I enjoyed a scenic walk to the campus seeing along the way some rushing waters, melted off the nearby mountaintops.

Wow, AID Colorado’s got it made in the shade, you may think.  Especially if you heard Ramesh talking to volunteers at the conference in Charlotte last year, “Come to Boulder, we’ll find you jobs!” Continue reading

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