Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The tiny hands that cook cocoons...

Do government policies and projects to bring in economic empowerment always ensure a qualitative change in the lives of the beneficiaries? The answer could be in the negative if one looks at the story of the sericulture industry in Karnataka.

Sericulture has been promoted in the state as a labour-intensive, low-cost high income-source industry ever since the 1980s. Further, it was also hailed as an effective scheme to include a large number of poor people including women and to achieve regional development.

Though that has happened, all’s still not well, observes a Bangalore-based NGO MAYA (Movement for Alternatives and Youth Awareness), as part of a study they conducted some years ago.

The NGO has worked on the issue of child labour ever since 1998. Its case study on the sericulture industry in Karnataka and a documentary film revealed that exploitation of a large number of children in the sector is the ugly side of this ‘labour-intesive’ industry.

The organisation’s survey report was based on the silk industries in Ramanagaram and Channapatna. These regions including Magadi and Kanakapura regions and Kollegala taluk of Mysore district have a glorious past as far as the silk industry is concerned.

In 1913, the Department of Sericulture was formed and a Silk Farm was established in Channapatna in 1914.

Occupational hazards

According to MAYA’s study, children worked in the region’s sericulture industry as turners, helpers, pupae pickers, and cocoon cooks in the filature units. Besides, the working condition also necessitated employment of children.
Children stood cornered against the wall, and trapped under the machinery waiting for a ladleful of cocoons to be put aside by the reeler every now and then.

A lot of concentration is necessary to avoid wastage, for nearly 12-16 hours a day.

The hands that should have been playing with toys were killing silkworms while cooking the cocoons, inviting skin diseases.

They were involved in unhygienic processes of mulberry cultivation, cocoon rearing, reeling, winding, doubling, twisting, and re-reeling in a cramped, damp, dark, poorly ventilated place with loud, music playing in the background.

They inhaled the vapours from the boiling cocoons and the diesel fumes from the machines which lead to respiratory diseases among the kids.

The NGO’s experiences of working on the child labour issue in sericulture sector of the Bangalore rural since 1998 has made it realise that the issue has a link with intricate network of other socio-cultural aspects such as hostile school environment, parents’ priority of expenditure and the lifestyle which deprive the child of its childhood and fundamental rights.

Most of these children were forced to work here because their parents hadborrowed loans (for marriages and festivities) from the employer.

Hence, it is not the immediate necessity of earning bread for the day, but to clear the debts.


In its documentary film on child labour in the silk industry, Indebalya (Childhood now), MAYA focuses on the inhuman working condition at the industry units.

The organisation points out that children are involved in all stages of work in the units and the machines, such as reeling equipment, miniature wheels, cramped spaces and low bobbins used here are designed in such a way that a child can work on them.

Another plus point from the employer’s perspective is that these kids don’t organise protests against bullying or overwork!

However, the laws of the land or ad-hoc solutions for the issue don’t eradicate the root cause of the problems.
Poverty, which is said to be the chief factor, is not just a state of having no money, but it also includes limited opportunities for the poor to articulate their needs, to improve their capabilities, and to access to resources.
Solutions for the issue such as one-time income-generation programmes, short-term vocational training or compulsory enrollment of child labourers in formal schools will have only limited impact.

To bring in sustainable change in the system, the concept of economic development and the policies that are framed to achieve it need to be looked into.

The study points out that we need to ensure that the development projects bring not just money, but a quality change in the life of all including these young citizens working in the sericulture industry.

Initiatives on child labour in the silk industry

* There have been plenty of initiatives when it comes to rescuing child labourers employed in the silk industry in the Magadi belt of the state.

* One such is the Magadi Child Labour Elimination Project, which worked towards withdrawing children employed in sericulture-related activities in Bangalore rural areas.

* According to a report entitled United Nations in India, sponsored by the United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on Child Labour, the silk twisting units have been an alternative employment option because of poor irrigation facilities for agriculture and sericulture cultivation.

* The Magadi Makkala Dhwani (MMD) or the Voice of Magadi children organised a people’s movement to eradicate child labour from these silk twisting units that are hazardous to the health and development of the children.

* The Magadi Project is a joint initiative of the Government of Karnataka, 4 NGOS BOSCO, Chiguru, Vikasa and Sankalpa (representing the network MMD) and UNICEF to rehabilitate these working children and prevent fresh entrants to the work force in the taluk, covering directly over 125 villages and reaching out, through Government support, to the surrounding 300 villages of Magadi.

* The focus of the Project was the withdrawal of children from the work situation, bridging them to school through Residential Transit Programme, addressing related services in terms of hostel; vocational training and sustaining the initiative through community based support groups as well as the local Government Task Force Committee.

* The project personnel and all local and district officials were oriented and trained to undertake the specific strategies in the field areas. Expertise from government organisations was utilized for capacity building measures of project and field staff. Regular monitoring of project activities at state, taluk and field level enabled better programme management, resolve local issues and address specific policy interventions.

* The project developed effective partnerships with other stakeholders especially local NGOs, employers’ organizations, local communities, parents of the target groups especially Self Help Groups.

* The Task Force Committee comprising local government officials, NGOs and people’s representatives played a major role in enforcement, and their objectives included:

* Identification and release of children employed in silk twisting activities and otherhazardous occupations like construction work, brick making, etc.

* Rehabilitation of these released children though education strategy by inducting them into formal schools, further to Bridge program when required.
nProvide access to vocational and life skill training to older children in the 14+ age group to whom mainstreaming to formal school is not the appropriate intervention.

* Create sustainable social mobilization against practice of child labour through partnership approach with local community, employers, parent and local elected representatives.

* Organize community, women and adolescent girls as Self Help Groups to support education initiative at village level and protect child exploitation and abuse.

A report cited by ISCA: Initiatives for Social Change and Action.

By Malathi Belur


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Homeless, facing identity crisis

Even as the nation celebrates its 60th Republic Day, Ajay is an 18-year-old for whom January 26 brings no reason to cheer. A runaway child who has grown up on the railway platform since the age of seven, Ajay suffers from an identity crisis today. Wherever he goes to seek work, the employer demands a proof of his identity. With no birth certificate or address proof, young boys like him exist as faceless Indians without the power to avail their fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution.

When asked about Republic Day, Ajay's reply comes as a shock. He says it's a time when people like him get beaten up the most. As part of security measures to prevent mishaps, platforms are cleared of ragpickers and beggars. "Around festivals and other important days like the Independence Day and Republic Day, the policemen get after us,'' he says.

When Times City spoke to other boys around 18-20 years old, they said that due to the tight security, collecting left-overs from the trains and platforms was difficult. For them, even managing one-square-meal by selling off the rags had become tough over the last two days. On a regular day, each ragpicker earns about Rs 150 from the trains' left-overs particularly mineral water bottles left behind by passengers.

While one of them, Karan, is lucky he has found work as a daily wage labourer at the station, his companions still grapple with the identity crisis and continue to survive on the money made clandestinely by selling what they find on the trains. They say that they don't want to beg outside temples.

Mohd Sayyad (19) shares a similar story. Ever since he got separated from his parents at the station in 1997, he has been hopping from one platform to another for survival. A contractor, who had agreed to employ him as a bed roll attendant on a train, offered a temporary job instead when Sayyad told him he had no identity proof. Sayyad hasn't been paid his wages for over two months now.

Sanjay Gupta of Childhood Enhancement Through Training & Action (CHETNA) an NGO working closely with children and young adults on platforms feels that though rules exist under the Registration of Birth and Death Act, 1969, a campaign is needed to get all such homeless, runaway, abandoned and streetchildren into the gamut of birth registration. And, the young adults be given some legal identity if birth registration is not possible. CHETNA, along with Plan India, is now planning an advocacy campaign in Delhi to get underprivileged children into the fold of birth registration.

According to the National Family Health Survey III India's social survey carried out in 29 states during 2005-06, over 59% children born every year are not registered with any civil authority. Only 27% under the age of five years have a birth certificate.

India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989. "Yet, data shows we have the world's largest number of unregistered children. Under the RBD Act, 1969, institutions were set-up in all states to record births and deaths. Thirty-five years have passed since the enactment of the legislation, but birth registration is not satisfactory, showing large inter-state variations. Only about 38,000, out of the estimated 70,000 births everyday, get registered,'' Gupta added.

A survey shows that the children who don't have birth certificates are mostly the child labourers, migrated children, runaway children, those with acute illnesses, children of sex workers, those involved in begging and children from unwed mothers. According to sources in the MCD, which is in-charge of birth and death registration, these children definitely need to be brought into the frame. It feels NGOs will also have to come forward to take responsibility and get registration done.

Shanta Sinha, chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said, "We're all for universalization of birth registration and emphasise on it in all our communications to the government. We completely endorse the need to get all children into the birth registration framework.''


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Outstanding Annual Report Awards for Excellence and Best Practices

Invitation to Participate in The CSO Partners' Outstanding Annual Report Awards for Excellence and Best Practices in Annual Reporting

Annual Report is one of the key tools for ensuring transparency and accountability of any organisation. Recognising the significance of quality Annual Reports for ensuring credibility of Voluntary Sector Organisations, we are pleased to present 'CSO Partners' Outstanding Annual Report Awards 2009' in association with Financial Management Service Foundation ( FMSF ),Credibilty Alliance ( CA ) and Murray Culshaw Consulting ( MCC ) on 27 th March ,2009 at New Delhi.

The Outstanding Annual Reports Award presented by CSO Partners is an opportunity for you to showcase the most important tool of Building Credibility. These awards are celebrations of the brilliant work of the voluntary sector and its engagement with the public.

The awards are for Organizations from various sectors for Excellence and best practices in Annual reporting thereby promoting accountability.

We invite not for profit organizations across India to participate in the awards by downloading and submitting the Application form that will acknowledge and strengthen the impact of the annual report and include cash awards.

We solicit your participation to make this event a success.We would also request you to inform and encourage your peer organisations to join in this endeavour of promoting quality ,transparency and accountability of Civil Society Organisations.

Looking forward to your wholehearted support and active participation in this endeavour. For further information and clarification please contact .Ph : 0120-2546732 - 33 / 44-45.

Thanks & Regards,
Soumitra Ghosh

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Reality show opens helpline to cater to wider audience

Reality show ‘Aap Ki Kachehri’, which serves as an alternate dispute redressal forum for the public, has opened its doors for a wider audience by launching a new helpline.

People who wish to solve their personal and professional issues amicably and voluntarily, can now call 022-66157735 to put their cases across to the show’s panel so that Kiran Bedi, a retired IPS officer who hosts the show, can provide a solution for the same, said a press release.

The step has been taken after the show was recently extended by 52 episodes owing to its popularity.

With this initiative, the helpline will allow applicants from across India to register their issues that will then be evaluated by Bedi along with the Aap Ki Kachehri panel of NGOs, the production team (BIG Synergy) and STAR Plus, on which the show airs.

The cases that qualify will be aired on the TV show. Aap Ki Kachehri is telecast every Monday-Thursday at 10:30 p.m.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

21st century feminism: Where's the freedom

For some, actor Sanjay Dutt’s assertion just days ago that women should take their husband’s surname after they marry, is proof of his archaic thinking. But he finds surprisingly high levels of support as well. There are many who believe, like Dutt, that a woman does not have the right to choose her surname.

“A person’s name is his identity. In some states in north India, it’s customary for the husband or in-laws to change even the bride’s first name. By doing so, she’s made to surrender in her marriage,” says Ranjana Kumari, director of Delhi’s Centre for Social Research. “If Dutt feels that a woman shows respect by assuming the husband’s name, why doesn’t he take on his wife’s name to show her respect,” she asks.

Some women adopt their husband’s name because they want to. But many elect to retain their maiden name or hyphenate it with the husband’s surname. The irony is that both decisions invite criticism. Women who change their surnames are accused of giving up a ‘feminist right’. Those who don’t change their names are criticized for departing from established practice. Clearly, several decades after feminism breached many barriers around the world, Indian women are still denied the unchallenged right to choose.

Even urban educated women are plagued by self-doubt and confusion over the choices allowed to them. Architect Nina Seth, 32, opted to stay single but now admits to second thoughts. “My parents are understanding but never gave up their wish to get me married. As for myself, I am enjoying my single life in Delhi. But I also fear loneliness later in life.”

But media professional Kavita Narayan, 28, resents the expectations that come with marriage. “My in-laws want me to wear saris, sindoor and bangles, though I don’t want to. Why can’t they accept me as I am?”

These are issues of personal choice and they affect women in public life, who are often held up as role models. Feminist opinion is divided over US First Lady Michelle Obama’s decision to give up a successful career to support her husband’s run for the presidency. She may embody the modern conundrum: how best can a woman balance public life with a private one as wife and mother.

Rachida Dati, the French minister for justice, didn’t have it much easier. Dati returned to work last month, just five days after she had a baby, leaving feminists foaming at the mouth. They denounced her as a traitor to the cause of women and hard-won rights to maternity leave could be undermined if a high-profile new mother returns to work early. But many others might applaud Dati’s calm professional determination to balance life as a mother with that as a government minister. However, her poor performance has cost her the job. It was reported on Saturday that Dati has been forced to quit the government and run for the European Parliament in June.

These mixed messages add to the confusion women feel as they make personal choices. Is feminism at war with feminity? Are western clothes, for example, a sign of modernity and feminism? Or do they sexualize a woman and make her a traitor to the cause?

“When women change apparel, they become more modern in outlook,” says Kumari. “But the same cannot be said of men who adopted western apparel much earlier than women.” Kumari does not believe that feminism creates boundaries for women. “Feminism is not a threat to society, but a vision of equality between men and women.”

That may be a distant dream still in a man’s world. For now, few Indian women rock the boat. The National Family Health Survey-3, covering the year from 2005, found that two of every five married women are subject to domestic abuse; just 1% initiate action against their husbands.

So too domestic responsibilities, which remain the same for housewives and women who work outside the home.
Looking after the children and the house are considered the woman’s responsibility even though she may work the same hours as her husband. It is a form of subordination, admits Kumari. “You cannot have a better relationship when one is considered subordinate to the other,” says Kumari.

Even the supremely efficient Indian career woman still finds it hard to choose her husband. UK doctor Shrini Ghosh is marrying her boyfriend this year. Her parents, back home in Bengal, opposed the wedding for seven years because Ghosh’s beloved is not Hindu. “I have lost so many years and I don’t know who to blame,” says Shrini, 34.

Underprivileged women have it even worse. Poor and illiterate, they lack control over their reproductive lives and cannot prevent the abortion of female fetuses.

But Kumari says there’s hope because “women come up with their own defensive mechanisms and are challenging family norms”. Now they need to find the strength to stop living double lives — wanting a choice but not saying they do.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Killing us slowly…

Mumbai-based filmmaker Sumit Khanna first embarked on the pesticides trail when he noticed the absence of the common sparrow from the green fields of Punjab. “Why is it, I thought to myself, that the sparrows have stopped making the fields their home despite the apparent presence of food? And then I discovered that the crop is so heavily sprayed with pesticide that no bird or beast can hope to survive in the fields,” says Khanna. This process of discovery took the route of a 58-minute documentary film, financed by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT). To add a touch of irony, Khanna titled his film Mere Desh Ki Dharti, a popular song from a Hindi film that pays tribute to the abundance of food, water and happiness in India.

Winner of the Best Investigative Film of 2006 at the 54th National Film Awards, Khanna’s documentary is intelligently edited and well-researched, highlighting how pesticide overuse is gradually killing us all.

The story begins with the Green Revolution which took off in 1966 when India imported 18,000 tonnes of seeds from Mexico to solve the hunger crisis that had set in after the Bengal famine of 1943. “The next year, India saw a bumper crop but what was not revealed was that the produce was fertiliser-responsive, which meant that pesticides were necessary to prevent any damage to the crops by plant-eating insects and worms. When we look at it now, we realise that this proliferation of pesticides was not required,” says Devinder Sharma of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, in the film.

Khanna maps a precise trail of the how, when, why and what of pesticide use by farmers across Punjab, a representation of what’s taking place all over the country. The film explores various angles: the farmer unconcernedly spraying his crops with pesticide, often totally ignorant about the health risks to both himself and consumers (studies clearly indicate that the ingestion of pesticides is extremely harmful to human health); manufacturing companies that take advantage of legal loopholes to continue making ever more potent pesticides; activists who can do little more than create awareness; and apathetic government agencies.

What’s surprising, even shocking, is that experts too prefer taking a soft approach to the harmful effects of pesticides. For instance, Dr G S Hira, head of the Department of Soil and Water at Punjab Agricultural University, says that recommended doses of pesticide are absolutely necessary because no vegetable or fruit can otherwise be produced, and the Green Revolution maintained. He ignores the fact that organic manure is equally capable of producing high yields, a point that activist Vandana Shiva raises towards the end of the film. Khanna, meanwhile, intersperses the narrative with television commercials that aggressively cajole farmers to use more and more pesticides and their cocktails to prevent their crops from being eaten.

In order to prove that pesticide overuse is indeed a “time bomb that may explode any moment”, Khanna looks at the issue from two angles: one, he visits farmers across Punjab to establish a link between pesticides and suicides and arrives at the conclusion that high input costs brought on by pesticide use allow the farmer no profit margin, thereby making it impossible for him to pay off his debts, and forcing him to contemplate taking his own life. Two: Khanna boards the passenger train that travels between Bhatinda and Bikaner to find that 50% of its passengers are headed for cancer treatment in Jaipur. Indeed, the train has come to be known as the ‘cancer train’.

In an interview on camera, Dr J S Thakur of the Department of Community Medicine at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh admits that pesticides play an important role in the development of cancer-causing cells. “Samples of ground and surface water reveal a high content of arsenic and mercury, and this comes from the pesticides that run off the crops into the water and then seep into the ground,” he says. A study carried out by Dr S G Kabra of the Indian Institute of Health Management and Research in Jaipur concludes that the high incidence of ‘brainless children’ born in Punjab and neighbouring areas is due to the presence of pesticides in vegetables. “Our calculations showed that such births can actually be traced to the consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits by women in the initial stages of pregnancy,” he points out.

The unfortunate part is that even though everyone, including the trader who sells the farmer pesticides, admits that the dangerous effects of pesticides cannot be ignored, the government appears unwilling to take any proactive action. To drive home this point, Khanna shows, on film, how his repeated efforts at soliciting an explanation from government officials were stone-walled or ignored. This attitude is also due to the fact that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture have no common ground, therefore the rules formed by them do not focus on pesticides at all. And, as Shiva points out, the government probably does not want to take any action for fear of displeasing the multinational companies that are engaged in the production of pesticides.

It’s estimated that around 800,000 people in developing countries may have died due to pesticides since the onset of the Green Revolution. “The World Health Organisation has calculated that 20,000 people in developing countries die each year of pesticide consumption through their food. Multiply that by 40 years,” says Sharma. So, who is to blame for the deaths? According to Shiva, “agriculture scientists, companies and government agencies have to shoulder the blame equally”. And, will agricultural output fall drastically if India were to stop using pesticides? Shiva, Sharma and other experts don’t believe so. “We have such high yields in the country today that there is no need for anyone to go hungry,” says Sharma, while Shiva advocates a shift to organic farming. “If 84% of our farmers are indebted today, of what use have pesticides been,” she asks. Mere Desh Ki Dharti lets this question hang. Will someone answer it?

To buy a copy of the film, write to .This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

(Huned Contractor is a freelance journalist and filmmaker based in Pune)


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The State of the World's Children 2009

This report examines critical issues in maternal and newborn health, underscoring the need to establish a comprehensive continuum of care for mothers, newborns and children. The report outlines the latest paradigms in health programming and policies for mothers and newborns, and explores policies, programmes and partnerships aimed at improving maternal and neonatal health. Africa and Asia are a key focus for this report, which complements the previous year's issue on child survival.

Read and Download report here:

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Iam writing, because Iam there

Dear friends,

14th January 2009 was day I was born, REBORN.14th noon I suffered massive Heart attack at a meeting at S. V. T. College (SNDT) College ,Juhu,Mumbai.The timely action by the college staff and my colleague Amruta Saved by life .

I was immediately admitted to small clinic which saved me and then I was shifted to a big heart hospital.

Through angiography it was found that there were 2 blockage 93% and 75% and the angioplasty was done.I was saved. Doctors looked as God and nurses looked as Angel.

Yesterday I was discharged and was waiting to communicate to you all my feelings.

Wanted to tell you all Big Thank You for all your good wishes and prayer’s; THANK the LORD who bought be gain to this beautiful earth to complete my work for Elderly through my organisation Silver Inning Foundation and . There are so many things for me to do in social sector, for my country India ,for this world.

Iam also grateful to all the Senior Citizens and their family members for whom I work for their blessings. They made be come back to serve them.

I could not resist to write to you, to communicate to all my friends here on net world, website, blogs…………I will bounce back with more energy, with more dedication and passion.Iam writing, because Iam there.

Please excuse me if Iam unable to do posting for sometime.

Iam so excited to be right here.

Your Friend

Sailesh Mishra

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

National Commission for Women (NCW) pushes for law against acid attacks on women

An acid attack, allegedly by a spurned lover, claimed yet another life on December 30, 2008, as 21-year-old engineering student K Swapnika succumbed to her injuries in a Hyderabad hospital.

On December 10, 2008, Swapnika and her friend T Praneetha, who was riding pillion, had acid thrown on them by three men, one of whom was in love with Swapnika. The three youths were picked up by the police, let out on bail, and subsequently shot in an “encounter” when they took the police to the spot where they had hidden the acid and some weapons. According to police reports, they attacked the police during the search.

Acid attacks on women are common in India, which does not have a specific law to deal with such incidents. Every year, women are killed, maimed, blinded or scarred for life for rejecting suitors, refusing to have sex, defying custom, or becoming victims of family feuds and land disputes.

A 20-year-old tailor in Delhi’s Model Town area threw acid on two teenage sisters. The tailor wanted to marry the younger sister but the girl’s mother told him that her elder daughter had to be married off first. Angered by the delay, he threw acid on both sisters -- apparently to teach them and their mother a lesson.

In a famous case, the Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW) helped Hasina Hussain get justice after her ex-boss Joseph Rodrigues poured 1.5 litres of sulphuric acid on her when she quit her job in his company, in 1999. The acid melted her face, fused her shoulder and neck, burnt a hole in her head, merged her fingers and blinded her for life. In 2006, the Karnataka High Court sentenced Rodrigues to life imprisonment.

The Union government’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not have separate figures for the number of acid victims but it is estimated that at least 100 women are subjected to acid attacks in India every year. CSAAAW has compiled a list of 65 cases in Karnataka alone, between 1999 and 2008.

The National Commission for Women (NCW) is pushing for a specific law to deal with such cases. It has come up with a draft of the Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act, 2008, which is with the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development for vetting. After its approval, the Bill will be sent to the law ministry before it is tabled in Parliament to be passed as law.

One of the problems with this type of crime, like several other crimes against women, is that the police do not take strong enough action when complaints are registered. Swapnika’s father had lodged a complaint against the chief accused, S Srinivas Rao, for vandalising his motorcycle two months before the attack on Swapnika took place. Women activists also want the easy availability of acid to be curbed.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Social workers embrace goal to help clients build financial safety nets

Against the backdrop of the economic meltdown, a movement is building within the ranks of America's social workers to make their profession more adept at helping clients overcome financial woes.

Since they emerged on the scene in the late 19th century, social workers traditionally have sought to improve the lot of the poor. But in an era of rampant foreclosures, credit-card debt, and ever-evolving scams that prey on the economically vulnerable, few social-work schools offer specialized financial training, leaving their students collectively unprepared.

Change is under way, however.

• The University of Maryland's School of Social Work recently embraced the concept of "financial social work," offering workshops and minicourses for students and people already working in the field. Professor Dick Cook, who runs the school's outreach service in Baltimore, said a primary goal is to help clients think more broadly about how to build assets.

• In St. Louis, social-work professors have organized a "think tank" to brainstorm on how social-work schools can better prepare their students to assist clients with financial decisions.

• In Ashville, N.C., social worker Reeta Wolfsohn is offering an online certificate course in financial social work that has extended into 20 states. The Social Services Department in North Carolina's Wilson County last fall hired a "financial coach" who had taken Wolfsohn's course.

"Before, we'd do a two-hour training session for clients and pat ourselves on the back," said Wilson County's self-sufficiency program manager, Susan Parker. "But we were just giving them information. No one was helping them one-on-one to change behavior."

The new approach, she said, "is not about providing safety nets to families. It's about teaching them to be their own safety net."

Benefits seen

Among the beneficiaries is Sharon Mercer, 41, a single mother of nine children ranging in age from 4 to 17. She was jobless, destitute and reluctant to turn to the county for help out of fear that her children would be taken from her, but the response surprised her.

"It wasn't about just giving me a check — it was about building my confidence," she said in a telephone interview. "I said, 'No, I can't.' They said, 'Yes, you can.' "

Mercer was urged to take a volunteer job at first, embraced it, and subsequently has progressed to a full-time, paid job with Wilson County's maintenance department.

"The most important thing for her was having someone there on a consistent basis, holding her accountable," said Frances Hendricks, the recently hired financial coach. "We're trying to get to the root of people's behaviors, get them to see why they're spending the way they're spending."

A key part of the new approach is convincing clients to talk candidly about sensitive, embarrassing aspects of their financial problems.

Concepts applied

In Baltimore, University of Maryland social-work graduate Robin McKinney has applied that concept as director of the Maryland Cash Campaign. The campaign tries to steer low-income clients away from predatory lenders, provide free tax-preparation services and ensure they collect their full allotment of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

"A lot of financial education is focused on numbers, but financial decision-making is very emotional when you have to choose between eating or keeping a roof over your head," McKinney said. "Who better than a social worker to help with that emotional side of money?"

McKinney recounted her dealings with a single mother of seven who amassed $60,000 in credit-card debt. Under McKinney's empathetic probing, the woman revealed that many of her purchases were intended to please her children.

"She felt she had to buy things to be a good mom," McKinney said. "But after we talked for a while, she said, 'Wait a minute. I'm not being a good mom if I'm going to pass on debt and poverty to my children." '

Programs developed

Even with the dearth of finance-oriented training in social-work schools, social workers have helped develop numerous financial-awareness and asset-building programs in recent years.

Michael Sherraden, a social-work professor at Washington University in St. Louis, devised the concept of Individual Development Accounts, which help low-income families build assets to reach long-term goals such buying a home. Many social-service agencies have launched so-called financial literacy courses.

For example, New York City's Administration for Children's Services recently started a program for youths aging out of foster care that teaches basic financial skills and enables them to open savings accounts. The Children's Aid Society, a New York-based nonprofit, offers workshops to struggling families on dealing with banks, confronting credit problems and avoiding scams.

Dick Cook, the University of Maryland professor, said an infusion of financially savvy social workers could be vital as the economy flounders. He said banking services are likely to shrink in low-income neighborhoods, where many poor people patronize check-cashing services that charge burdensome fees.

"By building this new field, we're creating an infrastructure that can be pulled in to help," he said.

Margaret Sherraden, Michael Sherraden's wife and a social-work professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, is playing a lead role in efforts to boost financial education in social-work schools. Thus far, she argues, the standard curriculum has produced students unprepared to meet needs of vulnerable families.

"The growing field of economic empowerment represents an exceptional opportunity for the social work profession," she wrote in proposing a forum on the topic. "Arguably, no other profession is as well positioned as social work to assume leadership."

By David Crary

Courtesy: The Seattle Times Company ,

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

International Federation on Ageing Workshop in India - Jan 2009



National Policy on Older Persons was announced in 1999 commemorating the International Year of Older Persons by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment Government of India. The document is exhaustive covering practically aspects of life covering financial security, Social Security, Health Security, Food Security and so on. The year 2009 would mark its tenth anniversary.

Senior Citizens Associations across the country have been voicing concern over its lethargic implementation while the Government India has been taking steps such as passing of “’The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Seniors Citizens Act 2007", Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority inthe backdrop of concerns voiced by senior citizens and in order to study the issues involved as well as to make recommendations, had constituted a seven-member committee on health insurance for senior citizens which has made recommendations; Andhra Pradesh Government’s successful launch of Arogysree Health Insurance in association with the stand alone Star Health Insurance to offer free coverage ofhealthcare expenditure for those BPL, Finance Minister’s announcement of enhanced Old Age Pension, MOSJE’s revised integrated programme for older persons to improve the quality of life of the older persons, launch of Reverse Mortgage Loan and many more.

It is often problem of implementation that challenges those working for the cause of older persons. It is therefore imperative that NGOs and organisations working for the older persons including the federations/associations at the national, regional, state, district and local levels establish for themselves goals in getting the NPOP implemented effectively. They need to be highly focussed to accomplish desired outcomes. International organisations like IFA, work to implement the Millennium Development Goals, Madrid International Plan of Action 2002, WHO’s Age Friendly Cities, advocacy at the international levelwith the United Nations New York, UNESCAP and UNECE amongst several organisations.

The role of India organisations in this regard can be defined and action plan drawn to effectively advocate with the central, state and union territory Governments to gain benefits to senior citizens whose number is continuously swelling.

The United Nations adopted Theme “Rights of Older Persons” for celebrating the International Day of Older Persons 2008. The member Governments all over the world accepted to eliminating all forms of discrimination, including age discrimination”. They recognized “that persons, as they age, should enjoy a life of fulfilment, health, security and active participation in the economic, social, cultural and political lifeof their societies” determined “to enhance the recognition of the dignity of older persons and to eliminate all forms of neglect, abuse and violence”. Despite this commitment, in many parts of the world, the rights of older persons are violated every day.

In social environments, they may experience a lack of recognition and respect. Most disturbingly, incidences of neglect, abuse and violence against older persons are not at all rare or isolated events.

It is in this direction that IFA - Asia is convening five one-day workshops on “Capacity Building of Senior Citizens Organisations” in five Indian major cities. The workshops by and large are divided in to four/five sessions (Inauguration/Key Note Address, Plenary Sessions, discussions in groups and Way Forward) commencing at 9.30/10 am and ending at 5/5.30 pm. Coordinators in the respective cities can be contacted for particulars.


The programme organised in India by Heritage Hospital Hyderabad has enlisted collaboration of HelpAge as one of the sponsors. Federations of Senior Citizens at Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Nightingale Medical Trust and Harmony for Silvers Foundation are hosting the workshops in five different cities.


Bangalore Jan 17 2009 Regulatory Body for Institutional Care for Elders

Chennai Jan 19 2009 Successful and Graceful Ageing

Hyderabad Jan 20 2009 Ageing in Place

New Delhi Jan 21 2009 Advocacy for Rights of Older Persons

Mumbai Jan 25 2009 Asserting Rights of Older Persons


Those interested in participating in the event can directly contact the respective Coordinators. The number of participants is restricted and therefore we advise immediate registration to prevent disappointment.

Bangalore :Nightingale Medical Trust - S. Premkumar Raja Ph: 9243100560

Chennai : Federations of Senior Citizens Tamil Nadu -S. M. Chellaswamy Ph: 044-28350809

Hyderabad : Federations of Senior Citizens at Andhra Pradesh - Mr. R N Mittal Ph: 9052004913

New Delhi: HelpAge India - Ms. Anupama Datta Ph: 011-41688955

Mumbai: Harmony - Mr. Hiren Mehta


K R Gangadharan : Vice President Asia IFA


Mrs. Suma Prasad : Ph: 9866078244


6-3-907/2, on Kapadia Lane, Off Raj Bhavan Road,

Hyderabad - 500082

About IFA:


The IFA was established in 1973 and since that time it has consistently campaigned for the rights of older people in a diversity of ways, including involvement in drafting key initiatives, participating in and hosting global conferences and producing reports and publications.

IFA’s key initiatives include:

1. The Declaration of the Rights and Responsibilities of Older Persons first published in 1990 was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1991 as the United Nations Principles for Older People

2. In Montreal in 1999, the IFA’s Fourth Global Conference brought together Ministers responsible for ageing issues from 61 countries. This successful meeting resulted in the production of The Montreal Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Older People

3. The IFA hosts bi-annual global conferences of leaders and experts in the field of ageing, including government ministers and decision makers, the corporate community and representatives of NGOs working in the field.

Visit for information on the next global conference to be held in Melbourne in 2010.

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A peaceful revolution in Bangladesh

The just concluded elections in Bangladesh can turn out to be the most significant in its history and carry the potential to have a significant impact well beyond its borders on the entire subcontinent. These were the freest and fairest elections ever held in the country and have been declared so by a host of domestic and foreign observers. The turnout was a massive 70 per cent-plus, a majority of voters being women. And the verdict was as dramatic as it was decisive. Two clearly identified and ideologically opposed groups led by the two dominant parties contested, removing any chance of vote-splitting rendering an unclear verdict.

And what a verdict! In an age when the whole world, not the least the subcontinent, is reeling under the impact of Islamic fundamentalism, a Muslim majority country has of its own volition firmly rejected the religious option — the Bangladesh National Party-led group which had among its members the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami — by not one seat or two but giving it only 30 out of 299 seats and handing down a chance to the winning Awami League-led group to amend the constitution if it wishes to. The latter fought the elections on two demands — roti, kapda, makaan etc and bringing to book the criminals who had opposed the 1971 war or liberation.

At another level it is a vote against misrule, the lawlessness and corruption that had marked BNP’s five years in power. The rise of Islamic militancy, under official patronage, and the violence it perpetrated were seen as part of the lawlessness that has so clearly been condemned. First BNP and then de facto military rule have created a groundswell of opinion for a return to democracy.

What makes the verdict so important and elevates it to the status of signalling a social revolution in the making is the role women have played in it. Poor village women, who were so visible in the long queues that formed before polling stations, no longer remain socially submissive, accepting things like child marriage and divorce the way they used to. NGOs are seen to have played a key role in this. What is more, women today have a voice because they have some financial standing, courtesy micro-finance which now touches 80-90 per cent of the poor. Thus Bangladesh’s NGOs have wrought the beginning of a social revolution which has produced a dramatic electoral verdict virtually the first time the people have been free to vote according to their will.

It naturally follows that the new government of Sheikh Hasina will have to face enormous expectations which, if the past is any indication, it will be hard put to fulfil. The Awami League’s ability to deliver an efficient administration is severely limited and though the leader and her immediate family do not face any serious charges of corruption, as do the two sons of Begum Zia, the League’s machinery down the line is hardly lily white. The mood of expectation in Bangladesh today can be likened to that which prevailed in India in 1977 when the Janata government came to power raising an enormous wave of expectations.

It is natural for the Indian government also to have very high expectations from the government and relations between the two start off on both a positive note and a handicap. An unambiguously friendly government has come to power but its ability to address Indian concerns will be limited by the perception among a section of Bangladeshis that it will be willing to make concessions too readily. One way in which India can earn goodwill in Bangladesh will be to address the persistent grouse Bangladesh businessmen have that their produce faces a higher tariff in India than does India’s in Bangladesh. India can make further concessions to Bangladesh exports under the South Asia free trade agreement.

Any goodwill so earned can be used as a springboard to launch work on a transit treaty which can change the face of India’s northeast. Both costs in the region and its emotional integration with the rest of the country are impeded by its landlocked nature and virtual geographical separation from the rest of India. If goods to and from the northeast can transit through Bangladesh freely and if trade along the long border is allowed more freely, the economy of the northeast will be enormously benefited.

As much as it is necessary to pursue these possibilities, there is one other paramount issue which will perhaps be too sensitive for anyone to address right away, without extensive and extended preparation. It is the issue of river waters. Bangladesh feels that India denies it more of the Ganga waters that it needs. On the other hand, the excess waters of other rivers like the Brahmaputra that cause massive floods in Bangladesh can and need to be put to proper use. A resolution of this, in which Nepal will also have a role, will be historic if it were to happen, requiring a degree of statesmanship all round which is not present today.

What India can do meanwhile is learn from Bangladesh how to fight poverty and take forward human development at very low cost with the help of NGOs. An active civil society and strong partnership between NGOs and government in Bangladesh have enabled it to take rapid strides on human development to the extent that on some parameters it has now equalled or bettered India. Microfinance is the most visible example of this role of civil society via NGOs to fight poverty. There is today a Bangladesh model of development which India can emulate.

By Subir Roy


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.