india Posts

Clean Water for Loonwa

[youtube][/youtube]Last month I had the rare and very moving opportunity to visit a village that had recently received a clean water plant with funds from The Eleos Foundation, implemented by the Naandi Foundation, with GlobalGiving acting as the matchmaker/intermediary.  I visited Loonwa, a town of 10,000, in India’s beautiful and historic, but environmentally harsh, Rajasthan state.  Loonwa, and many other communities in Rajasthan, have a three-fold water problem.  First, there just isn’t much water – imagine farming in Phoenix or Las Vegas.  Second, water contained in stagnant ponds during the rainy season is likely to be contaminated with bacteria and worse.  Third, due to an unfortunate geological situation, the groundwater is high in fluoride and other chemicals that leach into otherwise pure water from wells.  Just enough fluoride helps teeth grow strong, so they put it in our water and in our toothpaste.  Too much fluoride makes teeth turn very white, then they fall out, and it seriously hurts skeletal development of children.  Here’s a scientific discussion of the subject. Enter Eleos Foundation and Naandi Foundation.  Eleos wants to help the poorest of the poor get healthier around the world, and they want to do it through market-based solutions.  Naandi helps communities in India finance clean water plants, and then trains local folks to operate the plant and sell the water at affordable prices.  Through UV and reverse osmosis purification, the water is pathogen and chemical free.  And it’s available for about $18/year for a family.  Over time, the community buys the clean water plant with the proceeds and everyone is healthier.  GlobalGiving helped Eleos connect with Naandi, and now this community has a potential solution to this unique problem. As I pulled into Loonwa with Amit and the Naandi team, I wondered if there was a political rally going on.  It was election time in India.  No, it was a welcoming party for us.  I cut the ribbon on the door of the water plant, saw how the plant works, attended a community meeting where we were all welcomed very warmly by the leaders of the village, then toured a Jain temple.  I was overwhelmed by the sincere excitement about having access to pure water, and I was humbled and a bit embarrassed by the very, very festive welcome I received.  You’ll see my sheepish grin in this video. [youtube][/youtube]

Driving one’s way to Development

One of the things quite a few of my colleagues know about me is that when I joined GlobalGiving, I didn’t really know how to drive. Okay, in complete honesty, I could drive but I just couldn’t reverse. So when I finally learned to drive properly and reverse, it was truly a moment to celebrate!I always have managed to live without a car for the most part and frankly I thought I would never learn or need to learn. However, after I learned to drive, it gave me a new sense of freedom and mobility. This feeling was one that I have always taken for granted. Sadly, in some parts of the world women are not being allowed to drive, such as places like Saudi Arabia. In fact, I was in Riyadh when women took the roads to protest the refusal to let them drive. There is another movement again that has started to continue that 1990 protest to let women drive and we’re all hoping that happens. As one woman puts it in this interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor:

“I don’t even like driving,” says Ms. Aishah el-Mane, who received death threats and was forced to leave her home and job in Riyadh. “Even if I could drive now, I wouldn’t; I much prefer to have a driver. It’s about female empowerment and mobility. Women need incomes, they need jobs, and they need a way to get to those jobs,” she says.

International Women’s Day in on Saturday, March 8 and I wonder which project I should support in honor of International Women’s day. This year I think I will go with Livelihood for 500 Tribal Women in Gujarat that teaches women how to drive so that they can sell their crafts in markets. It is a pretty cool project and by teaching just one woman to drive, this enables her to teach another 500 women to drive.

On the Road

Earlier this spring, I had the opportunity to visit some project leaders in Nairobi. I was so impressed with their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn about GlobalGiving and how to appeal to GG donors. I have to say, some folks from that batch have turned out to be real rockstars!

Towards the end of December, GlobalGiving will have the opportunity to meet some Project Leaders in India, Indonesia and Pakistan. We’d love to learn more about the leaders behind these projects and find out about the work they’re doing. We plan to host a few workshops to bring them together and to answer their queries!  Here are just a few of the people we’re planning to visit:

However, as a GlobalGiving donor myself, I wondered, “What would I want to learn from the donor perspective?”

So I would pose this question to you-have you supported any projects in Delhi, Udaipur or Chennai or Indonesia and Pakistan? What more do you want to know?  What else would you like to see? Do you want more project photos?  Interviews with the people behind the project?  Be creative!  Send us your thoughts and questions, and we’ll try to answer as many of them as we can while we’re there.

A Trifecta

As most of my friends and colleagues know, one of my favorite columns of my favorite online publication is The Dismal Science column on Slate. And I muse often–and out loud–about how women do (or do not) behave differently at work than men, or whether they have greater chances at happiness today than before, because I’ve come to a feminist consciousness late in life and I feel like I need to make up for lost time. And I love the science of economics, despite not having chosen it in college or in graduate school–again, making up for lost time.

So this latest article from Slate started talking about how when legislative mandates forced more women into leadership positions in village councils, the delivery of public goods increased (and the quality of such goods stayed as high as when men were in leadership positions) but residents of villages headed by women were actually less satisfied with the public goods, I thought I’d hit the trifecta. [Icing on the cake: the Slate article cited the work of Esther Duflo, whse work at the Poverty Action Lab at MIT I have really admired over the years.]

My trivial little delight at finding an article that was as relevant as any Google ad served up to me in my Gmail account using entirely analog searching techniques aside, this finding really makes me pause. Because the implications are startling. Either we have really not understood the nature of public goods (and they aren’t really good for people), or we have hardwired biases against being able to perceive objective reality (which means those biases are extremely difficult to overcome, or …

It’s something I actually often wonder about international development. There’s a small group of people in the world (and I hang out with them all the time, so my own perspective is warped) who have the privilege of knowing about, and participating in, the adventure that development can be. How we can communicate the drama and the incredible high that comes from hard-won success to people who don’t know about it–and perhaps even have a bias against learning more about it?

But I’m a liberal at heart–I do believe human nature can change. After all, if I can gain feminist consciousness and an appreciation of the dismal science late in life, why not?