Income Generating Activity (IGA) : FXBIS promotes Women Empowerment and Sustainable Development in coastal Andhra Pradesh

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“Most of the people in our community depend on seasonal agriculture labor work but FXB India Suraksha (FXBIS) has offered us a new and sustainable sources of income. FXBIS has motivated us to collect broom sticks and helped us develop area wise clusters of suppliers. I started our group with two suppliers and now there are 37 members in my cluster and all of them are earning well.” says Yellamalli Rani. Yellamalli takes care of the broom making cluster in Jallivari peta village, Amalapuram. Today she is proud to be an independent woman.

Amalapuram is located in  East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh. Situated on the East coast of India, the town is located in the agriculturally rich Konaseema delta, a triangle formed by the waters of the Godavari River. The delta’s black cotton soil is very fertile and crops including coconut and rice are grown in it. But as Yellamalli points out most of the inhabitants are dependent on agriculture and hence exposed to the fluctuations of the monsoon. The coastal region of Andhra Pradesh is also frequently affected by natural calamities like storms and excessive rain often destroying crops.

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 Being  a resource rich area, FXBIS has developed a integrated programme of alternative income generation activities. The IGA is centered around the Broom and Agarbatti (incense stick) Making Units in Amalapuram.  Both items are household goods with demand throughout the year. East Godavari basin being a hub of ancient temple sites, the extensive  market for incense sticks is evident from the large number of individual entrepreneurs dealing in the raw product operating in the area. In order to ensure a wider market and increase returns, the FXBIS programme converted part of production into the final scented and packed Agarbatti. Similarly, brooms made out of coconut leaf sticks have a demand all over India.The Konaseema made coconut brooms are famous and exported to most of the states in North India from Hyderabad. Considering the abundance of coconut trees and already existing practice of collecting coco leaf sticks from coconut trees FXB India Suraksha (FXBIS) found that there is definite scope of initiating a coco leaves brooms making unit as a collective business activity, particularly for the local women. Both projects were developed in  local unused premises as a common facility to conduct this activity and involved intensive skill development training for the interested women.

Having started with  five interested women joining the agarbatti collective enterprise, after consulting the village key people and series of briefing meetings, the unit now produces on an  average of 450 kg raw agarbatti every month and the women earn an  average income of Rs.40,000 per month. The broom making unit expanded as a collective enterprise when the women collected the broom sticks and supplied them to the production unit instead of procuring them from private suppliers for higher price. It increased the number of participating families from 3 to 120 households.

The FXBIS team facilitated the broom making unit with 3 bulk buyers supplying to Hyderabad market, one of  the largest and populous cities in peninsular India, thus ensuring a steady demand and market. At present it produces two types of brooms i.e. hi-tech and super tech model worth of Rs.50,000/- every month and members earn about Rs.1,500/- towards their wages per month. Additionally each member earns Rs.1,000/- towards profit which is saved in a collective bank account and shared proportionately every 6 months after allotting adequate sum for the business development of the unit.

The easy availability of raw material and favorable market conditions guarantees scope for expansion and thereby will continue to serve many local poor women as sustainable source of income for much longer period. It assures a life of dignity and better living standards for the women and their families.

 

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FXB India Suraksha Care and Support Program Centre : A comprehensive approach to the delivery of appropriate treatment and care to PLWHA

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Sentience towards the stigmatization faced by people affected by HIV/Aids is key to a comprehensive approach to the delivery of appropriate treatment and care to People Living With HIV/Aids (PLWHA). The social exclusion borne out of this stigmatization manifests itself most profoundly in the dissemination of information. The lack of knowledge, what to do now? often has paralysing impact on the patient. At FXB India Suraksha Care and Support Centre, we make it a point to be  reponsive to the trauma and helplessness felt by the patients who seek our help and support.

Andal (name changed)’s story is idiomatic of the feeling of being exposed and uncertainty facing most patients. She is from Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh, India. Being childless, she and her husband adopted a girl child. But soon after, her husband fell into an unremitting illness. His health went for further decline due to a wrong diagnosis, he became debilitated. His severe emaciation and inability to work for more than a couple of hours led his doctors to prescribe  a test for the HIV virus. The world collapsed around them, when both she and her husband tested positive for HIV. Their world revolved around unlimited questions, apprehensions, doubts and despair, they had no idea what this was all about, whether there was a cure for this ‘dreaded disease’, was it infectious, would they die of this disease? what were they to do?

Today Andal is an integral part of the FXB India Suraksha Care and Support Program Centre. Though uneducated Andal,  recognizes ‘word pictures’, and through information charts she ensures that once people come to the centre, they remain engaged there. Her effervescent smile accompanying her response to any question with a broader smile, makes her inimitable.’Entering the door of the centre was like walking into a new life,’ she says. Their rehabilitation included Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), supplementary nutrition and counselling. Their CD4 counts began to rise. Andal’s husband soon got back to work. Seeing Andal’s instant rapport with people and her potential to counsel, she was taken on into the program as a full time staff. Andal says that the love, respect, care and acceptance at the centre are largely responsible for the people’s quick recovery.

One day at work Andal’s husband found a three week old baby boy wailing in a nearby garbage dump. At the Care & Support Centre Andal and her husband took care of the baby and with incessant efforts of the resident doctors, nursed him back to good health. When they could not find his biological parents they decided to adopt him. Today the couple lives in a happy family of four.

International Womens’ Day 2016: FXB India Suraksha recognizes the inspirational leadership of its women members

 

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady, USA

FXB India Suraksha has championed the rights of women in areas of the country far removed from the public and media gaze. We have worked with women from marginalized communities, stigmatized and disowned by their community and family. In a journey spanning almost a decade, we at FXB India Suraksha have met and facilitated the innate strength and leadership   of hundreds of women. The words of Eleanor Roosevelt, quoted above, adorns a particularly significant  garb in a society where  gender bias has been an inherent part  of its existence. Indian disregard and negligence of womens’ rights has not only bred practices like female foeticide, child marriage, dowry deaths but has also internalized discrimination within the socio- legal institutional structure of the country. A situation that makes any attempt at redressal a direct threat to the societal status quo and hence nigh impossible.

Improbablity is however is not a word that completes the vocabulary of Ch. Sulochana Devi (name not changed), one of the pioneers at FXB India Suraksha family.  At 40, she is a seasoned counsellor  at FXB India Suraksha Care and Support Centre in East Imphal, Manipur in North East India.

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In 2004 when she came into contact with FXB India Suraksha she felt lost due to the debilitating social rejection at being HIV positive. She had married in 1994, and soon after had a son. Unfortunately, due to multiple medical complications her son died at infancy and her husband, Chaoba, relapsed  into IDU (Inject drug user). In June, 1998, when her husband lost the fight against HIV and after Sulochana had her second child, she herself was diagnosed as HIV positive. Living in a remote, conflict ridden society with poor health care facilities and little information, she had a gruelling time providing for her children. At FXB India Suraksha she was counseled and  she slowly realized there are many like her and was referred to the Antiretroviral Therapy(ART) center in 2004. Within a year she started recovering and joined FXBIS as an outreach worker.

After, four years of her hard work, Sulochana was promoted as social worker and she was instrumental in making FXB Village Programme (FXB India Suraksha flagship programme) a success, and  played as a role model caregiver. Her entrepreneurial qualities evident in her handling of FXB India Suraksha IGA center has inspired her peers at FXB Village in Imphal to be a part of the change. The beautiful products at the IGA workshop is not only reflective of their love for their ancient crafts but also symbolic of their new found confidence. Sulochana’s daughter, Goldy, is the pride of the FXB programme and the community. She is a 17 year old trailbazer in her school and echoes her mothers’ courage. She plans on becoming a doctor and work for the development of the people.

Stigmatisation of people living with HIV/Aids creates a vicious circle of discrimination and social exclusion. People Living With HIV/Aids are routinely excluded from social processes because they are judged to be too costly for the community. This is particularly rampant in societies with limited resources, in conflict ridden areas and is also intensely discriminatory against women. At FXB India Suraksha, rehabilitation of the People Living With HIV/Aids is an important aspect and fundamental to the success of its Care and Support Programme and Sulochana’s courage and dedication, is a motivation for all those around her and beyond.

FXB India Suraksha : Education for All

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Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it? .. But in truth I know nothing about the philosophy of education except this: that the greatest and the most important difficulty known to human learning seems to lie in that area which treats how to bring up children and how to educate them.
(Michel de Montaigne, On teaching Philosophy of Education)

‘Right to education’ to every child at FXB India Suraksha

At FXB India Suraksha (FXBIS) we believe in the universal and fundamental ‘Right to Education’. The focus of FXBIS programmes is to ensure access to quality primary and secondary level education for every child within its intervention geography. The envisioned impact of the Education Strategy is educated, confident, productive and socially responsible children and youth.

At FXB India Suraksha, as we sat down to formulate our Education Strategy, we realized, ignorance of the world is no longer the bane of the education system. The expansion of means of communication, via television and radio, computers and internet and the omnipresent smart phone meant the easy availability of and access to information. Our interactions at the grassroots led us to conclude, that at FXBIS we need to address the confusion borne out of this copious amount of disparate information. The youth today find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

Through its education programmes FXB India Suraksha attempts to infuse rationality, freedom of thought and speech and conscience into the current system of instruction. As Michel de Montaigne wrote, ” Let him (the pupil) be directed, being in company, to have his eye and ear in every corner of the room; …Let him examine every man’s talent; a peasant, a bricklayer, or any casual passenger, a man may learn something from every one of these in their several capacities, and something will be picked out of their discourse, whereof some use may be made at one time or another; nay, even the folly and weakness of others will contribute to his instruction. By observing the graces and manners of all he sees, he will create to himself an emulation of the good, and a contempt of the bad”.

To reach this goal, FXBIS has adopted a multi-faceted approach that involves Life-Skill Training, awareness & mobilization and Exposure to New Ideas and Opportunities.

Through awareness and mobilization campaigns FXB INDIA SURAKSHA generates recognition for the necessity and importance of education, within the community in general and among parents in particular. In a country with particularly poor level of education for women and girls FXBIS is focusing on convincing parents about the added value of allowing their girls, to attend and complete schooling.

Being aware of the economic hardships faced by the extremely vulnerable and marginalized families within its intervention geography, FXBIS supports by linking them with relevant government education schemes and assisting them with the application process. Some special cases, particularly families affected by HIV/AIDS, are incorporated into FXB INDIA SURAKSHA’ own sponsored ‘Suraksha’ scholarship programme.

Cooperation with and upgradation of the existant education system is at the core of the FXBIS education strategy. To that end FXBIS endorses competence-based teaching methods and improved school infrastructure such as access to safe drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls, a safe playground, well equipped class rooms and libraries, and availability of audio-visual teaching material. The objective is to ensure quality education and a child- and especially girl-friendly school environment. As part of its broader programme on children, FXBIS conducts workshops with teachers, parents and children on rights, safety and security of children. These life skill trainings include sessions on everyday issues like menstrual hygiene and safe touch.

“Suraksha Education Centre” spread across India are providing supplementary support to children with poor learning abilities, through non-formal education and tuition classes. In addition, Computer Literacy Centres equip children and youth with access to and knowledge about modern technology. The objective is to boost the children’s performance and prepare them for the requirements of today’s working environment.

Life Skill Workshops’ and vocational training courses expand the skill sets of adolescents and women allowing them to be well equipped, self-confident and productive members of their communities. FXBIS recognizing that learning is a constant process throughout life and that the term ‘education’ comprises more than just formal education ‘Women Adult Literacy Classes’ are running to empower women and increase their self-esteem and knowledge base.

The education methodology of rote learning and examinations was apt at the time of Independence. The emphasis of education today has undergone a comprehensive overhauling and the goal is to actualize the potential population dividend. FXB acknowledging this has developed its Education Strategy with a focus on employability , enhance the skills and capacity so that it’s students become a confident and productive member of society.