How We Measure Success

How much happiness does a child feel on attending school after years of working in a brick kiln? What is the magnitude of joy a woman feels when she can start her own enterprise?

One can never experience the feelings, but one can certainly count the smiles! For more than a decade it is the gentle morning glow of such moments that makes us forget the hours spent burning the midnight oil in our efforts to bring smiles to the thousands of lives that seek a way out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Mainstreaming out of school children, who often run the risk of child labor, and assisting them to complete schooling is the primary goal of our Child Labour Elimination Programme (CLEP).

So where does the process of identifying a school dropout and enrolling him / her in school begin? From his or her home. We start with identifying a geographical area, a Panchayat, a system of local-self- governance that is known to have presence of child labour. A door-to-door survey further helps us assess the educational status of children — the enrolment rates, the number of dropouts and never-enrolled children. Consultations with community representatives, government officers at the block and district level, local institutions and other NGOs working on similar lines lead to an intervention strategy aimed at making the Panchayat child-labour free.

A child labour- free Panchayat being a dynamic phenomenon, sustainability is crucial. Child Rights Protection Committees or CRPCs are formed with proactive community members from all walks of life, who are then trained to pursue the CLEP mandate. CLEP initiated Children’s Learning Centres, Transit Schools, Residential and Non-residential Special Training Centres which are equipped with well-designed educational programmes, promote physical, emotional and intellectual growth of the children. CRPCs ensure that children are directed to an appropriate CLEP facility and they are given opportunity to realize their full potential. Importantly, CRPCs persuade the families to withdraw children from economic activities, which are best left to the adults.

Women’s participation in work is one of the key human development indicators and the status of women is the benchmark for societies’ claims to progress. Our Self-Help Group (SHG) programme is designed to leverage the overall well being in a community by economically and socially empowering its women. Twelve to twenty women from poor and ultra-poor families, living in a neighbourhood, and having meagre livelihood options or those who are traditionally entrepreneurs, but have reached a stagnation point are mobilized into SHGs. The group members are profiled in terms of identity and residential proofs, age, family size, work profile, income, assets owned, literacy level and other skill sets. Their financial inclusion is realized by opening a joint bank account in a nearest accessible private or nationalized bank.

SHG members are oriented on group dynamism, financial literacy, promoting and upgrading enterprises. Group representatives are also trained on leadership and accounts book keeping. Women are facilitated to realize their skills, existing trade opportunities and market opportunities. The entire process; from formation of SHGs right up to enterprise creation; is facilitative rather than prescriptive; though trade appropriate skill training is provided on requests from the SHG members.

Adequate financial investment for establishing or upgrading enterprises completes the picture in this jigsaw puzzle. We support our SHG members with small microcredits for their small businesses. Increased credit requirement for expansion of the start-ups is met by Belstar, a sister concern of Hand in Hand India. Together with Belstar, we also facilitate bank linkages for bigger loans; besides facilitating life insurance policies; and risk insurance covers to reduce the impact of business setbacks.

Additional income earned and the confidence gained help the women command more respect in their families and better decision making powers, paving way to an improved quality of life for their families and better education for their children. The group dynamics provides them a voice in the society for meaningful social and political participation. Trade based federations of businesses, let the women enjoy better bargaining power, access bigger markets, mobilize high order finances, and establish their own brand. The expanded businesses have a ripple effect in sustainable jobs to other people employed by the entrepreneurs

There is a huge demand for Vocational Training Programs in India. Firstly, in the context of women entrepreneurs, enhancement of quality of the products and services, and sustainability and scalability of small businesses calls for a strong market-oriented skill training programme with higher value proposition and hand-holding of the entrepreneurs. Secondly, low availability of appropriately skilled human resources is a problem faced by employers across sectors. The problem is particularly acute in the case of Small Scale Industries. Thirdly, there is also a need to focus on up-skilling those who are already employed in the unorganized sector through multi-skilling programs.

HIH India’s Skills Development & Technology Centre (SDTC) pillar addresses these skill gaps with the aim to bring around tangible benefits in the form of improved earnings or a transition to the formal sector for the women SHG members, youth and farmers. SDTC builds skills in a wide range of sectors such as agriculture, livestock, handicrafts, construction skills, automobiles, electrical and electronics, beauty care, ITES, etc. The pillar extends every support to enhance employability and facilitates both job placements as well as self-employment.

Ignorance is one of the biggest all-time evil. Citizen Centre Enterprises (CCEs), kiosks for advocacy and information under SDTC, educate and embolden participation of illiterate or semiliterate village community members in local governance and help them demand their rights as citizens. By increasing e-literacy, and providing online and offline services, our CCEs do not just shrink the digital divide between urban and rural but also socially and economically empower the otherwise marginalized community members, by helping them with applications for jobs, old age pensions, widow pensions etc.

Our other initiatives — Health, Natural Resources Management (NRM), and Solid Waste Management (SWM) programmes too follow similar process of communication, mobilization, participatory intervention and sustainability.

Our health intervention focuses on preventive health and nutrition measures for anaemia control; among pregnant and lactating mothers for better delivery outcomes; among infants and children for normal growth during their formative years. Renovating anganwadis (day-care centres run by the Government’s Integrated Child Development Scheme); Village Health and Nutrition Days (VHND), medical camps and clinics, access to safe drinking water, construction of toilets, and promoting good health and hygiene practices among the community members are also part of our health-care initiatives for the poor.

Rural economy being predominantly agrarian, our NRM programme strives to increase the green cover in project areas and to convert non-agricultural land into agricultural land. Ponds are renovated, rain water is harvested, farmers’ clubs are formed and their capacities are built. In the process, productivity and quality is increased and unskilled farm hands get steady employment.

SWM initiatives are guided by the philosophy of reduce, reuse and recycle waste. Green Friends, the local messiahs, who are trained to segregate waste that can be recycled and SHG members who produce vermin-compost, get an opportunity to earn while contributing to the noble cause of cleaning and greening their environs. A steady stream of volunteers, willing to do their bit, ensures ownership of the initiative by the community.

We work with partners locally, nationally and globally, successfully replicating our models in diverse socio-cultural contexts like  Afghanistan, Africa, Cambodia, Myanmar, South America, South East Asia and Sri Lanka besides many Indian States. Social interventions are successful only if they sustain, and participation of all stakeholders is crucial for sustainability. Without doubts, interventions that have favorable economic implications and have livelihood promotion inbuilt in their design are bound to sustain. However, economic progress is futile unless paralleled by enhanced socio-political and environmental performance. Synergy in the complex two way relationship between economic and social progress is the measure of success for all our interventions