Thursday, December 30, 2010

Survey on Gender Issues in Sundarbans, by Blanche Mattern

During few days, I stayed in Mukti Office in Nagenderpur. In order to conduct a survey on WATSAN (Water and Sanitation) issues for women, I met Mukti's coordinators and villagers from this Gram Panchayat and Kankandighi one. It was also the occasion to see the working field of Mukti. I met the women of Self Help Group (SHG) who work on exotic birds activities, visited the coconut nursery and the library.
I noticed that the Nerkel project is a really successful one and the idea of planting coconut tree on clay roads was brilliant. Indeed, coconut trees avoid soil erosion and it is the better way to avoid broken clay roads after rain falls for example.

I interviewed families and visit houses. Meetings were conducted with farmers and women SHG. As I am not a Bengali speaker, someone translate for me. I was really touched by the help of Mukti coordinators that help me a lot by organizing the meeting and all my stay there.

Contact with villagers is quite easy as they seem to respect a lot Mukti workers. The organization is conducting a goof work on the area. Mukti is not working in the Sundarbans, Mukti is a part of it.

I was really surprised to see that people do not have problems to express their daily issues. Even if you have to ask to all the men to leave a meeting, women will finally speak easily about their health problem. Villagers are really open to new technologies for example they do not hesitate to show their desire to shift from kerosene lamp to solar one.

In WATSAN issues, women ask private latrines and I was surprised to listen them explaining the side effects of common ones. As I was surprised to listen men explaining why they required the new models of tube well, with a complete picture of all the technical problems of the one they use and the benefit they could get from new models.

I was really touched to hear women answering to my question “what could be for you a development?” by their concern on women health issues, economy increasing in order to let their child study as far as they can. Even when I was speaking about the early age of marriage and first child people answered that marry their daughter too early was not a choice but an economic obligation because of the lake of income. They could not let them at school longer and spend money on education and food. If they get an other choice, they will go for it.

I travelled a lot in India, if you ask this kind of question in rural places you get used to hear that early wedding is the only choice but people can not give you a so complete explanation. Here, you do not have to make understand people, they already knows and get a global view on their daily issues.

My Training at Mukti, by Blanche Mattern

Since 8 years, I am traveling and working in South Asia. As a student of “Crisis: emergency intervention and development action” MA at Université Paris I – Panthéon Sorbonne, I had to end my cursus by a 6 months-training. 

I used to work since a while in Tamil Nadu, a part of India that I know well. Being a trainee at Mukti was the opportunity to work in a country that I like, I already know, but moreover, let me discover how concept of “development” is handle in other state of India.

I chose to apply for a training at Mukti because the organization seemed to serve interests that were matching with mine, we are sharing a common approach of ethic and Mukti's methodology of work is quite same as the one I like.

I could have choose to apply for a training in Tamil Nadu but I am in love with the soul of Kolkata, I already know the global issues of Sundarbans and my desire of discover other way of living and working push me to West Bengal. 

Sundarbans is one of the first place in the world that will be affected by global warming issues. In few years, it seems that some islands will be erased from the map. They will disappear under the water. In this part of India villages are really remote, most of the time people leave without electricity, sufficient access to good water and sanitation. Villages are suffering of a lack of health center. There are no really practicable roads in this place. That give them a look of “doll villages” with cute roads in clay and red bricks as in the “Wizard of Oz” but reality is really hard to them. Aila salted their field and the soil can not offer the same productivity as during the past harvests. This point has a strong impact in the all life of the villagers. Indeed, most of them are farmers or daily workers. Less harvests, less food, less income... 

The period spent with Mukti was the occasion to meet Mukti – India, MSD and Mukti – Kakdwip and to work with them. As President and South Asian Projects Manager of the french NGO InMaLanka, this training gave me the opportunity to make a bridge between the NGOs. It was the time to think about common goals and projects. We shared ideas. InMaLanka linked its indian partner, the NGO Desire India, with MSD after Laila damages in Andhra Pradesh and they begin to work together. Gayatri Pal, secretary of MSD, and I visited Desire India's activities in Andhra Pradesh and in Tamil Nadu and the discussions that followed bring us to a point where it was an evidence that MSD and InMaLanka should joined their hand and their efforts to make common goals concerning the condition of minorities succeed in the South of India.

This training was the opportunity to share ideas, linked NGO and people all over the world. It also give me the opportunity to see how a local NGO as Mukti can become an international network with chapter in several countries. 

This time spent in India with Mukti chapters was a rich experience that bring me a lot of new knowledges concerning the Sundarbans and the idea of development in a crisis context – as Sundarbans are regularly affected by natural disasters - but also new ideas that I can use in a work purpose within the framework of InMaLanka. Moreover, this experience make me meet extraordinary people in the figure of Mukti team, beneficent of the actions and so on. 
I would like to use this article to thank all the people that make this internship so interesting and I am glad to know that this collaboration is going to continue in the future.