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South Asia

Act Responsibly to Save Our Children’s Planet

Dilinika Peiris's picture

“Responsible Actions”, “Scientific Thinking” and “Partnerships to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change”…. These are some phrases from my loot bag of thoughts taken away from the World Congress of Environmental Journalists organized by the Asia Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists in Colombo. The theme of this Congress was “Educate to End Climate Poverty” – Copenhagen Summit and Beyond…..

So what does this really mean to me? I learnt that I am much to be blamed for these changes that are taking place in the climate than any other person, organization or country that is blamed for contributing to this change whether deliberate or not. I felt that all participants in the forum learnt that when they point one finger at someone or a group to blame, they are actually pointing three fingers in the direction of his or herself. I learnt that it’s time to STOP BLAMING and START ACTING.

Ladies Specials

Darshana Patel's picture

The “Ladies Specials” are women-only commuter train recently launched in four Indian cities (New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta). While not a new practice, public transport exclusively for women is becoming popular. (Mexico City introduced women-only buses in January 2008 and commuters on Japanese trains know a thing or two about this too.)

Harassment on the train or bus is not just an annoying nuisance for women. It influences whether or not a woman chooses to enter the workforce in the first place. (Or maybe whether her family or husband will allow her.)

Changes in economic landscape of a country have led to shifting roles for women, who are increasingly moving outside of the household and into the workplace. These new women workers, often of a younger generation, are now re-shaping what it means to be women in their societies.

Got a Question? I've Got an Answer!

Joe Qian's picture

There’s an exceptional amount of ingenuity within the development community. Each day, brilliant minds devise elegant solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges that are multiplied with limited resources and complex realities on the ground.

An example of this creativity can be found in the Questionbox, devised by the non-profit organization, Open Box, which brings global intelligence into a small solar powered audio box that works to empower residents with knowledge even if the area lacks reliable access to electricity or if the user is illiterate.

Residents use the device by pushing a green button and asking their question through a solar powered microphone, the question is transmitted to an operator who searches for the information on the internet and then relays it back to the client.

Don’t Throw the Baby with the Bathwater!

Zahid Hussain's picture

Paul Krugman’s September 6 article in the New York Times (How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?) is a humbling warning to the economics profession against the pitfalls of intellectual complacence. It challenges the profession to re-examine the validity of its existing knowledge particularly in relation to globalization and the workings of local and global financial markets.

Granted that economists have to face up to the unpalatable fact that our theoretical apparatus falls far short both as descriptions of how economies function and as prescriptions of how they can be made to function better. The crisis has exposed the limits of economic knowledge. According to Krugman: “The vision that emerge as the profession rethinks its foundations may not be all that clear; it certainly won’t be neat; but one can hope that it will have the virtue of being at least partly right.”

In this process of reappraising existing economic knowledge, there is a real risk of going overboard and wrong the right knowledge. Using the global economic crisis as an excuse, there are emerging tendencies to reject tested economic wisdoms in areas such as the role of foreign capital and trade policy in economic development.

One school of thought that is attempting to rise from the ashes is known as (old) Structural Economics.

Computers in Secondary Schools: Whither India?

Michael Trucano's picture

The German scholar Max Müller famously remarked that "If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India."

No doubt there are many other countries also deserving of similar sorts of accolades, but the challenges that India currently faces related to providing universal access to a relevant and quality education for everyone -- and the solutions it deploys to meet such challenges -- are of increasing interest and relevance to people around the world. This is especially true as it relates to the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to meet a variety of educational and developmental objectives.

All education systems are complex and varied, and India's is as complex and varied as any education system in the world. Only China rivals India in the vast scale of its education sector.While it is true that many schools in India are just now being introduced to computer use, India's first formal educational technology scheme started way back in 1972, during the government's fourth five-year plan.

24 Hours in the Life of Some Horizontal Learners

Mark Ellery's picture
In the face of families whose relatives have just died of arsenic poisoning advocating for institutional reform can seem a touch inane.

On the flip side, an urgent response to provide clean water or some relief to those affected is often neither sustainable nor scalable.

During a visit to Chapai Nawabganj we discovered that the Horizontal Learning Program enables rapid response - without undermining a sound policy position.

While visiting Meherpur municipality in Bangladesh last week, we learnt that 15 people had recently died in the nearby Amjhupi Union Parishad (UP) from arsenicosis. In a village meeting with the District Commissioner and UP Chairman we discovered that the citizens were drinking from both wells marked green (safe) as well as red (unsafe) because they were not confident that either of these sources had been correctly marked.

We were overwhelmed with the need for an immediate response but aware that any top-down solution could at best be partial. However, because of the Horizontal Learning Program (initiated by Union Parishads, facilitated by the Government of Bangladesh and supported by development partners) we were aware that local solutions to this problem had been developed by other Union Parishads.

At around 11 pm that night, it was resolved that a three member team from Amjhupi Union Parishad would join us to visit the nearby Ranihati Union Parishad of the neighboring Chapai Nawabganj Upazila (sub-district) to see how they had solved this problem. The solution was surprisingly simple, low cost and comprehensive.

Universalizing Opportunities through Investing in Education in India

Joe Qian's picture

The World Bank released a report this week on the current state of the educational system in India and concluded that while investments and performance have improved at the primary and higher education levels, there remains a rather considerable gap in access, distribution, and achievement at the secondary level.

As India continuously develops and entrenches itself as a major player in the global knowledge economy, the majority of growth have been in the skilled services and manufacturing sectors. This requires that the 12 million young people who join the labor force every year have the necessary skills to access these more lucrative jobs and compete successfully in the global economy, especially as the IT sector has become an essential driver of the economy.

“Evidence from around the world suggests secondary education is critical to breaking the inter-generational transmission of poverty -— it enables youth to break out of the poverty trap.” Lead Education Specialist Sam Carlson said.

However, India's gross enrolment rate (GER) at the secondary level of 52% is lower than the GERs of countries like Sri Lanka (83%) and China (91%). However, I was quite surprised that the rate was also lower than countries with lesser GDP per capita such as Vietnam (72%) and Bangladesh (57%).

An Unconventional Tactic for the Fight Against Poverty

Ben Safran's picture

Earlier this summer, Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka to win the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup. Like any triumph in an international competition, there was a great sense of national pride, this time coming in a country with great need for such a unifying force. But, as Tunku Varadarajan wrote,  the victory was much more than just a boost to national morale:

“As Pakistan fights for its survival against the barbarian Taliban…its people find themselves possessed of a weapon with which to vanquish the forces of darkness. I speak here not of drones or tanks or helicopter gunships, but of the glorious game of cricket.”

This is a powerful concept: that cricket is a key weapon needed to defeat the “darkness” imposed by extremism in Pakistan. But why limit ourselves to discussing the power cricket possess to fight the Taliban? What about the effects all sports have to instill happiness, empowerment, and hope in people? Could using sports for development be an unconventional tactic for the fight against poverty?

Talking with Teeth: Micro-Planning with Community Scorecards

Darshana Patel's picture

Coming together is a process
Keeping together is progress
Working together is success

This message, written on the wall of a public building in Gureghar village in Maharashtra, India, implies the significant changes that have recently taken place. Since 2007, 178 villages including Gureghar have been part of an innovative social accountability process that has redefined relationships between citizens, service providers and local government. Building upon two decades of experience with micro-planning, the innovation in this pilot project is that micro-planning has been combined with a community scorecard process to strengthen accountability.

Partnered with the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration and the World Bank, the project was spearheaded by then CEO of the District, S. Kadu-Patil.

(The primary role of a District CEO is to administer all development project and services, such as health and education services, for the District.) The project team and the CEO invested a lot of effort to build the political will of other decision-makers and service providers. In fact, many of these functionaries were then organized into Task Forces to actually implement the process while a cadre of facilitators underwent intensive 20-day training.

Building Commitment for Nutrition

Ashi Kathuria's picture

Imagine that after an animated discussion on nutrition, a film star commits: 'From now on, in all my movies, I will dedicate 5 minutes to the issue of malnutrition and build awareness about prevention.' or

The mayor pledges: 'I will organize awareness camps on malnutrition in all the wards of my city and will try to involve everybody.' or

A Member of Parliament promises: 'Malnutrition free villages will be created in 21 impoverished hamlets. If more money is required, we will provide it from our funds.' or

An editor undertakes: 'Every week we will provide space for the views of experts on malnutrition.' or

The University Vice Chancellor vows: 'We will start a course on health and nutrition in our university, so that we have enough trained people to deal with this problem in India.' or

An industry representative pledges: 'We will adopt 10 malnourished children every year and see to their health care, education, and other day to day requirements.'

Well, these and many more such commitments were publicly made in 21 high-malnutrition districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – two states in India where the levels of malnutrition are alarming.

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