India has the highest number of adult illiterates in the world (Source: UNESCO). An increasing number of children dropping out from school only compounds the problem, making it worse. Lack of proper infrastructure and sanitation in schools, low quality study time including poor lighting has led to high dropout rates among children.
Through the Dharma Life Entrepreneurs (DLEs), a number of activities are run in schools to encourage children to focus on their studies and nurture their dreams. Dharma Life uses digital literacy as a way to open doors of opportunity for people in rural India. By training women on using a mobile phone and the internet, the DLEs empower them to explore their potential.
In rural India, over 85% of the income generated is from agriculture. Poor productivity of the land and livestock and inefficient use of forests are the causes of seasonal employment in villages. Thus, rural India needs to look at alternate sources of livelihood generation for sustenance.
Dharma Life through its unique entrepreneurship model provides people with potential the opportunity to earn a livelihood while driving change in their villages. These Dharma Life Entrepreneurs earn by conducting behavior change activities in their communities. Moreover, they also earn by selling products of progress like solar lamps, water purifiers, induction cookstoves and sanitary napkins, to name a few.
In India, electricity has not yet reached 45 million rural households. ). These people have to resort to the use of archaic sources of energy such as kerosene, diesel, wood-fired chulhas, etc., which not only results in huge government subsidies, but also results in substantial health and environmental hazards. High reliance in Biomass fuels leads to indoor air pollution (IAP), which yields high levels of pollutants that penetrate deep into the lungs and can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels. In India, poor indoor air quality is the second highest cause of death after high blood pressure, with 1.3 million deaths each year. (Source: Business World).
Dharma Life’s Lighting up Young Minds campaign addresses the issue of poor lighting in villages and promotes solar lights as a non-polluting source of lighting in villages, also making especially young children the torch bearers of behaviour change in their villages. Dharma Life promotes the adoption and continued usage of clean cooking products through an innovative cooking contest called Dharma Chef which allows rural women to experience cooking on induction cooktops and be convinced about its benefits, ease of use, and the unaltered taste of food cooked on it.
774 million people lack access to adequate sanitation in India, 76 million lack access to safe water and 1,400,000 children die every year because of unsafe water and sanitation. (Source: WaterAid). Women are most affected by the hazards of lack of proper sanitation. In India the majority of girls drop out of school because of lack of toilets.
Dharma Life, through the rural entrepreneurs, spreads awareness about the need for clean drinking water and the importance of water purifiers through a number of behaviour change activities. Moreover, they also conduct handwash related activities in rural schools that leverage fun mediums like songs and games to explain the importance of washing hands as well as the right way to do it.
The state of hunger and malnutrition in India is worrying. Statistics compiled by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) show that, in absolute terms, India has the highest number (one quarter) of undernourished (hungry) people in the world.
Dharma Life is tackling this issue on two fronts – awareness and access. Through the Dharma Life Entrepreneurs, communities are being made aware of the importance of proper nutrition, especially for children. Furthermore, Dharma Life is distributing through the same network, nutritional supplements and healthy snacks to over 50,000 villages.
Women are most affected by the hazards of lack of proper sanitation. They have to go to the extent of using unhygienic substances such as old rags and leaves due to lack of knowledge and limited access to sanitary products. This has led to poor menstrual hygiene and reproductive diseases. There is also limited or no awareness of family planning methods among young couples in rural communities.
The Dharma Life Entrepreneurs conduct activities in schools and communities with adolescent girls using innovative tools like a modified version of the snakes and ladders game to tackle the taboo subject of menstrual hygiene. These girls are also provided with a sanitary kit to help them put into practice what they have learned. Dharma Life is also educating young couple about family planning and the various methods through the same rural entrepreneur network.