Since 2005 WIN centre is collaborating with the Central Government in a scheme to provide subsidized health insurance to poor families. High health-related expenditure has been a typical feature observed in the spending pattern of poor families in our project area, and it is often these expenses that further debilitate the household capacity to escape from the debt trap, and take part in productive activity. WIN Centre has encouraged SHG members to join in this scheme, informing them about the benefits and savings that would accrue to them in the long term. The insurance is made affordable for poor families as the government pays an equal contribution to the premium, as does the beneficiary, so in this way the latter has more than 50% subsidy on the premium cost.
Initially when the scheme was initiated in our groups the response of members was lukewarm, as spending now for benefits that come later is not a very convincing argument for most poor people. In July 2005 we enrolled 975 families in this scheme. However when members observed the benefits gained by those who had joined the insurance scheme there was a sharp spurt in registrations, and in the next half year the total number of clients had risen to 2146 – more than double in less than 6 months. This is more than enough proof of the need of appropriate insurance packages for the poor.
Till now 4000 families, catering to 20, 000 people in the WIN project area, have availed of the Medi Claim Insurance program. The total insurance coverage at the rate of Rs.30, 000 per family below poverty line comes to Rs.120 million.
>Already 532 beneficiaries have filed for and received claims worth more than 900,000 Rupees – an amount that is about twice the amount collected in insurance premiums (beneficiary share). Most of the claims have been collected for the three most common health ailments in the coastal area: urinary tract infections, viral fever, and disorders of the gastro-intestinal tract – all three a direct consequence of the poor drinking water quality and polluted environment common to coastal Kerala.
In 2005 WIN Centre initiated an innovative group fund to help tide poor families over the financial dip that funeral related expenses create. The idea for this product known as Demise Fund was born out of the need of our members, and its success is also due to their enthusiastic response. It is mandatory to be a member in this scheme has to contribute 50 rupees one time only and should there be a death in her family, the member will get an amount of 5000 rupees to pay for the expenses. (Over 2004-2005 about 7500 members joined in this scheme, from whom seventy four members were able to get 5000 Rupees to pay for funeral expenses of their family members. More and more members are now joining in this fund, which means that more members can also benefit from it.) At present there are about 13000 members to this Scheme
Every year WIN Centre arranges for free medical camps for our members through our alliances with partner NGOs. These camps are for general health complaints, as well as for specialized complaints such as eye-related problems. These camps are sometimes the only means for poor members to get affordable and good medical help. So far more than 10000 of our members have benefited from free medicines, spectacles, and surgeries, next to receiving reliable, expert medical advice. Click here to know more about the partner NGOs with whom we organize medical camps (hyperlink here to Partners page with info on Abhayam)
Despite the abundance of water in the coastal areas there is an urgent scarcity of safe drinking water, and women especially have to spend huge amounts of time and money to access safe drinking water for their families. In the wake of the Tsunami, this problem has been further exacerbated due to salinization of the scarce available fresh water sources in the area. One way to solve the lack of drinking water is to make better use of natural resources such as the rainwater, which falls in abundance in Kerala for 6 to 7 months of the year. Most of this just flows off the surface into the sea, however with appropriate technology in the form of roofwater harvesting and rainwater harvesting tanks, most of this water can be stored for use in the months of water scarcity.
Another urgent problem faced by backwater villages is the lack of hygienic toilet facilities. There is widespread faecal pollution of ground water through the prevalence of unhygienic leach pit toilets in most houses in the Tsunami hit areas, and some families still defecate in open areas and water spaces due to lack of other measures. This adds to the problem of soil and water pollution and health problems associated with them.
In 2005, pushed partly by the urgent situation created due to the Tsunami, WIN Centre prioritized helping SHG members in their drinking water and sanitation needs. Through funds garnered from international and national partners, WIN was able to offer good quality rainwater harvesting systems and Hygienic toilets with septic tanks to the members at subsidized rates. For both these interventions beneficiaries bear 25% of the cost of construction, the rest of the cost being paid out of the WIN partner funds. So far WIN Society has built around 750 roof water harvesting systems and around 500 toilets with people’s participation. Each family is given a subsidy of Rs. 9000 per unit consisting of both drinking water system and toilet. A series of classes and discussions are conducted for the beneficiaries, along with training in the maintenance of the system.
As mentioned earlier, WIN started with its first men SHGs in 2004, led by popular demand from the men of the community. One of the concerns voiced by many male SHG members was their inability to inform and guide their children about future career opportunities that would improve their quality of life. At the same time WIN management also observed that many talented young children from the local community took to the marginal traditional livelihoods of their parent’s due to lack of alternatives.
To help such youngsters and their families WIN decided to begin a WIN Career Guidance Centre at their headquarters in Eramalloor. This was inaugurated in September 2004 with 321 qualified candidates being registered. Following the interest of candidates, WIN initially organized information days for young men wanting to join the national navy, military and air force. About 200 men participated in open days at naval and military base camps in Kerala, as well as in leadership training and counseling workshops organized by the WIN Career Guidance Centre. While these sessions were very helpful to the men, they were not enough to enable their recruitment into these careers.
At this juncture WIN Career Guidance Centre decided to expand its current activities to include placement services for qualified candidates. Initially working through other placement agencies, WIN observed that the high registration fee such agencies charged candidates was a major constraint for many youngsters from poor families. Developing their own network of recruiting companies, WIN Career Guidance Centre soon managed to independently place qualified young men and women in appropriate companies for a very nominal fee.
The WIN Career Guidance Centre takes care to choose companies who offer their employees fair wages and working conditions, and on the other side also regularly conducts motivational and counseling workshops for candidates to prepare them well for their future careers. WIN Career Guidance Bureau also facilitates employer-employee meets at our Eramalloor office for reputed companies looking out for recruiting talented youngsters. Currently about 40 young men and 120 women have been recruited in various positions with reputed companies like Reliance Communications, Tory Harris Fish Exports, Marginfree supermarkets, with the number increasing every month.
Trainings and workshops form an important aspect of WIN’s capacity building interventions for WIN SHG members as well as WIN staff. These trainings and workshops are chosen with care to help in the all-round development of our women in the social, economic, and political sense - to contribute to gender equity and women’s empowerment as the ultimate objective. WIN is led by this core objective, as well as the demands from our target group in the selection of capacity building trainings.
So far WIN has organized a whole variety of trainings and workshops for men, women and children in personality development, leadership training, conflict resolution, de-addiction classes, life skills development, skills for income generation, child counseling, and marital counseling. The following are the regular trainings offered by WIN: -
Economic self sufficiency being a key need of many of our women SHG members, WIN sponsors every year, a large number of programs and workshops for skills training in production and marketing. So far various trainings in Bio-farming, Vanilla cultivation, Vermi composting, Soap and detergent making, Kitchen gardening, Kitchen biogas, Smokeless Chulhas, Floriculture, Medicinal Herbarium development, fish farming, Duck Farming, Dairying, Rabbit Rearing, Coiryarn making using motorized ratts, etc. have been organized.
Since running an enterprise successfully requires much more than just skills training, WIN periodically also conducts Rural Entrepreneurship Development Programs for women. The aim of these programs is to equip our women to successfully start and/or manage an enterprise in an increasingly competitive environment. [picture coiryarn making]2.Training in Cutting, Tailoring, and Garment- making
Having seen that there is a widespread demand among the women of this region to learn tailoring and garment-making, the WIN Centre has developed a professional Training Course in Cutting and Tailoring, Cut Work, Embroidery, etc. Since this training was started in 2003 in the Vocational Training Centre in Chellanam, hundreds of women have learnt this skill for their own use, as well as for starting a commercial enterprise. [picture cutting and tailoring]3.Computer Training and Akshaya e-literacy Program
This is the most popular skills training which WIN offers, especially among youth of the coastal area. WIN is running two computer centers – one is at its headquarters in Eramalloor, and the other is in the vocational Training Centre in Chellanam. Both these centers offer 2 programs - a professional diploma course in Computer Applications affiliated to C-DIT (under Govt. of Kerala), and an e-literacy program being implemented in partnership with the Kerala government, known as Akshaya. The aim of the former program is to encourage more local youth to get a professional training, for better opportunities in the booming service and IT industry. The latter program is to encourage and popularize the use of computers and its many benefits amongst the adult rural population, especially the women. The course fees are kept low to encourage maximum participation of poor women and youth, and the Akshaya program is subsidized by the state government.4.Academic and Extra-curricular Training and Education of Local Children
Integrated educational programmes combining learning and extra-curricular activities are regularly organized in all five WIN project areas. There are two forms of children educational programs:
The Balavedi or Children’s Forum is a regular non-formal educational cum recreational program for SHG members’ children. The children meet once every week under the guidance of a Balavedi teacher (recruited from amongst our women members) to learn, to save some pocket money, play creative games, dance, and sing. Both children and their parents are very enthusiastic about these sessions, which combine learning with fun and games, and instill some important core values in their young members. In 2005 one young girls group in Kumbalanghi area expressed a desire to form a Scout and Band group with proper instruments and uniforms, which could perform at official village functions. Thanks to the perseverance and motivation of the girls, SHG members, as well as WIN staff, what seemed like an impossible dream came true, and the girls band is regularly performing at official functions in and out of their village.
The Aksharakalari is a 30-day academic coaching program and is held during school summer vacations for school-going children of WIN SHG members. The teachers for this programme are recruited from among the SHG members (and their families), who themselves follow a one-day course at the WIN Centre on interactive didactic skills, specially designed to make learning an enjoyable and meaningful activity for children. This programme was designed to address a specific problem area – that of increasing school drop-outs as children lost interest in their studies due to problems in their family, personal life, or due to the poor quality of education in their schools. Since this has a direct impact on the future of the coming generations, WIN Centre is very concerned to remedy this situation as far as possible
Since 2005 WIN has initiated a Scholarship Fund for high school children and college youth, under the name of the late and esteemed mentor of the WIN Society – Father Dominic George S.J. The scholarship amount of 1000 rupees is given to all students who clear their final school exam or college exam with a first class in each subject. This is intended to recognize the effort put in by the students, and to encourage them to pursue further studies. In 2006, WIN distributed scholarships to 400 deserving students.
Through its SHGs WIN also provides special loans for educational purposes at low interest rates. For students who hire loans for studying computer courses in win centre the interest rate is as low as 0.5 percent and for other professional courses interest rate is only one percent.
Since the Tsunami hit the coast of Kerala, the already weak infrastructure of local schools was given a further blow, as school compound walls and classrooms crumbled under the attack of sea waves, and salt air. Drinking water and toilet facilities deteriorated further due to salinization of surface water, and water logging. As part of its strategic and final phase of Tsunami-related interventions, WIN is assisting local schools in improving their infrastructure, which includes supply of benches, desks, tables, chairs, computers, play materials, kitchen utensils for midday meal, provision of drinking water facilities, and construction of compound wall for schools. This support has been made possible due to the generous contributions from our partner organizations, and friends from India and abroad
In addition to this material support WIN is also offering the schools counseling facilities for their students, as well as providing classes in life-skills development and sex education. Moreover WIN staff is also holding classes for schoolteacherscation, and its importance for child upbringing and child development