I’m totally looking forward to our first in-person meeting with our project partner, Prayasam, next Monday! I will be working with two other team members and Prayasam for the month of March as part of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps program. The Corporate Service Corps (CSC) was launched in 2008 to help provide IBMers with high quality leadership development while delivering high quality problem solving for communities and organizations in emerging markets. The program empowers IBM employees as global citizens by sending groups of 10 – 15 individuals from different countries with a range of skills to an emerging market for four week community-based assignments. During the assignment, participants perform community-driven economic development projects working at the intersection of business, technology, and society.
To learn more about Prayasam, visit their website at http://www.prayasam.org or read on….
Prayasam was registered under the Registration of Societies, West Bengal Act XXVI of 1961. One of the most pressing concerns of any developing country is health. In India, health services fall grossly short of the country’s needs, making the adage “prevention is better than cure” particularly relevant. Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 states, “Children have the right to the highest possible standard of health, and to access to health and medical services,” and all states signed on the Convention, including India, are bound to honor the statutes enshrined within it. Unfortunately, India faces increasing cases of child deaths caused by malaria and diarrhea, both of which are preventable.
Although the onus to provide basic health facilities is on the government, the state faces significant constraints for resources and infrastructure. Primary health care centers in rural areas are over-stretched, and clinics for the urban poor are even worse. The majority of the budget of urban local governments is set aside for infrastructure—roads, streetlights, water, and waste disposal—while services for education and health are neglected. In fact, education and health services are being eased out of the realm of local government, because in the era of privatization they are still seen as free services with little revenue-generating potential.
In this context of falling budgets and uncertain government services, preventive health programs grounded in communities offer some hope to the urban poor. This not only impacts their health, but also their economic earning potential, as disease robs daily wage earners of their income and forces them to spend large parts of their meager income on medicine.
Prayasam has developed a unique model of child-led activism in which the children of slum areas act as change agents by forming groups and spreading awareness on health, hygiene and sanitation within their community. Prayasam supports theses “area health minders” by providing information and first aid training, creating educational materials, and helping them to become real advocates for their cause. The children have collaborated with more than 60 schools to help form more groups of “area health minders” in the adjacent municipal area, effectively reaching more than 5,000 students and their families.
Stay tuned for all the details about our project as it unfolds!