Monitoring and Evaluation in Sustainability

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Where do we stand in terms of sustainable goals in India?

India has played an important role in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has been effectively committed to achieving the SDGs. Government schemes and organisations have actively focused on the elimination of poverty, gender equality, climate change and resource mobilisation for SDGs.

Further, special efforts have been made to restructure the federal governance structure of the country through cooperative and competitive federalism. State Governments are playing a prominent role in advancing the national development agenda. Nevertheless, how far has this implementation taken India in terms of improvement through these objectives? The picture still remains unclear.

Policy Implementation- A Necessity

The centrality of sustainability in public policy is perhaps best symbolised by the shift from Millennial Development Goals (MDG) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the UN as the target of policy during the 2015–2030 period. India’s bold Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), communicated to the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change include substantially reducing the emission intensity of GDP, tapping non-fossil fuel energy sources and creating an additional carbon sink.

The main messages for India’s Voluntary National Review of SDG implementation encapsulate the effect made with respect to 7 Goals, with interconnections across all the 17 SDGs. The primary focus of India has been on the following.

GOAL 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

GOAL 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

GOAL 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all it ages

GOAL 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

GOAL 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.

GOAL 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

GOAL 17: Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

Environment and ecological sustainability concerns have now begun to get embedded in every aspect of development since the fear of environmental depletion is rising extremely fast. India’s development record so far has seriously neglected the sustainability aspect- whether in terms of nature, or people or economic structures. While in international negotiations, and in all fairness, India makes strong arguments against restrictive regulations being imposed, the environment in Indian cities is now palpably one among the worst in the world and the health hazards of simply breathing the city air are becoming increasingly obvious in several urban areas.

Source: Karsten Wurth on Unsplash

How is the Environment Impacted? — The Idea of Sustainability

Our water resources are depleting drastically and quickly, although our forest cover seems to be improving as compared to earlier. As urbanisation occurs inevitably, congestion in our cities is rising dramatically. The load of waste production, generation and lack of space for proper disposal is another issue faced by these areas. We simply do not have enough road space to keep up with the vehicle sales burgeoning. The shift to public transport is not a matter of choice but will soon be the only option.

Many cities are suffering due to lack of planning and prediction of development. Gender inequality, an area of policy apathy and neglect has led to warped sex ratios and social problems. In the economic arena, jobs have seriously lagged income growth. India’s recent GDP has created less than 3% more jobs during the same period. Looking at a lens of long-term perspective development, there are several risks that need to be managed. As far as survey figures are concerned, almost none of them match the figures intended to be achieved. The target is somewhere halfway, making the goals seem incomplete with any purposeful intent.

The general awareness of the Indian public on sustainability issues is definitely insufficient, which probably lies at the core of many problems. For instance, indoor air pollution caused by traditional biomass-burning stoves is one of the biggest killers but it rarely features among the major concerns. Gender inequality and lack of women’s empowerment is an important issue here related to awareness.

Sustainability – environmental or otherwise – often comes as an afterthought in public planning or project planning, whereas it ought to cut across and permeate all policies and projects. The Indian environment and setting are quite unique and there is need to look for and promote innovations in India rather than transplant solutions from elsewhere. One of the roles of the government — mostly states and local, not just at the centre — ought to be to build a sustainability-conscious society: emphasising on the notion of sustainability and responsible consumption and lifestyle in school education and possibly carrying it right through to higher education. Gender inequality needs to be dealt with on an urgent basis. Job-creation needs to be the top economic priority.

Source: Rawpixel on Unsplash

Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Public Policy: A Key Amalgamation

Integrating Public Policy, Sustainability and CSR in business education is the need of the hour. The awareness of public policy, government systems and goals of policy like sustainability is surprisingly low among today’s youth studying in these areas. This is particularly surprising since these are critical factors for long-run business success. As private-public partnerships proliferate from infrastructure to social sectors, the chasm of mistrust between the two parties is a serious hindrance. This is a consequence of lack of communication between the relevant parties.

In reality, anticipating, managing and influencing policy movements are key aspects of making impact, especially in India. Whether out of global pressures or judicial decisions, pro-sustainability policy moves are likely to strengthen and set this as a top priority. An informed partnership between public and private agencies along with the Government would prove to be useful in terms of sustainability.

If policymaking continues to relegate sustainability purely to the domain of technocracy and technological innovations, it will miss out on the transformations occurring in the socio-political systems and impacts of these systems on the environmental altogether. Our war is most likely to be over the finite and increasingly exploitative resource depletion of the planet. “Already there are many recent instances before us within our own country — repression unleashed by the West Bengal government to control the Bhangar land rights agitation, water wars, public health crises, mounting farmer suicides and recurrent drought in relatively well-off and greener states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu as also in the most backward regions like Bundelkhand.” (Garima Maheshwari, The Wire).

Unless policymaking can factor in these realities in terms of implementation and goal setting, which are increasingly becoming key political issues in the country — India will miss the target of SDGs on many fronts. The SDGs will require strong ownership by countries, robust implementation plans for each country, and enough financing. They will be effective only if they are incorporated into national plans. In India, for instance, an effective national plan, along with sub-national and local plans, will be crucial to address the variation in areas such as maternal and child mortality rates, nutrition and employment in each state.

India has a deep-rooted and growing tradition of philanthropy, trusts and partnerships. Increasingly today, businesses are recognising the need for partnering with various government and non-government organisations to work towards collective improvement. This sector has significant expertise that can be applied to addressing India’s most challenging health, sustainability and overall development challenges.

 

Feature Image Credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 

Ayesha Mehrotra is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective and a passionate environmentalist. Through her writing on this platform, she hopes to encourage all generations to understand the importance of equality, liberty, justice, and happiness.

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Rape and its Problematic Portrayal in Indian Cinema

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“No.”

The above word is a sentence in itself. It signifies the unwillingness of a person to be engaged in an activity or event. These two letters have enough power to refuse that which the speaker disapproves of. They do not owe an explanation regarding the sentiment behind it to anyone. It sounds simple and effective, a single word indicating preferences. However, the word usually does not translate into its meaning when a person, especially a woman, says it. This fact is clearly depicted and rather reiterated by the Indian entertainment industry, primarily by the Bollywood industry.

Our entertainment industry comprises of multiple layers of portrayals which conceal the truth about what our society thinks about assent and consent. Our society is entrenched within patriarchal norms. Most of what we see on the big screen today reflects the harsh and brutal mindset of this patriarchal setup. Movies in the Indian cinema, be it Malayalam, Bengali, Tamil, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Marathi or Bollywood, are made to suit the palette of the Indian audience for their own gains. However, what both the filmmakers and the audience do not realise is the active production and passive consumption of the negative or sexually explicit portrayal of women and its effect on society at large.

Bollywood is the largest player in the Indian entertainment industry. The impact of Bollywood is wide across the nation than of any other regional cinema. Acts like stalking, public harassment, eve teasing of women are considered as normal and acceptable behaviour by young men today and when they see their favourite actors engaged in similar pursuits resulting in a favourable response from the heroines, it is considered to be the successful formula to garner positive attention from women leading them to apply these in real life too. Take the case of the movie “Rockstar” where the male lead of the movie, Ranbir Kapoor stalks the female lead of the movie, Nargis Fakhri and succeeds in attaining her love and affection. Such scenes embolden the young men of today to ape these examples and practices.

One of the most gruesome crimes against women is also one that is portrayed most explicitly in Indian cinema- Rape. Since ancient times, rape has been perceived as a power tool. The idea of establishing superiority through the act of rape has been reflected in our cinema since decades. The frequency of portraying rape or even assault has been high, at times even when the plot of the film does not require it.

What people fail to understand is the distinction between fiction and reality. Everyone talks about how deep this rape culture is rooted in our society. This fact is acknowledged by celebrities from all fields, especially from the film fraternity. Though we can say that the film industry may not be the biggest cause of the prevalence of rape culture, it does play a major role in influencing young minds. The audio-visual impact of cinema is way higher on the minds of the people, especially the impressionable minds.

When the villain of the movie is engaged in such a predatory act, the audience is seen to support it through cheering, clapping and whistling. The woman is shown to be helpless and unable to fight the perpetrator. This creates an impression in the minds of viewers that women are weak and hence can be exploited. The filmmakers tend to include many such scenes to garner the attention of the audience. What the filmmakers do not seem to realise is that such acts leave a lasting impact on the minds of viewers. It tends to normalise the occurrence of such acts. Hence, if the heroine falls in love with the person who has been sexually harassing or molesting her, the male population would deem that this is the apt way to woo any girl.

The movies generally even show the hero coming in at the right moment and fighting the villains and saving the heroine. However, this does not seem to have much impact. The heroine is still portrayed as the “abla naari” who needs a man to save her honour and her life. Such portrayals tend to create self-esteem and confidence issues amongst the women viewers and thus make them highly dependent on the male members of the family.

                                                                                                 Image source: BollyBrit

The presence and propagation of rape culture in Bollywood has been monumental and we cannot expect it to vanish with the wave of a wand. However, there is immense potential for it to be reduced, thereby advancing the society towards a better future. For this to take place, combined efforts by the audience, the filmmakers and the media is required. The first and the foremost step can be to eliminate the term “item girl”. There is no question about the fact this usage is highly derogatory and absolutely shameful for the status of a woman. Another step that the media can and should take is to not show the teasers of such songs. This will to help reduce the viewership of the audience. This problem of rape culture can be tackled by the filmmakers themselves making a conscious effort to not include “item numbers” in their movies and changing the narrative of the storylines through meaningful dialogue. While most Bollywood songs are definitely catchy and tend to make us groove, what we conveniently forget is the fact that these lyrics are loaded with misogyny, objectification and sexually explicit words. Children sing these songs without even realising the true meaning of the lyrics and this leaves a lasting impact on their impressionable young minds.

Education is one of the long-lasting solutions to the entire conundrum. However, a majority of the producers, directors and actors come from educated classes or from positions of privilege. Multimedia is one of the major tools that should be used to effectively resolve this issue. It becomes counterproductive when the same producers, directors and actors speak about the rising rape culture when they themselves are not making any effort to reduce it.

                                                                                       Image source: Zee Jagruti

In the past few years, women-centric movies such as Queen, Piku, Neerja, Chak De India, Kahaani have been well received by the audience. These movies portray women in a comparatively empowered light. The conventional notion of making movies depending on the taste of the audience is slowly changing to pave way for qualitative movies. Though we have a long way ahead in order to change the mindset of the entire society towards women, a million such movies need to be made and the upcoming generations of movie viewers need to be educated to be able to use cinema as a tool for positive change.

 

 

Soumya Agrawal is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective and is a passionate student of Public Policy, Economics and Law.

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Women’s Economic Empowerment: Financial Independence and Happiness

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Here’s to stronger, ambitious, content and empowered women.

The Oxford dictionary defines empowerment as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights”. While the Indian constitution bestows upon the women six fundamental rights, I believe that in most circumstances, women are not in control of their lives enough to make free-willed and rational choices. A major part of this empowerment is derived from being financially independent. To understand the importance of this thought it would be only advisable to look at the women who are financially dependent.

We are aware of the patriarchal society that we live in and hence are naturally, socially and psychologically conditioned to make choices while keeping in mind the men-folk of the family and the prospect of being answerable to them in major instances. This I believe is problematic in the larger context of a woman’s position in the society. For example, women generally chart out their career paths in such a way that the destination is marriage. Following this, they inevitably take a break to fulfil the expectations of attending to the needs of the family while surrendering themselves to the financial care of their husbands. Although the notion lacks statistics one could always look around to find many women making this choice with the guidance of the society. This presents a grave picture in the context of a report released by the Union Health Ministry stating that approximately 31 % of married women experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their spouses. In addition, domestic violence remained “the most complained of” issue as stated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development from 2015–2017 in their annual report. Both these highlight that financial dependence on husbands only results in a state of helplessness further preventing them from moving out of tensed relationships. Although we have laws in place which let women be able to support themselves, the implementation is poor.

                                                                                    Source: Greenarea.me

While this is the dismal state of the dependents, there is a large number of women working across several sectors to earn their livelihoods. A paycheck or a daily wage gives a sense of achievement and confidence to make further choices without any obligations or burden. The idea of splurging on travels and shopping, making business investments or supporting one’s family during medical emergencies without worrying about borrowing money is a huge boost to the one’s self-worth. Financial independence fills oneself with confidence and the strength to control situations. This is helpful on the account of divorces which women would easily opt for if they had the financial resources to start afresh.

More importantly, financial independence allows a woman’s voice to be heard, get exposure in the world and various options to improve interpersonal relationships. Isn’t it a great boost to your morale on accounts when family members, colleagues or friends turn to you for opinions because of an understanding that these have been informed by your experiences and independent choices. The independence further instils a sense of responsibility that ensures the sustenance of their finances for the future. As this inspires other women to make such choices, it will reiterate the importance of education and vocational training to be able to earn this independence with certainty.

From the several stories I have personally heard as well as the ones I read while writing this article, these are the reasons why I believe women should strive to be financially independent:

  • To support oneself during unfortunate life occurrences such as health emergencies or death.
  • To support oneself and one’s family by paying bills and sharing the ever increasing cost of living.
  • To be able to pay for further education or make investments in dream projects.
  • To be able to buy oneself opportunities to learn, explore and save for future goals.
  • To be able to feel happy and content with one’s choices.

In this regard, there’s a famed quote by Ayn Rand which informs us about the importance of happiness and its derivation from the freedom to choose our goals and achieve them.

The pursuit of happiness means a man’s right to set his own goals, to chose his values and to achieve them. Happiness means that state of consciousness which comes from the achievement of your values. Now what can be more important than happiness. Happiness means a profound guiltless, rational feeling of self-esteem and pride in one’s own achievement.”

The need to be free and maintain a list of goals for this lends a sense of purpose to life and its achievements and outcomes will result in complete happiness.

 

Feature Image Credit: Rutgers.international

 

Shivani Gayakwad is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective and a researcher for Compliance, Forensics and Intelligence at Control Risks India. She has expertise in South Asian politics and interest in women’s menstrual health and financial independence.

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Queer Infocus | July 2020

The Beginning, Middle and End: A Tryst with Depression