Wednesday, November 11, 2015

MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: The Pain of Change

** This blog entry is not about Diwali or Diwali greetings! I am sure you have got more than your share of the same! Through this blog, I am inviting all of you to share your thoughts and suggestions on a problem that I am facing... and I am sure several of you have faced in various contexts! **

A lot of innovative ideas get bogged down into the mire of 'user acceptance', and the only apparent reason seems to be the 'Pain of Change'. In almost all our products we encounter this problem, and try to find our way out of it. 

The pain of change is not just a user's response to the new technology, it also comes from deep within his/her own psyche, and is rooted in the belief system. For example, when my father and his colleagues were trying to promote farming of bamboo, they just could not break the belief held by farmers that it is inauspicious to cultivate bamboo in one's farm because it is used for carrying dead bodies to their last rites in Hindu practices. Without realising this, my father and his colleagues kept arguing that as long as people continue to die, the market for bamboo cannot die! 

Anyway, as far as I am concerned, rural women just refusing to use an appliance in spite of being convinced of its benefits has always been a baffling phenomenon. I have now come to realise that to some extent this is related to the bigger problem of gender empowerment. Here I would like to share an interesting story, that was once told to me by a social worker. One young activist went into a village, and perceived that the women of the village had to undertake a trek of some 2 km to get to a wooded patch to take care of their 'daily business' in relative privacy. For their dignity and in the interest of hygiene he got some donations and build a block of public toilets for women. A few months later he realised that the women were not using the toilets much. When he started talking to the women what finally emerged astounded him. The couple of hours in the morning, when all the able bodied women in the village got together, walked to their 'natural toilet', and came back, was the only time they got to spend with their friends, chatting and gossiping, without the pressure of work, kids, and elders watching their every move. They were not willing to give up on that socialising! So the real problem faced by the women ran much deeper than just access to proper toilets - it was a problem of their status in the family and society.

Recently, I met a person who runs a charitable institution and he was complaining that with the help of donations he has tried to improve the institutional kitchen - has put in solar water heater, and also an LPG fuelled boiler to generate steam for cooking - but the semi-literate women who operate the kitchen are unwilling to use these gadgets and prefer their own traditional wood fired chulhas. Apparently the women keep saying that all the new gadgets are too "high-tech" for them to use.

Samuchit ELFD Sampada Smokeless Stove - Institutional Cooking model
We cooked about 7 kg rice in 30 min on the ELFD Sampada - Institutional Cooking Model

Is this really a problem of their genuinely not understanding the operation, or is it because right from the childhood it has been impressed on the women that anything 'modern' and 'high tech' will be beyond their capacity to handle? Since I am now trying to promote a very innovative cooking energy device in the Samuchit ELFD Sampada Smokeless Stove, I need to crack this 'pain of change' issue, particularly in the context of institutional cooking! We too have typically found the male cooks more open to trying out the new 'gadget' compared to women, particularly in rural institutions. Any suggestions on tackling this issue?

Priyadarshini Karve
Director
Samuchit Enviro Tech


#BeModernBeResponsibleBeRespectful
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