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What We Do: IDF's Areas of Focus

Whatever the particular project, IDF interventions are always based on raising awareness, building community capacity, and training leaders to advocate for community interests, spread information, and ensure the full implementation of rights and benefits for all. To that end IDF operates in seven distinct areas of social development:

Child protection and care

Allowing children to grow and develop safe from discrimination and exclusion is of key importance to Bihar's rural and social development. IDF works to prevent child labor and to ensure that the human and education rights of all children, especially girls, are fully implemented. Projects also focus on safeguarding children from abuse and trafficking, combating female feticide and child marriage, and nurturing children's creative capacities.

IDF interventions have succeeded in making children aware not only that they have rights but that they themselves can ensure that these rights are upheld through active participation in their communities.

Community and individual health

IDF's approach to improving health encompasses public health measures, community health education, and individual health care. Public health interventions have significantly improved sanitation, immunization rates, and communicable disease prevention. Community-led health education programs have raised awareness of nutrition, proper hygiene, sexual and reproductive health, family planning measures, and the importance of supervised childbirth. Individual care and treatment have been improved through ensuring access to government primary health clinics and building trust between community members and local health care workers.

While IDF health-related projects are of many types and target many levels, the greatest health improvements have resulted from increased willingness among the most deprived rural communities to use primary care services.

Community leadership development

IDF places special emphasis on developing and training leaders in each community. These identified leaders not only have the potential to catalyze social and political change but also play an instrumental role in bridging the gap between their community and service providers. In addition, they are the key to involving the entire community in making decisions and taking responsibility for sustaining health, social, and economic improvements. Above all, these leaders are trained to stand up for the rights of all members of their community and ensure that nobody goes without benefits and health services to which they are entitled.

IDF interventions have successfully trained members of deprived and marginalized communities in the effective use of community-based action to assert their social, political, economic, and human rights.

Disaster preparedness, relief, and restoration

IDF projects in the flood-prone areas of north Bihar have focused primarily on introducing flood-friendly agricultural practices, establishing replicable models of preparedness, and educating for climate change adaptation in the most vulnerable and marginalized communities. Interventions have enabled villagers to anticipate disasters, especially floods, using vulnerability mapping to determine where the most at-risk community members are situated and training small teams to carry out rescue operations. Projects have also provided villagers with new skills and techniques, leading to higher productivity in agriculture with less input. In addition, women have become project leaders with support from men, demonstrating an important social transition. IDF also works through Mission DRR, a network of NGOs, to advocate for changes in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change policy at the state level.

IDF's most notable achievements in this area have been educating flood-prone communities to access public flood relief programs and providing them with simple, low-cost techniques to mitigate losses that they can implement before, during, and after flooding.

Livelihood protection and enhancement

Relentless poverty and lack of viable economic options are inescapable realities of rural community life. Self- help groups in these communities have proved an effective platform for spreading information, creating savings and loan mechanisms, advocating for the rights of all individuals, and ensuring the more responsive delivery of government services such as public food distribution and minimum wage entitlements. In addition, training in a range of potential income-generating activities, financed by community lending, has provided these marginalized community members with their first ever path to steady and sustainable independent earnings.

In helping to build the communities' savings and credit capacity through which individuals can borrow money to generate independent incomes, IDF interventions have enabled marginalized villagers to move from perpetual economic helplessness toward basic economic security, dignity, and self-respect.

Water and sanitation

Safe drinking water and sanitation facilities are essential preconditions for improving health in rural communities. Many diseases on the rise in these deprived areas are spread through impure water. Furthermore, lack of sanitation facilities has a negative impact on girls' and women's freedom of movement, as well as on their sexual and reproductive health. Using community-based institutions, IDF projects have not just sensitized and educated the most disadvantaged communities about the importance of clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; they have successfully led the target population to make the permanent changes in their personal habits necessary to bring about lasting health benefits. By facilitating sustainable clean water and sanitation measures, IDF interventions have thus dramatically reduced disease and improved overall quality of life. IDF is also a lead partner in Viswash, a state-level network set up to advocate for this critical issue, and has effectively influenced the development of government policy in this area.

Beyond the many concrete health and economic benefits resulting from access to water and sanitation, IDF's most important overall achievement in this area is community members' increased awareness of, and capacity to assert, their right to clean water and sanitation facilities.

Women's empowerment

Women's empowerment is the key to progress in rural communities and has proved a highly effective vehicle for change in all sectors. Through nurturing women's self-help groups, IDF encourages women to become more active in the social and political spheres and to advocate for gender equity in their community. IDF also provides computer- based functional literacy training to enable women to interact with the world outside their village. Because women's empowerment underlies all IDF's areas of operation, the focus on turning marginalized women into true stakeholders in their communities has not only advanced their status but has also resulted in more stable households, healthier families, greater political influence, and more prosperity overall.

Besides the tangible benefits of women's empowerment projects, the greatest accomplishment in this sector is the women's newfound self-respect, belief in their potential, and confidence in their capacity to change their lives.