Sandhya Chari is a second year MPA student concentrating in Economic and Political Development. I asked her to share about her summer internship and she wrote the following and sent along the pictures as well.
This summer I spent 5 weeks interning with ACCESS Development Services in New Delhi and Jaipur, India. After taking a micro-enterprise development course last spring, I was inspired to intern in livelihoods and enterprise development in South Asia. ACCESS, though started as a microfinance organization, found that livelihoods work was a crucial partner to microfinance, and so has devoted half of its efforts to small business development. It uses various methods to help empower the workers and help them become more profitable.
My project was to understand the working conditions of the labor artisans making stone jewelry in Jaipur. In order to understand these conditions, I had to develop a questionnaire and conduct over fifty interviews in the urban slums of Jaipur. This was particularly challenging because I had to ask the questions in Hindi, a language which I am just beginning to study. After conducting the interviews, I learned that the workers in this sector are severely exploited. They make an average of one to two dollars per day and work with very toxic and dangerous chemicals and equipment with no protection. They have little access to social services such as insurance, and there is a great deal of child labor.
Finally, their work requires the use of very expensive machinery, so they experience added financial hardship to buy or rent their machines. I hope the final report containing these findings is useful in developing informed interventions to help these workers grow from informal, exploited laborers, to small enterprise owners.
I was very happy with this internship because not only did it allow me to see the big picture of the project at a high level, it also gave me an opportunity to work at the field level, getting a grasp for what is really happening on the ground. I believe that this internship has significantly improved my SIPA experience, because I am now able to further contextualize my coursework, and I also know what areas I need to take classes in based on what I didn’t know in the field.