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India
Tribal Mothers Count On Their Promised Day Of Healthcare
Annapurna Jha

Kailashi Bhil, 30, Kankun, 20, and others have come a long way from the days when they would completely panic if they needed to visit a doctor. After all, taking out precious money and time to travel 40 kilometres from their small hamlet of Chamanpura to Chittorgarh was no easy task. Yet, whether they wanted to get basic medicines or diagnostic tests, access antenatal care or give birth, these poor tribal women had no alternative but to visit the “big” district hospital because there was no anganwadi worker, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) or Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) appointed to provide essential healthcare in their village. In fact, in their Udpura Gram Panchayat, comprising 14 villages, there was only one ASHA and one GNM (General Nurse & Midwife) to service the entire area. Fortunately for them though, the introduction of a maternal health campaign has changed the unfortunate status quo. By ensuring that the monthly Village Health and Nutrition Day, mandated under the National Rural Health Mission, is held regularly, local women are now enjoying free antenatal check-ups, routine immunisation and nutrition counselling right at their doorstep, which has improved the maternal and child health indicators in the area.

“Last month, along with Kailashi I had also received my tetanus shot and given a blood sample for testing my haemoglobin level. It’s such a relief to be able to get all this done in the village itself.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO615O 1290 words


India
Priyanka And Firoza Show What Governance Is All About
Aditi Bhaduri

Later she would hear how lovely the weather had been, how brightly the sun had shone and how the temperature had been just right that day. But when she had entered her husband's village as a young bride in 2007, all she saw was a sea of faces. All she could think of was her new life that lay ahead: the relatives she had to make her own, the man who was now her husband, the children that would come soon. . . Not even in her wildest dreams had Priyanka Devi of Katkamdag panchayat in Jharkhand imagined that she would become a much-loved and respected village leader. Everything changed when her state decided to hold panchayat polls for the first time in 2010. The men who stood for elections were just not right for the job. After all, “what sort of change could men, who were often found drunk, got into brawls, gambled away their wife’s jewellery, bring to our village?” Then she came to know of the 73rd Amendment that reserved seats for women and decided to jump into the fray. Today, Sarpanch Priyanka has wiped out alcoholism, secured healthcare and ensured financial stability by implementing state schemes, and, in the process, she has also earned immense fame and social standing. While the reservation policy has received marked criticism, grassroots leaders like Priyanka Devi, Firoza Bibi and others are working hard to prove all the negative perceptions wrong.

“The advent of the new Panchayati Raj with women's mandatory participation sought to transform the governance paradigm in India. Truly, all areas of social life have been impacted – human development, women’s empowerment, gender budgeting, inclusion of the excluded.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO616F 1290 words


India
Veteran Voices: Detailing Indian Women’s Struggles
Deepti Priya Mehrotra

Ever since the 1950s, women in India have been coming together and forming groups to raise slogans and agitate to secure equal rights. ‘Gainful employment for women; equal pay for equal work; one maternity centre for every 10,000 people; peasant women must have right to own land; stop dowry; children need peace as flowers need sunlight…’ In the decades that have followed, hundreds have joined hands to wage common struggles and campaign for social, economic and political rights. Truly, the country has a long history of women’s movements and recently some of its leading voices gathered to share their side of the empowerment story and take stock of “how far we have come”. From Primla Loomba, 91, and Renuka Ray, 85, of the National Foundation of Indian Women (NFIW), to Jyotsna Chatterji of the Joint Women’s Program (JWP), and Aruna Roy, of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), who, incidentally, is also heading the NFIW, they all agreed that “we [still need to] put together every bit of our strength and continue the struggle… against patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism”.

“The last years have seen a remarkable awakening in our women, but the progress of the few has made the backwardness of the many all the more tragic….”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO617 1250 words


India
Saifaa Has Great Designs To Scale Up Her Business
Baseera Rafiqi

‘While some of you ladies are searching for a rich husband I am focusing on being a RICH WIFE’ reads Saifaa Shabir’s Whatsapp status. As one of the youngest entrepreneurs in the Kashmir Valley, this graphic and web designer is completely focused on building her business today and swears by her idol Steve Jobs’ advice: “There is no reason not to follow your heart”. Although she comes from a family where “women have either been homemakers or teachers” she always wanted to “set up my own business” and decided to channelise her special talent in the arts to fulfil her entrepreneurial ambitions. By enroling in the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) not only did she develop various business skills and other management tactics, she also managed to receive initial government funding for her start-up. Today, along with her team of five, she has built up a client base across India and in countries like Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands and in the future hopes to expand to “create lucrative employment for her talented but jobless friends”.

“I have many ideas in mind to expand my venture. I want to create a group of companies. But every time I think of taking a step in this direction, unpredictable circumstances, especially the ‘hartals’ (strikes) and curfews, stop me.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO618 1200 words


India
Scaling New Horizons With Daring Dives

Archana Sardana, a 40-year-old adventure enthusiast, is India’s first woman civilian Building Aerial Span Earth (BASE) jumper, often jumping from a bridge of over 3,600 metres (12,000 feet). Raised in a country where women’s participation in sports remains uneven even today, Sardana did not grow up as an adventure sports enthusiast. A mother of two boys, she graduated with a diploma in interior design and was never really interested in pursuing outdoor activities. But just 20 days after her wedding, on a whim, her husband, a naval officer, and she braved a local marathon known for its steep peaks and competitive nature. That was the turning point. She decided right then that she had to have more. Today, from diving in the sky to plunging in the seas to pursing an extreme sport, she has done it all. In this one-on-one, Sardana, who is presently running a successful sports academy, talks about overcoming her fear of the outdoors, the challenges of pursuing BASE jumping and balancing her home and her new-found passion.

‘The physical part is important [while pursuing sports], but it is just as important to be mentally strong. What drives you in the long run is your mindset and your drive.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO620 800 words
 
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