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India
Together, Boys And Girls Demystify Gender Issues
Dilnaz Boga

Yuvraj Sidam, 14, is unmistakably bold. The Class 10 student from picturesque Dewala village in Chandrapur district recently turned heads as he worked towards de-stigmatising menstruation and promoting menstrual hygiene. Located on the eastern edge of Maharashtra in Nagpur division, Chandrapur lies in the Vidarbha region and in such a rural set-up, it’s unusual for teenage boys to address gender issues, especially sensitive, ‘embarrassing’ subjects like menstruation. But not only is Yuvraj comfortable with openly talking about it he knows it’s important to spread awareness around it. Moreover, he has no hesitation in routinely getting together with his classmate Sanjeevani to come up with interesting activities and educative materials to demystify ‘women’s issues’. What has empowered the young boys and girls of the district to set aside their conservative cultural prejudices and stand by each other? Read on.

“When I talked about menstrual hygiene in my village, the older women started shouting at me. They asked me if it was alright for boys to talk about such issues. I clearly told them that menstruation is natural and there is nothing good or bad about it.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDQ109U 1150 words


India
Marriage Is Not For Her
Pushpa Achanta

Ask any woman to describe marriage in a few words and she’s likely to say: romance, respect, understanding, support, care… The reality of this relationship for a sizeable number, unfortunately, is marred with violence, deceit, exploitation and a series of traumatic experiences. A woman in India can’t really imagine her life without matrimony because the patriarchal social structures don’t allow her to – and even if she’s caught in a bad marriage she finds it difficult to get away. However, a woman can definitely lead a fulfilling life without a husband, if she chooses to – and we speak to a few who have consciously decided to take the less travelled path. Be it the never married Nagamma, who has become a crusader against child marriage, or the visually disabled Geeta, or Manjula, who had the courage to walk out of their abusive marriage, these women share their experiences of living the single life.

“My parents and grandparents are now happy that I did not get married. Currently, I am studying for a diploma in electronics at an institute in Hosur, close to Bangalore.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDQ110 1180 words


India
A Confident Woman? She Must Be A Witch
Kirthi Jayakumar

If you thought that witch hunting was a thing of the past, relegated to history textbooks that recount horrific tales of women being labelled as witches and burned at the stake across Europe, Asia and Africa, think again. Closer home, the practice not only exists, but thrives, even, holding the dubious distinction of being one of the most destructive superstitions in the country. Witch hunting in India goes back hundreds of years; in the northeast it is said to have started from Morigaon district, Assam, which has earned itself the epithet of being the “Indian Capital of Black Magic”. Today, despite years of activism and campaign against this practice, and a tough law in place, witch hunting not only continues it is one of the leading causes of death among women in the state.

“No data on witch hunting is ever conclusive because it is a superstitious practice, and is not reported. Even if it is reported, it is not always recorded as witch hunting, it’s mostly called murder.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDQ111 1200 words


Nepal
Laxmi’s Getting Back on Her Feet

It is early morning on the outskirts of Gorkha Bajar, headquarters of Gorkha district and the epicentre of the April 2015 earthquake that rocked Nepal. Laxmi Biswokarma, 39, is walking towards her house with a small load of firewood on her back. Every few metres she stops to rest despite the fact that “this load is not heavy”. Laxmi has a bad back so she takes her time to do things, but she is grateful that after the devastating earthquake in which her home and livelihood got destroyed at least she has been able to get back on her feet. With support from a women’s centre that came up to help women in the aftermath of the devastating quake she’s been able to overcome crippling physical and mental trauma and “get back on my feet”.

“She was renting a cheap room on the outskirts of town; she didn’t have food, or medicine… she didn’t even have anyone to give her water when she was thirsty.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: NEPQ109 700 words


Global
A Feminist Rooting For Peace
Elayne Clift

‘On the surface, we live in harmony,’ says Jordan’s foremost feminist scholar and activist Rula Quawas. ‘You feel there’s a space for you. But with the advent of ISIS, I started feeling what was going on in Iraq, Syria and Yemen with women. Now I no longer feel so free to resist oppression. It’s become a problem we need to deal with.’ Jordan is where the refugees have been heading to start life afresh but of late things are not looking too good there as well. There is an increasing divide among the liberals and conservatives as well as ‘a growing sense of oppression through indoctrination posing as education’. In a world that is dangerously fractured on religious and ethnic lines attempts to foster dialogue, to build healthy, effective coalitions, and to collaborate with non-governmental organisations in developing educational materials that avoid religious and cultural dichotomies is the only way forward.

“We shared information, we spoke up, we disagreed, we held a candlelight vigil when the writer was killed. We recognised that we need to support each other and to be supported.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQP110 880 words
 
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