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Kerala’s Nursery For Future Women Politicians
Ajitha Menon

What does a woman need to make her mark in electoral politics in India? Be born into a political family, be close to one, or have the blessings of a powerful male politician?. It’s a yes to all of these – whether it is at the grassroots, where it’s easier for a woman whose family member(s) has served on the panchayat to get elected or in the urban setting where climbing the political ladder is impossible without the right connections. However, Bindu Shivadasan, 40, has defied the norms to become the President of the Mattathur Gram Panchayat in Thrissur district of Kerala. When this once simple homemaker decided to contest the polls she neither had the support of the political big-wigs of the area nor the benefit of years of political grooming. What she did have at her disposal was a network of women just like her, considerable experience in micro-credit and micro-entrepreneurship, a deep understanding of the community issues and a friend in almost every home in the panchayat. After all, as a long time Kudumbasree member Bindu had already managed to secure financial freedom for herself and other women in the area and she was ready to go to the next level – exert her powers to provide good governance. In Kerala, the hugely successful Kudumbasree poverty alleviation programme has facilitated thousands of women in entering mainstream politics to make a “real difference to peoples’ lives”.

“The ‘Kudumbashree’ programme is a medium for discovering women’s power and their group strength and using it effectively at the household, community, social and political levels.”

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The Force Is Certainly Not For Women
Taru Bahl

Women have stormed several male bastions but one that continues to remain unbreachable is the highly patriarchal and hierarchical police force. In fact, in India, women officers constitute a mere six per cent of the total force strength, still far from the ideal target of 33 per cent set by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2009 and then reinforced again in 2013. This is also in complete contrast to the focus on addressing the sharply escalating incidents of violence against women and promoting women’s safety, with women police as the prime movers. And though, over the years, more women have been being recruited, their role has been relegated to “softer duties” like escorting female prisoners and juveniles or doing administrative work. So what are the factors that have been the spoilsport for women despite the fact that apart from being able to do the job as effectively as men they not only possess additional skills and qualities but also vastly contribute to improving the grossly negative public image of the force? Some senior female cops and rights activists share their experiences and insights.

‘The perception that women are powerless must change. The moment there are 10,000 women police officers in the country, perceptions will transform…. When men and women work together in all the different roles, biases will melt.’

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A Woman, Activist’s Call For Peace
Syeda Hameed

‘In 1947, my family was loaded on to buses and forced to go across the border to the newly-born Pakistan. Women and men of that generation would have never thought that our borders would turn adamantine. They all died, longing for a handful of dirt from their ancestral Panipat so that they could die in peace even if in an unfamiliar land. There are people in my generation, Indians, who say that they recited the last Fatiha for their living families who ‘migrated’ to the other side at the time of Partition. They placed a closure and forced themselves to turn themselves away. I am not among them. I am like Prometheus, the Mythical Greek who rolled the stone up the mountain, with every ounce of his strength only to see it roll down each time. I have still not given up.’ Even as the National Security Adviser (NSA) level talks between India and Pakistan collapsed earlier this month, once again escalating cross border tensions and endangering the lives of women and men along the LOC, Former Member of India's Planning Commission, Syeda Hameed, who has been part of many groups and movements that have tried to open windows of understanding in the rigid walls of hate, made her way to Lahore from Attari. She records her experience of the deteriorating relations on the ground with the hope that the voices of reason will not be drowned in the cacophony ‘popular sentiment’.

‘Mine is the third generation that has suffered the consequence of this post colonial geopolitics. We have to pressure our elected governments on both sides to find a way out.’

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United States
More Women In The Newsroom, A Smart Business Move

As Editor-in-Chief of Bloomberg News, Matt Winkler oversaw a dedicated strategy to increase the gender balance in both the newsroom and in the organisation’s editorial coverage. He asked that a woman’s voice be included in every story, as a policy; allowed flexible work hours for parents; set specific targets every year for increasing women team leaders in the newsroom – doubling their numbers in just four years – and created a mentoring system. It’s a strategy, he says, that makes business sense, and has given the network an advantage over its competitors. Winkler recently accepted a new role as Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Bloomberg, after almost 25 years as the Editor-in-Chief of Bloomberg News. In a wide-ranging interview, he reflects on how and why they pursued this transformative strategy, and its successes and challenges.

What we write about is mainly financial and for overwhelmingly male customers who are overwhelmingly led by men, so we are consciously attacking the centre, where there is the biggest resistance.

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Meet Women Who Are Making The Right Moowes
Hema Vijay

This is a Self Help Group with a twist. All its members are well-educated, metro women with a passion and acumen for business. In fact, some of them became entrepreneurs far back in the 1970s and 1980s, an era when female entrepreneurs were virtually unheard of. Started by Chennai-based Geetha Vishwanathan, MOOWES (Marketing Organization Of Women Entrepreneurs) helps its members set up small-scale enterprises and market their products so that they can achieve economic liberation. In fact, a collective that began with just eight women now has a whopping 751 members and counting and MOOWES women deal in everything from apparel and craft to leather goods and software.

“There are plenty of opportunities out there. It is up to us to seize and utlise them,” says Vishwanathan, who recently received the Global Woman Achiever Award.

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