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Women Corporators Bring Fresh Development Ideas To Their City
Saadia Azim

Sudharshana Mukherjee is used to a busy life. As a television journalist she planned her day around the news cycle and often had to burn the midnight oil to meet deadlines. Today, she is no longer a reporter but her schedule is all set to get crazy hectic, with back-to-back meetings and detailed discussions with city officials, union members and, of course, ordinary citizens. Mukherjee is a newly-elected counsellor of the all-powerful Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) that is responsible for running and maintaining the civic infrastructure in the historic state capital of West Bengal. She is among the 70 women that have been voted into the 144-member KMC – the highest number of female candidates ever elected to the municipality – to take decisions that will impact the future of the 4.6 million that live in the bustling city today. Like Mukherjee, several first-timers, a mix of businesswomen, professionals and home-makers, are raring to take charge. On their agenda: making the city safer for women and children by focusing on improving transportation and street lighting, ensuring better sanitation and water supply and upgradation of roads in residential areas, among other.

‘I made up my mind to give up my lucrative job to work for the city and the people. … Political participation is not just about contesting elections but making a difference with ideas.’

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Young Zaiba Changes The Game For Children
Roshin Varghese

Every morning, a young woman steps out of her small two-room home, which she shares with her grandmother, parents and three siblings, ready to take on another hectic day at work. As she briskly walks past a row of cramped tenements a gaggle of enthusiastic children follows her. She takes this opportunity to quickly find out whether they have done their homework and what they plan to do after returning from school. Every once in a while she stops to talk to some older women to enquire how their little ones are faring in studies and whether they need any guidance. There is something quite charismatic about this girl, who has donned the traditional ‘salwar kameez’ and ‘hijab’ - everyone seems to love her and the respect she commands from the community belies her age. Meet Zaiba Taj, 21, mentor to several hundred children in and around her Haleem Nagar slum in Mysore, Karnataka, and a true agent of change, who has not only managed to bring about a positive transformation in her own life but has been able to motivate others like her to follow in her footsteps.

“There was a time when I couldn’t step outside the home on my own or speak freely with my peers. These days, I am not afraid of approaching the area municipal corporator if the need arises and can effortlessly address a large gathering.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO519 1280 words

Nigerian girls Deserve To Go To School
Nnenna Agba

In April last year, Nigeria made global headlines as word spread that the militant group Boko Haram had kidnapped and held hostage some 300 schoolgirls. Boko Haram, which translates to ‘Western education is forbidden’, has reportedly sold girls into slavery, forced them to convert to Islam and marry members of the group. Since then, the extremist outfit has continued its violent agenda by targeting civilians, including multiple attacks on schools, colleges and universities. Today, 62 million girls around the world are out of school and 20 per cent of the number of children out of school is in Nigeria. Nnenna Agba, who gained popularity when she went on the widely watched television show America’s Next Top Model, managed to escape this fate and has, in fact, completed her university education in the US. As the face of Kechie’s Project that provides scholarships to girls from Nigerian schools, Agba rallies for the right to education for “my sisters”.

“Although Boko Haram is perceived as an opponent to progress, the greater obstacle lies in a broader reluctance to take action in protecting girls in Nigeria who simply want an education.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: OPIO519 750 words

Renewing The Call To Recall The Verdict On Homosexuality
Lavanya Regunathan Fischer and Devadatt Kamat

Seeking: 25-40, well-placed, animal-loving, vegetarian GROOM for my SON (36, 5’11”), who works with an NGO. Caste no bar (Though Iyer Preferred)… One glance at this matrimonial that appeared recently in a prominent Mumbai daily and the first thoughts: ‘this must be a misprint; seeking a groom for a son, can that be right?’ Well, it may be a first of sorts, a traditional Tam-Brahm family openly looking for a partner for their son, but attempts like these may eventually lead to greater acceptance of homosexuals and their life choices. While socially sanctioned same sex live-in relationship or marriage may be a distant reality in India, the reinstatement of the landmark 2009 Delhi High Court judgment that repealed Section 377 can certainly further the ongoing efforts at diminishing long-held social prejudices. Courts have long been regarded as the ultimate recourse for the Indian citizen but the Supreme Court’s judgment that recriminalised homosexuality is startling. The Constitution assures each citizen ‘Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality, of status and of opportunity…’ And yet, the Apex Court, on which falls the responsibility of upholding the Constitution, has allowed a colonial era law to continue to hold sway in the country.

Delving into the personal life and preferences of people who enter into consenting relationships as fully aware adults would be a violation of that very same right to life with dignity.

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Under The Spotlight: Women In Media
Rashme Sehgal

Arifa Noor, resident editor of ‘Dawn’, a daily newspaper published from Islamabad, Pakistan, describes her role as a woman journalist in the following words: ‘It’s my job to think differently – on war, on politics, on crime and everything else that is covered by the paper I edit. I am here to provide diversity, to celebrate difference.’ But are women journalists in South Asia truly able to provide these crucial interventions in the face of increasing threats, harassment, abduction and at times even death? And what about the poor working conditions, insecure employment under the contract system, the hazards of late night shifts and vulnerability to sexual harassment? Despite the challenges, attacks and confrontations, the numbers of women who are ready to brave the odds to carve a niche for themselves in the world of print, TV, digital and radio is on the rise because of their “love for journalism”.

“For a female TV journalist, it is like being in a battlefield with enemies on all sides.”

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 WFS Ref: QQQO518 1050 words
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