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What Minority Women Want? Debating The Uniform Civil Code
Hema Vijay

With the Bharatiya Janata Party forming the new government at the Centre, the issue of the enforcement of a Uniform Civil Code has gained ground once again, as the ruling party had included it in its election manifesto stating that “there cannot be gender equality till such time as India adopts a Uniform Civil Code, which protects the rights of all women…”. Article 44 of the Constitution calls for the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) that would usher in secular laws applicable to every citizen irrespective of his/her religion. Even as a heated debate rages on, with strong voices emerging both in favour of and against this move, what is the opinion of young minority women? Do they see the UCC as a threat to their cultural and religious identity? Or is it, in fact, a tool that will further gender equality, especially in matters pertaining to marriage, divorce, inheritance adoption and maintenance? Read on for some interesting perspectives.

“The country needs a common civil code that is fair to all communities and to every citizen.”

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People Power Drives Banker-Turned-Sarpanch Arati
Rakhi Ghosh

Arati Devi, 29, one of the youngest sarpanchs in India, recently travelled from her village, Dhunkapa in Odisha’s Ganjam district, all the way to the United States of America to represent India at the International Leadership Programme on State and Local Governments, where she met US president Barack Obama among other world leaders. She was the only Indian among the 21 participants in the programme. Arati has always made her people proud. She did it when she became the first girl from the village to clear her Class 10 exam with a first division and later when she went on to do her Masters in Business Administration as well as get a job as an investment banker. Then in 2012 when they needed her to come back and contest for the post of the sarpanch she did not bat an eyelid before chucking her lucrative career. Ever since then Arati has been slogging to make life better for everyone in Dhunkapa. From streamlining the Public Distribution System to ensuring the proper implementation of welfare schemes like the Indira Awas Yojna to bringing electricity to this Dalit hamlet, she has done it all.

“More than a thousand people, including women, participate in the ‘palli sabha’ where they raise their voice on many pertinent issues. Unlike earlier women now come to panchayat office to meet me and put forth their problems.”

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Taking Life Lessons From Resilient Ladakhi Children
Kulsum Mustafa

What happens when a big city girl steps out of the comfort of an urban milieu and decides to spend a few weeks in one of the most isolated regions in India? She ends up learning some of the most unforgettable lessons about life, strife, struggle and survival – and that too from a bunch of six year olds. When 20-something Sumitra set out from Mumbai to a remote village on the Indo-Pak border in Ladakh, she was all geared up to teach English to second graders at the Jamyang Boarding School, home to 300 children, a majority of whom have either been orphaned or are first generation learners from poor families. A month later, the teacher ended up becoming the student, as she not only got a closer look into their hard life but also came to appreciate all the basics that city children take for granted - running water, proper sanitation, nutritious food, and most importantly access to good education.

‘I perceived a range of emotions on the faces of the students – from mild resentment to outright fear. They were scared of heights, they were scared of the dark and they were scared of India and Pakistan fighting…’

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United States
Saw Artist And Comedian Becky Poole Is Inspired By Women
Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

Becky Poole is an artist with a difference. This Chicago-based actor, comedian, voiceover artist and musical saw player has been writing songs, playing the saw, and producing sketch comedy and performance pieces for over a decade now. But whether its music or theatre, she chooses to highlight the feminist perspective through her work. For instance, her band, Eileen, produces murder ballads telling the story of a woman’s survival and triumph instead of presenting her as a helpless victim, as is the convention in this dark and mellow genre. And when it comes to sketch comedy she prefers to be a part of all-women acts that “truly give me space to write and perform what I want instead of what some dude writes for me”. These days, this unusual entertainer, who also reaches out to children with autism through a unique theatre project, dreams of setting up a lab where artists and scientists can collaborate to create works that explore the mysteries of the human mind.

“I take workshops for adolescent girls because I think it is a perfect time for them to fiercely create in their own space. The point isn't to never work with boys or men but, for that moment, to enjoy working with other women.”

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A Budget With New Challenges For Women
Rajiv Saxena

As expected, Union Budget 2014-15 was an amalgamation of mind-boggling figures, largely incomprehensible jargon, alluring promises and some words of caution, albeit couched in smart ambiguity. While numbers by themselves signify little and are, in fact, gender neutral, the message that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has given through this annual statement of accounts is hard-hitting: it’s a No to sops and subsidies and a Yes to a market driven economy. What does this mean for Indian women? Simply put, they need to gear up for more challenging times ahead. Of course, in this season of austerity there is some reason to hope for change. Issues related to safety, health, drinking water and sanitation, which directly impact women, have been addressed. While an outlay of Rs 150 crore has been provided to tackle women’s security concerns in the big cities, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ promises to protect the interests of the girl child.

There is no reason why young women can’t make the most of more gender neutral schemes like the 100-crore entrepreneurship development programme for the youth. After all, they have been doing well as small business owners in the SME sector.

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