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Fatima’s Bid To Make Work-Life Better In Dharavi
Mehru Jaffer

Fatima Shaikh, 35, has been working since she was little. Her parents came to Mumbai from Andhra Pradesh in search of viable work and settled in Dharavi. From then on this crowded shanty has been her home and workplace. Over the years, she’s been a vegetable vendor and then a domestic worker, who toiled for 12 hours daily without proper wages or benefits. At the end of it, she never had enough money nor a home and no proper identity that would enable her to avail of government schemes. Like her there were many women in her neighbourhood who laboured day and night as informal workers to supplement their meagre family income but they were deprived of rights, lived under tough conditions and suffered from severe ailments. Infuriated at the situation of her lot Fatima was looking for an opportunity to make a difference when activists of the Labour Education and Research Network came to Dharavi, a hub of small-scale industries like pottery, snacks, rubber, electronic waste and plastic recycling units, handicraft, embroidery and kite-making, among other, to mobilise the dispersed workforce of women engaged in the informal sector. Today, Fatima ‘apa’, as president of Dharavi’s Mahila Kamgar Sanghatana, is working with women on issues of housing, sanitation, wages, healthcare, and so on.

“Women form a large majority of those involved in home-based work but no matter what they do they are extremely low paid. In several Dharavi slums, adolescent girls and physically disabled people are engaged in similar exploitative activities.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP718F 1280 words

Why Zakiya, Yangchan Don’t Listen to Their Doctor
Tsering Dolkar

It’s not a new predicament - to choose to follow traditional practices or trust modern medicine, especially when it comes to safeguarding the health of the mother and child. In the remote mountainous villages of Drass in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kargil district, too, this is the constant struggle. On the one hand are women like Zakiya Bano, 23, who recently gave birth to her fourth child, and Yangchan Dolma, 22, who lost her first baby to a cold virus but decided to become pregnant again within a short time, on the other are doctors like Dr Anwar Husain, a paediatrician, and Dr Fatima Nissa, a gynaecologist, serving at the district hospital in Kargil, who despite concerted efforts are finding it difficult to convince them to plan their family or not do very heavy work during their term or take care of their diet or come in for their ante natal checkups. But despite these concerns the one silver lining is that government schemes like the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) and Navjat Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (NSSK) are in place and dedicated healthcare providers are determined to make a difference.

“Zakiya has three children now. You know, she lost the one child that she delivered at home. There isn’t much of a gap between her kids. The doctor keeps insisting that she should have maintained a gap between pregnancies.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP719 900 words

‘Time We Make Laws Work’
Mannika Chopra

Flavia Agnes, noted gender rights lawyer and director of Majlis, a Mumbai-based organisation that provides legal initiatives for women, was in the capital recently to deliver the annual Durgabai Deshmukh Memorial Lecture organised by the Council for Social Development. The 68-year-old activist, a strong supporter of legal pluralism and the premise of ‘reforms from within’, has played an important role in reforming Christian Personal Laws as well as advancing the rights of Muslim women. In an interview with Mannika Chopra she shares her views on the recent debate surrounding the banning of triple talaq and how the media’s ignorance over the existing rights of Muslim women has distorted the discourse.

‘What is Uniform Civil Code? It is the uniformity of rights. And can you change a social practice only by law? I don’t think so. For example, child marriage cannot be banned by law. You have to create conditions.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP720 1250 words

Is Funding for Gender-Responsive Peacebuilding Pie In The Sky?
Sarah Douglas

Every conflict is unique. But, from Afghanistan to Liberia to Syria to Guatemala, women’s organisations and their leaders are always at the forefront of peacebuilding and recovery. Usually unsupported and under-resourced, these women risk their lives and make tremendous sacrifices in order to rebuild their communities and to forge a better future for their societies. With an increasing number of crises and conflict-affected people around the world, the urgency of promoting women’s participation in sustaining peace and preventing conflict has never been greater. Calling for dedicated funding to women’s organisations at the forefront of effecting change, Sarah Douglas, a Policy Specialist for UN Women’s Peace and Security Division, is convinced that sound financial backing and strong partnerships will maximise the transformative potential of women’s and girls’ participation in peacebuilding.

The work that women do to build social cohesion, reintegrate conflict-affected youth and revitalise local markets, if noticed at all, is not recognised by decision-makers as “serious” peacebuilding.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQP718 830 words

Brazilian Girls Dance For Change
Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

Olympics. Of course, beyond the sporting action there’s a lot to discover in the samba nation. In sprawling, sunny Fortaleza, a city by the sea, let’s meet the talented students of the School of Dance and Social Integration for Children and Adolescents, set up by Brazilian prima ballerina, Dora Andrade. When girls from crowded ‘favelas’ (slums) walk into Andrade’s school all they have ever experienced is crushing poverty and street violence. Yet, the moment they put on their dainty ballet shoes – besides regular classes and a hot meal the young ones get to learn dance – it’s a whole new world, full of poetry, music and motion, at their feet. Be it the thirty-something Tatiane Gama, who is travelling the world as part of the famous Edisca Dance Company, or Jamila de Oliveira Lopez, who is all set to become a journalist, Andrade’s school has taught girls to overcome poverty and illiteracy to realise their dreams.

“Imagine a girl from the ‘favela’, who had never thought she would step outside her neighbourhood or city, has seen the world. No other school would have been able to provide such education or opportunities to me.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: BRAO112R 1030 words
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