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Why Are These Women Sneaking Around In The Countryside
Saadia Azim

In the numerous villages that dot the Hasba block of Fatehpur district in central Uttar Pradesh, the wee hours of the morning are a time for frantic activity. Across caste and class lines, women come out of their homes and together they head to the nearby fields to relieve themselves. If anyone tries to trouble them or if an animal attacks, they stand up for each other. They are nor friends neither relatives, and, in fact, in the light of day most would never even share water with each other, yet this one chore binds them all. Misery loves company and these women are a living proof of that. Not having a toilet at home and in public spaces affects girls and women the most, acknowledge Sita Devi, Amba Devi, 15-year-old Sapna and others, but they also confess that much needs to change around their hamlets before things can really change for them all. While Amba feels it’s the lack of awareness about using toilets that is the root cause of their problems, Sapna is convinced that even if they had the facility at hand, men would simply get the right of access first.

“Unless the right to a toilet is considered to be same as health and human rights, nothing much can be achieved. We need toilets like we need health centres and hospitals.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNC08 1250 words

Searching For Safe Public Transport– Are Pink Autos The Answer?
Rakhi Ghosh

Even as India marks the second year of the tragic rape and killing of a 23-year-old student in Delhi, an incident that triggered extensive debate on women’s safety in public spaces and even forced the government of the day to enact the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, widely termed as a “bill of rights” for women, the news of the rape of another young professional in the capital returning home at night in a ‘secure’ taxi has once again forced everyone to reassess the state of public transportation in cities across India and issues related to women’s safety. In Bhubaneswar, the state capital of Odisha, youngsters like Ranjita Mallick, Sandhya Mohanty and others have their own nightmarish stories to share. However, there is one service in the city, endorsed by local police, which is making heads turn and, perhaps, offering some hope and comfort to the thousands of women and girls commuting every day. It’s the Pink Auto service, which not only has the ‘women-friendly auto’ sticker on the vehicle with a first-aid and suggestion box on board, but its drivers have gone through extensive psychological tests and social and criminal background checks before being certified to ply on the streets.

“Around 270 drivers went through an intensive psychological test carried out by a trained professional. Among them, 200 drivers passed. We conducted the test to understand their attitude towards women. Criminal record of the drivers was also thoroughly checked.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNC09 1050 words

Women’s Parliament Sets A National Agenda
Taru Bahl

Madam Speaker is in the House. The members have duly taken their place, ready to debate on issues of national importance. The day’s agenda is set; 27 key questions for the Question Hour have been tabled. There is an all-pervading sense of seriousness and resolve in the air… Okay, so by now you may have realised that one is vividly describing a working day in the Parliament. But wait, this doesn’t sound quite right? What about the shouting matches, the walkouts, and the general chaos that is usually reported in the media. Well, this is an account of the mood in the first-of-its-kind Women’s Parliament that was in session recently in the Capital, on the sidelines of the actual proceedings happening in the nation’s Parliament. Eighty grassroots women activist-members from across the country unleashed their pent-up angst as they used data, evidence, recent cases and powerful oratory skills to present to the House a range of problems that impact them - from bonded labour, declining child sex ratio to land distribution and acquisition.

“It is not as if the powers that be are not aware of what is going on. It is just not a priority. Women’s issues and their voices are, therefore, viewed as noisy clamouring, not urgent items on the national agenda.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNC10 1250 words

Bon Appétit, It’s Christmas!
Bhanu Priya Vyas

Christmas – the very word conjures up images of a beautifully decorated tree, gifts wrapped in red and gold, twinkling fairy lights, and a table full of finger-licking goodies. So, what would you like to have for your Christmas feast this year? The same old roast chicken, baked veggies, gingerbread cookies and plum cake? Take a break from this customary fare and go for an exotic, yet easy-to-prepare meal, which has dishes picked up from across the country. Gorge on crisp Garelu (lentil donuts) and Poornalu (rice flour sweet) from Andhra Pradesh, a spicy Gak Jan (pork curry) with King Chilli chutney from Nagaland, fluffy steamed Sannas from Goa and round it off with sweet Bolinhos cookies. This Yuletide, savour the diverse flavours of Incredible India!

‘Be it any state of India, Christmas feasts celebrate homecoming, happiness and togetherness…’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNC11 1290 words

The Global Sterilisation “Assembly Line”
Elayne Clift

Last month’s news that more than a dozen women in India died after undergoing sterilisation surgery was alarming. One of those women was Rekha Nirmalkar, whom The New York Times did name in its coverage. Rekha, a mother of two, was poor and didn’t want more children so she went to a “sterilisation camp”, a name that speaks volumes about what went on there. What was the day like for Rekha, who died at 22, perhaps of bacterial infection, or inadequately sterilised instruments, or tainted medication? What did she feel as she went through a situation that made no allowance for her physical discomfort or emotional anxiety? Of course, sterilisation is not an India specific phenomenon or even a sub continent thing. Whether in Bangladesh, Puerto Rico or even the US, experiences of women who have been victims of zealous population control programmes are traumatic and terrible. For how long will women like Rekha be denied the right to non-coercive, high quality, safe and compassionate reproductive health care?

‘Some years ago I observed tubal ligations performed in Bangladesh. Never did I see a physician or nurse talk to the woman undergoing the procedure. No one explained what was happening. No one said, “It will soon be over.” After surgery the women got off the table without assistance, walked to a resting room and later walked home.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: OPINC08 850 words
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