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Valley Women Struggle To Hold On To Sanity
Baseera Rafiqi

Zahida Bano, 62, lives with her ailing husband and a house maid in a far off village in Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir. With her hands on her face she sits on the window sill for most part of the day after going through the daily chores. It was way back in 1993 that her eldest son Mohammad Asim, 27 at the time, left home and never came back. She believes her son will return and that is why she keeps up her vigil at the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. “Asim will come,” she remarks, her eyes welling. Doctors believe that Zahida is otherwise okay, it's just her grief that is making her sick. In strife torn Kashmir, where displacement, violence, gun fights have been a part of everyday life for decades now, there are thousands of women – mothers, sisters, wives – who are struggling to keep their sanity. Extreme pain and an overwhelming sense of loss have pushed many into the abyss of anxiety, severe depression and PTSD.

“We have been living in a continuous state of fear and that has lead to a rise in patients of depression, anxiety. No matter how fast we think we are moving towards peace and development, there is always a lurking fear of being killed or getting caught in a curfew.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP912 1090 words

This Work Is No Child's Play
Saadia Azim

Keshav, 13, lives in Siwal village, located at the periphery of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. His everyday routine revolves around football. But unlike many of his counterparts in the big towns, this teenager stitches them – to earn a small living. He proudly declares: ‘My brother and I help our mother and we stitch the best footballs in the area… I think stitching them is far tougher than scoring a goal.' Young Saira, who lives in the same village as Keshav, takes out time after school and household chores to bind books to add to her family's income. She gets bone tired by the end of the day but there is no way out of this. Keshav and Saira are among the hundreds of thousands of children who are going through childhood juggling multiple roles – they try to strike a balance between schooling and work, leaving little time to have fun and live carefree - the right of every child. When one talks of home-based workers, images of impoverished, exploited women come to mind. However, child labour adds a whole new dimension to this narrative, especially now that the newly amended Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act allows children of up to 14 years to work in their ‘family trade' after school.

“Many times my hands bleed because the needle pierces through my skin when I try to stitch hurriedly. But the faster I work the more money we earn.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP913f 1200 words

Where Women Call The Shots
Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

Imagine a wedding, when the groom follows the bride to her home to start a new life together. Imagine a room filled with laughter and joy when a baby girl is born. Imagine a market, where the cash counters are being managed by women. Imagine a household, where the youngest daughter of the family inherits the family property and is considered the custodian and preserver of her clan, family and lineage. In the north-eastern state of Meghalaya, these are scenarios that are not just the product of the imagination of an egalitarian mind. Matriliny, which gives women the rights of inheritance and succession, has been in practice here for 2000 years. Yet, a new documentary film explores the social-political complexities of this system in present time through the experiences of three Khasi women to figure out whether unlike their counterparts in the rest of India ‘Are They Better Off'.

“In patriarchy it's women who have to assert themselves. Slowly and steadily, in the matrilineal society of Meghalaya, it's the men who are trying to assert themselves. The dissent is already there.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP914 1220 words

A Glimpse Of Creativity Amidst The Crisis

Five years ago, Hiba Kamal, 18, travelled from Syria to Lebanon with her family, fleeing the instability in her own country. Kamal is among more than 1.5 million refugees from Syria and its neighbouring countries living in Lebanon. The massive influx of refugees accounts for 25 per cent of the total population of the country and puts unprecedented pressure on the Lebanese economy. There is an ever-increasing demand for public services and a stiffer competition for the limited resources and employment, creating unease among the locals and immigrants. However, thanks to an innovative livelihood intervention, Kamal's experience has been pleasantly different. A three-year project being run in southern Lebanon and the suburbs of Beirut has impacted over 1,000 rural and refugee women, who have learnt how to create, brand and commercialise high-quality handicrafts as well as organic and agro-food products. By mixing traditional techniques, materials and designs, the women create exclusive products under the brand MENNA (meaning “from us” in Arabic), which they retail from a quaint shop in the Lebanese capital.

‘I came to Lebanon as the crisis began in Syria five years ago… it was hard to find a suitable job as a refugee and I could not access the formal business sector. By joining the MENNA network, I gained skills to sell and promote my items at local businesses.'

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: LBNP913 700 words

Looking Out For Women Migrants And Refugees
Lakshmi Puri

Women make up approximately half of the 244 million international migrants and 21 million refugees worldwide. As both migrants and refugees, they have specific needs and vulnerabilities. They are often forced to move owing to conflict, poverty and inequality, and face a series of challenges, which include psycho-social stress and trauma, health complications, physical harm and risk of exploitation. At times, separated from their families, refugee women and adolescent girls can even unexpectedly find themselves as head of a household. Added to this are multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination: apart from gender-based discrimination, they are at risk of being targeted on the pretext of race, disability or belonging to a minority group. But despite the multiple threats and discriminations, women migrants and refugees contribute in important ways to the well-being of their countries of origin, destination and transit. On the occasion of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly and leading up to the first UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, an op-ed by Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.

No single state can manage large movements of refugees and migrants alone. We hold a shared responsibility to take a global approach to addressing large movements of migrants and refugees and to do so in a human rights-based and gender-responsive manner.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQP912 950 words
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