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India
Stitches of Misery: Garment Workers’ Bid To Take Control
Pushpa Achanta

Bharati, 37, walks for 30 minutes every morning to reach her factory by 9 am; she can’t spend on public transport every day. She lives in a one-room tenement and she has to step out every time she has to relieve herself. Try as she may she hasn’t been able to rent a place that has something as basic as a toilet. Having been employed at a garment factory in Peenya, an industrial zone in Bangalore, for the past nine years she has experienced first-hand the difficult conditions under which female workers like her are forced to operate – not only are they subjected to constant verbal abuse, especially if they miss their daily target of stitching around 150 pieces, but they are forbidden from leaving their work areas aside from the two permitted bathroom breaks. Consequently, most of them end up with chronic ailments that they can’t afford to treat. But they endure everything because they feel that though their salary is meagre at least they have the Provident Fund (PF) money to fall back on. So when the government announced the move to restrict workers from accessing this corpus, in a rare show of agency, Bharti came out on the streets along with thousands of otherwise invisible garment workers, largely unconnected to any formal trade union, to finally speak out. What’s been the outcome of this show of strength? Let’s find out.

“We know of labour unions but are not keen to join them. If demanding PF independently or collectively can have such repercussions, we doubt we can appeal for anything else even with the backing of a union”.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP613F 1200 words


India
Trigger-Happy Homophobes, Sermonising Babas – LGBTs Feel The Heat
Krishna

It’s a struggle to defend one’s sexual orientation, an uphill task to be accepted as ‘different’ and still find a place in the mainstream. Being part of the LGBT community openly is not one of the easiest decisions to stand by, considering the constant haw-hawing, prejudices and discrimination that come with it. But members of the LGBT community in India would any day be confronted with a lifetime of fighting a system that is eager to punish their way of life and a people that are ready to brand them as “perverts” simply because in this constant engagement – even if it largely is one way – lies the hope of changing attitudes. The recent horrifying shooting incident in Orlando, USA, has once again brought into focus the magnitude of hostility and resistance the community faces across the globe. Notable LGBT rights activist in India share their anxieties and speak strongly about taking “this menace of hatred and bias head-on”.

“Today, governments must understand that not only do they have to fight terror and its perpetrators, they also have to fight bigotry and skewed belief systems; they have to defend every human being’s right to live and exercise their choices freely.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP614 1040 words


Global
Afghan Women Share A Taste Of Their Land
Aditi Bhaduri

All the time she kept house in Herat, Anwara (name changed) did not know that one day she would long for the city's salubrious climate. When Mariam ran, blinded with tears and blood, into a stranger's home in Kabul to escape the brutal Taliban soldiers, she did not imagine that one day she would be walking the streets where no one cared whether she even covered her hair. Neither had the two women known that one day their paths would cross in the hot plains of faraway Delhi. But that is just what has happened. Anwara and Mariam are among a group of remarkable women refugees from Afghanistan who have come together in Delhi and founded Ilham, a catering startup that offers and, in the bargain, promotes delicious Afghan cuisine. Besides being a crucial income source, Ilham provide the traumatised single women – widows and one divorcee – with a sense of community, where they can interact with their own, share their daily lives, their hopes and aspirations, silly jokes and makeup.

They had to learn how to maintain quality, how to cater to the non-Afghani palate, and be stringent about not wasting food. From November last year they began receiving orders – a big one came from the U.S. Embassy and the women earned Rs 16,000, a large sum for them.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQp615 1250 words


United States
No Paid Maternity Leave For American Women
Elayne Clift

Here’s something Indian women have and their American counterparts don’t: paid maternity leave. In fact, that’s exactly what America has in common with Papua New Guinea - they are the only countries that don’t have guaranteed paid maternity leave. In over half of the nearly 200 countries that do provide paid leave at last 14 weeks of compensated time off is granted. But in the United States, new parents aren’t guaranteed any paid time off. Instead, if they have worked for a certain amount of time at a company with 50 or more employees, they can take 12 unpaid weeks off for the arrival of a new child or for the care of a parent or spouse. Various studies have shown that for each additional month that a woman has paid parental leave infant mortality goes down by three percent. That is important to note in a country that has the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialised nation in the world. Further, mother-child bonding is stronger and babies are breastfed more when mothers can stay with their babies longer. Of course, paid parental leave is also good for business: productivity goes up, along with morale, and there is less workforce turnover.

‘It’s shocking that the United States has yet to match the standards for Family Leave that other nations have had in place for years, especially since research continues to show the pressing need for paid family and medical leave for working families.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: USAP613 850 words


India
Step Into The World Of Working Indian Women
Book Excerpt

When Alice Clark, historian and scholar of gender and society in India, decided to look into what led Indian women to seek a career, and also trace the change in ambition in them over the decades, she had several questions in mind: how are their choices shaped or constrained by the web of relationships in which they are embedded? How are the changes in their choices being shaped by historical forces that are still unfolding? What effects do their choices have on the overall system of social reproduction? The answers to these and many other queries centred on women’s work are reflected in her latest book, ‘Valued Daughters: First-Generation Career Women’, published by Sage Publications, which outlines the spread of ambition among young urban women in the country, who are affecting many changes by stepping out of their traditional roles to pursue higher education and jobs in cities. In this excerpt, let’s take a look at who is a career-minded young woman’s staunchest supporter in the family, before and sometimes even after marriage.

“They never regretted not having a son; they’ve always encouraged us to do everything a boy would do. … He wants to complete his dreams through me.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP616 1200 words
 
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