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A Lonely Homecoming For Kashmiri Pandit Women
Shazia Yousuf

Pushpa Kaaw, 55, loves the Kashmir that lives on in her memory: her in-law’s house in Jawahar Nagar, their joint family of almost two dozen members and a whole bunch of women busily going up and down the wide stately staircase. Today, however, her husband and she live in a small rented room not far from where their own house once stood in Srinagar. Kaaw had found herself at a crossroads on the night of January 19, 1990. She had to choose between her husband and her son. To get away from the violence she moved to Jammu with her five year old while her husband stayed back. For two decades, she forged on alone in refugee camps and rented accommodations in Jammu but once her son got a job she came back. Of course, every day brings heartache and opens up new wounds for Kaww. Like her there are thousands of Pandit women who have lived through tough times. But being back in their homeland has not been all about nostalgia and happiness. Many are grappling with anxiety while others are lonely because their children don’t want to make Kashmir their home.

“Even now, I sometimes tie my scarf around my face leaving only my eyes exposed. I know it is all in my head and that there is no danger anymore but I still do it.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN818 1260 words

Jharkhand’s Anita Devi Will Finally Have A Toilet Of Her Own
Dilnaz Boga

Anita Devi, 50, of Dumri village in Bero block of Jharkhand’s Ranchi, leaves her chores midway to rush to attend the meeting at the panchayat office. As she arrives, the officials announce that Dumri will soon be witnessing frantic construction activity as their proposal for building toilets in every home has come through. For Anita, this is simply the best news she has heard in a long time. Soon, like their neighbouring Gadri village they too would be open defecation free. As per Census 2011, only 7.7 per cent of households in rural Jharkhand have toilets making it the state with the highest rate of open defecation. But efforts are on to change this reality that not only subjects women to humiliation but increases their vulnerability to disease and violence. Several villages in Bero block are now utilising the provisions of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, the government’s sanitation programme, to ensure that life for tribal women like Anita will never be the same.

“We should have made toilets many years ago. Life would have been so much easier then.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN821 1280 words

There’s Creativity And Camaraderie In Winter Trends By Pakistani Designers
Surekha Kadapa-Bose

While the world outside was busy speculating on the breakdown of the foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan and the recent ceasefire violations at the line of control, on the ramp of the Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2014 there was oodles of creativity and camaraderie on display between designers from both sides of the border. This season saw three Pakistani designers, Sania Maskatiya, Zara Shahjahan and Rizwan Beyg, in the line-up for the first time. Even as the trio presented the contemporary face of Pakistani fashion through their jackets, pants, tops, waistcoats, skirts, tunics and other designs, they did not miss the opportunity to show off the traditional embroidery and other indigenous crafts of their country through their work. In a land where women are perceived to follow a strict - and some might say conservative - dress code female designers like Sania and Zara are trying to set new trends.

“The youth in Pakistan is extremely fashion-forward and dresses quite well. Accessibility to the media has ensured that people are generally up-to-date with current trends. In fact, it is quite exciting to see them give their own interpretation to fashion!”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQN818 1150 words

Bengal’s Women Learn To Extract Good Food From Dry Land
Ajitha Menon

Across 14 villages of Bankura district and six villages of Birbhum district in West Bengal, 800 families are learning to farm dry land anew in a sustainable manner to ensure increased income, less market dependency and food security. This ongoing initiative encourages integrated eco-system based farming on both individual and common land, reduces input costs through recycling of waste material like dung from poultry and cattle to create vermi-compost and bio gas, and seeks to expand the food basket keeping in mind the requirements of the community. Over the last two-and-a-half years, this unique community-based project has been chalking out long- and short-term ways – like the cultivation of crops that require minimum water and have multi-purpose uses or the plantation of fruit trees – to strengthen the nutritional requirements of the families in a sustainable manner.

The industrious women of Bankura and Birbhum are training to make food items with higher nutritional value. They have learnt how to make jaggery from date palm juice, store it, consume it for its calcium and also sell the excess.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN819D 1200 words

Claiming Freedom From Violence And Fear
Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

Although the nature of public discourse around violence against women in India, especially rape, has been evolving over the years, there are two incidents that can be seen as distinct markers of change. The Mathura Rape Case of 1980 led to the recognition of custodial rapes in the country, and the Nirbhaya Case of December 16, 2012, firmly brought home the issue of a woman’s autonomy. After the brutal gang rape incident came to light, many women – young and old – came out on to the streets to voice their anger. But their rage was not directed against just that one incident. It was an uprising that demanded ‘azaadi’ (freedom) for all women, the freedom from fear. Post-2012, women have started staking claim to their private and public space and silence on sexual violence is no longer an option.

The number of women reporting sexual violence has risen dramatically, which means that women are breaking free from the culture of silence fuelled by shame. Women and their families no longer attach stigma to sexual violence.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN820 1250 words
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