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Priyanka And Firoza Show What Governance Is All About
Aditi Bhaduri

Later she would hear how lovely the weather had been, how brightly the sun had shone and how the temperature had been just right that day. But when she had entered her husband's village as a young bride in 2007, all she saw was a sea of faces. All she could think of was her new life that lay ahead: the relatives she had to make her own, the man who was now her husband, the children that would come soon. . . Not even in her wildest dreams had Priyanka Devi of Katkamdag panchayat in Jharkhand imagined that she would become a much-loved and respected village leader. Everything changed when her state decided to hold panchayat polls for the first time in 2010. The men who stood for elections were just not right for the job. After all, “what sort of change could men, who were often found drunk, got into brawls, gambled away their wife’s jewellery, bring to our village?” Then she came to know of the 73rd Amendment that reserved seats for women and decided to jump into the fray. Today, Sarpanch Priyanka has wiped out alcoholism, secured healthcare and ensured financial stability by implementing state schemes, and, in the process, she has also earned immense fame and social standing. While the reservation policy has received marked criticism, grassroots leaders like Priyanka Devi, Firoza Bibi and others are working hard to prove all the negative perceptions wrong.

“The advent of the new Panchayati Raj with women's mandatory participation sought to transform the governance paradigm in India. Truly, all areas of social life have been impacted – human development, women’s empowerment, gender budgeting, inclusion of the excluded.”

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 WFS Ref: INDO616F 1290 words

Veteran Voices: Detailing Indian Women’s Struggles
Deepti Priya Mehrotra

Ever since the 1950s, women in India have been coming together and forming groups to raise slogans and agitate to secure equal rights. ‘Gainful employment for women; equal pay for equal work; one maternity centre for every 10,000 people; peasant women must have right to own land; stop dowry; children need peace as flowers need sunlight…’ In the decades that have followed, hundreds have joined hands to wage common struggles and campaign for social, economic and political rights. Truly, the country has a long history of women’s movements and recently some of its leading voices gathered to share their side of the empowerment story and take stock of “how far we have come”. From Primla Loomba, 91, and Renuka Ray, 85, of the National Foundation of Indian Women (NFIW), to Jyotsna Chatterji of the Joint Women’s Program (JWP), and Aruna Roy, of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), who, incidentally, is also heading the NFIW, they all agreed that “we [still need to] put together every bit of our strength and continue the struggle… against patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism”.

“The last years have seen a remarkable awakening in our women, but the progress of the few has made the backwardness of the many all the more tragic….”

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 WFS Ref: INDO617 1250 words

Saifaa Has Great Designs To Scale Up Her Business
Baseera Rafiqi

‘While some of you ladies are searching for a rich husband I am focusing on being a RICH WIFE’ reads Saifaa Shabir’s Whatsapp status. As one of the youngest entrepreneurs in the Kashmir Valley, this graphic and web designer is completely focused on building her business today and swears by her idol Steve Jobs’ advice: “There is no reason not to follow your heart”. Although she comes from a family where “women have either been homemakers or teachers” she always wanted to “set up my own business” and decided to channelise her special talent in the arts to fulfil her entrepreneurial ambitions. By enroling in the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) not only did she develop various business skills and other management tactics, she also managed to receive initial government funding for her start-up. Today, along with her team of five, she has built up a client base across India and in countries like Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands and in the future hopes to expand to “create lucrative employment for her talented but jobless friends”.

“I have many ideas in mind to expand my venture. I want to create a group of companies. But every time I think of taking a step in this direction, unpredictable circumstances, especially the ‘hartals’ (strikes) and curfews, stop me.”

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Scaling New Horizons With Daring Dives

Archana Sardana, a 40-year-old adventure enthusiast, is India’s first woman civilian Building Aerial Span Earth (BASE) jumper, often jumping from a bridge of over 3,600 metres (12,000 feet). Raised in a country where women’s participation in sports remains uneven even today, Sardana did not grow up as an adventure sports enthusiast. A mother of two boys, she graduated with a diploma in interior design and was never really interested in pursuing outdoor activities. But just 20 days after her wedding, on a whim, her husband, a naval officer, and she braved a local marathon known for its steep peaks and competitive nature. That was the turning point. She decided right then that she had to have more. Today, from diving in the sky to plunging in the seas to pursing an extreme sport, she has done it all. In this one-on-one, Sardana, who is presently running a successful sports academy, talks about overcoming her fear of the outdoors, the challenges of pursuing BASE jumping and balancing her home and her new-found passion.

‘The physical part is important [while pursuing sports], but it is just as important to be mentally strong. What drives you in the long run is your mindset and your drive.’

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Are You Forcing Your Children To Chase Grades?

So, the exam season has come to a close and it’s time for results and new admissions. How do you react when your child hands over his/her report card? Most parents want to see straight As because that’s the only parameter of academic success. Right? Unfortunately, this has become the norm today, although, the escalating number of student suicides and helplines to help them cope with this crushing pressure surely points to the fact that something’s not quite right with this competitive approach. Shouldn’t parenting be all about teaching children to take on life not with a focus on how much praise or how many accolades they can receive but to enable them to realise their potential and enjoy the learning process rather than obsessing about the outcome? Despite best intentions to raise them well, parents often end up handing down their unresolved needs, unmet expectations and frustrated dreams to their children, with disastrous consequences in the long run. In this excerpt from ‘The Conscious Parent’, published by Hachette India, Shefali Tsabary, an expert in family dynamics and personal development, shares her childhood experiences and her outlook on dealing with the perennial race for good grades.

‘Why can’t you just say you’re excited and show her how happy you are? I couldn’t understand why my father had to be such a spirit dampener.’

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