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Gay Pride Should Be National Pride
Lavanya Regunathan Fischer & Devadatt Kamat

Recently, hundreds of people once again took to the streets of Delhi as part of the annual Queer Pride Parade to demand equal rights for people of diverse gender and sexuality as well as rally for “collective freedom from patriarchal oppression”. It was only last year that the Supreme Court of India formally recognised the rights of the transgender community stating that “it is the right of every human being to choose their gender… ” Whereas it took a ruling by the Apex court to legitimise a right that should otherwise have been dictated by common sense, if not fundamental human rights, there is increasing hope that this would also serve as a model for the enactment of protective Acts as well as secure rights, such as the right to marry, for the wider LGBT community. The unfortunate fact is that homophobia still exists and is even legitimised by the law.

‘(I)n countries where no criminal sanctions exist, homophobic, sexist and transphobic practices and attitudes on the part of health-care institutions and personnel may nonetheless deter LGBT persons from seeking services.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: OPIN509R 1050 words

Encouraging Rural Women To Be Entrepreneurs
Tripti Nath

Vasundhara, a young woman from Rohtak, has been able to mobilise women in the patriarchal heartland of Haryana to make bright stoles embellished with traditional Sindhi embroidery, toys fashioned from pieces of cloth and exquisite crochet tablecloth, among other handicraft. She wanted to make sure that “women know that there is more to their life than just following the dictate of the menfolk”. Like Vasundhara, in Odisha, there is a small group of enthusiastic entrepreneurs who are supporting Kondh and Juang tribal women in their endeavours to earn a decent living from forest produce by properly marketing their natural harvest. Then there is Rabindra Mishra and his wife, who have set up a micro-enterprise to motivate former bonded labourers from the state’s Angul district to take up pottery as their livelihood. There is no reason why rural women have to live on the fringes and be one among the millions of faceless poor in the country. All they really need is an enabling environment and the right platform to live up to their true potential and showcase their many inherent talents.

“These women may be caught in the stranglehold of patriarchy but they are good at many things, handicrafts being one of them. I knew some who were in dire need of representation so I started off by encouraging 10 of them to make handicrafts and pickles.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDOB23 1100 words

The Original Diva Of Indian Cinema

Kanan Devi’s name may not ring a bell with the Gen X and Y but she has the distinction of being the first female super star of the over-100-years-old Hindi film industry. Working as a domestic help at the age of six to pay for her meals and staying in a notorious neighbourhood known for its brothels, she had no lineage, no godfather and no resources to draw up on. And yet, beginning her career as a child artiste at 10 she rose to become one of the biggest screen divas of her time, commanding a fee of Rs 100,000 for a song and Rs 500,000 for a film! In fact, she was one of the few actors who was successful both in silent films and the talkies and was recongnised internationally by the Hollywood press as a gifted singer-actor sharing print space with the likes of Vivien Leigh. ‘Kanan Devi: The First Superstar of Indian Cinema’, written by Mekhala Sengupta and published by Harper Collins, shares the incredible story of a fearless woman who fought stereotypes to live life on her own terms and rule an industry that is largely male-dominated now. This excerpt recounts her encounters with two very diverse personalities – Mahatma Gandhi and Vivien Leigh.

She was a woman of many dimensions: a fashionista, a producer who made several successful films in the Fifties and Sixties, a philanthropist who took up the causes of women in theatre and a feminist.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDOB24 1000 words

Kosimova’s Quest To Provide A Safe Haven

These are indeed troubled times. There’s civil unrest, war and endless suffering across the globe. Lives have been lost, families have been destroyed and women and children have been struggling to hang on to normalcy. As someone who has survived a long civil war in her country, Tajikistan, Kurbongul Kosimova understands the significance of creating support structures that can enable women to deal with emotional trauma and violence. She set up the first long-term shelter for women survivors of violence, especially domestic violence, assisting them to form self-help groups and providing them with the necessary training to make ends meet after the war. As is the case in many countries, violence behind closed doors is common in Tajikistan, too, and often accepted as the norm. After years of sustained advocacy, Kosimova’s greatest dream was fulfilled in 2013, when the government adopted a Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence. In this one-on-one, the activist recalls those terrible years of civil war when “we had to spend time and energy in searching for a piece of bread” and why women owe it to themselves to overcome the “fear of their husbands” to speak up against domestic violence.

‘Women fear their husbands, fathers or brothers and often prefer to live in violent conditions instead of seeking help. We have developed different strategies to reach out to them and give them support in extreme situations.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: TJKOB23 1000 words

Perfect Pictures Of Fearless Women
Joanna Eede

Generations of tribal women have lived with fear, displacement, violence and injustice. They have suffered humiliation by governments that perpetuate the idea that they are somehow ‘backward’ or belong to the ‘stone age’. They have seen their lands being taken from them, their self-respect annihilated and their futures rendered uncertain. And yet, the resistance of many tribal women is growing. This photo essay reflects not just the many tragedies they have endured, but showcases some of the spirited heroines who are fighting for the human rights of their compatriots. Meet Chittagong’s Jumma women, among the most persecuted tribals; the Bushmen of Kalahari in southern Africa; Boa Senior from the Andaman Islands, the last remaining speaker of the Bo language; Soni Sori, an ‘adivasi’ teacher from Chhattisgarh; and Butterfly, an Awá girl from the Amazon. A special photographic essay.

“Let them call us primitive. Let them call us Stone Age people. Our way of life suits us. We have seen their development, and we don’t like it.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQMA14R 1000 words
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