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India
In The Cold Desert, Water Woes Of Ladakhi Women
Chetna Verma

In the scorching midday heat, Tsewang Ladol steps into the courtyard outside her house and calls out to her neighbours, her dusty grey goncha (traditional Buddhist robe) flapping in the light breeze. Her voice carries easily across the silence of the Ladakhi desert, and four elderly women working in the distant fields look up. Soon after, they're on their way to Ladol's house. With wrinkles lining their weathered faces, these Ladakhi women reflect a charming attitude that compliments the breathtaking landscape. On their toes all day long, they work in the fields to ensure food security for their families and generate income for the village, selling the surplus produce for a little extra cash. But climate change is proving to be their nemesis. A considerable drop in snowfall has directly impacted the water resources in the region and consequently worsened their yield. Now poverty, ill health and a grim future loom large deeply worrying the likes of Ladol.

“Our ancestors had constructed a dam. Pipes connected to the natural spring fill up the dam. This water is directed to every field in the village. It used to help us avoid the additional strain of walking long distances for water, but that's not the case anymore.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN826 1190 words


India
Actor-Educator Swaroop Rawal Teaches Girls To Dream
Taru Bahl

In the small rural hamlet of Banaskantha in Gujarat there was a time when girls used to study only up to Class Five. They barely stepped out of their homes and many had never set foot outside the village. Today, however, they have become proactive, are making house visits to counsel families and ensuring that girls who have dropped out of school, restart their schooling. They have stopped many child marriages and are actively pursuing village development activities. No, this is no miracle, but the powerful effects of a unique life skills programme designed by Dr Swaroop Rawal. In another avatar, Rawal nee Sampat, was a young actor who had become the darling of prime time television in India as the star of the hugely popular sitcom, ‘Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi’. However, once she married fellow actor Paresh Rawal she swapped the studio for the classroom. Using drama to impart critical life skills education she has empowered thousands of girls to break free from their patriarchal mould and dream.

*“For the first time in our lives we are indulging in the luxury of dreaming. Maybe, some of us will realise these dreams too,” remarks Sharda Vadaliya, 18, from Bhavnagar, Gujarat, who has gone through Rawal's model of learning.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN827 1270 words


India
Once A Star Athlete Bibiana, 17, Is Now A Domestic Worker
Rakhi Ghosh

Like many impoverished women from her state, when Bibiana Kulu, 17, was in need of a job to support her family, her friends put her in touch with a broker who promised to do something for her. A few months down the line Kulu found herself in Mumbai scrubbing utensils and cleaning homes. Okay, so you might wonder what's new about a poor rural woman moving to the city to make ends meet as a domestic worker. Well, here's the twist in the tale: Kulu is a state and national level athletics star. Today, she has been forced to chuck her once-fulfilling sporting career so that she can help out her widowed mother, who is a minor agricultural worker in their Saleghagra Lojhapada village in Odisha. Like Kulu, Rashmita Patra, 23, a football champ from Kendrapada is running a betel shop, while Pramila Trishani, a weightlifter from Koraput, fears she would soon end up like Kulu and Patra. There's a lot of raw sporting talent in the hinterlands of the country but what they desperately need is financial support and lots of nurturing.

“I still miss the playground and feel that playing football is in my blood. But owing to a financial crisis look where I have ended up.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN829 1270 words


India
Violence And Early Marriage Impact Assamese Girls' Health
Rashme Sehgal

Violence has the most telling and long-term impact on the lives of women and girls, whichever side of the clash they may be on. In Assam's Kokrajhar and Dhubri districts pain and fear are well-etched in the memories of the Bengali-speaking Muslim settlers. In 2012, the region had witnessed bloody ethnic clashes between the Bodos and the Muslims, which stretched for over two months killing more than 100 people and displacing nearly half a million. Today, although uneasy peace prevails, the existence of many a young woman has changed forever. Under-age Muslim girls are being married off because their parents fear for their safety and honour in case they get caught in another conflict. Consequently, not only has early marriage robbed them of their childhood but also jeopardised their health. Assam has the highest Maternal Mortality and Infant Mortality Rates in India – and violence definitely has a part to play in this unfortunate reality. Yet, the boat clinics are working hard to reach out to the community women with incentives to improve their lot.

Doctors insist that political stability is a pre-requisite for family planning interventions and for girl child literacy to succeed in this region.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN828 1280 words


Global
‘Just Leave Women Alone’
Elsa Mathews

Somewhere in Paris, a little girl is playing on the street. Her mother calls her home constantly berating her for not cleaning herself and telling her that she has to keep her body clean because men prefer it that way. Her father greets her with comments about her ‘child-bearing hips’. He invites her to sit on his lap and asks her to keep her little hands in between his legs ‘for some warmth’. Thus begins French actress and writer Eva Darlan's one woman show, ‘Crue et Nue’ (Raw and Nude), an hour-long monologue in which Darlan enacts her experiences with boyfriends, high heels, her jealousies, utopian diet regimes, violence, abuse, religion and sexuality. An adaptation of her book by the same name this is Darlan's way of lashing out at a society that compels women to conform to its patriarchal dictates. With generous doses of humour, she motivates women to “be comfortable with who they are” and “express themselves freely”.

“Like Barbie we have to wave and smile. We are supposed to show ourselves as perfect to other women but this is a lie.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQN825 1230 words
 
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