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Weaving A Wonderful, Empowering Story
Ninglun Hanghal

Behind most fine, beautiful, delicate things, there’s usually the sweat, talent and diligence of a few good women. That’s also the case with the exquisite traditional weaves from India’s north-eastern states, where weaving is an essential part of everyday life, especially in the rural areas. It is the invisible, albeit strong, backbone of the local economy, although it’s not uncommon to find families struggling to make ends meet on the money they make from working on the old-fashioned loin loom. But this is not a story that focuses on the many challenges; rather, it looks at an initiative which brings designers, women’s networks and grassroots self-help groups together to create timeless fashion, even as it helps keep weaving traditions alive and makes the effort truly worthwhile for the artisans.

Engtipi has set up the Karbi Traditional Loom Weavers network. She supplies yarn to the women and they, in turn, give her fabric that she markets door to door or to boutiques in the nearby towns. Now their work features in the North-East India Fashion Week as well.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDPA11 1250 words

Freeze Frame – To Show Girls Count
Daisy J. Li

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And a great picture can also leave its onlookers speechless, changed forever. Photographers Sumit Dayal and Prashanth Vishwanathan are firm believers in the power of this amazing, evocative visual medium that “affects us immensely as it has the ability to capture a single, special moment”. So, what if photographs are used to awaken social consciousness, to inspire people to look beyond the obvious, to transform regressive perceptions and portrayals? Wouldn’t it be one of the best ways to reach out and affect change? In an effort to create a lasting impact and evoke stimulating conversations on the stark gender disparity in India, and especially the dismal child sex ratio, a recent travelling exhibition in Delhi has demonstrated exactly how and why “each click counts”.

“The photos depict an accumulation of happiness and pain. They show struggle, they show empowerment and overall, they show reality.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDPA12 1150 words

Maasai Women Finally Step out Of Their Boma

The word Maasai invokes dramatic images – of a proud ethnic group dressed in vivacious colours and iconic jewellery, of stark African countryside, of herds of cattle that are a measure of a Maasai man’s prosperity. A nomadic, deeply patriarchal tribe – it has the highest rates of child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), illiteracy and poverty – they are certainly not known for boosting female agency. However, today, in the villages at the foothills of Mt. Longido, one hour north of Arusha, Tanzania, the home of the Maasai for generations, the Maasai Women’s Development Organization (MWEDO) is working hard to change this unfortunate reality by providing support for entrepreneurship, business formalisation and land rights. Women like Mama Nalepo Olesein and Mama Neema Olenriya, who could never have imagined creating a legacy of their own, are going all out to empower their lot.

“For generations, only men were allowed to own and inherit land, so they question whether women are fit to be land owners,” says Mama Neema. “But I am also Maasai — I can also fight for my rights,” she adds.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: TANPA11 750 words

The State Of Women In A Framed Terrorist’s Life
Book Excerpt

In 1998, he was kidnapped, tortured and later framed in 18 bomb blast cases. It took him 14 years to prove his innocence and become a free man. When he finally came out of jail, he realised he was stepping into a drastically changed world – he had lost his father and his mother was paralysed. Mohammad Amir Khan waged a long-drawn legal battle, survived torture and solitary confinement and refused to give up his struggle for freedom because he had the staunch support of two women in his life – his mother and a quiet young woman who is now his wife. While his ordeal is much talked about, in this excerpt from ‘Framed As A Terrorist’, published by Speaking Tiger, he shares the traumas of the women who became his strength in the darkest hours. Today, when border conflicts and heart-wrenching stories of bloodshed are making headlines every day, this story is a reminder that in the shadow of violence there can only be grief and regret, usually experienced by the women and children left to pick up the pieces.

Ammi had started coming to the court and meeting me in jail. It was so painful to see her worried face. She had lost weight and looked permanently tired.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDPA13 1200 words

United States
Looking To Change Female Archetypes
Elayne Clift

Women have traditionally been denied The Quest or journey to enlightenment. Locked in their castles birthing future kings, or in convents, where they spent the better part of their lives invisible beyond the cloister gardens, they were denied their hunger for a wider world, their intelligence and courage continually hidden from sight and declared non-existent or illegitimate. Almost the same can be said of women relegated to post-war suburban isolation even though they were, in many cases, well-educated. Many of them who dared to seek a larger role than wife and mother were quickly admonished to go home and make babies when they bravely sought careers. Two of the most easily recognised female archetypes are the Nurturing Mother and the Temptress. The nurturing mother sustains the warrior on his journey, while the temptress tries to seduce him away from his quest through her sexuality. But as columnist, feminist and Democratic Party supporter Elayne Clift observes, in this presidential race, Hillary Clinton is well on her way to creating a whole new female archetype: a woman equal to, and, in this case, surpassing her male counterpart.

After the second presidential debate, Clinton was judged to be off her game for maintaining a calm, polite, focused demeanour in spite of being verbally abused, threatened with imprisonment… by her opponent.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: USAPA10 780 words
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