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Kehkashan Sees A Whole World Through Her Camera
Mehru Jaffer

The camera has literally given new vision and purpose to several girls living in lower income neighbourhoods of Lucknow, the state capital of India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. For when Kehkashan Beg first got the opportunity to look through one she saw a whole new world, one in which life did not start and end within the boundaries of one's small home. As someone who observed the purdah and lived by the strict, conservative social rules that govern the very existence of young Muslim women in the city this was indeed a liberating and empowering experience. Although her mother did make sure that she went to university Beg never really had a chance to deliberate on subjects like identity, rights, politics… till she got the opportunity to link up with a non profit that introduced her to the joys of discussing ideas with women just like her and, of course, using a video camera. Today, after making 45 short films in the course of six years, which include portraits of women who share their life stories on camera and a tell-all on the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Beg, who does videography at weddings and other social and cultural events for a living, has one big dream: making a documentary on her favourite actor, Salman Khan

“I am unable to describe what I feel when I am holding a camera. All I can say is that this is what I want to do till my dying day.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP817 1050 words

The Widowhood of Shame
Book Excerpt

Militarisation and violence as a response to conflict is now a part of the global social order. But there are no winners in a conflict; there's no glory in violence. When the dust settles and the din subsides there are only confused, perplexed families left behind to pick up the pieces. Caught in this cruel crossfire are women and children for whom the garrison is their home, their workplace, their playground. The courage should be the stuff of legends, for they perform extraordinary acts, as they go about their daily business of survival but few want to hear what they feel or how they get by, countering a mighty military juggernaut. ‘Garrisoned Minds’, edited by Laxmi Murthy and Mitu Varma, published by Speaking Tiger, gives voice to a diverse set of women and children forced to come to terms with their horrific circumstances. In an excerpt from this collection of evocative essays, let's step into Kashmir to meet Zareefa Akhtar and her two sons who lost their life, happiness in the 1990s, a time when insurgency was at its peak. The widow of an Ikhwani, a term used for renegades that were paid by the Indian security agencies to counter militant operations, she has remarried since then, but she can't shake the feelings of isolation and abandonment, which her sons continue to experience till date.

‘I'm proud of my father. He is my hero. When someone sacrifices his life for a cause, people call him a martyr, then why is my father not one?'

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP818 1100 words

‘There is a magic in sports’ Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

India is celebrating women power in sport. Two young, talented sportspersons have defied social norms and worked relentlessly to etch their name in the history books – Haryana girl Sakshi Malik is first female wrestler to win an Olympic medal, while the southern smasher P.V. Sindhu is first to bring home an Olympic silver in badminton. Indeed, sport has emerged as one of the best ways to trash stereotype and set change in motion. UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka firmly believes that “sports …puts girls and women in the best, positive light. It shows off their strength and their capacity to be winners” and here she talks about how sport can truly empower women.

‘In thinking about Agenda 2030 and in thinking about the Sustainable Development Goals, we see sports as one of the important building blocks to take us there.'

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQP815 620 words

‘He Only Hits Me When He is Drunk’
Taru Bahl

Triveni lives in Hisar, Haryana. Her husband works in the city and visits her over the weekend. She dreads Friday evenings, for it means his arrival in an inebriated state after catching up with local buddies. The scene repeats itself over the next two days. Arguments, slanging matches and abuses ensue. Sometimes he hits her; often he flings things at her. They see the weekend through with a few bruises, damages to the home and loss of face in the neighbourhood. Finances get impacted with him giving only a part of his earnings. And worse of all, Triveni usually gets saddled with unplanned, unwanted pregnancies, urinary tract infections and pent up anger and frustration at a situation that she finds herself completely incapable of handling. Her son is growing up and she fears a more violent outburst between the two, with implications that could be life threatening, to say the least. Excessive alcohol consumption leading to violence is not a new or unknown reality. What is worrying is the fact that most women live in denial and are unable to seek help at the right time.

“He is otherwise a gentle person. It is only alcohol that makes him lose control. Yet, I do not think he will harm me physically to the extent that I need to fear about losing my life or landing up with a permanent disability.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP816 1200 words

‘Whoever's Heard Of Women Asserting Their Rights, Owning Assets?'
Pushpa Achanta

Like elsewhere in India, the status of women in Bidar, a backward district in northern Karnataka, is pitiable. Do they have ownership of the homes they so lovingly nurture? Walk into any home in Soralli village in Aurad taluk and pose this question to the woman of the house and this would be the standard reply: ‘Our home is registered in the name of my father-in-law or husband'. Inquire why she or her mother-in-law has not considered becoming independent or joint owners of the property and there is thundering silence. Ok, let's talk about reproductive rights. Do the women have a say in the number of children they want? Or have adequate knowledge and access to facilities that can enable them to make an informed decision? Balamma, who has seven children, is a living testimony to the fact that she has been unable to take a stand and get birth control. Turning to the issue of livelihood, whereas women here bear the double burden of labouring at home and in the fields, when it comes to wages, there's complete inequality because women's work is considered of lesser value than the men. All this may sound very depressing right now but fortunately, change is just round the corner because with the support of a unique initiative Bidar's women are starting to learn to stand up for themselves.

“As we keep repeating our messages time and again, many women - and some men too - have started paying heed to the essence of our recommendations.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN814R 1230 words
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