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The Whistling Women’s Mission Sanitation
Rakhi Ghosh

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) with a lot of fanfare and oodles of star power to inspire ordinary citizens to make all possible efforts to keep their surroundings clean and sanitary. This is the story of a group of women who decided to go in for a full clean up act in their villages much before the PM’s impassioned call. Arati, Anusuya, Rajalaxmi, Sasmita and Ammbu are part of a brigade drawn from various Self Help Groups in different villages of Jagannath Prasad block in Odisha’s Ganjam district, and they have launched an all out offensive against open defecation. Every day, from 4 am to 6 am and then again from 4 pm to 8 pm, 30 women leave their household chores to take on a task they feel merits their urgent and undivided attention. For starters, in groups of three, they have taken to patrolling the main road that connects the block headquarters to their villages in a bid to stop people from relieving themselves in the open. Armed with whistles they fulfill their duty sincerely, reprimanding those who don’t listen to them. Next on their agenda is to motivate families to build a toilet in their homes and also put them to good use.

“We have held discussions with the Block Development Officer on this issue and submitted several applications of the villagers to construct toilet through Bharat Nirmal Abhiyaan.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA14 1280 words

The Untold Suffering Of Bohra Muslim Girls
Kirthi Jayakumar

Waris Dirie, in her biographical account, ‘Desert Flower’, which was released in 1998, told the world a shocking story of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). With that, people began to understand FGM as being a largely African phenomenon and especially a Somali one. Then, as more and more stories related to this practice began to emerge, it became clear that it was common in the Middle East as well. However, what the world is yet to know with as much awareness, particularly in terms of numbers, is that a section of Indian women, too, is no stranger to this brutal tradition. Hana (name changed), is a Bohra Muslim, who, like all other girls in her community, has been circumcised to ensure that she is “fit and pure for marriage”. It was not a surgery done under the influence of anaethesia but a procedure that was performed by a senior community woman using an unsterlised blade. Although it makes them vulnerable to infections and gives them a lifetime of psychological trauma, sadly, these girls have simply resigned to their fate.

“I know this is wrong. I have gone through it and, today, I face problems with everything from using the bathroom to menstruation. I shudder to think what will happen when I get married or when I am pregnant. No one listens to the stories of pain that girls like me want to tell.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA15 1080 words

Rida’s Musical Folks Sing For Planet Earth
Ninglun Hanghal

She is only in her 30s but her music is ancient. Inspired by nature and wildlife, she composes tunes along with her band of gifted folk artistes from her home state Meghalaya, most of who are in their 50s and 60s. Together they put up an authentic Khasi show, complete with a Pyrta Shnong, or traditional announcer, who kicks off the proceedings that include a musical story-telling session, poetry recitation and Khasi dance performance. Meet Rida Gatphoh, founder, songwriter and lead singer of 'The Musical Folks'. Over the last few years she has travelled across Meghalaya’s remote and beautiful countryside meeting with folk musicians and documenting their sounds and stories. In addition, Gatphoh has taken to conducting workshops on indigenous handicraft, textiles, art and music, in a bid to prevent it from getting lost in the sands of time.

“Through our music, we are attempting to encourage people to think of the world in which they live today and see how our collective actions are affecting planet earth.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA18 1100 words

Men Engage To Break Free From The Bonds Of Patriarchy
Rimjhim Jain

Men across 50 villages in Maharashtra’s Beed, Solapur and Pune districts have made their wives joint owners in the family property. Another four hamlets in the state have been declared ‘Honda-free’ because young men there have pledged not to take dowry; the Honda motorcycle is the region’s most in-demand marriage ‘gift’. In Uttar Pradesh, where a highly patriarchal mindset prevails, groups of men are happy to chip in doing household activities, including taking care of children. And Delhi’s three lakh autorickshaw drivers now have a dedicated men’s helpline to help them shed their chauvinistic assumptions. In a twist to the feminist movement, where empowerment of women was the longstanding mantra and sympathetic men mobilised women to break the bonds of gender dominance, a new ideology has emerged from the ground. It calls for men to challenge their ‘privileges’ and bring about personal change.

“There can be no gender justice without the active, intensive and persistent effort of men to recognise their privileges and consciously turn away from them. Men need to practise a new masculinity - that, which rejects the notion of power and patriarchy.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA16 1230 words

Give In To Feasting This Festive Season
Bhanu Priya Vyas

No celebration in an Indian home can be complete without an array of the most sumptuous delicacies being prepared with a lot of love and attention to detail and dished out with panache. Every family has its stash of secret festival recipes handed down generations by grandmothers, mothers and aunts, although they can often be quite elaborate and time consuming. However, for all those busybodies who want to indulge their taste buds but can’t come up with that perfect menu, here’s a custom designed feast by culinary expert and well-known food writer, Vidhu Mittal, who picks out her favourites from her latest book, ‘Pure and Special: Gourmet Indian Vegetarian Cuisine’, published by Roli Books. So, go on, don that apron, get into the kitchen and cook up a delectable meal for your loved ones this festive season. For, as the popular saying goes: families that eat together, stay together.

“There are vegetables like Broccoli and Zucchini readily available in the market nowadays. Though people know about them, they don’t have an idea of how to incorporate them into our local recipes. Especially for them, I have created the blush-hued strawberry phirni and broccoli cheese kebabs.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA17 1000 words
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