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How Long Can Women Chikankari Artisans Live In Dire Straits?
Anuradha Shukla

Shahida wanted to be a surgeon. But the untimely death of her father also saw the end of her dream. With the mounting pressure to make a living she took to doing chikan embroidery, a vocation followed by five generations of women in her family. In last three decades, Shahida has perfected the craft and is counted among the few veterans in the field. Yet, it comes as no big surprise that whereas the turnover of the export house she works for has increased by over four folds, Shahida, with her average monthly income of Rs 2,500, continues to struggle to make ends meet. This single mother, however, is only focused on providing her three daughters the education she could never get. There are 200,000 women artisans like Shahida scattered across Lucknow, the bustling state capital of Uttar Pradesh, and its adjoining areas, but none of them make more than half-a-dollar a day. With no government support or social security to fall back on, they are working hard only to ensure that their daughters don’t end up like them. Does this mark the beginning of the end for this exquisite ancient craft form or will things get better?

“The work I do is widely admired and yet I cannot earn enough to live a respectable, if not a comfortable, life. Am I really asking for too much?”

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Going Radio Ga Ga In The Countryside
Bhanu Priya Vyas

These women rule the airwaves in rural India; they know the issues on the ground and have a finger on the pulse of the local community. They don’t mind trading the ‘normal life’ of home-marriage-children for an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people. While a few have given up the comforts of the city and relocated to the hinterland, others have emerged as entertaining agents of change from within. Be it a Radha Shukla who expertly manages ‘Waqt Ki Awaaz’ that airs across Kanpur Dehat in Uttar Pradesh, or Seema Bharti, who left her cushy position at All India Radio in Lucknow to become the “Voice of Azamgarh”, or the affable “FM Madam” G. Gandhimathi, who creates engaging programmes for Periyar Community Radio in Tamil Nadu, they all want to do their bit to break the silence on “real issues such as poor access to education, child marriages, drug addiction, caste discrimination, ‘purdah’…” Of course, as they pick up the mike to become the voice of the people, they, too, experience a rush of empowerment and contentment.

“These days, community radio truly reflects people’s aspirations and grievances and even sets the agenda for participatory local governance.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO325 1250 words

United States
Remembering The Human In Human Trafficking
Elayne Clift

There are more human slaves in the world today than ever before in history. An estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children are victims of human trafficking, which involves not only sex and labour but organ harvesting as well. Eighty percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24 and some are as young as six years old. Whereas the average entry age of American minors into the sex trade is 12-14 years, approximately 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking annually. In fact, as per a 2009 report by Shared Hope International, a sex trafficking victim is likely to be raped by 6,000 buyers during the course of her victimisation. The chilling truth about trafficking for sex is enough to make anyone sick – except, it seems, a few self-righteous folks on the Capitol Hill. It’s the usual cast of characters on the right who have been trying to sneak in anti-abortion language into the proposed Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. These powerbrokers believe it’s actually okay to make sex-trafficked victims, some still children themselves, bear babies conceived in rape and violence.

“The fact is human trafficking is happening right here, right now, in the US, probably in any city where anybody lives. Just because you don’t know anything about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: USAO323 820 words

Teaching Children To Dream Big
Kirthi Jayakumar

Every afternoon, within a matter of minutes, her quiet living room is transformed into a lively, fun-filled classroom. Children between five and 14 years troop in with their heavy schoolbags, pull out their textbooks, and get ready for “Ritu ma’am” to begin their lessons. As if on cue their teacher walks in, greets each one and then takes a look at their work assignments, which largely determine the choice of subjects she takes up. Of course, the biggest draw for the little ones is not the “boring class work” but the time they will eventually take out to “play games, paint, sing songs, recite their favourite poems and do a little show-and-tell act”. For Ritu’s students, this is truly a novel experience, an opportunity to gain a well-rounded education, which their poor parents could never have afforded to give them. Today, these children of domestic workers, cooks, cleaners and other menial job workers, who have not been to school themselves, represent the hope of a better future for their families. And enabling them to dream big is Ritu Abbhi, a committed social worker, who has brought her passion to her personal space as well.

“Some of the children do not go to school at all and for them I teach everything from scratch. Along with the regular curriculum, I teach them how to remain clean and healthy.”

[Photographs Available]

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Of Forests And Women Who Tell Their Stories

Environmental activist Vandana Siva says that development must be defined “by the people for whom it is supposed to be… if the community feels that letting a river flow is development, then they let the river flow. If the community feels building a dam is good then they can build a dam, but it shouldn’t be that they are told that you have no rights to decide”. In India, though, forests have often been seen as symbols of all that is antithetical to development. In fact, the first step towards ‘development’ here is about clearing the forests followed by ‘civilising’ the people who live in it. This narrow outlook, however, is in direct conflict with the very idea of life that tribals and other ethnic communities believe in and practice. People’s struggles around forest conservation have formed the basis of many a heartrending narrative penned by well-known Indian fictional writers, like Mahasweta Devi, Pratibha Ray and Rasna Barua, among others. In this excerpt from ‘Ethnic Worlds in Select Indian Fiction’, published by Sage, author Juri Dutta resurrects stories that raise questions about human rights, the cost of development and the need to save the forests.

“The Bonda owns everything here – the clouds, the sky, the mountains, forests, waterfalls, the terraced fields, trees, animals. Hemmed in and guarded by the life and death.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO326 1250 words
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