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Women’s Parliament Sets A National Agenda
Taru Bahl

Madam Speaker is in the House. The members have duly taken their place, ready to debate on issues of national importance. The day’s agenda is set; 27 key questions for the Question Hour have been tabled. There is an all-pervading sense of seriousness and resolve in the air… Okay, so by now you may have realised that one is vividly describing a working day in the Parliament. But wait, this doesn’t sound quite right? What about the shouting matches, the walkouts, and the general chaos that is usually reported in the media. Well, this is an account of the mood in the first-of-its-kind Women’s Parliament that was in session recently in the Capital, on the sidelines of the actual proceedings happening in the nation’s Parliament. Eighty grassroots women activist-members from across the country unleashed their pent-up angst as they used data, evidence, recent cases and powerful oratory skills to present to the House a range of problems that impact them - from bonded labour, declining child sex ratio to land distribution and acquisition.

“It is not as if the powers that be are not aware of what is going on. It is just not a priority. Women’s issues and their voices are, therefore, viewed as noisy clamouring, not urgent items on the national agenda.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNC10 1250 words

Bon Appétit, It’s Christmas!
Bhanu Priya Vyas

Christmas – the very word conjures up images of a beautifully decorated tree, gifts wrapped in red and gold, twinkling fairy lights, and a table full of finger-licking goodies. So, what would you like to have for your Christmas feast this year? The same old roast chicken, baked veggies, gingerbread cookies and plum cake? Take a break from this customary fare and go for an exotic, yet easy-to-prepare meal, which has dishes picked up from across the country. Gorge on crisp Garelu (lentil donuts) and Poornalu (rice flour sweet) from Andhra Pradesh, a spicy Gak Jan (pork curry) with King Chilli chutney from Nagaland, fluffy steamed Sannas from Goa and round it off with sweet Bolinhos cookies. This Yuletide, savour the diverse flavours of Incredible India!

‘Be it any state of India, Christmas feasts celebrate homecoming, happiness and togetherness…’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNC11 1290 words

The Global Sterilisation “Assembly Line”
Elayne Clift

Last month’s news that more than a dozen women in India died after undergoing sterilisation surgery was alarming. One of those women was Rekha Nirmalkar, whom The New York Times did name in its coverage. Rekha, a mother of two, was poor and didn’t want more children so she went to a “sterilisation camp”, a name that speaks volumes about what went on there. What was the day like for Rekha, who died at 22, perhaps of bacterial infection, or inadequately sterilised instruments, or tainted medication? What did she feel as she went through a situation that made no allowance for her physical discomfort or emotional anxiety? Of course, sterilisation is not an India specific phenomenon or even a sub continent thing. Whether in Bangladesh, Puerto Rico or even the US, experiences of women who have been victims of zealous population control programmes are traumatic and terrible. For how long will women like Rekha be denied the right to non-coercive, high quality, safe and compassionate reproductive health care?

‘Some years ago I observed tubal ligations performed in Bangladesh. Never did I see a physician or nurse talk to the woman undergoing the procedure. No one explained what was happening. No one said, “It will soon be over.” After surgery the women got off the table without assistance, walked to a resting room and later walked home.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: OPINC08 850 words

Women Wordsmiths Want To Tell Her-Story
Ranjita Biswas

Several women writers across India strongly feel that their works should not be viewed only through the gender lens but be acknowledged in the larger world of literature. That, however, does not mean that they are not proud of the singular perspective that women bring to the space of writing. In fact, though their styles, sources of inspiration and even their languages may be different, the one thing they do have in common is an urge to tell a story from their point of view. For instance, while celebrated Bangla writer Nabaneeta Dev Sen is convinced that “we women have our very own special ways of telling stories”, Urmila Pawar, who writes in Marathi on her experiences as a Dalit woman, is “proud of the fact that I constantly strive to make women speak and write about their lives”. Bharatiya Jnanpith award winning Oriya writer, Pratibha Ray, has an interesting perspective – while she feels “writing is beyond gender” she does admit that penning a woman’s perspective comes naturally and is a responsibility.

“Why shouldn’t I write about women? We’ve had enough of getting belittled and encountering a condescending attitude because we write from this point of view.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN109R 1080 words

Anna Crusades For Forest Rights
Sarada Lahangir

There is nothing that Anna Kujur, mother-of-four from Sunajor village of Sundergarh district, Odisha, does not know about the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006. In a district where over 50 per cent of the population is dependent on the forest for its sustenance and survival and, therefore, guards the greens with utmost love and care, Anna has been trying to raise awareness among the locals around the issue of access to land and forest resources under this Act, motivating them to stand up for their rights. This is because even though the FRA restores the rights of the forest-dwelling communities – and also provisions for making conservation more effective and transparent – the reality on the ground is that they are still vulnerable to eviction and denial of their customary entitlements. Anna traverses around 25 kilometres on her cycle everyday to talk to people and facilitate them in securing their own piece of land ‘patta’ for cultivation. Anna is a true heroine for communities in around 148 villages where she has been working diligently since 2003.

“There is no doubt that the FRA 2006 restores our customary and democratic rights over the forests. But then the fact is that we would not have been able to speak up had Anna-di not guided us, facilitated our case and stood by us.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNC01 1250 words
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