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India
Veteran Voices: Detailing Indian Women’s Struggles
Deepti Priya Mehrotra

Ever since the 1950s, women in India have been coming together and forming groups to raise slogans and agitate to secure equal rights. ‘Gainful employment for women; equal pay for equal work; one maternity centre for every 10,000 people; peasant women must have right to own land; stop dowry; children need peace as flowers need sunlight…’ In the decades that have followed, hundreds have joined hands to wage common struggles and campaign for social, economic and political rights. Truly, the country has a long history of women’s movements and recently some of its leading voices gathered to share their side of the empowerment story and take stock of “how far we have come”. From Primla Loomba, 91, and Renuka Ray, 85, of the National Foundation of Indian Women (NFIW), to Jyotsna Chatterji of the Joint Women’s Program (JWP), and Aruna Roy, of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), who, incidentally, is also heading the NFIW, they all agreed that “we [still need to] put together every bit of our strength and continue the struggle… against patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism”.

“The last years have seen a remarkable awakening in our women, but the progress of the few has made the backwardness of the many all the more tragic….”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO617 1250 words


India
Saifaa Has Great Designs To Scale Up Her Business
Baseera Rafiqi

‘While some of you ladies are searching for a rich husband I am focusing on being a RICH WIFE’ reads Saifaa Shabir’s Whatsapp status. As one of the youngest entrepreneurs in the Kashmir Valley, this graphic and web designer is completely focused on building her business today and swears by her idol Steve Jobs’ advice: “There is no reason not to follow your heart”. Although she comes from a family where “women have either been homemakers or teachers” she always wanted to “set up my own business” and decided to channelise her special talent in the arts to fulfil her entrepreneurial ambitions. By enroling in the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) not only did she develop various business skills and other management tactics, she also managed to receive initial government funding for her start-up. Today, along with her team of five, she has built up a client base across India and in countries like Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands and in the future hopes to expand to “create lucrative employment for her talented but jobless friends”.

“I have many ideas in mind to expand my venture. I want to create a group of companies. But every time I think of taking a step in this direction, unpredictable circumstances, especially the ‘hartals’ (strikes) and curfews, stop me.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO618 1200 words


India
Scaling New Horizons With Daring Dives

Archana Sardana, a 40-year-old adventure enthusiast, is India’s first woman civilian Building Aerial Span Earth (BASE) jumper, often jumping from a bridge of over 3,600 metres (12,000 feet). Raised in a country where women’s participation in sports remains uneven even today, Sardana did not grow up as an adventure sports enthusiast. A mother of two boys, she graduated with a diploma in interior design and was never really interested in pursuing outdoor activities. But just 20 days after her wedding, on a whim, her husband, a naval officer, and she braved a local marathon known for its steep peaks and competitive nature. That was the turning point. She decided right then that she had to have more. Today, from diving in the sky to plunging in the seas to pursing an extreme sport, she has done it all. In this one-on-one, Sardana, who is presently running a successful sports academy, talks about overcoming her fear of the outdoors, the challenges of pursuing BASE jumping and balancing her home and her new-found passion.

‘The physical part is important [while pursuing sports], but it is just as important to be mentally strong. What drives you in the long run is your mindset and your drive.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO620 800 words


India
Are You Forcing Your Children To Chase Grades?

So, the exam season has come to a close and it’s time for results and new admissions. How do you react when your child hands over his/her report card? Most parents want to see straight As because that’s the only parameter of academic success. Right? Unfortunately, this has become the norm today, although, the escalating number of student suicides and helplines to help them cope with this crushing pressure surely points to the fact that something’s not quite right with this competitive approach. Shouldn’t parenting be all about teaching children to take on life not with a focus on how much praise or how many accolades they can receive but to enable them to realise their potential and enjoy the learning process rather than obsessing about the outcome? Despite best intentions to raise them well, parents often end up handing down their unresolved needs, unmet expectations and frustrated dreams to their children, with disastrous consequences in the long run. In this excerpt from ‘The Conscious Parent’, published by Hachette India, Shefali Tsabary, an expert in family dynamics and personal development, shares her childhood experiences and her outlook on dealing with the perennial race for good grades.

‘Why can’t you just say you’re excited and show her how happy you are? I couldn’t understand why my father had to be such a spirit dampener.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO619 1000 words


India
Meet Men Who Shun Dowry,Share Property With Their Wives
Suchismita Pai

The beautifully framed copy of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution may seem rather incongruous in the rustic home of Siddharam Bodre of Sonalwadi village, but then this father of two daughters has taken the essence of its message to heart. The dusty little hamlet of Sonalwadi in Solapur district of Maharashtra would hardly seem to be the place that raises the bar on justice, dignity and equality, which have been promised to each citizen under the Constitution, but the menfolk in this area are full of surprises. Not only have they realised that “women and men are indeed equal partners” but this has also enabled them to ensure “that all married women in our village are co-owners of their home and that the exchange of dowry becomes an absolute no-no”. Be it Bodre, who stopped his own daughter’s wedding because the groom’s family was not willing to “include her name in their property papers” or Datta Gulig, 25, who flatly refused to take ‘hunda’ (dowry) much to the disgust of his family, men who once believed that it was okay to punish girls because they “should be disciplined” have truly undergone a dramatic transformation.

“When I talked about joint home ownership, they became offensive. I want a secure future for my daughter and having a place to live even if something untoward happens is a non-negotiable part of it.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO608M 1 words
 
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