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India
Proud To Live The Trans-Life
Surekha Kadapa-Bose

Being a proud transgender cannot be one of the easiest decisions to make and also stand by but Kalki Subramaniam has done it because living a confused life – she couldn't identify with being a boy – was even more difficult. Kalki's moment of truth came when she was just 13 and when she told her parents about it all hell broke loose. For the longest time she met with rejection and rebuke at every step of the way but “rejection by everyone including my own family, made me stronger”. Today, Subramaniam is one of those few transgenders in India who have overcome hurdles to distinguish themselves. But she is acutely aware that “for the majority nothing has really changed, at least where social attitudes are concerned”. According to 2011 census, there are nearly 4.9 lakh transgender persons in India but their numbers can't be considered definitive because most parents can't really come to terms with the fact that their child is unable to identify with his/her sex at birth and are, in fact, hoping that some “miracle” would change their mindset. But there is much more to being a trans-person than their chosen gender as women like Subramaniam, a successful actor-writer-activist, or A. Revathi, a writer, or Gunavathy, a security guard at the newborn ward of a government hospital in Tamil Nadu, have shown.

The glamorous Kalki is one of Facebook's 12 inspiring women who have used social media as a community empowerment platform

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP810 1100 words


Pakistan
Hajra Kicks Stereotypes Out of the Field

Last month, as the German football team played for a place in the finals of UEFA EURO 2016, the loudest cheers came from female football players in Pakistan: “I really hope they become the winner of the EURO Cup!” remarked Hajra Khan enthusiastically. As Captain of Pakistan's Female National Football Team and a multi-talent within sports, Khan made history in 2014 when she became the first Pakistani female footballer to sign a contract to play abroad in the Maldives National Women's League. And last year she became the first Pakistani female player to try out for three professional German Bundesliga clubs; SGS Essen, FSV Guterslohand and VFL Sindelfingen. Although she did not end up playing professionally in Germany, German football is close to her heart. For Khan, soccer is her passion, her vocation, her life's work. She has “fought stereotypes and broken barriers that came in my way” to prove that “a female in Pakistan, with hard work and determination, can achieve more than any man can in this 'male-dominated sport'”. In this one-on-one, Khan opens up on the need to create a level playing field for women who want to excel in sports.

As a pioneer of women's football in Pakistan, I've witnessed an increase in women's participation in sports. But female athletes still face scrutiny and stereotyping because of social norms that define women as being fragile, less capable, and passive.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: PAKP808 930 words


India
Of Dalit Struggles, Triumphs
Shuriah Niazi

These days, Dalits are at the epicentre of protests and heated political debates. This demographic may still be largely marginalised and discriminated against but the narrative of gloom is slowly moving towards one that holds hope for a better future. Just a couple of years ago the Dalit women of Chaubara Jagir village in Sonkatch block of Dewas district, Madhya Pradesh, led change from the front and compelled their local administration to consider their needs as second to none in the area. It was the struggle for a functional anganwadi centre that brought the women together and gave them the strength to stand up against prejudiced attitudes. For years, whereas there was one in the hamlet to cater to upper caste families, theirs was being operated from a rundown shed where their children were not just exposed to the elements but were also vulnerable to being attacked by stray animals. Reena Raikwar, a Dalit woman, finally took matters into her own hands and with rare courage she began approaching officials – from the sarpanch, who outright refused to take relevant action, to the Sonkatch Sub-Divisional Magistrate, who galvanised an apathetic system into action. Generations of Dalits have faced oppression and change is long overdue.

“In future if we face a similar situation, we shall approach the right authority in time. We know how to go about it and have learnt how to draft applications.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN923R 1280 words


India
The Indian Wife In The Ads
Book Excerpt

How have society's views of married life changed over the last 50 years? Do we still see married life and gender roles through predetermined rose-tinted glasses? Advertising provides some interesting snapshots of how the depiction of married life has changed over the decades in India because married couples and their relationships have been a fertile hunting ground for advertisers. While it is true that, unlike in the developed countries, the Indian woman is still primarily considered the homemaker, we have come a long way from the time when it was a given that an Indian husband could only express his love for his wife if he gifted her a pressure cooker – recall the tagline ‘Jo biwi se sach-much karte pyaar, woh Prestige se kaise kare inkaar’ – to the recent #ShareTheLoad campaign by a major washing powder brand that encourages husbands to share the laundry chore with their better halves. So, are we seeing a revolution in the way marital relationships are evolving in modern India? This excerpt from brand strategist Ambi Parmeswaram's new book, ‘Nawabas, Nudes, Noodles: India Through 50 Years of Advertising’, published by Pan Macmillan, explores the different ways in which couple dynamics are presented now.

‘…in the last twenty years, the share of nuclear homes in urban India has gone up from 35 per cent to 45 per cent. The absence of a mother-in-law gives a lot more power to the wife. The husband has a counterpoint to his power in the house.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP811 1000 words


India
Money Matters, As Do Women's Lives
Ajitha Menon

The monsoon session of parliament is ongoing with several issues and legislations lined up for debate. But here's one key concern that never really makes to the Lower House's discussion table: family planning. At the 2012 London Summit on family planning, India had committed to spending over USD 2 billion dollars towards providing family planning services to 48 million women by 2020. Yet, today it's evident that we would end up 15 million short of the target. What will enable the government to ensure that Indian women have the freedom choose the number of children they want to have and when, a basic reproductive health right? It comes down to one smart decision: boosting investment to expand the basket of contraception and further improve availability, especially in the hinterlands. Number crunching by the Population Foundation of India has produced a figure of Rs 15,800 crore, if not more, to effectively make a difference, although current spending trends indicate the government will shell out only about Rs 11,600 crore till 2020. Critical as this concern is for the future of the people – after all, a huge cost, brought on by an increasing pressure on existing resources like schools, roads, water, healthcare, is waiting for the upcoming generations – it never seems to catch the attention of the legislators.

‘Our family planning programmes hardly give any thought to what women and girls want. They are mostly imposed from the top down and there is rarely any input taken from doctors working in primary health centres.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP801G 1280 words
 
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