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Snapshots Of The Strength Of The Indian Woman
Bhanu Priya Vyas

Urmila Devi, hailing from the small dusty town of Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, is a most unusual, albeit striking, cover girl. The penetrating gaze of this middle-aged mother-of-three at once conveys the strength, poise, and the spirit of the Indian woman. In fact, it was the “surprising self-confidence” she displayed as she posed for German photographer, Nicolaus Schmidt, while a gaggle of her veiled friends looked on curiously, that prompted him to splash her bright face on the front cover of his latest coffee table book, which follows the daily life, trials and triumphs of the incredible women in the country. From the unhurried countryside of Latur in Maharashtra to the urban power centre, Delhi, to the cultural city of Kolkata, Schmidt travelled the length and breadth of India to capture a whole range of new thoughts and actions that define the Indian woman of today.

“Initially they were just faces behind veils to me. It is when they lifted this barrier that one got to see their vigour and supreme confidence.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO123 1250 words

Looking For Breakthrough In The Fight Against Sex Selection
Amrita Nandy

Laxmi, 35, a domestic worker, saw ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) campaign’s full-page ad in the newspaper and burst out: ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao? aur baaki ka kya? Beti Khilao. Shaadi Karao. Dahej lao. Uske dukh uthao... (Save the daughter, educate the daughter and what about the rest? Feed her. Marry her. Give her dowry. Share her miseries?)’. Over the years there have been several policy and discursive interventions to deal with the skewed sex ratios and low female literacy although the problem has only grown because, as Laxmi’s comment points out, it is deeply intertwined with issues of poverty, social ills and gender discrimination. Given the shame caused by India’s “missing girls”, Breakthrough, the global human rights organisation, has gone into Haryana, the state with one of the lowest sex ratios in the country, with a wide angle approach that addresses myths and norms and brings related issues, such as women’s mobility and safety, into the fold.

“Mission Hazaar engages with students, teachers, bureaucrats, health workers, panchayat representatives to look for solutions from people who can catalyse real change.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO122 1200 words

Can Legal Rights Change Sex Workers’ Lives
Taru Bahl

Lilting notes of a popular Hindi film song gently waft through the air. Then the stillness of the night is broken with the music grinding to a screeching halt, as a bunch of men and women run helter-skelter. Within minutes, half a dozen girls are queued up and paraded to the police station, which is a stone’s throw away. Crowds gather on the street and sneer at the girls who trail the men in uniform, submissively? This scene is one that is repeated with an eerie frequency in almost all of India’s busy red light areas. Sometimes such ‘rescue acts’ find their way to an obscure column of a newspaper. However, rarely does the reporter or those who have witnessed the ‘spectacle’ bother to find out what happens to the girls thereafter. Where do they go? Do they live happily ever after, freed from the clutches of their tormentors? An absence of any concrete rehabilitation plan leaves these women with few choices. However, what can perhaps enable them to deal with their vulnerable situation better is awareness of their legal rights.

“To be treated like a thing and not a person is something that dissolves all sense of feeling, emotion, desire and even pain. I don’t want my girls to experience that feeling.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO121 1250 words

Zia Mody On Life At 25

India is changing; it’s being shaped by those who make up its majority – the youth. At 25, there are many young people across small towns and cities, who are willing to take a risk. The millennials are running businesses; they are leading teams. But life at 25 cannot be only about chasing success. It’s also rife with challenges, confusions and chaos. In her latest book, ‘When I Was 25 – The Leaders Look Back’, published by Random House, writer Shaili Chopra turns back time and gets 13 eminent personalities to open up about the tough choices they had to make to reach where they are today. In this excerpt, Zia Mody, lawyer extraordinaire, a woman after her own dreams and passions, reveals how she strikes a balance between being a dealmaker in the corporate world and championing the cause of women.

‘I basically understood it was a much harder ladder for women to climb. I could see the audience in the court myself, they were all men. I was, with a few other women, the exception.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO124 900 words

Zip, Zap, Zoom… Kusumlata Mobilises Tribals To Drive Out Malnutrition
Shuriah Niazi

In the villages that dot Niwas tehsil in the tribal district of Mandla in Madhya Pradesh, it’s rare to spot a woman riding a two wheeler. Kusumlata Bhavedi, however, is an exceptional young tribal woman on a mission to fight the poverty and hunger. Overcoming the barriers of social convention as well as mobility – that does not permit women in the region to step out of home if not for working in the fields – Bhavedi today is busy spreading awareness on issues like health and nutrition, education, rights and government welfare schemes. She is a Gram Mitra, or friend of the village, who zips around on her scooty, day or night, reaching out to the community with information and solutions. It’s been a couple of years since Gram Mitras like Bhavedi, a group of specially trained volunteers are working in 60 villages of Niwas and Bichiya tehsils to enhance livelihood opportunities and improve health indicators in the region under a unique food security initiative.

“Women and young girls have become more aware about their health. Personally, too, I feel more confident of myself, as I am able to effect positive change into lives of people. It enables them to look forward to better life opportunities and a brighter future.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO112D 1200 words
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