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The ‘Crazy’ Dreams Of A Feisty Muslim Woman
Book Excerpt

‘As a middle class Muslim girl, I was considered over ambitious and almost crazy to have such aspirations as to study abroad; I was expected to sacrifice my talents at the altar of family izzat; I wanted to drive… I wanted to swim… I had dreams at a time when at the end of every academic year, my return to school was questionable…’ In her memoir ‘Purdah to Piccadilly: A Muslim Woman’s Struggle for Identity’ Zarina Bhatty, humanist by faith, sociologist by profession, feminist by conviction, narrates her experiences as she strove to break out of the stereotypical roles imposed by the society of her times. As someone who was brought up in purdah in a traditional Muslim family in Lucknow in pre-Independent India, who later went on to become the President of Indian Association for Women's Studies (IAWS) and of Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), New Delhi, she chronicles her life over 80 years portraying the political and social conditions of undivided and post-Independence India. Hers is a story of grit, perseverance and determination to battle against the odds. An excerpt.

‘My swimming was regarded as very “daring” in Zakir Bagh which was predominantly a middle-class Muslim locality and where no woman swam, and that too in a regular swimming costume, like I did.’

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 WFS Ref: INDP420 1200 words

No Empowerment Without Rights
Shahra Razavi

In recent years a wide range of actors - donor agencies, governments, civil society organisations and the private sector - have embraced the goal of women’s economic empowerment. The change in language is a significant achievement for the women’s movement, which has been able to catapult a concept that was developed in feminist research and advocacy networks into the mainstream of policy debate. However, as in the case of other concepts that have gained widespread traction, up-take by powerful actors often means that concepts are reinterpreted and used in ways that fit the interests of their users. Going beyond the headlines on women’s labour force participation or number of jobs created, one needs to ask if women’s workforce participation is translating into concrete outcomes in terms of their right to a safe and healthy working environment, fair and adequate earnings and access to a pension, and whether they are able to reduce and redistribute their unpaid care work? After all, women’s economic empowerment cannot mean factories that collapse on their workers, casual work in global value chains that comes with low wages and no right to social protection. Nor can it mean an extended ‘double shift’ made up of paid work added to an unchanged load of unpaid care work.

Not only is women’s labour force participation lagging behind men’s (by 26 percentage points), but there is a significant global gender wage gap (on average 24 per cent) that has changed very little over the past decade.

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 WFS Ref: QQQP418 750 words

Labs That Skill Nurses To Save Mothers
Ashok Kumar

Deepshikha and Kirti Kiran Murmu make a living providing quality health care and counselling services to new mothers who come to the Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital (JLNMCH) in Bhagalpur, Bihar. As the staff nurses at this nodal medical facility in the area these women have undergone a specialised programme at the in-house Skills Lab that provides basic training to General Nurse Midwives, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives, Staff Nurses, Nursing Supervisors and Medical Officers, who are key to delivering Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) in the community. The six-day comprehensive curriculum, which includes theory classes as well as demonstration and knowledge sessions on topics related to maternal and child health, has not only enabled the dedicated women to “enhance my skills in ante-natal, intra-natal and post-natal care, which are crucial in this field” and “better understand the significance of counselling new mothers on issues like exclusive breastfeeding” but also learn how to decontaminate, clean, sterilise and store equipment, crucial for preventing infections.

“The nurses enrolled at the Skills Lab go through several practice sessions that make them confident in delivering better results in the field.”

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 WFS Ref: INDP419 1050 words

Is Going Right, The Right Choice?
Elayne Clift

Anyone who saw Donald Trump asking for a Hitler-like salute to accompany a vote pledge from his supporters, or watched an angry follower elbow-punch a protester in the face, it should be an indicator of the times to come if he were to take the White House. Trump’s behaviour, ideas and political rants are outrageous and alarming. The hate inherent in his supporters is a scary reminder that a lot of Americans stand on shaky ground. But the US is not alone in the fact that about half its population is dangerously right wing. Recently, Spain’s conservative government strengthened laws originally aimed at controlling separatists, which resulted in the prosecution of a musician and a poet whose work suggested criticism of the administration. Even before the Paris attacks in November last year France had reinforced a similar gag law to punish statements deemed to be ‘inciting terrorism’. In Poland, the ultra-conservative government has cleared the way for hard line legal changes, including a likely total ban on abortion and further curbs on gender and human rights. And, meanwhile, Israel continues its trek right. The shift right in so many countries, possibly including the US, is perhaps the most important issue that people will be forced to grapple with in coming days.

* In Turkey, the Erdogan government recently seized the largest circulation newspaper in the country which had been critical of his leadership. Within 48 hours it was publishing pro-Erdogan propaganda.

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 WFS Ref: OPIP419 890 words

Women Chikan Artists Mean Business
Mehru Jaffer

Once, Tabassum, 25, and Sheeba, 26, had wanted to apply for a bank loan. Under the cover of their full-length ‘burqa’, the two had made their way to the branch of the nearest bank, criss-crossing through many narrow lanes in Lucknow's congested Madegunj Khadra neighbourhood. Encouraged by the recent sale of their embroidery on cloth, the two were excited about the possibility of expanding their work and perhaps even striking out on their own. ‘We wanted money to buy more cloth. We dreamt of having our own wooden frames, more needles and more thread,’ recalls Tabassum. However, after spending a few minutes with the bank official they promptly dropped the idea of applying for the Rs 50,000 loan. Instead, they scooted back to the safety of their home because the official had asked them to visit him later at home. That day, the duo would never have imagined that they’d eventually be able to realise their dream of becoming independent artisan-entrepreneurs, selling clothes embellished with their exquisite hand-crafted chikankari embroidery. Today, Tabassum and Sheeba are part of a group of 25 women chikan ‘kaarigars’ who have moved on from the days of exploitative, back-breaking work and poor pay to being the masters of their designs and destinies.

“I have been embroidering for as long as I can remember but it is only now that I embroider with a passion I did not know I had.”

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 WFS Ref: INDP411F 1290 words
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