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India
‘Can You Imagine Life Without A Toilet?’
Shazia Yousuf

Shazia Deen, 23, doesn’t eat until her hunger becomes unbearable. When she feels thirsty, she doesn’t gulp down a glass of water. Instead, she takes a few small sips. More food and water means more trouble for her. ‘Starving is far easier than putting myself through the humiliation of going to a filthy public toilet with long lines on the other side of the door. You have no idea how it feels to come out of a toilet and be stared at by unknown men waiting outside. Even the few moments it takes to walk past them feel like an eternity,’ remarks this post graduate student from Srinagar, who once lived in a home where she had a toilet to herself. Post the devastating floods that had hit Jammu and Kashmir last year there are hundreds of girls and women across Srinagar and in the adjoining countryside, who are still living in makeshift camps, plastic tents pitched in public parks or cramped one room tenements. And though they are grateful to be alive and with their families, today, the lack of access to toilets has robbed them of their peace of mind and sense of dignity.

“My daughters starve themselves; they go to the toilet only in early mornings or late night. And when they need to use it during the day, they take me along. I don’t know how long this will go on.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO224 1290 words


Global
Women At The Water Front
Ranjita Biswas

Getting involved in issues related to water was perhaps far from biologist Alice Bouman-Dentener’s mind but “I was observing social behaviour and examining its evolution in my field of work, which led me to think about conservation of nature and its sustainable development for the well-being of people”. Finding viable solutions to the world’s water crisis became her primary agenda after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. And so around 10 years ago, Bouman-Dentener decided to create a platform to connect ordinary women with the non government organisations working in the area of water and sanitation. At present, Women for Water Partnership (WfWP), a global alliance, has under its umbrella 26 women’s networks spread across 100 countries. Be it Tegemeo Women Group in Tanzania, which is enabling rural women to create water and sanitation facilities closer home, or the Water Mothers of Myanmar, who are sharing their traditional conservation knowledge and skills, the WfWP is supporting women’s endeavours to take charge of water resource management.

“Water is the new energy. It’s empowerment through water sustainability for us.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQO223 1200 words


India
Denied By Allah, Rubaiya Ahmed Questions Islamic Laws

Holding a placard, ‘Halala is nothing but the vilest of rapes’, the frail Rubaiya Ahmed stands in the centre of a group of 40-odd women protesting the draconian laws for women in Islam at the Hazrat Mahal Park in Lucknow. Ahmed is 63. Socially speaking she should be praying most of the time to improve her lot in the afterlife. She should certainly not be standing under the relentless sun, protesting about something that women are too ashamed to even discuss among themselves, let alone holding a placard in a public place and shouting slogans that nobody cares to hear or register. But her wounds are deep and emotional. Although it’s been 30 years since Ahmed had to go through the indignity of having to sleep with a stranger just to return to her husband who had divorced her in a fit of rage, she can’t stop herself from raising her voice to ensure that one day no other Muslim woman would have to live through such “shame and punishment”. In ‘Denied by Allah’, Noor Zaheer’s latest book, published by Vitasta, the veteran writer and researcher discusses the relevance of medieval Islamic laws that only end up violating the dignity of the women in the community. An evocative excerpt that brings the story of Rubaiya Ahmed.

‘How could I do it? How could I sleep with a man for a single night? …If the Halala and talaq are lawfully conducted, does it mean an end to a woman’s indignity?’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO226 1000 words


India
Joining Hands To Showcase A Kaleidoscope Of Colours
Subhra Mazumdar

Whereas typically most artists need their own space, and at times lots of solitude as well, to produce glorious works in oil and acrylic on canvas, to share their creative expressions with the world they look towards patrons, curators and galleries for support. Not many, however, are fortunate enough to have such backing. This prompted Radha Kumar, a Delhi-based self-taught artist, to put together Kolor Tandav, a show of painting, installations and sculptures by artists who had previously been turned away by established galleries. It was entirely a collaborative effort, as 19 artists, a majority of them women, pooled in their resources and their creative energies to not just hire a gallery but also design the look and feel of the show. With Radha and her mentor, Vijaya Bagai, a veteran artist, guiding the entire project, it was truly a kaleidoscopic spread, with each piece revealing the mind of the artist as much as her or his imaginative use of space and colour.

‘The graphic forms presented by Poonam Augustine fascinated with their colour blends, their soft appeal and their comely feminine presence.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO227 900 words


India
Hey Girl, Got Yourself A Safety App Yet?
Taru Bahl

It took the gruesome gang rape and murder of a promising young girl for India to sit up and begin an earnest debate on women’s safety. From changing policies to bringing in more punitive laws to creating safety cells within organisations, a plethora of interventions have been floated – with varying degrees of success. However, the one safety net that has really caught on with millions of tech savvy urbanites is the free, innovative, and now even intuitive, personal safety mobile application. While most regular apps, like VithU, Circle of 6, Scream Alarm! or Nirbhaya: Be Fearless, are designed for emergency situations, providing options for transmitting instant distress “help me” signals and location details via SMS or Facebook, there are also those like Safetipin, which comes with features like GPS tracking, directions to safe locations and pins showing safe and unsafe areas on the map, to guide women to stay safe in their daily lives. Of course, even as most female users acknowledge that they feel confident knowing they have a security backup at the tap of their smart screen, they strongly believe that “at the end of the day, it is a woman’s instinct and her own sense of well-being that can keep her from harm’s way”.

According to Kalpana Vishwanath, co-founder of Safetipin, “The app is an evolving platform, one that will take further shape as more women download it, use it and add to its interactive value.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO216J 1200 words
 
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