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‘Stop Judging People With Disability’

As a child she used to roam around the residential colony in Bikaner in Rajasthan, where she lived with her parents and elder sister, climbing trees, playing with the boys in the neighbourhood, taking swimming and skating lessons. All that changed the day she came back home with a grenade she had found lying on the street after a local ammunition factory had caught fire and scattered the ammo around. Although everyone at home assumed it was a diffused grenade, after it blew up one afternoon Malavika Iyer’s life was never the same again. In the explosion she lost both her arms and would have even lost her legs had she not been rushed to Jaipur for medical attention. Despite endless rounds of hospital visits and painful corrective surgeries, Iyer has overcome her disabilities and put her life back together in a manner that is truly inspiring. While the rest of the world has taken great strides in mainstreaming the differently-abled, life continues to be an uphill struggle for the 26.8 million living in India. Burdened with their ‘handicapped’ status the majority lives life on the fringes, largely forgotten by society. Iyer, however, has beaten the odds to emerge on top. In this excerpt from ‘Gifted’ by Sudha Menon and V.R. Feroze, published by Random House, read all about the amazing journey of this research scholar and celebrated motivational speaker.

Many a time people ask me what inspires me. I am inspired by people who treat me just the same way they treat normally-abled people. …the moment you treat us differently, it is shutting us out of your life completely.

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 WFS Ref: INDO514 1000 words

Do You Get That Sinking Feeling? Don’t Ignore It Anymore
Surekha Kadapa-Bose

Just a couple of months ago Hindi film actor Deepika Padukone was all over the news and social media. Not because she was doing press publicity for her latest release but due to her surprise confession*#58; ‘I woke up one morning just feeling empty …like this pittish feeling in my stomach ... I didn't know where to go, I didn't know what to do and I had these bouts of feeling so low that I would just start crying…’. As Ridhima Sahani heard Padukone’s interview, where she laid bare details of how she battled clinical depression for nearly a year, the Gurgaon-based IT professional felt a sense of kinship with the celebrity. After all, the feelings she was describing were not alien to her. ‘I, too, have dealt with thoughts of emptiness and isolation for some time now and have even consulted a professional. But I have not shared this with my friends or colleagues due to the stigma still associated with mental health issues.’ Sahani is not wrong. Although according to the World Health Organization (WHO), India tops the list of depressed people in the world, with 36 per cent suffering from Major Depressive Episode characterised by sadness, low self worth and disturbed sleep, no one wants to talk about it and be labelled as ‘mad’. Most simply suffer in silence and pay a heavy price.

“Women in extreme age groups, young adults as well as those that are elderly, are at risk of depression... If we continue to face stigma we will have an epidemic on our hands.’

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 WFS Ref: INDO513 1200 words

Breaking The Barriers With The Power Of Press

Though Bangladesh is one of the hotspots of technology in rapidly emerging South Asia, the latest Demographic Health Survey points out that only 13 per cent of currently married women between the ages of 15-49 have been employed (2011 data), and there are even fewer women in decision-making roles in the labour force. And this trend prevails in the local media as well. Watchdog group ‘Who Makes the News?’ has noted in their last report in 2010 that less than one per cent of articles in newspapers were written by women, and of the 97 per cent of women who broadcast news, only 3 per cent were reporters. But regardless of the challenges that Aasha Mehreen Amin, leading editor and opinion-maker, has faced in entering the sphere of media in a country where this is often thought of as an unusual act of bravery she is happy that she has been able to make a difference by fearlessly speaking her mind. In a one-on-one, Amin talks about the influences in her life, her writing style and what keeps her motivated.

‘Being a woman in such a male-dominated society does have its challenges. In the workplace, sometimes I have felt that some male colleagues don’t take you very seriously … Men in all positions, unconsciously consider a woman’s opinion as less significant.’

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 WFS Ref: BANO511 1180 words

For Sabita, Life’s Come Crashing Down Like A Ton Of Bricks
Sarada Lahangir

Sabita Sahoo, 35, a migrant labourer, works in a brick kiln unit near Balianta in Khurda district of Odisha. Severe poverty and debt, brought on by landlessness, force her family of five, including her children, to move out of their village in Bolangir district in search of suitable livelihood opportunities. Year-after-year, Sahoo’s top concern, as always, is about being able to earn enough in order to provide two square meals daily to her children. But “nothing ever seems to change in our lives for the better”. Work at a brick kiln is hard, back breaking and endless. Moreover, the workers don’t get any health support, insurance or sick leave. And the real irony is that despite enduring all the injustice and hardship they don’t really know of how much pay they will get at the end of their contract period.

“Although migration is an empowering process – a move made for better livelihood options – in Odisha, the migration of women is disempowering, with women’s dependency on a patriarchal order getting even more intensified.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN429R 1050 words

Counting On Girl Power For Good Governance
Anuradha Shukla

Every Sunday, Hinal, Radha, Nisha, Viral and eight other close friends meet at Hinal’s home, a weekly ritual that none of them ever miss. Armed with notepads and a concrete agenda for discussion the 12 youngsters sit together behind closed doors for nearly two hours and no one is allowed to disturb them during this time. No, these girls are not part of any sorority or secret society and neither do they hold this ‘get together’ to exchange gossip about their favourite film stars. They are, in fact, members of the all-women Gram Panchayat of Sisva village in Gujarat’s Anand district and this is an official meeting where they take stock of the happenings in the 7,000-strong hamlet they have been managing with utmost efficiency since 2011 and meticulously chart out a roadmap for local development. Nominated for the job under the state’s Samras scheme, which allows villages to choose their own panchayat through mutual consent and not election, the girls, all of whom are unmarried and aged between 22 and 26 years, have proven themselves as capable administrators having solved Sisva’s critical drinking water problem, besides getting toilets built in each home, creating critical health infrastructure and ensuring overall sanitation.

“We are normal girls, who have big dreams and who love to have fun with our friends. But, at the same time, we are acutely aware of our responsibilities as panchayat members. We understand that good governance is essential to making our village prosperous.”

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 WFS Ref: INDO504F 1290 words
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