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Tribal Women Guardians Of The Forest
Sarada Lahangir

Travelling around Rayagada district in Odisha one can’t help but appreciate the lush hilly terrain. The forests in these parts are a vital support system for tribal communities, providing them with food, medicine, fodder, fuel wood and water for sustenance. Any move to diminish them threatens their very existence, which is why the women of the region have taken it upon themselves to safeguard their habitat. Ratani Jakesika, Gutuli Saraka, Tamba Tuika and others from Patangpadar, a small hamlet in Muniguda block, are fiercely protective of the Ghodasala Dongar forest, which is replete with flourishing mango, jackfruit, guava, tamarind and sal trees that, in the absence of suitable livelihood opportunities, saves the community from hunger. It’s been a long journey for this women’s group but they have bravely faced the challenges that came their way, especially from the local timber mafia.

“Tribal women have always been at the forefront of conservation drives. They are blessed with traditional knowledge of forest management practices.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN710R 1100 words

An Adventure Dedicated To Water Conservation

A self-made teacher and “typical” mother-of-three, Liv Arnesen is a woman on a mission - to increase awareness around the planet’s decreasing supply of fresh water. Recently, she along with fellow polar explorer Ann Bancroft and five other women went on an amazing expedition along the Ganges, from Gomukh to Bay of Bengal, with the intention to reach out to 50 million young people and spread awareness on the importance of water conservation. In fact, this journey was just an extension of the work that Arnesen and Bancroft do through their Bancroft Arnesen Explore organisation, which is dedicated to motivating people, especially women and girls, to fulfil their dreams. In this one-on-one Arnesen recalls some of her greatest challenges and shares the reasons behind combining exploration with environmental protection.

‘Why water? Because 1-in-8 people lack access to potable water and more people die from lack of clean water and sanitation each year than are killed by all forms of violence. Within just 15 years from now, nearly two billion people will live in areas of severe water scarcity.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQOA19R 920 words

A Letter From A Prostitute
Book Excerpt

There are many notions and perceptions attached to women in prostitution. Some consider that women find freedom from patriarchal structures in prostitution; that college girls prostitute themselves for the sake of consumerism —to buy shoes, lipsticks, bags, perfumes… There are some who are convinced that prostitution is a livelihood choice many women make when confronted with sweat shop work, domestic servitude and oppressive marriages. The reality, as witnessed by Ruchira Gupta, long-time activist organising girls and women suffering from inter-generational prostitution in the red light districts, was very different. She saw very little ‘agency’ in their lives, which is marred with violence, desperation and destitution. ‘River of Flesh and Other Stories: The Prostituted Woman In Indian Short Fiction’, published by Speaking Tiger, is Gupta’s attempt to provide an insight into the link between women’s inequality and prostitution. This excerpt is from ‘A Prostitute’s Letter: To Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru And Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah, penned by Krishan Chander, one of the great pillars of the Progressive Writers' Association.

‘Don’t worry, I am not going to reveal the history of my disgusting life. I am also not going to tell you how and under which circumstances I became a prostitute. I am not going to take advantage of any sober sentiment to plead for false misery.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP524 1200 words

American Women Must Rise Above Patriarchy
Elayne Clift

Despite the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalised abortion in the US, several states in the country have tried to impose strict regulations on abortion clinics, which go beyond what is necessary to ensure patient safety. Many of these regulations have been struck down by lower federal courts so states have found newer ways to restrict access to abortion, including limiting public funding and instituting ridiculous rules about clinic facilities. In her latest book, ‘All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation’ Rebecca Traister has articulated the humiliating and intimidating legislation as ways to restrict women and define their lives within the proscribed historic roles defined by marriage. The rising number of single, autonomous, economically and politically independent women in America, she points out, is challenging patriarchal patterns and control once managed more efficiently via marriage.

“The expanded presence of women as independent entities means a redistribution of all kinds of power, including electoral power, that has until recently been wielded mostly by men.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: OPIP523 890 words

The Camera Is On Muslim Women
Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

It’s a powerful film, Tiryaaq, which literally means an antidote. It’s a narrative that is meant to reach out to regular people and the patriarchal powers of polity, clergy and family with the intention of not just unravelling the insidious functioning of caste patriarchy and religious fundamentalism but also training the spotlight on the struggles of countless Muslim women who are confined within the contours of ‘nation’, ‘community’ and ‘family’. Conceptualised by activist Hasina Khan, this is a story told by the women of Bebaak Collective, a group of 15 different organisations from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, among others. There’s Khairun Nishad from Ahmedabad, who talks about reforming the Muslim personal laws to achieve gender justice, Reshma from Baroda passionately gives voice to the woes of Muslim women and demands “social security, citizenship rights and the implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee in all the states”, Rehnuma of Farrukhabad shares a chilling tale of discrimination meted out during the mid day meals in her school, Abida from Dehradun recounts her efforts to do away with the ‘burqua’ (veil)... Insightful, poignant, informative and enthusing, Tiryaaq is all this and more.

“The film belongs to all the groups who are part of Bebaak collective; it belongs to each of those women who shared their struggles, dreams and aspirations.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP509 1250 words
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