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India
Weaving A Timeless Mangalagiri Sari
Sudhamahi Regunathan

Step into one of the many cooperatives of master craftsmen in Mangalagiri, the temple town located 11 kilometres from the city of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, best known for producing wonderful handloom saris, and it's a sea of colour that meets the eye. There are yards of dyed yarn drying in the loom room as well as in courtyards, waiting to be woven into richly-hued Mangalagiris with their sparkling nizam border. There are elderly expert weavers like Sivaramakrishna and Sivaramulu sitting at their pit looms laboriously creating the exquisite nine yard creation – it takes two days to produce a single sari – but all their hard work really amounts to a mere Rs 800 per piece. Like most traditional weavers, Mangalagiri's craftspersons are in trouble, but they are hanging in there for the sake of maintaining an age-old custom. After all, there was a time when no visit to the ancient Lakshmi Narasimha in town was considered complete till the woman of the household bought herself an original Mangalagiri.

“We belong to the Padma Saliya caste. Of the 8,000 weavers, 80 per cent are old like me. Few youngsters are willing to do this laborious job. To me, however, it still has a unique charm. I can say with immense pride that the sari I weave will last forever.”

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 WFS Ref: INDN418 1240 words



Supreme Court Verdict On Adoptions Is A Turning Point
Saumya Uma

The three-Bench judgment of the Supreme Court of February 19 – Shabnam Hashmi vs the Union of India and Others, provided a considerable advancement in law on the issue of adoption. It ruled that all persons, irrespective of religion, caste and creed, have the option of adopting a child under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) (JJ) Act 2000. In other words, the judgment has extricated adoption from the labyrinth of family laws and given it a universal application cutting across religious identities.

Adoption is not merely a legal issue; it has many social ramifications. India has a large number of children abandoned at birth. A petition to the Supreme Court filed in 2011 ?had stated that there are about 11 million abandoned children in India, 90 per cent of whom were girls.

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 WFS Ref: OPIN416 1270 words


Global
Where The World Talks Women's Rights
Albertina Almeida

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is dedicated specifically to gender equality and the advancement of women. The 58th Session of the Commission, held at the UN in New York in mid-March saw some interesting debates. Can there be ‘decent work’ without a ‘living wage’? Are human rights not integral to the right to development? Isn't the denial of sexual and reproductive health rights a denial of the right to health? These were some of the questions that government participants at the 58th Session had to grapple with in order to come up with the ‘Agreed Conclusions of the Session’ – the official document that emerged from the Session. A close observer of the proceedings reports…

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon argued that companies with more women on board performed better, just as nations which focused on gender equality enjoyed better economic growth.

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 WFS Ref: QQQN414 1150 words


India
In Odisha Too, No Room For Strong Political Women
Rakhi Ghosh

In India's eastern state of Odisha, the presence of women in the political arena is not a new phenomenon. The state saw its first women chief minister, Nandini Satpathy, come to power in June 1972 and she ruled until the end of 1976. It has also seen many prominent women legislators – both at the parliamentary and state levels. Sadly, however, the state seems to have regressed. Today, although there are a number of female politicians in all the major parties in the state, each one of them has had to contend with deeply patriarchal biases. Male chauvinism marks all aspects of the election process, from the selection of electoral candidates to electing women office-bearers and, unsurprisingly, it is the men who corner the lion's share of the posts and tickets. Elections to Parliament and the Assembly will be taking place simultaneously this year in Odisha – comprising 21 Lok Sabha and 147 assembly constituencies. The three major parties, the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the BJD, have together fielded only 32 women candidates for these seats, in comparison to 441 male candidates.

“Personally I am convinced that women today are capable, intellectually speaking, of competing with men. But instead of welcoming this trend, it only creates insecurity among male politicians.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN407F 1280 words


India
Food Is An Election Issue, Say Deoghar's Women
Saadia Azim

Thousands of women in the rural heartland of Deoghar, one of the most backward districts of Jharkhand and home to the Santhal tribals, have joined hands for a crusade against hunger and malnutrition in the region. Even as the election fever gripped their Sonaraithadi block, these women diligently campaigned for the right to food and for promoting good nutritional practices in the community through personalised training and awareness sessions. Besides this, Shakuntala Devi, Putul, Sudama, Sunita and Kajran Bibi and others, who have successfully taken on the role of educators and social mentors, are keeping a close watch on the distribution of food grain through the public distribution system. Along with the assistance of the local panchayat they are advocating the fair enforcement of the MGNREGA, to make their respective villages hunger free.

“Earlier, it was very difficult to get things from the ration shop. Now at least as a group we can ensure that everyone gets what they are entitled to. Gradually, the elected panchayat members too have become more supportive of our efforts.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN408D 1160 words
 
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