Features this week
November 26, 2014
   

Chhattisgarh Has Given India Another Wake Up Call On Family Planning

   

Some Valuable Lessons From The Young Women

   

Get Ready To Be Floored By The Enterprising Grannies


 
   

Fatima Paints The Quiet Strength Of Women

   

Binita, Martha and Others Map The Way To Good Health

   

One Year On, The Developing Landscape Of The Sexual Harassment Law

   

Provocative. Daring.Awesome.Young Kerala Triggers A Debate For Change

   

Breast Ironing: ‘Yes, I Did This to My Daughter’

   

Old and Fragile, Basanti Fights Apathy And Insecurity

   

The Different Strokes of Women Text and Photos: Madhubani Artists

   
   


 
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India
Fatima Paints The Quiet Strength Of Women
Surekha Kadapa-Bose

‘If only silence could speak’ goes the adage. Well, here silence does speak – and how! Soft, hazy, elusive images of women gaze steadily from the confines of their canvas making the much-mesmerised onlooker feel as though they would simply vanish if s/he so much as blinked. The women in red, pink, beige oil paints look ethereal, delicate and yet they convey power, strength – much like the woman who has created them. Legendary rebel artist and writer Fatima Ahmed, who is nearing 80, is a picture of contrasts. While she is fun-loving and full of life – she loves to gorge on the crisp crust of the samosa, a popular Indian street snack – her paintings are still and silent. Hailing from a conservative Muslim family from Hyderabad – her father was a Collector for the Nizam ?Ahmed did everything that went against her ilk: she treated the helpers in her home as equals; she refused to marry as a teenager; learnt the kathak dance form; and insisted on not just completing her education but studying art. A keen observer of life, today, she bases her works on women because “whichever strata they come from women are expected to conform and suffer in silence”.

“In life there has to be some mystery. Everything shouldn’t be very obvious and spoken out loud. In my works, I don’t like clutter, loud colours or screaming. I like my paintings to be as subtle as a whisper.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNB22 1060 words


India
Binita, Martha and Others Map The Way To Good Health
Sarada Lahangir

Binita Kanhara, 32, a tribal woman from Rajkhol village in Kandhamal district of Odisha was very happy the day she learnt she was pregnant. Nine months later, when the D-day came, her mother-in-law decided that the delivery would be at home. Unfortunately, the child did not survive as it was weak and needed proper neo-natal care. Binita was grief stricken for months. When she was expecting her second child she spent her entire pregnancy in misery and was preparing for the worst when Martha Diggal, the local Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), came into her life and convinced the older woman to send Binita to a hospital. By her third pregnancy, neither Martha nor Binita had to do anything other than call for an ambulance under the government?s Janani Suraksha Yoyana to transport her to the health facility. Today, across 34 villages in Kandhamal, a district with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the state, a maternal health intervention helmed by the Centre for Youth and Social Development and Oxfam India is bringing about perceptible change. Creating an innovative village health atlas, a collaborative effort of the community, the village health and sanitation committee and the government health workers, has enabled them to make sure that motherhood becomes truly the wonderful experience it ought to be.

“Being uneducated and ignorant I used to insist that my daughter-in-law follow what I did as a young woman. In my day, we were told not to eat nutrition rich food lest we became too heavy and had difficulty in child birth. Also, we had to be in isolation after delivery. I realise I was wrong.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNB17O 1290 words



One Year On, The Developing Landscape Of The Sexual Harassment Law
Albertina Almeida

It will soon be a year since the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, came into force on December 9, 2013. While the law was enacted with the sole idea of giving a boost to the mainstreaming of women in a formal work setting as well as strengthening gender equality, over the last 12 months some key challenges related to its implementation have emerged. By the new definition of sexual harassment and the circumstances under which it is said to be happening, it is more than clear now that proving sexual harassment does not always mean proving the intention of explicit sexual acts to harass a woman. Creating a hostile work environment with sexual innuendos and retaliating when no sexual favours are forthcoming, for instance, counts as an offence. Yet, what happens when a Complaints Committee has to be constituted to look into the matter? As the rules for the same are quite unclear and open to interpretation, it is at this juncture that the insidious problems start cropping up. The writer, a renowned lawyer and human rights activist, who is a member of several Internal Complaints Committees, takes a stock of the situation as it stands today.

The Vishaka Guidelines had visualised the constitution of a complaints committee to ensure prevention and redressal. However, the current law has certain prescriptions towards their composition that does not seem to draw from the experiences gained under the Vishaka Judgement.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: OPINB19 1250 words


India
Provocative. Daring.Awesome.Young Kerala Triggers A Debate For Change
Shwetha E. George

Earlier this month, India woke up to screaming headlines and risqu é photographs splashed across various leading dailies: ‘Love in the Time of Bigotry’; “ ‘Kiss of Love' Campaign Meets Wall of Cops”; “Mass ‘kissing' Protests in Kerala cities against Moral Policing”… The reports described how young Kerala had taken to the streets to kiss and hug one another in protest of the vandalism unleashed by right wing activists in a cafe in Kozhikode perceived as a popular dating spot. Despite threats by the ultraconservatives and harassment by the police, nearly 100 youngsters challenged the “cultural fascism” by a rather uncharacteristic public display of affection. What’s more, their Kiss of Love campaign has now gone viral, with cities like Hyderabad, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai holding their very own versions. So, is ‘conservative’ Kerala undergoing some kind of transformation today? Are people ready to shake off the existing “orthodox” patriarchy just yet? We speak to a few spirited college-goers and experienced professors to get some answers.

“The protest was a direct response to the vandalising of a caf? by a few youth wing party workers who alleged that couples were often seen kissing there. The ideal thing to do would have been to arrest those vandalisers. But police inaction and public apathy triggered this rebellion.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNB10 1080 words


Cameroon
Breast Ironing: ‘Yes, I Did This to My Daughter’
Kirthi Jayakumar

Fomuso Kazua (name changed) was just a few days shy of turning 12 when she attained puberty. That was also when she started showing signs of developing breasts. One day, out of the blue, her mother told her that she would have to do something that would seem unpleasant to Fomuso at first but she had no choice because all girls had to go through it. ‘Everyday she would press down on my chest with a piping hot stone so that my breasts would stop growing. It hurt terribly, but there was nothing I could do,’ she recalls. By the end of that year, the young girl was suffering terrible physical problems: one of her breasts had been scalded into non-existence while the other developed cysts that were very painful. It was only after she turned 23 last year and got to read her first foreign magazine that she realised that not all girls in the world have to go through this ordeal. What Fomuso has described is the brutal practice of breast ironing that is most common in Cameroon – one-in-four girls are subjected to it so that they look unattractive, remain safe from sexual predators and get to go to school.

‘In my community young girls are seen as ‘fresh meat’. I wanted my daughter to study. I wanted her to pursue her dreams without fear. The sad thing is that she could only do this after compromising on her physical health and appearance. She was safe from men.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: CMRNB10 1060 words
 
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