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Global
An Italian In India: Sculptor Simona's Ode To Women
Humra Quraishi

When Simona Bocchi, a specialist in contemporary sculpture, first landed in India four years back, she knew she couldn't be just another tourist visiting an exotic, spiritual country. The Italian simply had to live here, get a feel of the land and its people, soak in the diversity and channelise all those valuable influences and impressions into her work. Living in the romantic city of Udaipur in Rajasthan, her home away from home, Bocchi has been collaborating with local marble carvers and inlay work specialists to turn lifeless pieces of stone into evocative sculptures. At the heart and soul of her work is the spirit of womanhood, especially that of the hardworking Indian woman, which she tries to capture every time she steps into her studio. Today, as she takes on a different creative medium to express herself – she is penning her biography – Bocchi is also hoping to establish a movement of artists and researchers, where these two categories could exchange ideas on existing in harmony with nature and awakening the consciousness to create a better world.

“I like the feeling of turning a shapeless block of stone into a monumental work of art. When I am in the middle of creating something I eat dust for 12 hours a day for weeks on end.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQN408 1110 words


India
Meet Lakhimi, Financial Whiz For Rural Women
Ratna Bharali Talukdar

Is the banking sector in India women-friendly, especially for the poor and distressed? According to Lakhimi Baruah, 65, who spent a better part of her life working for a bank before establishing the Kanaklata Women Urban Cooperative Bank - the first all-woman bank in the Northeast –commercial institutions have been largely unable to address the needs of those for whom stress-free banking services could be their only way out of a life of penury, providing them freedom from shady money lenders. Years ago, Baruah had realised that for women in difficult circumstance, like someone fighting a bitter divorce battle with an alcoholic husband for instance, approaching a ‘regular’ bank for even a small loan was nothing short of a nightmare, given that there would be complicated paperwork to negotiate and uncaring personnel to deal with. That is why she quit her secure banking job to set up Kanaklata women's bank in the upper Assam town of Jorhat. Overcoming teething troubles and stiff fiscal challenges, Baruah today has not just managed to keep the institution going but is expanding it to reach out to a customer base that chiefly comprises poor, abandoned, single women.

“A woman who is facing discrimination at the hands of her male family members would obviously find it tough to approach a male employee in any financial institution. This is just one of the women-specific issues that our traditional banking system has failed to address.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN410 1240 words


India
Tribal Children Learn To Dream
Pamela Philipose

The Sahariya tribals of Madhya Pradesh, one of India's most marginalised communities, have been subjected to upheavals of all kinds caused by widespread poverty, increasing deforestation and project related displacement. It is the Sahariya children who have suffered the most as a consequence, whether it was in terms of poor nutrition, interrupted schooling or indifferent health. This is why the Freedom from Hunger and Fear Campaign, a unique intervention focusing on the Sahariya community in the two states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, paid special attention to children. By setting up Bal Adhikar Kendras, or child rights resource centres, in 88 villages where it had a presence, the FHFC could empower Sahariya children in unique ways and help them take charge of their lives.

“I have this dream of becoming a doctor. My marks in science are good and I will make every effort to realise that dream!”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN409 1270 words


India
The Banker, The Crusader: Mumbai Poll's Study In Contrast
Smita Deodhar

One has a lifetime of activism to her credit, while the other is well known in corporate India as the former CEO of a major international bank. One chucked a teaching job and left behind a half-completed PhD to spent 30 years criss-crossing the country, exposing corruption, protesting against large dams and land grabs, agitating for the rights of the displaced and the marginalised; the other, a Harvard alumnus with astute economic sensibilities, has had considerable experience in policy formulation. This election, the Aam Aadmi Party has given the poll scene in maximum city Mumbai two contrasting, yet powerful, women. Medha Patkar, 59, and Meera Sanyal, 55, are candidates from North East Mumbai and South Mumbai, respectively. But while the development trajectories envisioned by the two women look quite different, both believe that for inclusive growth, all opinions must be taken into account.

“The AAP has brought people like activist Medha Patkar and me to sit across the table and talk to each other. Creating jobs and conserving the environment at the same time – that's our policy for growth.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN331F 1280 words


India
Battling Child Marriage In Assam's Tea Gardens
Azera Parveen Rahman

Most of the workers in Assam's tea plantations are tribal migrants from Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Their ancestors were brought here as labour more than a century ago and they have stayed on. But while Assam's tea industry has made tremendous progress over the years, reaping large profits, the situation of the workers who constitute its backbone remains dismal. Ignorance, illiteracy, poor health and poverty plague the community and the prevalence of child marriage is only a reflection of this. According to government data, although the prevalence of child marriage in Assam, at 40 per cent, is lower than the national average there are pockets - such as the tea gardens - where the levels are much higher. All hope, however, is not lost. A positive intervention to tackle child marriage in the tea gardens has been the Adolescent Girls Clubs, whose young members have even successfully prevented such marriages.

“Elopements take place all the time. My niece, the daughter of my sister Rupa, was just 15 when she went away with a boy who was around her age from a neighbouring line.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN402 1280 words
 
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