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Bengal’s Women Learn To Extract Good Food From Dry Land
Ajitha Menon

Across 14 villages of Bankura district and six villages of Birbhum district in West Bengal, 800 families are learning to farm dry land anew in a sustainable manner to ensure increased income, less market dependency and food security. This ongoing initiative encourages integrated eco-system based farming on both individual and common land, reduces input costs through recycling of waste material like dung from poultry and cattle to create vermi-compost and bio gas, and seeks to expand the food basket keeping in mind the requirements of the community. Over the last two-and-a-half years, this unique community-based project has been chalking out long- and short-term ways – like the cultivation of crops that require minimum water and have multi-purpose uses or the plantation of fruit trees – to strengthen the nutritional requirements of the families in a sustainable manner.

The industrious women of Bankura and Birbhum are training to make food items with higher nutritional value. They have learnt how to make jaggery from date palm juice, store it, consume it for its calcium and also sell the excess.

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Claiming Freedom From Violence And Fear
Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

Although the nature of public discourse around violence against women in India, especially rape, has been evolving over the years, there are two incidents that can be seen as distinct markers of change. The Mathura Rape Case of 1980 led to the recognition of custodial rapes in the country, and the Nirbhaya Case of December 16, 2012, firmly brought home the issue of a woman’s autonomy. After the brutal gang rape incident came to light, many women – young and old – came out on to the streets to voice their anger. But their rage was not directed against just that one incident. It was an uprising that demanded ‘azaadi’ (freedom) for all women, the freedom from fear. Post-2012, women have started staking claim to their private and public space and silence on sexual violence is no longer an option.

The number of women reporting sexual violence has risen dramatically, which means that women are breaking free from the culture of silence fuelled by shame. Women and their families no longer attach stigma to sexual violence.

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Words That Convey The Pain Of Womanhood
Sudhamahi Regunathan

Sorrow is of two kinds: that which we all have experienced at some point during the course of our normal life and another which is rooted in fear, indignity, hatred and cruel vengeance. This is what is often portrayed in films, written about in newspapers and seen on television and is designed to arouse curiosity rather than evoke sympathy or empathy. This is the kind of intense sorrow that we believe will engulf someone else’s existence but never our own. ‘More Bad Times Tales’, a book of short stories penned by well-known writer, reporter and columnist Humra Quraishi, portrays such sorrow, although, in a departure from the norm, it is raw and real. The accounts are straightforward, strikingly honest and her choice of simple words makes the pain they convey poignant and irreconcilable. Rarely does one get to read a female writer whose work represents the unspoken fears and pains of womanhood, so boldly, so plainly, so poignantly.

‘In between the unmoving thoughts, she continued stuffing crumbs into her son’s mouth, even as he cried aloud, throwing up every little bit. Cried out. Enough to attract attention. Men from the convoy…moved towards her…’

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Why Tivsala’s Women Own Land?
Kavitha Kuruganti

Even though the ‘feminisation’ of Indian agriculture is a well established fact today, women largely continue to be unpaid or poorly-paid workers without any formal entitlements as farmers. Of course, their invisibility in this sector is strongly linked to their lack of ownership over land. That is why when Kavitha Kuruganti of the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch recently visited Yavatmal in Maharashtra and learnt of a village where women comprise over 20 per cent of land owners, she was intrigued. As she decided to dig deeper to find out how the women of Tivsala had managed to overcome a deeply-entrenched patriarchal set up, she discovered some surprising reasons behind this seemingly impressive reality.

‘About five years ago, a new trend started of men transferring a part of the land in the names of their wives… ’

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For Disaster Struck Odiya Women, The Struggles Are Unending
Sarada Lahangir

By rotation, floods, droughts and cyclones cripple the eastern state of Odisha every year leaving millions of hapless families to pick up the pieces. It’s been no different this time, with 23 out of 30 districts being submerged and over 300,000 people rendered homeless. In this present state of chaos, it’s the women and children who have been the worst affected. There’s hardly any food leftover for Sakuntala Sahu after she feeds her family of six; Malti Munda’s children have, once again, had to give up studies as they sit marooned by the roadside under a plastic sheet; and Kuntilata Mantri is reeling under the shock of a tragic miscarriage. When disaster strikes, the responsibility of moving household valuables to safe places, watching over the children and even gathering dry food rations and clothing falls on the shoulders of the womenfolk. Sadly, there is no way to ensure their specific needs are taken care of, as disaster management in the state is largely gender blind.

‘It has been observed that the government is only prepared to the extent of evacuating people and providing relief in terms of rations for one-and-a-half days. What about paying heed to the needs of pregnant women or making available essentials like sanitary napkins.’

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