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Paving The Way For Egyptian Women To Excel

Every time she heard someone saying that she should be doing something else, Caroline Amasis Maher’s determination grew and she trained even harder. She ignored the naysayers and the cultural barriers by not only playing a male-dominated sport but also excelling in it. In 2011, Maher was ranked 12th on the World Taekwondo Federation’s World Athlete Ranking. And then last year, she became the first Arab-African woman to be inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame – the highest and most prestigious recognition in the sport. Of course, just as this meteoric rise to the top makes her extremely proud she credits her success to a strong family, who did everything to support her dreams of becoming a sports icon. But her ambitions didn't stop there, and neither did her dreams. The 20-year-old Egyptian journalism graduate is currently pursuing her MBA and working for Helm, an NGO that assists people with disabilities, so that one day they can all have an education, job opportunities and take part in sports – and make their dreams a reality, too. In this one-on-one, Maher, talks about overcoming the patriarchal challenges that came her way, that wonderful moment when she raises the Egyptian flag at sporting arenas after victory and her commitment towards striving for equal opportunities for disabled people.

“I am very interested in working with people with disabilities and I aim that one day they will live a normal life in their own country, which includes education, sports and job opportunities.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: EGYO727 840 words

Prakhriti’s Teen Troubles: Survival, Equality, Rights
Saadia Azim

Prakhriti Thaodem, 17, from West Imphal in Manipur, was born with HIV and she has learnt to live with it. Apart from the fact that it’s normal for her to have medicines just like most people have their food there’s nothing that sets her apart from her peers. And yet, all she desperately wants today is “not to be discriminated” or treated any different than other children. Presently, there are more than 21 lakh people living with HIV in India, including over 1.5 lakh children. Whereas the second generation living with HIV is vigilant and sensitive, fear and anxiety is still a big part of their existence. They are scared that they will not get admission in a competent learning institution, a good job will be out of their reach, they will never be able to marry, get their rightful inheritance or do all the things that are usually taken for granted. Recently, many of them got together in Imphal to draw attention to their struggle “for a life beyond discrimination and hatred”. In fact, they have even drawn up a 15-point resolution as a precursor to a nationwide advocacy campaign that will address issues like health, stigma, education, nutrition, disclosure and succession rights.

“There has to be some law to protect us. While on the one hand we fight the battle for our life, on the other, people do not want us near them.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO729 1250 words

Of Ferguson, Feminism And Faith
Elayne Clift

In colonial America and beyond, men, women and children, stolen from their native countries, were stripped naked, beaten, chained and sometimes caged, then sold to the highest bidder. Today, in Iraq and Syria, women and girls are also kidnapped, beaten, caged, forced to undergo virginity tests, and sold to their captors for as little as the price of a pack of cigarettes in some cases. This as well as the recent spate of shoot outs in the US is dark reminder that atrocities are taking place in our own time just as they did long ago. Most of the deeply moving stories of the people caught in these scenarios will never be really known. But this much we do know: Racism, human chattel, misogyny and stereotyping continue unabated in a country that insists upon seeing itself as a self-righteous model, and in a world growing ever darker, while these blots on our collective soul continue to destroy our common humanity.

‘The testimonials that emerged during the civil rights and women’s movements had much to teach us about the power of truth-telling in public arenas. That …taught us that we are not very different from each other in matters of the heart and spirit.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: OPIO728 830 words

Girls Gang Up Against Early Marriage

By the time she turned 10, Uma Kumari of Badgaon village in Uttar Pradesh's Siddharth Nagar district was married off in keeping with the general practice in the area. But unlike all her friends, who met with the same unfortunate fate, this once-quiet, unassuming youngster, who is now in her late teens, has become one of the most determined voices against child marriage in the region. Today, if anyone tries to marry off their daughter before she turns 18, or if child brides are being sent off to their marital homes after 'gauna' (as the formal nuptial ceremony is called) before they attain the legal age, parents have to answer to Uma and her passionate youth 'activist' gang. Through awareness meetings and other outreach activities this courage crusader has inspired many to stand up against early nuptials.

Geeta, 15, from Dohni village, has found her mentor in Uma. While the duo works closely for their cause, Geeta has, in fact, lobbied in her own home to delay her marriage. Her friends Durgawati, 15, and Beenu, 14, who were married early, have joined them in their endeavours as they want to delay their ‘gauna’.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDM807R 1290 words

These Young Men Are Ready For Responsible Family Planning
Aditi Bishnoi

In most traditional Indian families, couples are unable to hold frank discussions on that commonly avoided but critical issue called family planning. Do they want children? If so, when best to start a family? How many children should they have? What are the contraceptive methods available and best suited to them? Now imagine a scenario where young men understand the importance of equality within marriage and are even willing to share contraceptive responsibility. Meet Ajay Kumar, 23, the resident of a slum in South Delhi. This young, father-of-one is concerned about his wife's well being and doesn't want to add another member to his family for the next few years. He understands that a minimum gap of three years between children will not only keep his wife healthy but enable him to give his family a better, more fulfilling life. Fortunately, Ajay is part of a growing tribe in his neighbourhood, all thanks to an innovative intervention that reaches out to boys and young men, between 15 and 19 years, with key messages related to reproductive health and family planning in order to change attitudes.

“If one takes a look at the demographics of India, there’s a huge youth bulge. Also, 50 per cent of all children born are to young people in the age group of 25 and below. So, if we want to enable couples to truly plan their families then we have to inform them when they are young.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDM314R 1250 words
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