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Maasai Women Finally Step out Of Their Boma

The word Maasai invokes dramatic images – of a proud ethnic group dressed in vivacious colours and iconic jewellery, of stark African countryside, of herds of cattle that are a measure of a Maasai man’s prosperity. A nomadic, deeply patriarchal tribe – it has the highest rates of child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), illiteracy and poverty – they are certainly not known for boosting female agency. However, today, in the villages at the foothills of Mt. Longido, one hour north of Arusha, Tanzania, the home of the Maasai for generations, the Maasai Women’s Development Organization (MWEDO) is working hard to change this unfortunate reality by providing support for entrepreneurship, business formalisation and land rights. Women like Mama Nalepo Olesein and Mama Neema Olenriya, who could never have imagined creating a legacy of their own, are going all out to empower their lot.

“For generations, only men were allowed to own and inherit land, so they question whether women are fit to be land owners,” says Mama Neema. “But I am also Maasai — I can also fight for my rights,” she adds.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: TANPA11 750 words

The State Of Women In A Framed Terrorist’s Life
Book Excerpt

In 1998, he was kidnapped, tortured and later framed in 18 bomb blast cases. It took him 14 years to prove his innocence and become a free man. When he finally came out of jail, he realised he was stepping into a drastically changed world – he had lost his father and his mother was paralysed. Mohammad Amir Khan waged a long-drawn legal battle, survived torture and solitary confinement and refused to give up his struggle for freedom because he had the staunch support of two women in his life – his mother and a quiet young woman who is now his wife. While his ordeal is much talked about, in this excerpt from ‘Framed As A Terrorist’, published by Speaking Tiger, he shares the traumas of the women who became his strength in the darkest hours. Today, when border conflicts and heart-wrenching stories of bloodshed are making headlines every day, this story is a reminder that in the shadow of violence there can only be grief and regret, usually experienced by the women and children left to pick up the pieces.

Ammi had started coming to the court and meeting me in jail. It was so painful to see her worried face. She had lost weight and looked permanently tired.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDPA13 1200 words

United States
Looking To Change Female Archetypes
Elayne Clift

Women have traditionally been denied The Quest or journey to enlightenment. Locked in their castles birthing future kings, or in convents, where they spent the better part of their lives invisible beyond the cloister gardens, they were denied their hunger for a wider world, their intelligence and courage continually hidden from sight and declared non-existent or illegitimate. Almost the same can be said of women relegated to post-war suburban isolation even though they were, in many cases, well-educated. Many of them who dared to seek a larger role than wife and mother were quickly admonished to go home and make babies when they bravely sought careers. Two of the most easily recognised female archetypes are the Nurturing Mother and the Temptress. The nurturing mother sustains the warrior on his journey, while the temptress tries to seduce him away from his quest through her sexuality. But as columnist, feminist and Democratic Party supporter Elayne Clift observes, in this presidential race, Hillary Clinton is well on her way to creating a whole new female archetype: a woman equal to, and, in this case, surpassing her male counterpart.

After the second presidential debate, Clinton was judged to be off her game for maintaining a calm, polite, focused demeanour in spite of being verbally abused, threatened with imprisonment… by her opponent.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: USAPA10 780 words

Trial By Fire: Women Pick Up The Pieces
Shwetha E. George

The dictionary defines ‘disaster’ in different ways: ‘destruction’, ‘distress’, ‘a total failure’, ‘a grave misfortune’… But to 58-year-old Subhashini, it means “homeless within three hours”; to 24-year-old Neethu, it means “double-shift” as a caregiver to her infant daughter and 33-year-old injured husband; to 56-year-old Chandrika, it means a year-long vigil over her son, Prashant, 28, who is recouping from four surgeries, because today even a fever can end it all for him. These women’s lives didn’t change because of some catastrophic tsunami or earthquake; they were shattered in a single moment because a group of callous temple officials wanted extravagant fireworks despite being denied official permission to do so. Earlier this year, in one of the worst temple fires in the country, hundreds of pilgrims visiting the Puttingal Temple in Kollam, and residents in its vicinity, lost their lives and loved ones. Several months have gone by and yet the survivors, especially women, are unable to come to terms with the tragedy. When disaster strikes, particularly a manmade one such as this, it’s usually the women who set aside their grief to pick up the pieces. But ever so often they are left wondering if it was avoidable and whether the rescue and rehabilitation services are indeed adequate.

“The uncertainty was killing,” she recalls, “We didn’t know if he was dead or taken injured to the hospital. It took four hours before one of our relatives spotted him in the general ward of the Medical College.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDPA03I 1290 words

The Gendered View From Behind The Lens
Kirthi Jayakumar

Ever since Vaishnavi Sundar was little she was really uncomfortable with the way patriarchal social rules defined her entire existence. As a child, the family “dictated what I needed to wear, who I needed to talk to and which uncle’s lap I could to sit on…” Then when she left the “safe” confines of her Cantonment home on the outskirts of Chennai, it was “the city spaces and the job [read bosses] that defined my boundaries, rewards and expectations”. In India, most girls “learn to live within the rules” and even though they may feel stifled they never really speak out. Frustrated with the status quo Sundar decided to break the mould: she switched from her corporate career to being a full-time writer, actor and filmmaker, and set up a unique community of filmmakers who are women – or identify themselves as women. This 85-member strong global network is a year old and still going strong with its anti-bourgeois, anti-bigotry and pro-gender and equality messages that are brought to life on screen through innovative storytelling.

‘Language has a very important part to play when we discuss about gender equality, because, let’s face it, ‘gender’ is one immensely complicated knot with no ends. We need awareness, sensitivity …to manoeuvre conversations.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDPA04 1250 words
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