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‘There is a magic in sports’ Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

India is celebrating women power in sport. Two young, talented sportspersons have defied social norms and worked relentlessly to etch their name in the history books – Haryana girl Sakshi Malik is first female wrestler to win an Olympic medal, while the southern smasher P.V. Sindhu is first to bring home an Olympic silver in badminton. Indeed, sport has emerged as one of the best ways to trash stereotype and set change in motion. UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka firmly believes that “sports …puts girls and women in the best, positive light. It shows off their strength and their capacity to be winners” and here she talks about how sport can truly empower women.

‘In thinking about Agenda 2030 and in thinking about the Sustainable Development Goals, we see sports as one of the important building blocks to take us there.'

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‘He Only Hits Me When He is Drunk’
Taru Bahl

Triveni lives in Hisar, Haryana. Her husband works in the city and visits her over the weekend. She dreads Friday evenings, for it means his arrival in an inebriated state after catching up with local buddies. The scene repeats itself over the next two days. Arguments, slanging matches and abuses ensue. Sometimes he hits her; often he flings things at her. They see the weekend through with a few bruises, damages to the home and loss of face in the neighbourhood. Finances get impacted with him giving only a part of his earnings. And worse of all, Triveni usually gets saddled with unplanned, unwanted pregnancies, urinary tract infections and pent up anger and frustration at a situation that she finds herself completely incapable of handling. Her son is growing up and she fears a more violent outburst between the two, with implications that could be life threatening, to say the least. Excessive alcohol consumption leading to violence is not a new or unknown reality. What is worrying is the fact that most women live in denial and are unable to seek help at the right time.

“He is otherwise a gentle person. It is only alcohol that makes him lose control. Yet, I do not think he will harm me physically to the extent that I need to fear about losing my life or landing up with a permanent disability.”

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‘Whoever's Heard Of Women Asserting Their Rights, Owning Assets?'
Pushpa Achanta

Like elsewhere in India, the status of women in Bidar, a backward district in northern Karnataka, is pitiable. Do they have ownership of the homes they so lovingly nurture? Walk into any home in Soralli village in Aurad taluk and pose this question to the woman of the house and this would be the standard reply: ‘Our home is registered in the name of my father-in-law or husband'. Inquire why she or her mother-in-law has not considered becoming independent or joint owners of the property and there is thundering silence. Ok, let's talk about reproductive rights. Do the women have a say in the number of children they want? Or have adequate knowledge and access to facilities that can enable them to make an informed decision? Balamma, who has seven children, is a living testimony to the fact that she has been unable to take a stand and get birth control. Turning to the issue of livelihood, whereas women here bear the double burden of labouring at home and in the fields, when it comes to wages, there's complete inequality because women's work is considered of lesser value than the men. All this may sound very depressing right now but fortunately, change is just round the corner because with the support of a unique initiative Bidar's women are starting to learn to stand up for themselves.

“As we keep repeating our messages time and again, many women - and some men too - have started paying heed to the essence of our recommendations.”

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Hunger Haunts Jamuna
Sarada Lahangir

India just celebrated its 69th Independence Day. Yes, the country's come very far – we've had missions to the moon, we've made great strides in industrial growth, education levels are respectable, our granaries are supposedly full, Bollywood is booming ... and yet as we rejoice in our successes and achievements, do spare a thought for 23-year-old Jamuna Pradhan, who has to live with the trauma of seeing her infant die in her lap as she tried to find medical help in the remote reaches of Odisha's Jajpur district. It's indeed a blot that even today mothers like Jamuna have to see their children succumb to severe malnutrition. In fact, from Jajpur alone there have been a significant number of malnutrition related deaths in the recent past, mostly in poor Juanga tribal families. Although the state machinery swung into action soon enough, the apathy that leads to a situation like this one is baffling. Surely, malnutrition has been one of the enduring enigmas of contemporary India as, despite years of rapid economic growth, child malnutrition rates have only just started to show signs of improvement.

“There are 56 children in the 0-6 years age group and 11 pregnant and lactating women in Nagada village. Nobody gets breakfast and noon meal under the ICDS programme.”

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Palak's Inspiring Clean Up Act
Alka Pande

There's no challenge that Palak Gaur finds insurmountable today. After all, the 19-year-old has spearheaded the clean-up of her ‘malin basti’, small neighbourhood of 45 homes tucked away in a larger slum located on Baba Ghat, flanking the Ganges in Kanpur, the industrial capital of Uttar Pradesh. Last year, the youngster decided that she was no longer ‘okay’ with staying in a locality where rancid stench and heaps of rotting rubbish were such an intrinsic part of their everyday existence that it didn't even bother the residents. So one day she started off by taking charge of clearing out a large garbage dumping area just outside her home. It took half-a-day and more than 20 trips but she managed to do the job. No one may have come to her assistance that day but she has, in the last 12 months, managed to galvanise the support of her neighbours and together they have ensured that their streets are regularly cleaned by the municipal worker, have gotten government funds sanctioned to build toilets in all homes and even had a half-constructed sewer line completed and operational.

“It's my mission to convert this ‘malin basti’ into a ‘model ‘basti’, which is open defecation free.”

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