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Ageing Has A Female Face
Silke Staab

Over the first half of the current century, the global population aged 60 years and over is projected to double, reaching 2 billion by 2050. This raises important questions. Can health and pension systems live up to the challenge of population ageing? Who will care for the growing number of frail elderly persons? These are hot political issues in many developed countries. But two thirds of the world’s elderly actually live in the developing world and by 2050, this share will have risen to nearly 80 per cent. The challenge of providing income security and care for all older persons is daunting where poverty is widespread, health systems already overburdened, and kinship, family and community support increasingly stretched. Of course, whereas ageing is inevitable, the gender injustices that come along with it should not. Today, unfortunately, gender inequality in old age is as much about cash as it is about care. It is ironic that women who often spend a lifetime caring for others end up poor, because of pension systems that fail to recognise this work, and have no one to rely on when they themselves become frail.

Globally, only about half of people above the retirement age enjoy access to an old-age pension. In most countries, women are less likely than men to receive one and, where they do their benefit, levels are usually lower.

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 WFS Ref: OPIP509 750 words

Saudi Arabia
‘We Are Fighting On All Fronts’
Aditi Bhaduri

A charismatic politician, a bold and vociferous supporter of women’s political and social rights, a respected voice in Foreign Policy and Security Affairs – these are not the attributes that are generally associated with a woman who has been born and brought up in the otherwise ultra conservation Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And yet, Dr Thuraya Al Arrayed is all that and much more. As a member of the Shura Council in the Kingdom, the well-informed, reasonable and fearless Arab leader has been concertedly working towards “creating employment opportunities that facilitate women in entering the workforce, floating health programmes that cater to their particular needs, improving procedures in courts that deal with women entangled in family disputes like divorce or inheritance issues” in a bid to narrow down the stark gender gaps that exist in her country. But that’s not all – while one would imagine that the female council members would automatically deal with the gender issues, surprisingly, Al Arrayed has also been making her presence felt in the committees on Foreign Affairs, Security Affairs and Social Affairs because “everything ultimately does impact a woman’s life”.

“The major task before us is to convince the large segment of the population that is still unsure and hesitant to trust the ability of women to play a major role in developing society.”

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 WFS Ref: SARP308R 1220 words

Crumbs! A Bread–Maker Tells Her Story
Book Excerpt

Bread, a staple in nearly every home around the world, the mainstay of every meal, has a distinct connect with womenfolk. In India, talented, imaginative homemakers across the length and breadth of the country have come up with their very own versions of leavened and unleavened breads, perfected over centuries. In fact, even today an average middle-class woman’s day begins with kneading dough and ends with rolling out perfectly round and leavened ‘chapattis’. In ‘Crumbs! Bread Stories and Recipes for the Indian Kitchen’, published by Hachette India, Saee Koranne-Khandekar recounts her journey of becoming a bread-maker – initial blunders notwithstanding – and shares some trade secrets with the dough-despairing home-cooks. In this excerpt, read all about the experience of stepping into an old-world Irani bakery and sampling some delectable essentials like ‘bun-maska’, ‘khaari’, ‘laadi pao’ and ‘akuri’…

‘In the background, bent old Parsi ladies, clad in their floral-print frocks that were gathered at their tiny waists, made their way to the counter with great effort to buy their daily supply of bread, after having paid a solitary visit to the fire temple just down the road.’

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 WFS Ref: INDP512 1000 words

Climate Change Eclipses Women Artisans’ Livelihood
Rakhi Ghosh

The year was 1999. When the super cyclone hit coastal Odisha bringing mind–numbing death and massive destruction in its wake, the women of the worst–affected Ersama and Balikuda blocks in Jagatsinghpur district decided to get back on their feet by doing what they knew best — weaving beautiful artefacts from the local wild golden grass, popularly known as kaincha. Tirelessly working at home, then setting out to collect the grass from the swampy marshlands, coming back and getting down to making utility items, from baskets to book stands, and then ensuring their sale — there’s a lot these women have done, and continue to do, to keep their home fires burning and providing for their children. But whereas they successfully managed to overcome the nightmarish situation brought on by the cyclone, and, today, have even managed to create a federation that enables them to market their wares and earn better, the vagaries of nature are once again starting to threaten their way of life. Inclement weather conditions, brought on by climate change, have severely affected the growth and availability of kaincha, forcing women to either scale down their work or dig into their pockets to buy the grass from elsewhere.

“In extreme heat the grass dries up and can’t be used for weaving handicraft. Heavy rainfall affects the roots and impacts its growth. Over the last three years, poor weather has affected our work bringing down our income.”

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 WFS Ref: INDP502F 1200 words

Bengal’s Transgender Poll Officers Make History
Dipanjana Dasgupta

It’s been a long, tough fight for rights, recognition and respect but, gradually, the transgender community seems to be finding the right opportunities to link up to the mainstream. Recently, in poll bound West Bengal, Protima Sharma and Riya Sarkar made quiet history when they were picked out by the State Election Commission to officiate as polling agent and polling officer, respectively. Whereas Sharma, a Commerce graduate associated with a non government organisation for transgender rights, “welcomed the decision of the election body to consciously include transgender people into the poll process”, Sarkar, a government school teacher, was “thrilled” to be appointed as the presiding officer at booth number 260 in Rashbehari constituency, Kolkata, and was “happy that people are addressing me as madam”. Ever since the Supreme Court has officially recognised transgender people as the third gender, there have been many instances where they have tried to “integrate fearlessly, speak up and become visible” but these attempts are not yet rid of rejection and rebuke. Whereas even Sharma and Sarkar had to contend with the usual stares and not–so–subtle derogatory remarks, the community at large is ready to do what it takes to change attitudes.

“This is a significant victory for us. I appreciate the initiative taken by the Election Commission. Also, it's remarkable that people from our community are participating in the electoral process fearlessly as the third gender.”

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 WFS Ref: INDP503 11000 words
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