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Lessons From Kayla Mueller’s Tragic End?
Elayne Clift

Like many other bright twenty-somethings, Kayla Mueller gave everyone a reason to hope for a better future - when our kinder natures might prevail to prove that love conquers all. One only has to look at pictures of her bright, smiling face to know what she might have given the world had she made it out of Syria alive. And therein lies the tragedy of her untimely death, and the lessons it might hold for other young, vital idealists, who want to head off to foreign lands to help people in war-torn zones. Before you do go into previously uncharted territories, answer some fundamental questions: what is my plan and is it realistic? Am I properly prepared; how dangerous is it and what are the costs and benefits? How will I make a difference, and maybe most important of all, who will have my back when I need to get out of there?

‘The journalist who met Kayla on the Turkish border with Syria before she embarked on her mission described Kayla as “young and na?ve”. The seasoned professional … worried about what would happen to her, especially in the absence of training and affiliation.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: OPIO217 910 words

South Asian Women Hope For Good Work And Fair Wages
Anuradha Shukla

Delhi-based Girija, 35, has to provide for her three children, and this responsibility does not allow her to rest easy. Whereas earlier, she used to roll incense sticks, these days, she embroiders ‘kurtas’ (shirts) for a local designer who pays her Rs 120 for a set of three. Failing eyesight and severe backache notwithstanding, Girija does what she has to “because I need the money”. In Peshawar, Huma is part of a group of women that weaves blankets for an exporter although they get a paltry Rs 15 per finished piece. With rigid social barriers and the lack of education hampering their prospects of getting organised work these poor women are only glad to get some money of their own. Mother-of-two, Nauheen, who works in a textile unit in Dhaka, gets just a few hundred takas for long hours of labour and is also vulnerable to sexual harassment. Girija, Huma, Nauheen may be separated by geographical boundary but their fate is similar. As informal sector workers in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, respectively, they live and work in pitiable conditions and are prone to exploitation and ill-health. But not for long – if organisations like Women In Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) and HomeNet South Asia, that are committed to securing their rights, have any say in the matter.

“Forming a group or a union certainly helps. I am working for a group in Kathmandu that makes ‘bindis’ and apparel. Since we got organised we are much better paid.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: QQQO216 1290 words

An Italian In India: Sculpting Narratives Against Trafficking
Bhanu Priya Vyas

Two years ago, Italian sculptor and artist Janine Von Thungen met Ruchira Gupta, founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an anti-trafficking organisation, who took her to a children’s home in Najafgarh, a bustling urban village on the fringes of Delhi. There she met children of sex workers and those who came from families that were into prostitution, many of whom had been told that “they have to only get married and become a prostitute”. Thungen, 50, a mother of two daughters, was shocked and surprised. Like all teenagers, these girls, too, were fun-loving, mischievous, liked flattery and harboured dreams of becoming doctors, teachers, even make-up artists, but this world of possibilities was not open to them. The evocative interaction prompted her to create a series of sculptures, representative of all defenceless teenage girls, who end up falling prey to trafficking and prostitution. Of course, unlike most art work, which viewers can only appreciate from a distance, Thungen’s armless girl structured with wire mesh, encourages people to tie an ‘aware of sex trafficking’ band around it and pull out a few strands of the synthetic hair, that form the core of the sculpture, as a take back.

“I hope when I visit next, I will find the wire mesh empty and many more people around me armed with knowledge about sex trafficking and agenda to curtail it.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO219 1200 words

In Rajasthan, Budgeting To Safeguard Mothers
Annapurna Jha

An hour’s drive from the bustling town of Chittorgarh, the celebrated land of heroic warriors in Rajasthan, meet Suman Jain, a modern-day “soldier”, from Bheru Singhji ka Kheda village, who is striving to provide equitable healthcare to mothers and children in the area. Jain, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), is working closely with the Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committee (VHSNC) to enhance the quality of services provided at the nearby Health Sub-Centre (HSC), in addition to improving the state of sanitation and hygiene there. As one of the co-signatories to the bank account that receives untied funds for shoring up healthcare, among other facilities in the village, under the National Health Mission, Jain is thrilled that she has been able to affect some real change. Since 2012-13, the VHSNC has been getting this valuable sum that they utilise the way they deem fit in consensus with the people. Today, like Bheru Singhji ka Kheda, there are 95 villages across Chittorgarh and Pratapgarh districts, where the VHSNC is actively using this money to buy basic medical supplies and refurbish infrastructure not just in the HSC but the village, too

“We have purchased a weighing scale and a BP machine as we know this would facilitate the check up of pregnant women and young children. In addition, we have got a tank with tap installed at the HSC from the money allotted for the year 2013-14.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO210O 1240 words

Three Years and Counting… Striking, Rising, Dancing Against Violence And P
Chetna Verma

“We lie to ourselves that ‘it is my choice’. Most of the things done by women are to please the society. We are the target of capitalist patriarchy, pornography, trafficking and cosmetic industry. They want us to surrender but we must rise against it.”… On the streets where eve teasers roam free and from where rapists can pick up any woman they want to violate and brutalise in the worst possible ways, in offices where women are vulnerable to sexual harassment, inside homes from where the vicious cycle of gender discrimination begins, and in each and every space where patriarchy rears its ugly head, thousands of girls and women have answered the call of the One Billion Rising (OBR) movement - to break the chains of confinement, dance to the tunes of freedom and speak up loud and clear against gender violence. As far as movements go, OBR, which has completed three years, “celebrates and liberates” women everywhere, encouraging them to “stop seeing themselves as victims” and “take back control of their lives”. Rural and urban, illiterate and learned, able and disabled, women, men and alternate genders, everyone under the inclusive OBR umbrella has found a voice and heart to demand a society that sees women as individuals in their own right and not as puppets who merely fulfil their gendered roles.

“How do we liberate ourselves from the stranglehold of patriarchy? We dance, we sing, we take to the streets.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO213J 1200 words
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