Features this week
April 19, 2015
   

Women Health Workers Get ‘Smart’, Tech Savvy

   

Courage Chronicles: Women Who Spoke Up Against Sexual Harassment

   

Empowering Craftspersons, Rethinking Dhokra Tribal Art


 
   

Rafea Um Gomar: Engineer, Elected Representative, Bedouin Role Model

   

Taslima’s Choice: Be The ‘Bad Wife’ Or Get HIV

   

Exploring The Links Between Rape, Patriarchy, Society

   

Community Action Revives A Sick Primary Health Centre

   

When Geeta Discovered The Power Of Pink

   

‘Women’s Health Is Everyone’s Health’ Melinda Gates

   

For These New Moms, Yehi Hai Right Choice Baby!

   
   


 
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Jordan
Rafea Um Gomar: Engineer, Elected Representative, Bedouin Role Model

Born and raised in a remote Bedouin community in Jordan, Rafea Um Gomar has had to overcome abject poverty, face persecution by her own family members, and fight the conservative traditions to become the first female solar engineer in her country.

‘Imagine, now I can say that I am the very first female solar engineer in Jordan, which in my community is even difficult for a man to say. Indeed, not even men can aspire to achieve such an education.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: JORO406 1200 words


India
Taslima’s Choice: Be The ‘Bad Wife’ Or Get HIV

Taslima Banu, 26, lost her husband to AIDS in 2006 but she does not mourn his death. If at all, she blames him bitterly for consciously and forcibly infecting her. Her husband was a migrant labourer working in Mumbai for a few years. It was after he came back to their hometown, Kolkata, that he underwent medical tests that revealed his positive status. Even then he did not share the details with her. It was when she got an STD that she suspected something was amiss and requested that he use condoms. Instead of paying heed, he would beat her up and force himself on her saying: ‘If I die what will you live for?’ Despite enduring the trauma of marital rape nearly every day, Taslima could never share any of this with her close relatives. After all, how could she refuse her husband sex? How could she demand that he use protection? Wouldn’t people immediately declare her to be a ‘bad wife’? In this excerpt from ‘Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS: Exploring Politics of Women’s Health in India’, published by Sage, Skylab Sahu, author, teacher and independent researcher, reveals how women like Taslima, trapped by patriarchal norms, are rendered powerless and pushed into a life of disease and death.

‘She could not protect herself from infection, as initially she could not understand how to react against forcible and violent sexual behaviour of her husband. She thought it was shameful to disclose such a private affair.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO408 1000 words


India
Exploring The Links Between Rape, Patriarchy, Society
Vinita Bakshi

So, the uproar over ‘India’s Daughter’, the BBC documentary on the Nirbhaya rape case, seems to have all but died down now. From the government’s blanket ban on broadcasting it in India to heated debates in newsprint, on television and social media over ethics, the freedom of press and women’s status and patriarchy, there was a lot of rhetoric and discussion around the film, which grabbed everyone’s attention for the “regressive, disgusting, insensitive and inhuman” remarks made by one of the rapists and his lawyer. While statements like ‘a decent girl won't roam around at nine o'clock at night; a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy’, or ‘housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes’, naturally triggered passionate, enraged reactions at the time, today, perhaps, we can take back a few valuable lessons from this. As gender crimes continue to rise, and, fuelled by patriarchal notions, men try to assert their superiority through violence, isn’t it time we reflect on how we are raising our male children? Are Indian families really proffering sexism? After all, it’s only up to us to put our house in order.

Rape today is a universal problem faced by women all over the world and certainly not just confined to India. Therefore, if we want to see change, the debates, too, have to be global.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO409 1000 words


India
Community Action Revives A Sick Primary Health Centre
Annapurna Jha

For years, the Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Devgarh, in Rajasthan’s Pratapgarh district, had been functioning poorly. While the building was badly maintained – the toilets used to be filthy, there was no water supply and the waiting area was used to store junk – more often than not the duty doctor used to be absent. Consequently, patients coming in from 36 villages in the area were simply turned away. Everyone was putting up with the situation as they didn’t think there was a way out. Till one day when the desperate pleas of the relatives of a young pregnant woman in need of urgent attention were completely ignored and their patience ran out. The poor tribal people of Devgarh got together under the guidance of their Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committee (VHSNC) and chalked out a radical plan of action to turn their “sick PHC” around. Today, quite remarkably, the community has access to free diagnostic tests, medicines and treatment facility, all of which have been most beneficial to expectant women, who no longer have to bear unnecessary expense or exertion in going all the way to the district hospital. That collective effort can enable a community to secure their rightful entitlements is the most important lesson the residents of Devgarh learnt when Prayas, a local non-profit, and Oxfam India began working with them as part of a maternal health intervention underway in the region.

“Thankfully, the PHC at Devgarh became operational by the time she was ready to give birth. Our ASHA arranged for the ambulance to take her there and within a few hours we had a healthy baby in our hands.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO330O 1270 words


India
When Geeta Discovered The Power Of Pink

Who hasn’t heard of the Pink Sari gang, the powerful, all-women vigilante group set up by Sampat Pal in the badlands of Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh? Feared and admired in equal measure, she has her own brand of justice and morality, which frequently invites the ire of the prevalent patriarchal and caste hierarchies. Of course, instead of backing down, a fearless and frank Sampat grandly rises to the occasion every time a woman needs her help to fight exploitation and, in the process, she inspires many others to follow in her footsteps. Like Geeta, who was watching television one afternoon when she saw the news item that featured a group of women in pink officiating a ‘love marriage’, an absolute no-no in the region. To the young woman, who had herself eloped to marry, the unusual news was a revelation. ‘If they can do this, why can’t I?’ she wondered. In a few days, she was at Sampat’s doorstep asking if she could join her Pink Gang. What happened next? Find out in this excerpt from ‘Pink Sari Revolution – A Tale of Women and Power in Pink’ by Amana Fontanella Khan, published by Pan Macmillan.

She always scolds me saying, “Wear a sari, wear a sari,” but I don’t!” Geeta laughs.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO401 1200 words
 
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