Features this week
November 24, 2014
   

Provocative. Daring.Awesome.Young Kerala Triggers A Debate For Change

   

Breast Ironing: ‘Yes, I Did This to My Daughter’

   

Old and Fragile, Basanti Fights Apathy And Insecurity


 
   

The Different Strokes of Women Text and Photos: Madhubani Artists

   

Legalisation or De-criminalisation? Sex Workers Speak Their Mind

   

Oh, To Be A Woman Rebel

   

How To Transform A Defunct Rural Health Centre Into A Model Facility

   

To Empower Women, Take A Cue From Rural Men In Maharashtra

   

Manipuri Mothers Want Another ‘Women’s Agitation’

   

Deconstructing The Mind Of The ‘Masculine’ Indian Male

   
   


 
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India
The Different Strokes of Women Text and Photos: Madhubani Artists
Tahir Ahmed

At first glance, it seems to be just another nondescript rural hamlet in India - acres of flat, green agricultural land, stacks of harvested crops by the roadside, a small cluster of modest dwellings… Yet, this rather plain countryside has a remarkable history and heritage. It is home to one of the most intricate, colourful and expressive traditional art forms – the Madhubani. Ranti village is where the “barely literate” Mahasundari Devi shed her purdah (veil) and picked up the brush to make a name for herself as one of the foremost practitioners of a fine art that typically draws its inspiration from Hindu mythology or scenes from everyday rural life. Today, the great artist may be no more but her sister, Karpuri Devi, lives and paints there along with several other women who are keen to take the legacy forward. Meet Karpuri, 86, Dulari, 49, and Mahalaxmi, 26, three generations of women artists from Ranti and Jaitpur in Bihar’s Madhubani district, who are generously using the characteristic red, yellow, green, black and geru colours of the Madhubani to give this ancient art form their own new twists. An evocative photo essay that captures all their different strokes.

“My paintings reflect the times we live in. They depict women’s empowerment. I truly believe that today we women have to be our own Ram and liberate ourselves. I want to be independent after marriage and continue painting.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNB14 900 words


India
Legalisation or De-criminalisation? Sex Workers Speak Their Mind
Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

Recently, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), openly advocated legalising sex work in India to regulate the trade and ensure better living conditions for women engaged in commercial sex work. According to her, legalisation would also bring down trafficking and lower the incidence of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sounds fair, doesn’t it? However, ask sex workers and activists who have been working with them since decades and they have a rather sceptical outlook. They opine that legalisation of the business will not really help the women; it would simply mean that the State would have more control over their mobility and increase their vulnerability to mandatory testing for HIV and STDs. To bring about any real positive change in their lives, the government needs to disassociate voluntary sex work from trafficking and accordingly amend laws criminalising those in the trade. And ‘if there is a law to be created to benefit us then it has to be made with our participation,’ they declare.

“We do welcome the interest of the NCW towards our betterment, but we are aware that legalisation will lead to regulations, which would mean more control over our community.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNB11 1200 words


India
Oh, To Be A Woman Rebel
Ninglun Hanghal

Northeast India has been witness to violent cessationist and nationalist movements for nearly six decades now. In Assam, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) led one of the most prominent and violent “struggles” in the region for three long decades before the peace process began in 2011. Whereas descriptions of armed revolutions are tinged with generous doses of romanticism and mostly revolve around the male cadres, what about the women who join the ranks to fight for ‘freedom’? According to a latest research paper, women combatants have never really been given their due in history. While they too have a definitive political consciousness and are driven by ideas of freedom and unity, they end up leading veiled, forgotten lives. The ULFA women are no different. Today, they have been reduced to irrelevance – on the one hand they have no real role to play in conflict resolution or the peace talks, on the other, they are struggling to make ends meet.

‘The former combatants are never fully empowered or wholly rehabilitated. Even their voices and stories do not find a mention in the footnotes of history.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNB13 1200 words


India
How To Transform A Defunct Rural Health Centre Into A Model Facility
Ajitha Menon

One simply needs to walk into the Health Sub Centre (HSC) at Marwatoli village in Bihar’s Kishanganj district to see what a well-run health facility should be like. It’s spacious, neat and well-equipped with a separate labour room for conducting safe deliveries. Stationed on duty every day are two Auxillary Nurse Midwives (ANMs), who take turns to carry out immunisation as well as to monitor and counsel pregnant women and adolescents. Looking at this, it’s hard to believe that till a year back, Marwatoli HSC was just another one of the numerous defunct small health centres that dot the region – its structure was completely dilapidated and the overgrown compound was being used by the locals to dry clothes and graze cattle. Then came the activists of the Bihar Voluntary Health Association, who, as part of a special health intervention launched by Oxfam India, motivated villagers like Anjari Begum, Shimoli Devi, Noorjabi Khatun, Mahendra Prasad Harijan, and others, to work together to ensure quality healthcare for everyone in the panchayat. That today Marwatoli has zero infant mortality and nearly 100 per cent institutional delivery is a proof of the strength of their collective action.

“We decided that our priority was to get the HSC functional and for this we mounted a strong campaign. We wrote letters to the panchayat and the District Magistrate urging them to utilise the untied funds given to each village to repaint and refurnish the HSC.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNB03O 1220 words


India
To Empower Women, Take A Cue From Rural Men In Maharashtra
Suchismita Pai

From expecting his wife to wait on him hand-and-foot, even having her draw his bath water, to lending a hand around the house, bathing his daughter and helping to conduct the first fair election in his village in over 40 years, Manikchand Dhanashetty, from Borgaon in Solapur district of Maharashtra, has come a long way. Sangeeta Banne, the first woman sarpanch of Chapalgaonwadi, a small village in Akkalkot taluka of Solapur, doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the supportive role the male members of her family played while she was fighting an ugly election battle against her male opponent, who had previously been elected unopposed for a decade… A wonderful transformation has taken place among men and boys across 100 rural hamlets in Maharashtra. Under a unique initiative supported by the Centre for Health and Social Justice and United Nations Population Fund, efforts are being made to help them move away from an age-old patriarchal mindset towards sharing a more equitable relationship with the women in their lives. These days, young girls and women in Solapur, Beed and Pune districts are getting an education, playing sports and even giving their input for Ganapati celebrations, all thanks to the backing of their changed menfolk.

“Engaging men in breaking gender stereotypes has led to significant changes such as the joint registration of property in the name of husband and wife and marriages taking place without the exchange of dowry. Men are becoming champions of change in ending child marriages.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNB04U 1250 words
 
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