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Step Into The World Of Working Indian Women
Book Excerpt

When Alice Clark, historian and scholar of gender and society in India, decided to look into what led Indian women to seek a career, and also trace the change in ambition in them over the decades, she had several questions in mind: how are their choices shaped or constrained by the web of relationships in which they are embedded? How are the changes in their choices being shaped by historical forces that are still unfolding? What effects do their choices have on the overall system of social reproduction? The answers to these and many other queries centred on women’s work are reflected in her latest book, ‘Valued Daughters: First-Generation Career Women’, published by Sage Publications, which outlines the spread of ambition among young urban women in the country, who are affecting many changes by stepping out of their traditional roles to pursue higher education and jobs in cities. In this excerpt, let’s take a look at who is a career-minded young woman’s staunchest supporter in the family, before and sometimes even after marriage.

“They never regretted not having a son; they’ve always encouraged us to do everything a boy would do. … He wants to complete his dreams through me.”

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This One’s For The Special Children
Smita Deodhar

Bengaluru-based Hamsa Priya is a spirited mother of two, who has taken it upon herself to prepare her children for the tough life ahead. Priya’s children – Aashrita, 8, and Ishaan, 5, have MPS 3A, a rare genetic condition that affects the brain and the spinal cord. Till a few years back, understanding their particular needs and providing them with rehabilitative care was proving to be a real tough task, but today, she is happy that she is not bearing this responsibility all by herself. In fact, at the rehabilitation centres run by the Tamahar Trust, brainchild of occupational therapist Vaishali Pai, over a 100 children with conditions like autism, cerebral palsy, chromosomal disorders, intellectual impairment and epileptic disorders, among other syndromes and rare diseases, and their families are receiving treatment and counselling to help them cope. With the help of physical therapy, neuro linguistic programmimg, kineseiotaping and manual muscle work, along with alternate methods like yoga, art and music, children like Aashrita, Ishaan, Nitish, who has cerebral palsy, Sugi, who has Rett Syndrome, and many others are equipping themselves to find their own place in the world.

“Completely passive kids are rare. A child who seems unresponsive in class may suddenly start tapping at a taal (classical music note) on his/her lap at home.”

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Here's What Can Save Girls From Being Child Brides
Swapna Majumdar

When Lata turned 15, her family, living in a village in rural Andhra Pradesh, pulled her out of school and sold their cattle to get her married. Landless labourers, they no longer own any asset. Just 100 kilometres away, in Hyderabad, Ameena's privileged parents did not have to incur any debts to solemnise their daughter's marriage when she turned 16. But in both cases, the girls were underage and neither had a say in her marriage. Whereas early marriage is not an unusual practice in this country, considering it's rooted in patriarchy and gender discrimination, a recently-released 10-year study has attempted to look into the reasons it continues to thrive despite a comprehensive law in place and increasing levels of awareness around its negative implications. After all, only when the causes become clear can effective solutions be devised and implemented.

“If mothers are educated, equations change. Over 81 per cent of girls whose mothers had completed middle school remained single at 18. If the mothers had studied beyond secondary school, 91 per cent girls escaped child marriage.”

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 WFS Ref: INDP606 1290 words

Ranjana Wants To Make Rights Real For Rajnat Girls
Abha Sharma

Words like rights, choice, freedom hold little meaning for most Rajnat girls for whom life is all about upholding a cursed tradition – their community pushes daughters into commercial sex trade to make ends meet. Yet, not only has Ranjana Kaamdar managed to defy her own fate but she is now committed to ensuring that prostitution is no longer the only viable livelihood option available to her people. As the elected representative of Jaisingpura panchayat on the outskirts of Rajasthan's state capital, Jaipur, this young mother has taken on the responsibility of being a positive role model as well as motivating the Rajnat youth to access education and government welfare schemes to make a better future for themselves, one that is not dependent on the ‘work’ of the womenfolk.

“Due to the lack of social bargaining power and limited access to government schemes few young Rajnat men and women have been able to avail of their entitlements. But I am committed to seeing that the status quo changes.”

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‘Marriage Can't Sanctify Rape’
Rakhee Bakshee

Soon after Lalitha Kumaramangalam had taken over as the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW) in 2014, she had kicked up quite a storm when she spoke of legalising sex work to regulate the trade. Her views had received a lot of backlash from activists pushing for a ban on prostitution. Of course, reactions, supportive or otherwise, haven't deterred her from speaking out. In fact, recently, she has openly declared NCW's support to the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan's call for a ban on triple talaq. Two years of an eventful tenure and Kumaramangalam sits down for a chat on the various issues that continue to affect the everyday life of an Indian woman. From expressing concern over the dismal child sex ratio to addressing critical issues of land rights for women, equal pay for equal work and marital rape, to rooting for the Women's Reservation Bill, she candidly shares her observations with Rakhee Bakshee.

“Rape is the exercise of power. No man has the right to force a woman to have sex with him, even if she is his wife. Besides calling for a law to deal with this crime, we need to discuss it openly and spread awareness around it.”

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