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India
Lessons From Tribals On Surviving And Thriving
Linda Chhakchhuak

‘How are the Khasi-Jaintia-Garo (KJG) tribes resisting patriarchy? What is their secret of survival?’ These two questions were on the mind of Padma Mon and Padamvathi Ashok, researchers and activists from the Koraga tribe, one of the fast-fading matrilineal tribes of southern India, when they travelled from Karnataka all the way to the small northeastern state of Mizoram, the “global capital of matrilineal people”, with the poignant mission to create a unique platform for the survival of threatened cultures and people. Today, whereas the KJG people are prospering, thanks to high literacy rates and legislation that guarantees rights of ownership over land and other resources, the Koragas by contrast are dwindling under the oppressive influence of patriarchy and extreme marginalisation. In fact, they are staring at extinction not only of their matrilineal way of life but also their population. Fortunately, a few educated Koragas are conscious of preserving their lineage and traditions and are eager to learn from the experiences

“The Koraga have no institutional protection. They are very vulnerable, they need protection or they will disappear from the face of the earth.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO701 1290 words


India
A Plateful Of Nutrition For Students
Abha Sharma

Every day, Radha Kumari and her classmates at a government primary school in Jodhpur eagerly look forward to their afternoon meal and, in fact, grow quite restless as the clock slowly inches towards one. Then, as the bell rings they quickly troop out and sit in the school hall ready to tuck into their hot mid day meal of ‘dal’ and two ‘rotis’. As Headmaster Khuman Singh Rathore looks on he is glad to see his pupils enjoying the fare as “most children enrolled here belong to scheduled caste and other backward class families and this meal is perhaps the only wholesome food they get on any given day”. Today, like little Radhika, there are over one million children in Rajasthan who are being provided a nutrition-rich mid day meal made from fortified wheat flour, oil and soyadal analogue. In a state where child malnutrition is rampant, a special initiative is ensuring that with every bite of their ‘khichdi’ or spoonful of sumptuous ‘dal’, these youngsters are deriving their recommended quota of iron, folic acid and vitamins A and D.

“As part of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition’s food fortification intervention, we decided to team up with Rajasthan government to ensure one fortified meal to all children in state schools. Over one million students are benefiting today.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO420R 1290 words


India
Tribal Mothers Count On Their Promised Day Of Healthcare
Annapurna Jha

Kailashi Bhil, 30, Kankun, 20, and others have come a long way from the days when they would completely panic if they needed to visit a doctor. After all, taking out precious money and time to travel 40 kilometres from their small hamlet of Chamanpura to Chittorgarh was no easy task. Yet, whether they wanted to get basic medicines or diagnostic tests, access antenatal care or give birth, these poor tribal women had no alternative but to visit the “big” district hospital because there was no anganwadi worker, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) or Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) appointed to provide essential healthcare in their village. In fact, in their Udpura Gram Panchayat, comprising 14 villages, there was only one ASHA and one GNM (General Nurse & Midwife) to service the entire area. Fortunately for them though, the introduction of a maternal health campaign has changed the unfortunate status quo. By ensuring that the monthly Village Health and Nutrition Day, mandated under the National Rural Health Mission, is held regularly, local women are now enjoying free antenatal check-ups, routine immunisation and nutrition counselling right at their doorstep, which has improved the maternal and child health indicators in the area.

“Last month, along with Kailashi I had also received my tetanus shot and given a blood sample for testing my haemoglobin level. It’s such a relief to be able to get all this done in the village itself.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO615O 1290 words


India
Priyanka And Firoza Show What Governance Is All About
Aditi Bhaduri

Later she would hear how lovely the weather had been, how brightly the sun had shone and how the temperature had been just right that day. But when she had entered her husband's village as a young bride in 2007, all she saw was a sea of faces. All she could think of was her new life that lay ahead: the relatives she had to make her own, the man who was now her husband, the children that would come soon. . . Not even in her wildest dreams had Priyanka Devi of Katkamdag panchayat in Jharkhand imagined that she would become a much-loved and respected village leader. Everything changed when her state decided to hold panchayat polls for the first time in 2010. The men who stood for elections were just not right for the job. After all, “what sort of change could men, who were often found drunk, got into brawls, gambled away their wife’s jewellery, bring to our village?” Then she came to know of the 73rd Amendment that reserved seats for women and decided to jump into the fray. Today, Sarpanch Priyanka has wiped out alcoholism, secured healthcare and ensured financial stability by implementing state schemes, and, in the process, she has also earned immense fame and social standing. While the reservation policy has received marked criticism, grassroots leaders like Priyanka Devi, Firoza Bibi and others are working hard to prove all the negative perceptions wrong.

“The advent of the new Panchayati Raj with women's mandatory participation sought to transform the governance paradigm in India. Truly, all areas of social life have been impacted – human development, women’s empowerment, gender budgeting, inclusion of the excluded.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO616F 1290 words


India
Veteran Voices: Detailing Indian Women’s Struggles
Deepti Priya Mehrotra

Ever since the 1950s, women in India have been coming together and forming groups to raise slogans and agitate to secure equal rights. ‘Gainful employment for women; equal pay for equal work; one maternity centre for every 10,000 people; peasant women must have right to own land; stop dowry; children need peace as flowers need sunlight…’ In the decades that have followed, hundreds have joined hands to wage common struggles and campaign for social, economic and political rights. Truly, the country has a long history of women’s movements and recently some of its leading voices gathered to share their side of the empowerment story and take stock of “how far we have come”. From Primla Loomba, 91, and Ranjana Ray, 85, of the National Foundation of Indian Women (NFIW), to Jyotsna Chatterji of the Joint Women’s Program (JWP), and Aruna Roy, of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), who, incidentally, is also heading the NFIW, they all agreed that “we [still need to] put together every bit of our strength and continue the struggle… against patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism”.

“The last years have seen a remarkable awakening in our women, but the progress of the few has made the backwardness of the many all the more tragic….”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO617 1250 words
 
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