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Prakhriti’s Teen Troubles: Survival, Equality, Rights
Saadia Azim

Prakhriti Thaodem, 17, from West Imphal in Manipur, was born with HIV and she has learnt to live with it. Apart from the fact that it’s normal for her to have medicines just like most people have their food there’s nothing that sets her apart from her peers. And yet, all she desperately wants today is “not to be discriminated” or treated any different than other children. Presently, there are more than 21 lakh people living with HIV in India, including over 1.5 lakh children. Whereas the second generation living with HIV is vigilant and sensitive, fear and anxiety is still a big part of their existence. They are scared that they will not get admission in a competent learning institution, a good job will be out of their reach, they will never be able to marry, get their rightful inheritance or do all the things that are usually taken for granted. Recently, many of them got together in Imphal to draw attention to their struggle “for a life beyond discrimination and hatred”. In fact, they have even drawn up a 15-point resolution as a precursor to a nationwide advocacy campaign that will address issues like health, stigma, education, nutrition, disclosure and succession rights.

“There has to be some law to protect us. While on the one hand we fight the battle for our life, on the other, people do not want us near them.”

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 WFS Ref: INDO729 1250 words

Of Ferguson, Feminism And Faith
Elayne Clift

In colonial America and beyond, men, women and children, stolen from their native countries, were stripped naked, beaten, chained and sometimes caged, then sold to the highest bidder. Today, in Iraq and Syria, women and girls are also kidnapped, beaten, caged, forced to undergo virginity tests, and sold to their captors for as little as the price of a pack of cigarettes in some cases. This as well as the recent spate of shoot outs in the US is dark reminder that atrocities are taking place in our own time just as they did long ago. Most of the deeply moving stories of the people caught in these scenarios will never be really known. But this much we do know: Racism, human chattel, misogyny and stereotyping continue unabated in a country that insists upon seeing itself as a self-righteous model, and in a world growing ever darker, while these blots on our collective soul continue to destroy our common humanity.

‘The testimonials that emerged during the civil rights and women’s movements had much to teach us about the power of truth-telling in public arenas. That …taught us that we are not very different from each other in matters of the heart and spirit.’

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Girls Gang Up Against Early Marriage

By the time she turned 10, Uma Kumari of Badgaon village in Uttar Pradesh's Siddharth Nagar district was married off in keeping with the general practice in the area. But unlike all her friends, who met with the same unfortunate fate, this once-quiet, unassuming youngster, who is now in her late teens, has become one of the most determined voices against child marriage in the region. Today, if anyone tries to marry off their daughter before she turns 18, or if child brides are being sent off to their marital homes after 'gauna' (as the formal nuptial ceremony is called) before they attain the legal age, parents have to answer to Uma and her passionate youth 'activist' gang. Through awareness meetings and other outreach activities this courage crusader has inspired many to stand up against early nuptials.

Geeta, 15, from Dohni village, has found her mentor in Uma. While the duo works closely for their cause, Geeta has, in fact, lobbied in her own home to delay her marriage. Her friends Durgawati, 15, and Beenu, 14, who were married early, have joined them in their endeavours as they want to delay their ‘gauna’.

[Photographs Available]

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These Young Men Are Ready For Responsible Family Planning
Aditi Bishnoi

In most traditional Indian families, couples are unable to hold frank discussions on that commonly avoided but critical issue called family planning. Do they want children? If so, when best to start a family? How many children should they have? What are the contraceptive methods available and best suited to them? Now imagine a scenario where young men understand the importance of equality within marriage and are even willing to share contraceptive responsibility. Meet Ajay Kumar, 23, the resident of a slum in South Delhi. This young, father-of-one is concerned about his wife's well being and doesn't want to add another member to his family for the next few years. He understands that a minimum gap of three years between children will not only keep his wife healthy but enable him to give his family a better, more fulfilling life. Fortunately, Ajay is part of a growing tribe in his neighbourhood, all thanks to an innovative intervention that reaches out to boys and young men, between 15 and 19 years, with key messages related to reproductive health and family planning in order to change attitudes.

“If one takes a look at the demographics of India, there’s a huge youth bulge. Also, 50 per cent of all children born are to young people in the age group of 25 and below. So, if we want to enable couples to truly plan their families then we have to inform them when they are young.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDM314R 1250 words

Young Entrepreneurs Crowd-source Funds For Rural Women
Surekha Kadapa-Bose

Priya Singh, a civil servant, was chatting with her Singapore-based friend on Facebook. With her upcoming birthday, the conversation turned to how she was planning to celebrate. Singh was looking to do something different and that's when her friend told her about an online platform that enables regular people to lend money to the working poor in select Indian states so that they can access basics like education, clean water, energy and sanitation. Singh instantly logged on to their website, understood their work and as she turned a year older, she marked the occasion by extending a loan. It is precisely to tap this vast resource pool of socially conscious people that three friends set up a crowd-funding website that provides interest-free loans through its field partners to women, children and unemployed youth.

"I had never imagined that becoming a lender would be such a joyful experience. It was the best birthday gift I could give myself. While I had been donating money and materials off-and-on, helping people to help themselves has been satisfying.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDL418R 1200 words
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