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Teaching Bidar’s Women To Ditch Patriarchy, Embrace Empowerment
Pushpa Achanta

Women are central to food security and, consequently, the welfare of not just their family but the larger community as well. This is because of the multiple roles they play in the entire process of bringing food from farm to mouth, being producers, procurers and providers. Naturally then, it’s critical that they remain healthy, happy and empowered. That’s why in the dry and deprived district of Bidar in north Karnataka, across several villages of Aurad taluk, thousands of women are being encouraged to demand their rights, especially those related to land, livelihood and reproductive health. Under a unique initiative, local women like Eswara, Chennamma, Tulsiamma and others are learning to value their contribution to society, question social rules that sideline them, and stand up for their entitlements. Of course, they have a long struggle ahead of them as they face stiff resistance from a conservative, patriarchal system.

‘We women are paid a maximum of Rs 60 rupees a day while the men earn around Rs 200 for agricultural labour. Women are basically conditioned to believe that their contribution in most spheres is of lesser value than that of men.’

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All The Single Women, Stand Up For Your Rights
Abha Sharma

The Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, or the Association of Strong Women Alone, in Rajasthan needs no introduction. After all, it is all thanks to their decade-long activism that the rights of the widowed, deserted and divorced women have become part of the national discourse. One of the guiding principles of this 45,000 member-strong group is: ‘We will meet any difficulties large or small. We will not wait for anyone, by our own strength we will overcome.’ Being proactive has worked for them as not only have they so far managed to secure big gains like the enforcement of 50 per cent reservations for women in the Panchayati Raj but they have lobbied for various education and livelihood opportunities for themselves and their children. With a new government in power at the state and centre, they have now drawn up a specific ‘single women’s charter’. From an increase in pension to policy changes in the Rajasthan Livelihood Mission to scholarship in government institutions to the passing of the Rajasthan Women Atrocities Prevention Act, they have sought a range of benefits that can empower them to lead secure lives.

Kanku Bai from Ajmer district has raised her voice for banning sale of alcohol in Rajasthan since it is one of the major reasons for violence against women.

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For Lasting Peace, Listen To Women
Aditi Bhaduri

This is an alternative account of the Israel-Palestine conflict, an account that focuses on the peace-building measures that are being spearheaded by women on both sides, far away from the media gaze. From individual appeals for restraint on the social media by anguished mothers to the more organised efforts like weekly vigils by Women in Black, an organisation that includes Jewish and Arab members, various attempts at humanising the bloodshed are being undertaken in the hope that it sets off a chain reaction – from fear to knowledge to understanding and, finally, reconciliation. After all, what mother can see her son go off to war? And how can she bear the fact that he will end up killing people who have homes, children and domestic problems, just like them?

‘The wars that our children are forced to fight…waged supposedly for the love of the country… But the truth is that these wars are waged for no reason than the insanity and megalomania of the so-called leaders… For them children are no more than abstract notions: You kill one of mine, I will kill 300 of yours and the account is settled…’

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Climate Change And Conflict Raise Valley Women’s Vulnerability To Landmine
Chetna Verma

Five years ago, Naseem Akhter from Behrooti village, near the Line of Control in Mendhar district of Jammu and Kashmir, was on her way to collect grass for her cattle when the ground beneath her feet literally exploded. The unsuspecting woman had stepped on a landmine buried under a heap of leaves. A few days later, her right leg was amputated at the government hospital in the neighbouring Rajouri district. The sole bread earner of a family consisting of a widowed mother, younger brother and sister, Naseem has always had a difficult life considering that she hails from a village surrounded by a daunting electrified fence – called the Anti-Infiltration Obstacle System – and where “outsiders” are not allowed without an elaborate process of garnering permission. A walk around Behrooti reveals a distressing sight – of several disabled people struggling to go about their daily lives. A depleting forest cover and decades-old conflict has contributed to the menace of landmines that has a marked effect on women’s mental and physical health.

‘One cannot guess where the landmines have been positioned. They were strategically placed in dense areas to check infiltration …but due to decrease in forest and grazing land, the landmine areas have become more accessible …villagers have become more vulnerable…’

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Exploring The Inner And Outer World Of Nayantara Sahgal

Born into the first family of Indian politics, Nayantara Sahgal has etched her name in the history books as one of India’s finest writers. By the time she was 35 in 1962, she had already published her autobiography in two volumes, ‘Prison and Chocolate Cake’ and ‘From Fear Set Free’, which set the tone for her later works. Novelist, essayist, political commentator and memoirist, everything she has written during the course of an illustrious career spanning over five decades has followed the evolution of democracy in post-Independence India. So much so that the three strands of personal, political and literary are inextricably woven in her writing. What was it that inspired Nayantara’s foray into the literary world? How did marriage affect her outlook on love and life, transforming her from Tara Pandit into Nayantara Sahgal? Here’s a tell-all excerpt from her latest biography, ‘Out Of Line’ by Ritu Menon and published by Fourth Estate/Harper Collins.

‘Nayantara Sahgal’s married life began to fall apart when she tried to deviate from a male-designed social and gender script for women, and very specifically, from her husband’s script for her...’

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