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Mumbra’s Muslim Girls Kick Out Stereotypes
Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

They started off as a secret sports club. What brought them together was their shared love for football, a game they couldn’t dream of playing owing to their conservative family backgrounds. After all, how could young girls who weren’t allowed to even step out of their homes without the ‘hijab’ (veil) run around kicking ball in an open field? But they showed exceptional courage when they defied parental dictate to pursue their passion for the sport. Three years back, Saba Khan, Salma Ansari, Sabah Parveen, Aquila, Saadia and 40 other Muslim girls got out of their homes in Mumbra, a small town 40 kilometres from Mumbai, Maharashtra, to play football, motivated by activists of a local non-government organisation. Today, this group that calls itself Parcham, inspired by Asrar ul Haq Majaz, an Urdu poet who saw women as crusaders with an inherent quality to revolt against exploitation and injustice, has truly lived up to its name. They have not only broken gender stereotypes by regularly playing football but have been responsible for bridging the divide between the Muslims and Hindus in a communally volatile city.

“We wish to play football and other sports. We believe that through sports we can also come together in unity, forgetting our religious and other differences.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA22 1250 words

Virgin Births And Womb Banks: The Sci-Fi Future Of Surrogacy

The 2000, no one in India had even heard of Fertility Tourism. But by 2012, it was one of the big money spinners. Nowadays, couples with fertility problems can choose from a bouquet of services - surrogacy, third-party gamete (egg and sperm) transfer and in vitro fertilization. Although Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) were commercially available services since the 1970s in Western countries, India suddenly became a top destination catering to this niche market. Why? There are excellent private health care clinics, English speaking service providers, an abundant supply of commercial surrogates, and, importantly, not only is commercial surrogacy legal but there are no real binding guidelines or government regulations in place. So, what’s the way of the future? In a real sci-fi twist to the ART story, scientists and researchers are now talking of virgin births and womb transplants. Read more about it in this excerpt from ‘Baby Makers: The History of Indian Surrogacy in India’ by award-winning author and journalist Gita Aravamudan, published by Harper Collins, which takes a non-judgmental enquiry into surrogacy.

Cutting-edge research around the world points towards a new era in which embryos created through sexless reproduction could be incubated and brought to term in artificial wombs. So there may come a time when natural human eggs and wombs become obsolete.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA25 980 words

A Model Farmer, Savitri Shows Off Her Special Skills
Saadia Azim

Savitri Devi from Jhanji village in Jharkhand’s Deoghar district is a model farmer today. She has been able to successfully incorporate sustainable integrated farming systems (SIFT) techniques on her 60 decimals of farmland to produce bumper crops of maize, paddy, chickpea, millets and potatoes. However, till just three years back, she and her husband were struggling day and night to cultivate their land but all their hard work was to no good as crop failure was common. To feed their family of eight, Ghanshyam, Savitri’s husband would have to migrate every few months to work as a labourer in nearby Deoghar town. What changed her fortunes was the creation of a farmers’ club in the village under a unique food security initiative, where unskilled tillers like her were taught different ways to maximise their yields.

“These clubs have managed to bring disillusioned farmers back to their fields. They have given up the idea of migrating and instead want to train their energies on becoming successful cultivators.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA13D 1250 words

The Whistling Women’s Mission Sanitation
Rakhi Ghosh

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) with a lot of fanfare and oodles of star power to inspire ordinary citizens to make all possible efforts to keep their surroundings clean and sanitary. This is the story of a group of women who decided to go in for a full clean up act in their villages much before the PM’s impassioned call. Arati, Anusuya, Rajalaxmi, Sasmita and Ammbu are part of a brigade drawn from various Self Help Groups in different villages of Jagannath Prasad block in Odisha’s Ganjam district, and they have launched an all out offensive against open defecation. Every day, from 4 am to 6 am and then again from 4 pm to 8 pm, 30 women leave their household chores to take on a task they feel merits their urgent and undivided attention. For starters, in groups of three, they have taken to patrolling the main road that connects the block headquarters to their villages in a bid to stop people from relieving themselves in the open. Armed with whistles they fulfill their duty sincerely, reprimanding those who don’t listen to them. Next on their agenda is to motivate families to build a toilet in their homes and also put them to good use.

“We have held discussions with the Block Development Officer on this issue and submitted several applications of the villagers to construct toilet through Bharat Nirmal Abhiyaan.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA14 1280 words

The Untold Suffering Of Bohra Muslim Girls
Kirthi Jayakumar

Waris Dirie, in her biographical account, ‘Desert Flower’, which was released in 1998, told the world a shocking story of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). With that, people began to understand FGM as being a largely African phenomenon and especially a Somali one. Then, as more and more stories related to this practice began to emerge, it became clear that it was common in the Middle East as well. However, what the world is yet to know with as much awareness, particularly in terms of numbers, is that a section of Indian women, too, is no stranger to this brutal tradition. Hana (name changed), is a Bohra Muslim, who, like all other girls in her community, has been circumcised to ensure that she is “fit and pure for marriage”. It was not a surgery done under the influence of anaethesia but a procedure that was performed by a senior community woman using an unsterlised blade. Although it makes them vulnerable to infections and gives them a lifetime of psychological trauma, sadly, these girls have simply resigned to their fate.

“I know this is wrong. I have gone through it and, today, I face problems with everything from using the bathroom to menstruation. I shudder to think what will happen when I get married or when I am pregnant. No one listens to the stories of pain that girls like me want to tell.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDNA15 1080 words
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