Wednesday: November 22, 2017

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High Up In The Naga Hills Women Discover Collective Strength
Pamela Philipose

Even the casual visitor to the remote and marginalised Nagaland district of Tuensang is made immediately aware of the pivotal role women play in keeping life going. Everywhere, it is the women who are doing the farming, ferrying water, gathering wood and even running shops and tea houses. This is the story of how one initiative, focusing on women of the Chang tribe of Tuensang, resulted in the setting up of over 250 Self Help Groups (SHGs), which today have a combined corpus of Rs 5 crore. In a state like Nagaland, where being a woman is still a huge disadvantage, with even something like the government mandated 33 per cent reservations for women in local bodies having hit a road block, these SHGs constitute a small step towards a much needed gender equality.

“We started investing in small items required by our village people for their daily needs, which we would bring in from town and sell at a modest profit. We would take the early morning bus to Tuensang town, buy supplies and get home on the evening bus.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN630A 1290 words

Inside A Malnutrition Treatment Centre, Baby Satish Learns To Grow
Pamela Philipose

The Shahabad Malnutrition Treatment Centre in Rajasthan’s southeastern district of Baran may perhaps never have existed if the deaths of malnourished Sahariya children had not rung alarm bells in Jaipur’s corridors of power a little over a decade ago, and little Satish Sahariya (name changed) would probably never have received any medical attention. In 2008, the Rajasthan government took the major step of setting up Malnutrition Treatment Centres (MTCs) in district and block level hospitals, which offered treatment based on the guidelines laid down by the World Health Organization. When two-year-old Satish was admitted to the MTC in the government hospital at Shahabad recently, he weighed 6.4 kilos, less than what a normal Indian baby of one year should weigh. His distended abdomen, reddish hair and listless eyes indicated a very severe case of malnourishment. Two weeks later, he had gained almost one kilo. Although he is still less than what a one-year-old should ideally weigh, the doctor attending to him is satisfied with his progress. Baby Satish is lucky he received treatment. There are hundreds of others like him in the tribal belt of Baran who, in the absence of medical attention, face an extremely uncertain future.

“Earlier, no one came to these centres on their own. We had to send our teams to the villages to bring babies in. Today, perhaps because of news of government programmes is reaching the community through social activists, more people are seeking treatment.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN609A 1290 words

Building Women's Political Presence: The AAP Story
Pamela Philipose

The votes have been counted. Those who have won have celebrated their victories deliriously, those who have lost have retired, hurt. India will soon have a new government. One of the most striking aspects of India's 16th General Election has been the turnout of women voters. According to the Election Commission the gap between the number of male and female voters has been narrowing since 1962 and these elections too saw the trend remain. This ever growing constituency of women – despite the fact that they come from dissimilar backgrounds, religions, castes, regions and income groups – could well constitute a distinct political constituency by the next general election. How prepared are parties for this denouement? How willing are they to reflect this trend in their politics? Of all the major political players in this searing summer of 2014, it is perhaps only the Aam Aadmi Party that seemed to engage with these questions in its election campaign.

“AAP must take this constituency most seriously, not just in terms of focusing on women voters but on women candidates. Until now, the major parties have continued to regard women as vote banks. But I believe women are a section of the electorate waiting to be discovered.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN513F 1250 words

In Varanasi, Women & Youth Demand Alternative Politics
Pamela Philipose

In the temple town of Varanasi, gripped by the reverberating heat of May, it was impossible to get away from the media machine of BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. Not only had eager television anchors planted him at the very heart of their over-wrought election coverage, large Bollywood-style posters of the candidate bore down on pedestrians, the rickshaw borne and motorists alike, as they made their way through narrow, crowded streets. Even in the relative peace of the Dasaswamedh Ghat on Varanasi's iconic waterfront, there was no getting away from electioneering in the raw. Sometimes out of a heap of coconuts and agarbattis would emerge neat Modi cutouts with fists pumping the air. This, of course, is not to claim that the Congress or Samajwadi Party campaigners in India's most charged political constituency were exactly paragons of quietude. But if sheer ground presence is any indication of electoral victory, Modi had been crowned the winner in Varanasi long before counting day. Amidst all this muscular electioneering there were some who quietly mobilised against Modi, defending constitutional values and traditional ideals and their message did find some resonance in this land of Ravidass, Kabir and Bismillah Khan.

“We may come from different backgrounds but we all want a politics that is free of strife and which protects our rights. We want security, we want employment, we want food and education. We certainly don't want communal hatred, riots and religious fundamentalism.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN505F 1290 words

Tribal Children Learn To Dream
Pamela Philipose

The Sahariya tribals of Madhya Pradesh, one of India's most marginalised communities, have been subjected to upheavals of all kinds caused by widespread poverty, increasing deforestation and project related displacement. It is the Sahariya children who have suffered the most as a consequence, whether it was in terms of poor nutrition, interrupted schooling or indifferent health. This is why the Freedom from Hunger and Fear Campaign, a unique intervention focusing on the Sahariya community in the two states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, paid special attention to children. By setting up Bal Adhikar Kendras, or child rights resource centres, in 88 villages where it had a presence, the FHFC could empower Sahariya children in unique ways and help them take charge of their lives.

“I have this dream of becoming a doctor. My marks in science are good and I will make every effort to realise that dream!”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDN409 1270 words
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