July 2014

   


MARCH 8!
International Women's Day



India:
Old Times, New Times: Turn The Leaves Of This Calendar  
By Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Every year the Delhi-based Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) brings out calendars that showcase fascinating glimpses from India’s feminist history. This year, to mark the birth centenary year of revolutionary Kalpana Dutt Joshi, who had taken part in the Chittagong Armoury Raid in the early 1930s, the CWDS calendar – entitled ‘Fire and Grace’ – carries rare photographs from her family album. However, despite important initiatives like the CWDS calendar, feminist archiving continues to remain at a nascent stage in the country.

* “Women, in particular, did not leave behind much by way of writings, nor were the early movements of working class women documented in any detail.”

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India:
Eve Ensler In India: 'After This Gang Rape, India Must Take The Lead'
By Pamela Philipose

IN ONE OF THOSE CURIOUS JUXTAPOSITIONS life occasionally throws up, American playwright Eve Ensler's tour of India to raise awareness over her One Billion Rising campaign, calling for an end to violence against women globally, coincided with hundreds of thousands of Indians literally rising in protest against the gang rape of the Delhi student and the exponential increase in crimes against women in India. "One Billion Rising is happening right here!" she exclaimed, calling the new activism on India's streets "motivating". The India tour took off from Kerala, a state that despite its progressive veneer has seen a recent spate of extremely ugly incidents of violence, including women being sexually assaulted by their fathers, brothers, grandfathers. For Eve, who is herself a survivor of paternal sexual abuse, all this is just a reminder of the work that still needs to be done.

* "Ensler is an unusual activist. She uses theatre and popular culture to connect with young people. Just consider her slogan, One Billion Rising. It is so simple, anybody can understand it."

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India:
Republic Day Thoughts For A Gender Just World,Let's Be The Change
By Kamla Bhasin

FOR YEARS WOMEN ACTIVISTS AND ORGANISATIONS had waged a lonely battle as they came out on to the streets in protest whenever rapes and molestations took place. The horrific gang rape of December 16, 2012, on a Delhi bus, proved to be a watershed. Finally, it was recognised that crimes of this kind were everyone's issue, everyone's concern. For someone like me, who has been part of such protests for decades, it was heartening to see people from across the spectrum break their silence and shed their apathy towards the biggest and most pervasive war in the world - violence against women and girls. While the teeming crowds at the recent protests made a glorious sight, the main slogans and demands raised seemed very limited and also very violent. The anger was towards others, towards the outside. "They" need to do something. Of course "they" - whether they are politicians, police personnel or legal luminaries - need to do something. But what about us? What about the mindset that leads to violence, changing which requires no less than a cultural tsunami?

* "Film stars Akshay Kumar and Ranbir Kapoor have expressed their pain over the recent gang rape. They should now review some of the ads they have done and realise the links such ads have with aggressive masculinity."

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India:
In Parched Bundelkhand, A Sisterhood Of Water
By Aditi Bishnoi

RAMVATI, LEELAVATI, MEERA AND PREMA WERE simple women up against tough challenges. Hailing from Uttar Pradesh's poverty-stricken Bundelkhand region, they had always had to play second fiddle to the men, their caste determined their social status and as they were illiterate their entire existence was confined to the four walls of the home. Then they got inducted into a unique sisterhood known as Jal Sahelis, or water friends, created in 96 villages across three districts of Jalaun, Lalitpur and Hamirpur. Today, as part of a group of 140 Jal Sahelis, these women are setting the agenda for the use and conservation of water in an otherwise parched region. Ramvati's inputs have helped Kalothara village in Lalitpur district to create valuable resource maps, Leelavati is inspiring her peers in Baghaoli, Jalaun district, to stand up for their rights, while Meera and Prema - who belong to a village that was once the playground of Chambal dacoits - are effectively enforcing rules for water use today.

* "It is Leelavati who has taught me that our drinking water should be =rang heen, gandh heen and swad heen' (colourless, odourless and tasteless)."

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India:
Posters, Ribbons, Rallies: Maharashtra's One Billion Rising
By Suchismita Pai

"IS THIS WHY WE EDUCATE OUR children? So they can defy their parents and not be under their control anymore? What is the point of having such children?" lashed out filmmaker Pushpa Rawat's father when asked why he refused to let her wed the man of her choice. =Nirnay', Rawat's documentary on the lives of young women, draws on her personal experiences as it talks about how parents have a "this far and no further approach" to girls' freedom. Her film resonates with many of its young viewers who relate how parents often get stuck in the patriarchal mould when it comes to the major life decisions. Rawat's film, along with others on the same theme, is being screened in Pune, as part of the =Our Lives To Live. NO! To Gender Violence. Films of Courage, Protest, Hope' film festival organised under the One Billion Rising (OBR) global campaign against violence against women. Posters, ribbons, films, rallies and meets - the OBR campaign is reaching out to the Marathi =mulgi' (girl) and =mulga' (boy) in different ways, urging them "to rise and dance and strike as one against gender violence".

* "When a man lives alone, no one calls him =ektta', or single, but a woman deprived of opportunities, education, decision making powers, etc, becomes an object of pity," says Sadhana Dadich of Nari Samata Manch, a 28-year-old organisation that has been working on women's issues.

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India:
Rami Chhabra: Breaking Stories, Breaking Barriers
By Sujata Madhok

HOW DOES ONE DEFINE A WOMAN like Rami Chhabra? As a glamorous TV anchor or a serious newspaper columnist? A public health professional or a determined feminist? An international development consultant or dedicated social activist? Chhabra has played all these roles in a star-studded career spanning decades. Stunning in her seventies, she is one of the few Indian women who entered professional life in the 1950s. At 18, she broke into the media with an interview of a famous BBC anchor. Growing up in the first flush of India's Independence Chhabra was, like the country itself, young, idealistic and full of promise. Out of college, she headed straight for a career in journalism, at a time when the number of women in the media could be counted on one's fingertips. In her recently published book, 'Breaking Ground - Journey into the Media and Out…' Chhabra provides a rare glimpse of the media universe in post-Independence India.

* In a major scoop, she was one of the first journalists to be allowed to travel the length of war-ravaged Vietnam and document the brave attempts of the Vietnamese people to rebuild their country.

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India:
The Struggle To Make Women's Studies Matter
By Mary E. John

FEMINIST THEORIST AND ACADEMIC, MARY E. John, is former director of the Delhi-based Centre for Women's Development Studies. She has been working in the fields of women's studies and feminist politics for several years and her book, 'Women's Studies in India: A Reader', came out in 2008. She talks to Pamela Philipose about the great effort it took to put Women's Studies on the academic map of the country. Today, it can be said that while institutionally there has been an expansion of Women's Studies in India and a generation of students which opts for Women's Studies as a discipline is now emerging, significant gaps remain.

* "The synergy between Women's Studies and the women's movement is one of the special aspects that has marked its evolution."

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