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On 25 Years of The National Commission For Women
Mohini Giri And Syeda Hameed

This year, the National Commission for Women (NCW) completes 25 years. It took years of struggle by devoted women’s groups in the country before the Commission came into existence and in the successive years, regardless of aggression or opposition, gender rights issues have been raised, incidents of atrocities against women investigated, and associations with other national level commissions, such as NHRC, NCM and SCS, forged in solidarity. Mohini Giri, the second chairperson of the NCW, and Syeda Hameed, who served as a member alongside her, recall their eventful tenure, even as they ask some hard questions today: ‘How far have we come in this journey that began way back in the 1970s? A quarter-of-a-century on, why has the Commission not been able to influence positive changes in various aspects of women’s lives? Why is it that it still does not have any powers to pronounce sentence or award punishment?

‘It was the question of the autonomy of the Commission which was in serious deficit. The mid nineties’ patriarchal mindset was unable to comprehend the concept of autonomy even for a statutory commission, let alone for gender as a whole.’

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 WFS Ref: INDQ206 1220 words

These Girls Just Want To Study
Anjali Kurrey

What does one do when one wants to study but simply can’t muster the courage to ask ones already struggling parents and siblings to make more sacrifices that they already do? What happens when, despite all kinds of tough challenges, one completes ones schooling but can’t go on to access higher education? There’s crushing disappointment, of course; but more importantly, the vicious cycle of poverty remains unreachable despite best efforts. Girls like Radhika Baghel, 19, and Reena, 22, in Chhattisgarh’s Janjgir Champa district are only too familiar with these circumstances. Although their state has a slew of educational programmes and benefits that ought to make access to education easy and seamless, their lived realities are quite different. So, where are the gaps and what can be done to change things? Read on.

Sarpanch Gauri Bai Sidar and some key members of the community have formed a ‘Janbhagi Samiti’ to look closely at issues related to schooling in the area, step in to address problems such as the shortage of teachers, when the need arises.

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 WFS Ref: INDQ207 830 words

Dharavi’s Newspaper: Impressions Beyond Slumdog
Alka Gadgil

Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, has an immensely vibrant community. It's a place in which adversity is met with optimism. Nearly every household firmly believes in working, recycling, refurbishing… Perhaps its most distinctive characteristic is the extremely close work-place relationship – every square inch of land is used to produce something. And in that spirit, its vast Tamil community has been producing ‘Vanakkam Mumbai’, the only weekly edited and published by local residents. Whereas news from Dharavi in mainstream press is usually about gruesome crime, communal strife or civic inadequacies, ‘Vanakkam’, a mirror of the community, reports on “real lives, which are full of challenges as well as good times”. Be it Jaya, who resides in Laxmi chawl, or Shanthi, they can’t wait to grab their copy to get a low down on not just the happenings in their busy neighbourhoods but their city, too, besides other news that is relevant to their survival and livelihood.

The stories of the struggles of single women of Dharavi, which are yet to see the light of the day, in other media, find a space in ‘Vanakkam’.

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 WFS Ref: INDQ208 1120 words

Here’s To Un-Stereotyping The World
PhumzileMlambo- Ngcuka

What makes a young girl believe she is less capable than a boy? And what happens when those children face the ‘hard’ subjects like science, technology, engineering and mathematics? A recent study, ‘Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests’ has shown that by the age of six, girls are already less likely than boys to describe their own gender as ‘brilliant’, and less likely to join an activity labelled for ‘very, very smart’ kids. One of the biggest reasons behind this negative attitude and poor sense of self is the stereotypes they start to learn initially at home and later in school and through life, reinforced by the images and the roles they see in advertising, films, books and news stories. So, how do we change this, and what should girls learn now that sets them up to thrive in a transformed labour market of the future? UN Women Executive Director PhumzileMlambo-Ngcuka deliberates on this in this special op-ed.

The changing future of jobs means that fields of study for children now in school should include equipping them for ‘new collar’ jobs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Would You Pass The Gender Test?

Women bring to their writing the truth of their bodies, and an enquiry into the different ways in which gender inequity shapes human experiences (and destroys lives). Many female writers also place women protagonists at the centre of their work and many stories that are set within the household have the power to illuminate the ways in which women’s lives are shaped and controlled. From writing on marriage and family to penning protest to describing oppression and discrimination to sharing a female perspective on historical events to searching for an identity, Indian women, over the last 2,000 years, have chosen the right words to have their say. In this excerpt from ‘Unbound’, edited by Annie Zaidi, noted academic Nividita Menon writes on “seeing like a feminist”.

‘In whichever ways women are different, their difference is considered to be an inferior difference…’

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 WFS Ref: INDQ209 900 words
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