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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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 WFS Ref: QQQQ206 700 words

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

Where Motherhood Is Sacred, But Resources Scare
Elayne Clift

Despite its 99 percent literacy rate, its five-star Havana hotels and its much-touted emphasis on primary health care, Cuba is still a developing country. The country ruled for over five decades by Fidel Castro, and now his brother Raul, has a complex history, an evolving economy, and a political system not easily understood by outsiders. Answers to questions are often cautious or qualified – ask five people the same question and you’ll get five different answers. Healthcare and reproductive rights are no exception. So, at a time the more open and prosperous neighbour, America is struggling with its own set of women’s health rights issues under the newly elected government, how does Cuba do? Well, for starters, abortion is legal and contraception is free and encouraged. Read on for more on health in the post-Castro era.

All births in Cuba are attended by a skilled practitioner and a pregnant woman visits a physician, usually her primary care provider, on average ten times before birth.

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 WFS Ref: CUBQ207 1280 words

Teens Encounter Another Brick in The Wall
Rakhi Ghosh

The teenage years are a time to explore, experiment, be inspired, chase dreams, fight, love, laugh, live… right? Unfortunately, for Kabita Gouda, 15, who hails from a small village in Odisha’s Nabarangpur district, the daily grind of supporting her parents to earn a living defines her whole existence. For a few months every year, she does backbreaking work in a brick kiln just outside of state capital Bhubaneswar. For every 1,000 bricks she hauls on her head to take to the furnace she makes a meagre but valuable Rs 100; and, at times, she tries to clock in some additional hours for a little extra cash. Kabita is not alone in her drudgery; at her kiln alone there are several teens that have given up schooling and stepped up for their family. However, these girls are clear – they will never deny their children a childhood or an education. After all, “someone has to break this cycle of exploitation”.

“I only studied till Class Five. But my children will not do this work. I will enroll them into a residential school or a seasonal to keep them away from this life.”

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 WFS Ref: INDQ130 1200 words

Disposing Menstrual Waste, Responsibly
Puja Awasthi

‘This is it,’ states Sheela Singh, 27, proudly pointing towards a covered earthen pot placed in one corner of her terrace. At first glance, there’s nothing unusual about it, so why is Singh so excited about showing it. A closer look reveals its ingenious quality and utility. There are small holes in the pot and its inside is lined with dried leaves and straw. This is Singh’s low cost incinerator into which she tosses her used sanitary napkins. Much to her relief she no longer has to come up with clandestine ways to dispose the pads every month. Like her, there are other women in her village Papna Mau, on the outskirts of Uttar Pradesh’s state capital, Lucknow, who are glad they don’t have to hide sanitary pads till they find some way to dispose them, which, till recently involved dumping them in the nearby water bodies or burying them in fields. In a country where there is still no clarity on proper disposal of menstrual waste, for now the girls of Papna Mau have found a way that works for them.

“Earlier, my mother would instruct me to lie low in those days. I would hide the napkins and be in a constant state of panic till I could dispose them. How I wish we had come up with such a simple solution at the time.”

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 WFS Ref: INDQ131 1250 words
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