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India
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…’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDQ209 900 words


Cuba
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.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: CUBQ207 1280 words


India
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.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDQ130 1200 words


India
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.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDQ131 1250 words


Kenya
Shattering the Silence Surrounding FGM

Globally, at least 200 million girls and women today have undergone some form of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). While there has been an overall decline in the prevalence of FGM across countries, this progress is likely to be offset by rapid population growth in countries where FGM occurs, unless efforts to eliminate the practice are renewed, and urgently stepped up. A 2016 report of the UN Secretary-General shows the single largest factor influencing the continuation of FGM to be the desire for social acceptance and avoidance of social stigma. The social norms, customs and values that condone FGM are multi-faceted, vary across countries and even between communities, and can change over time. This presents a powerful and complex challenge for all those engaged in the effort to end FGM - just like Janet Anyango, Programme Officer with the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Kenya. In this one on one the activist talks about what it will take to end the harmful practice.

“I am focused more on prevention of this harmful practice; to stop it before we have to ‘cure’ it.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: KENQ130 850 words
 
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