A Liberal Point of View to Life

When I first saw Aamir’s casual look and approach in the ads of Satyamev Jayate, I told my husband “This is going to be a flop. Aamir is trying too hard to be casual. This is going to fall flat on his face”

In fact, the ad where he claims that this show will change your life and comparing his show to stalwarts like Mughal-e-azam saying,”If a film like Mughal-e-Azam can beat all norms and barriers, why cant our show!” That ad was too much for me to take. I felt it reeked of desperation – a last resort to make people watch the show!

As you can say, I wasnt too positive about the show. So, when I switched on my TV to watch the first episode, I was ready and willing to confirm my initial prophecy.

I was wrong.

So wrong.

I watched the show last night. And totally loved it.

Also, because I feel very strongly about Female Foeticide and Infanticide situation in India. What Aamir said about the issue did not come as a surprise to me since I had already read about Mitu Khurana’s case and even blogged about it, but I am certain it was a definite eye-opener for the whole of India.

Female foeticide is a gruesome fact which is a big dark blot on the canvas of modern India. The fact that the educated and well-to-do are so heavily involved in this crime is a testimony to the fact that this is not just an affliction of the less privileged! In fact, Bharati who lives in the slum of Vastrapur area is a shining example of that! I am determined to look her up in my next trip to Ahmedabad and tell her to keep going strong!

Some of my famous lines from the show:

Atyachar karna jitna paap hota hai utna sehna bhi paap hai (It is as much of a crime to put up with torture as it is to commit one) – Parveen Khan

Zindagi hamein bahut kuch sikhati hai, kabhi hasati hai to kabhi rulati hai… par jo har haal me khush rehte hain, zindagi unke saamne sar jhukati hai (Life teaches us a lot, it makes us laugh sometimes, it makes us cry. But those who remain happy in all circumstances, life bows down in front of them) – Parveen Khan

I would like to reach out to all of you and implore you to watch the episode. You will not be disappointed.

You can watch it here:

Lost Children of the Prophet

Madrassas are the cornerpiece of Muslim community life. In a disturbing twist, some of them are being used as transit shelters for child trafficking. Or worse, doubling up as sweatshops themselves. NEHA DIXIT reports

Lost Children of the Prophet
PHOTO: VIJAY PANDEY

IN SHAKURPUR Basti, a teeming Muslim-dominated, workingclass neighbourhood in North Delhi, there is a four-storey building with a mosque on the ground floor. This is the Darul Ujloom Nizamia Ghausul Uloom Madrassa. On the face of it, there is nothing to set this madrassa apart from an estimated 35,000 madrassas in the country. But unknown to the community, the Darul Ujloom madrassa is subverting its foundational pact with both Allah and his followers.

In many ways, madrassas are a cornerpiece in Islamic community life. They are seminaries where children go for religious education, and in poor neighbourhoods, for non-formal schooling. Most madrassas in India are affiliated either to the Deobandi, Barelvi or Ahl-i-Hadith sects and are funded by zakat — the com- passionate Islamic practice of people donating 2.5 percent of their income to support hospitals, charities or Islamic schools. Zakat donated to madrassas is meant to pay for maulvis’ salaries and free meals, clothing, books and lodging for children.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dr Sunitha Krishnan, co-founder of Prajwala, an Anti-Trafficking organization, gave a talk at TED India Pvt Ltd. The talk was very inspiring and it brings forth the awareness of the condition of women being trafficked in India.

It is my earnest request to all my readers to contribute to her organization in every way you can. After all, it takes several drops of water to form an ocean.

A friend called up yesterday. She wanted to talk about something important. (Just for the info, she is a fresher and works for a highly reputed IT company with a sprawling campus in Pune). She started talking about how her team of 15 had just two women and how the entire team was biased towards men. So much so that, the team (the men folk) would do all the generally office time pass activities like planning for a lunch out or a tea session without so much as asking the two girls. What was even more surprising was that the Manager of the team was also party to all of this. If this was not enough, one guy in the team abused my friend over some silly issue, asking her to “Get out” of the cubicle. When this matter was taken to the manager, he laughed it off as a joke gone bad! 

This is not a one off incident of the kind of bias women folk have to go through in their companies.  I have worked in IT companies before and I could sense this all the time. Usually, the bias depends on the number of women in your team. If it is equally balanced, then in all probabilities, you will not have to face the brunt directly. But, if it is not, you will face this… either in subtle forms (like not being invited to team gatherings) or in more crude ones (like the one with my friend) or worse, cases of exploitation and sexual harrassment by office colleagues.

Now, I am sure while reading this, a lot of you will be nodding your heads – Gender bias is soo common in companies (I will be talking about companies in India here) that if you have not faced this on your own, you would have definitely known someone who did.

While, the number of women passing out of Engineering colleges is increasing at a good rate, the gender ratio is still around 80:20 in favour of men. Thus, the number of women who get into companies is another 60% of that. The remaining either settle down into marital bliss or go for higher studies. The number is 14% as opposed to 1% in 1970. So, things have obviously improved and with women like Lalita Gupte, Kalpana Morparia, Anu Aga, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Simone Tata paving the way, the future definitely looks brighter!

Despite all this, the sad reality is that… Even though we have come all this way, the road ahead is not easy! We have come a long way, but we have a longer way to go. The time to sit and listen to these stories, as if they were fables, is long gone. We now need to sit back and take charge of the situation in hand. The question we need to ask here is that

What is it that we can do to make things better?

  • Make sure that your company has a policy against “Sexual Harrassment”. If they do not, you should bring it to the notice of the HR and explain to them the importance of having a law abiding policy, which in turn, makes this a criminal offense.
  • Before joining a company, try to understand their take on women in the corporate world. If their thoughts do not match yours, there is no point working for them anyway!
  • If you happen to work in a team dominated by men, make sure your manager knows your take on gender bias. If, however, you get a feeling that he does not appreciate it, you can always take this up with his manager or the HR. Make sure, they know that you cant be messed with. (On a lighter note, the girls in the team can get together and invite themselves to whatever little gathering the guys may be having. They may find it awkward a few times, but then will slowly get used it )
  • Apart from the things you can do in your office area, you can create awareness amongst the people you meet every day – like friends and family. Try and personally take up the onus of educating a destitute girl child. There is nothing more satisfying than playing a small part in shaping the career of someone.

These are the few things that I could come up with. What is your take on this? Have you faced the glass-ceiling before? If you have, what did you do to overcome it?

To end this on a positive note, I would sincerely urge all my readers to take this up as a personal thing – Please do not let any kind of injustice happen in front of your eyes. If you see someone being victimised or someone being the bully, make sure you make it known to the concerned authorities. If you dont do it, nobody else will. After all, it is only with a small step that we can hope to build a better world!

I would also like you to put down your own ideas on What can be done? At the end of this, I will make a consolidated list of all the points and put them up here for people to read. That ways everyone can benefit out of our collective knowledge.

Some good articles on the topic:

Breaking through the glass ceiling: Women in Management
Breaking the glass ceiling
Breaking the Glass Ceiling – Reaching for the Top with Everyday Tools
Women still struggle to break through the glass ceiling

When life ends at twelve.

Cross posted from Indian Homemaker’s Blog.

(Yemen) …”a 12-year-old girl died in childbirth after an agonizing 3-day labor.  …young Fawziya was pulled out of school and married to a man twice her age.

She isn’t the only one.

The issue of Yemeni child brides came to the forefront last year, with 8-year-old Nujood Ali who “was pulled out of school and married to a man who beat and raped her within weeks of the ceremony.

To escape, Nujood hailed a taxi — the first time in her life — to get across town to the central courthouse where she sat on a bench and demanded to see a judge.“  [Full story]

Yemen is full of child brides. Roughly half of Yemeni girls are married before 18, some as young as eight. Child marriage, common in South Asia, sub- Saharan Africa and Middle-Eastern countries such as Yemen, is dangerous for brides and their children…”

India is not too different. I have met a few, all unhappy.  One of my maids once confessed that she had a daughter who she had left in her village near Ferozpur. She was devoted to her son, dropped him to a ‘private school’ everyday and bought Bournvita for him. Didn’t she worry about how her other child was doing?

She said her husband hated the girl and she felt the child was safer with her maternal grandmother. When I conveyed my disapproval, she confessed that the daughter was from an earlier marriage to an older man, and although her husband had promised to take care of her, he treated her cruelly.

When she was 12 her family had married her to a 40-year old widower. He raped her and beat her. She escaped and came back to her village. She told her family she would hang herself if they tried to send her back. She was pregnant with that daughter at the time. She never went back and was married again when she was older.

Her daughter was more like a sister to her, she thought of her grandmother as her mother.

Not all girls escape or die, many stay married and live to have many children (healthy or unhealthy) over whom they have no rights. Women in such marriages are another generation, and much younger, and since our society associates wisdom with age, the husband’s word is the last word in all important matters. Dead or alive, they have no life.

Girl for Sale!

In this age, women trafficking is as prevelant as ever! People are shamelessly putting their daughters for sale on websites!

A recent addition to this sorry tale is Rafiq Qureshi, father of Rubina Ali, the child actor who played the role of young Latika in Slumdog Millionaire. He wants to move out of the slums in Mumbai and hence is cashing in on the fame of the innocent 9-year old.

For more info, read here!

World AIDS Day 2008

20anniversaryimage_medium

1 December, 2008: 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day

The theme for World AIDS Day 2007 and 2008 is “leadership”. Leadership was selected as the theme for World AIDS Day to encourage leaders at all levels to stop AIDS. This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is ‘Lead – Empower – Deliver‘, building on last year’s theme of ‘Take the Lead‘. This theme will continue to be promoted this year with the campaigning slogan, “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

According to NDTV Doctor’s article, this means:

  • Leaders in most countries from around the world now acknowledge the threat of AIDS, and many have committed to do something about it. As of 2007, nearly all countries have national policies on HIV. However, despite these policies, most have not been fully implemented and many lack funding allocations.
  • While treatment for HIV and AIDS has improved and become more widespread since 1988, many still do not have access to it – in 2007 only 31% of those in low- to middle-income countries who need treatment received it.
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