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‘Kitty parties’ a way to empower village women

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New Delhi: The women of rural areas are redefining the idea of ‘kitty parties’ as a tool for their empowerment in water-starved Nashik district of Maharashtra.

While the concept of ‘kitty parties’ is widely known in urban areas among rich women, these village women are using it as a collective power to reach out places.

In village after village in Nashik, the “kitty parties” are held, ironically, at Hindu temples, which some of these ladies were barred from entering until some years back.

Together the women of Khaprale, Chandrapur and Jamgaon villages of Nashik district have decided to fight the social evils and problems.

The changes were in part initiated by an NGO in collaboration with Hindustan Coco Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd, which has a major plant in the town of Nashik.

The women collectives today are like mini banks, encouraging women to save and lending out cash to those in need.

They have been working for six months bringing the village women together for their own good, said the members of NGO.

Over time, there has been a mini-revolution in many villages. But the effort paid off.

“Now, if we face a problem, it is our responsibility to find a solution. No one can help you all the time. We have started to think on our own and help ourselves and others solve their problems,” said 45 years old Sindhutai Sadfule with the confidence of a woman who has finally found her voice.

These women, members of Self Help Groups (SHG), deposit Rs.100 a month in a common bank account and maintain the details in a register. Money is lent out to villagers in need, not just to women, at a certain rate of interest.

“We have six to seven groups and each has 10-12 women. Once a request for loan comes up, we sit and decide whether or not the money is to be lent to a person,” explained Sunita Prakash, 27.

In case more than one person seeks a loan, “the money is lent keeping the priority and the importance of the work in mind. We give preference to the one who needs it the most”, added 28-year-old Meera Tadpe.

“We arrange everything on our own. We bring food and tea and lemon juice from our homes. At times we buy sweets too, taking out some money from our collective account,” said Vijaya Sabale, explaining the concept of “kitty parties”.

Sabale also expressed her gratefulness towards the village women who financially helped her in her son’s marriage.

“I had borrowed Rs.10,000 from the group and it helped us a lot in meeting the wedding expenditure,” she said. “I returned the loan in 10 months.”(IANS)

(Image Courtesy: washington.edu)

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Top Hollywood women unveiled a sexual harassment initiative

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Top Hollywood women unveiled a sexual harassment initiative
A combination photo shows some of the actresses who have made allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein. Listed in alphabetical order, top row from left, Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette, Jessica Barth, Cara Delevingne, Romola Garai, Judith Godreche, Heather Graham, Angelina Jolie. VOA

USA, Jan 1, 2018: More than 300 top women in Hollywood — from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence to Emma Thompson and Cate Blanchett — unveiled an initiative Monday to tackle pervasive sexual harassment in workplaces, calling special attention to their “sisters” in less than glamorous blue-collar jobs.

The initiative, dubbed Time’s Up, caps a year in which the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal touched off a deluge of allegations that brought down powerful men in entertainment, politics and the media, prompting companies, government agencies and even the U.S. federal court system to re-examine harassment policies.

But in an open letter printed in The New York Times, the new initiative lends the star power of its A-list members to the cause of women in less prominent fields, urging support and respect for farm workers and others whose humble positions leave them vulnerable and voiceless.

“We fervently urge the media covering the disclosures by people in Hollywood to spend equal time on the myriad experiences of individuals working in less glamorized and valorized trades,” the group says in its full-page ad.

“To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile … we stand with you. We support you.”

$15 million goal

Last month, the head of Ford Motor Company apologized to employees at two factories in Chicago and promised changes, after a scathing expose by the Timesdetailed pervasive harassment and mistreatment of women at the plants dating back to the 1990s. It was one of the first major media investigations into sexual harassment in blue-collar workplaces.

Among the specific steps it announced, Time’s Up has established a legal defense fund that, in just 12 days, has raised $13.4 million toward a $15 million goal aimed at providing legal aid for women and men who were sexually harassed, assaulted or abused in the workplace.

It has vowed to push for legislation to strengthen laws on workplace harassment and discrimination.

The group insists that more women must be brought into positions of power and leadership, while every woman should have equal benefits, opportunities, pay and representation.

As for Hollywood, it wants “swift and effective change to make the entertainment industry a safe and equitable place for everyone.”

And it called on women to wear black at Sunday’s Golden Globes as a statement against gender and racial inequality, and to raise awareness about the group’s efforts.

‘Dear Sisters’ 

The open letter in the Times, which also appears in the Spanish-language La Opinion, opens with the words “Dear Sisters” in large, bold type, and closes with the words “in solidarity,” followed by the names of the 300 women.

Several of Weinstein’s accusers signed the open letter. They include Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale, as well as Salma Hayek, whose lengthy account of mistreatment by Weinstein — “my monster,” she called him — was widely circulated on social media after appearing last month in The New York Times.

Weinstein has denied some of the allegations, including Hayek’s assertion that he pressured her to do a nude sex scene in one movie.

Other prominent women lending their names to the Time’s Up cause are actresses Natalie Portman, America Ferrera, Amy Schumer, Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Keira Knightley, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Susan Sarandon, Uma Thurman and Viola Davis; producer Shonda Rhimes; Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley; feminist activist Gloria Steinem; lawyer and ex-Michelle Obama chief of staff Tina Tchen and Nike Foundation co-chair Maria Eitel. (VOA)