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80 Girls went on a Hunger Strike in Northern India to protest Harassment they faced on Way to School

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FILE - Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is seen in this aerial view March 25, 2008. VOA

More than 80 girls went on a hunger strike in northern India to protest the harassment they faced on the way to school, drawing attention to the dangerous commutes that are a key barrier to girls’ education in the country.

The teenagers, from grades nine and 10, ended the strike after eight days on Wednesday, when the education minister of northern Haryana state said he would add two grades to their school so they would not have to go to another village to complete their high school education.

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The girls said they were harassed by young men on motorbikes who made lewd comments, tugged at their clothes and took pictures of them on their mobile phones as they walked or cycled to school everyday.

For grades 11 and 12, the girls would have had to travel 3 km (2 miles) to another school. They had said they would drop out, as the extra distance would mean more harassment.

“A principal has been appointed, and admissions will start for the 2017-18 session on Thursday itself for the new classes,” Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma told reporters.

Television images showed the girls, in blue and white uniforms, slumped in the laps of their mothers and other students before they ended their fast. Some were hospitalized after they fainted.

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While literacy levels in India have steadily climbed as enrollment surged, the dropout rate remains high.

About 18 percent of students dropped out before grade 10, according to official data. A survey by nonprofit Save the Children found the dropout rate for girls is as high as 70 percent.

That has led to an uneven national literacy rate of 65 percent for women compared to 82 percent for men.

Reasons for dropping out range from poverty to lack of facilities such as toilets, which affect adolescent girls more, said Soha Moitra, a director at nonprofit Child Relief and You (CRY) in Delhi.

To address these problems, officials passed the 2009 Right to Education Act promoting free, compulsory education for children up to age 14, and have introduced efforts to build more toilets under a national cleanliness campaign.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stressed the importance of educating girls with the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” (save your daughter, educate your daughter) campaign.

But the issue of unsafe commutes is unresolved, Moitra said.

“Especially in villages and small towns, students may have to walk through open fields and lonely neighborhoods,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable because of the lack of safe public transport.”

A 2014 poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked India the fourth most dangerous place for a woman to take public transport.

With a patriarchal society and cultural preference for sons, Haryana has among the lowest sex ratios with 879 females per 1,000 males, compared to the national average of 943.

The state also has a high incidence of violence against women.

Earlier this week, Haryana police said a 23-year-old woman was gang-raped and murdered by men who smashed her skull with bricks.

“The issue is no longer if girls want to study. It’s an issue of safety. If we cannot guarantee that, how can we blame them for dropping out of school?” Moitra said. (VOA)

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Alyssa Milano’s Hashtag ‘Me Too’ Goes Viral on Twitter and Facebook

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Alyssa Milano
Alyssa Milano during a concert. Wikimedia

American actress Alyssa Milano’s request from the social media has resulted in millions of tweets as she asked women to share their personal experience with harassment and sexual assault with ‘me too’ hashtag, which culminated into more than 6 million users talking about it on Twitter and Facebook.

Alyssa Milano's 'me too' hashtag goes viral
Milano’s hashtag “me too” goes viral.

All of this comes in the backdrop of new allegations against popular Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein has been accused by a dozen women of sexually harassing them, even raping them.  Since these allegations have come to the fore, people all across the world are sharing their own personal experience with harassment on Twitter and Facebook. Some of the tweets are shared even by men who have been on the receiving end of indecent behavior.

‘Me too’ hashtag is exposing a very common yet abhorrent happening in the world. Alyssa stated that her friend suggested her the idea of ‘me too’ social media campaign. She tweeted that if women use the ‘me too’ hashtag for sharing their own experiences with sexual assault, it would help the world to figure out how grave the situation is. Famous female celebrities like Anna Paquin, Debra Messing, Sophia Bush, Brooke Smith, etc. have used the hashtag ‘me too’.

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Bullying and other forms of Victimization can Damage School Climate, says New Study

According to the study, bullying, cyber bullying and harassment were significantly associated with decreases in perceptions of school safety, connection, and equity

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The new study suggests that female and transgender students are more vulnerable to multiple forms of victimization. Wikimedia

New York, October 8, 2017 :  Researchers have found that all forms of victimization – bullying, cyber bullying and harassment – can damage the entire school climate.

The study, published in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, measured the impact of poly-victimization – exposure to multiple forms of victimization – on school climate at the middle- and high-school levels.

ALSO READ Childhood bullying may have lifelong Health effects related to chronic stress exposure

The results showed that bullying, cyber bullying and harassment were significantly associated with decreases in perceptions of school safety, connection, and equity.

“For each form of victimization, school climate measures go down precipitously, so if we only center the conversation about kids who are being bullied that limits it to ‘that’s not my kid’,” said study author Bernice Garnett, Associate Professor at University of Vermont in the US.

“But if we change the conversation to bullying can actually damage the entire school climate, then that motivates and galvanises the overall will of the school community to do something about it,” Garnett added.

Based on data from the 2015 Vermont Middle and High School Pilot Climate Survey, the findings highlight the need for comprehensive policies that address all forms of victimization to offset further erosion to safe and equitable school environments, which is tied to educational outcomes.

Overall, 43.1 per cent of students experienced at least one form of victimization during the 2015-2016 school year.

Just over 32 per cent of students reported being bullied, 21 percent were victims of cyber bullying and 16.4 per cent experienced harassment – defined as “experiencing negative actions from one or more persons because of his or her skin, religion, where they are from (what country), sex, sexual identity or disability.”

Prior research had shown that students from vulnerable populations are most frequently victimized.

The new study found female and transgender students were more vulnerable to poly-victimization. (IANS)

 

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC