Tuesday November 21, 2017

Growing Runner Beans to counter Child Marriage and Trafficking in West Bengal

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FILE - Young girls pose as they tend to vegetables they are growing as part of the Girls’ Project that teaches land literacy and helps prevent trafficking and early marriage in Charmahatpur village in West Bengal state, India, Feb. 13, 2017. VOA

For a teenager, Sarjana Biswas has rather modest ambitions: finish school, go to college and become a government healthcare worker in her village.

But for young girls like Biswas in India’s eastern state of West Bengal, even these would have been impossible dreams just a few years ago in a district plagued by a high rate of school dropouts, early marriage and human trafficking.

Thanks to a state program to keep young girls in school with cash incentives, coupled with efforts by land rights advocacy group Landesa to teach land literacy, girls like Biswas are daring to dream and plan for better futures.

“My sister got married when she was 15 years old. I didn’t want to get married that young,” said Biswas, 17, as she examined runner beans in the small vegetable garden that she helps tend to at the village community center.

“I have learned that girls should not get married so young, that we can also own land and cultivate what they want, earn and not be dependent on anyone,” she said.

Cultivate crops

Nearly 70 girls like Biswas, aged 11 to 18, are enrolled in Landesa’s Girls’ Project that teaches them how to cultivate a small vegetable garden in their family plot.

Alongside, they learn about the importance of education, the problems of early marriage, the benefits of nutritional food, financial literacy, and their rights – including land ownership.

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Partnering with the state, the program has reached more than 48,000 girls in over 1,000 villages in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district, helping reduce child marriage and school dropout rates, and preparing the girls to stake their claim to their own piece of land some day.

Bordering Bangladesh, the area is largely populated by poor farmers and migrant workers, and is a hotbed of trafficking. Young women and men are tricked into traveling elsewhere in India and to the Gulf region to be commercial sex workers.

West Bengal accounted for more than a third of India’s trafficking victims in 2016, official data showed.

Girls who have been through the project, which was launched in 2011, are more likely to stay in school, marry later, and have an asset in their name, said Sumit Gupta, chief revenue officer in Nadia district where Charmahatpur village is located.

“These issues are all linked to poverty, and landlessness is the biggest indicator of poverty. So using land literacy and land ownership to address these issues is a practical approach, and it has worked,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We want to see these girls be independent and live with dignity. For that it’s important they know their rights and the importance of land ownership,” he said.

Small plots

West Bengal has a checkered history in land reforms. It was among the first states in India to enact a land reforms law as early as 1955, to give land to poor tenant farmers and to impose ceilings on land holdings.

Yet it has been slow to implement measures to redistribute land. About 70 percent of the state’s rural households do not own land, higher than the national average of 56 percent.

The Girls’ Project, which is being scaled up to reach 1.25 million girls, aims to bridge the gap for women.

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Girls learn to grow vegetables or fruits – even timber – in a corner of their family plots, so they can supplement their meals, as well as add to the family income, or set aside some money by selling some of the produce.

Their efforts are complemented by federal and state schemes for poor adolescent girls. The girls receive 750 rupees ($11) a year from the state toward their education, and 25,000 rupees ($380) on turning 18 if they are still in school and unmarried.

Despite a law banning girls from being married before the age of 18, nearly half India’s girls are married before that age, according to UNICEF, the U.N.’s children’s agency.

Staff at the community center have stopped about half a dozen child marriages in recent years, said Pinaki Haldar, Landesa’s state director.

“Girls, particularly in rural areas, are seen as a burden, and are married early because the dowry that is demanded of the parents rises with older girls,” he said.

“Educating girls on land impacts their thinking, their life, and builds their confidence. Even if she doesn’t get much of an education, she learns to be independent, and also gains some value at home,” he said.

My home, my land

State chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who won an election in 2011 largely on the platform of supporting the rights of farmers and villagers over land, is a champion of land rights.

She introduced the ‘Nijo griha, nijo bhoomi’ (my home, my land) scheme that allocates plots of about 2,200 sq feet (204 sq meters) to each landless rural family, so they can build a small home and cultivate the rest of the land to sustain themselves.

More than 200,000 families have benefited so far. Some have daughters who have been educated about land rights and farming.

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At the community center in Charmahatpur, about a dozen girls who have finished school for the day inspect cabbages, beans and spinach growing in the small garden in the back. They chatter and giggle as they pull out weeds and check for pests.

It took a while to convince parents about the benefits of the program, said Dilwara Mondal, the supervisor.

“Earlier, parents would stand by the door or peep through the window to make sure we weren’t corrupting their daughters,” she said.

“Now they send their daughters willingly. They can see the difference it’s made to them, and to their lives.” (VOA)

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International Girl Child Day: Celebrating Birth of a Girl Child

International Girls day is celebrated every year on 11th October in order to give the girl child the respect and dignity she deserves.

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International Girl Child Day
On this International Girl Child Day, let’s be a part of a world which celebrates the girl child and let’s do our bit in making the world a better place. Maxpixel

International Girl Child Day has been declared by the United Nations on the 11th October every year in order to celebrate the importance of the girl child. On the occasion of International Girl Child Day, let’s help to spread awareness about the various problems faced by the girl child.

Perception 

The common perception of any society, sees girls are often considered to be inferior to boys. Discrimination against girls is unchecked, Due to fear of exploitation, they are not sent to schools and denied the right to a decent education.

Due to fear of exploitation parents do not send girl child to schools. Pixabay

Female Foeticide

Female Foeticide is an issue which is prevalent in the urban and mostly in the rural areas. People who are ill-informed believe that a girl child is inferior to a boy and thus will not be able to help the family in any way other than increasing the burden of feeding another mouth on them.

Save a Girl Child and protect a woman’s Dignity.

 

Child Marriage

Child marriage is another important issue because of which girls are forced to drop out from their education at a very early age.  India has the highest number of girls forced into marriage under the legal age of 18 accounting for 10 million child brides in the world.

It accounts for more than 70000 deaths each year relating to maternal deaths from pregnancy and childbirth. They also become victims of domestic abuse and the dowry system.

In some parts of the country, family marries off the girl in early age in order to save their economic burden. The reason for child marriage being so prevalent even today lies in the dowry system practised by a large portion of the educated lot.

A 16-year-old girl stands inside a protection home on the outskirts of New Delhi, Nov. 9, 2012. She was rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), a charity which rescues victims of bonded labor. voa

Girl Child Health

In the rural areas, the health facilities are not very developed. If there is a choice between the girl and boy, most of the people will make sure that the boy remains healthy in the hope of him supporting the family in future. Health facilities are the basic amenities of life and are meant to be used by everybody equally. In India, several girl children die of malnutrition and diseases before the age of 6.  Higher rates of child marriage lead to maternity deaths arising from complications in pregnancy and giving birth and it also increases the chances of the stillborn infant.

Girl Child Trafficking

Girl child trafficking is the defined as the trade any girl child under the age of 18 for the purpose of exploitation whether inside or outside the country.  According to the National Crime Record Bureau, one child disappears in every eight minutes. Mostly these children are underage girls. They are taken from their homes and sold in the market for the purpose of begging, labor, and sexual exploitation.  Sometimes it is their own family members who sell them for the need of money or just because they think she is a burden.

Child Marriage
According to the National Crime Record Bureau, one child disappears in every eight minutes. Wikimedia

On this International Girl Child Day, let us be a part of a world which celebrates the girl child and do our bit in making the world a better place.  A very much needed change in the society is the change in the attitude of the people. They should understand the fact that girls are equal to boys in all aspects and should be given equal respect and liberty.

The childhood of a girl can be preserved if we as a society come together and make sure she is nurtured, cherished, protected and should be given freedom to choose her life the way she wants to live.

(The facts were first published by CRY ).

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Durga Puja in Bengal to showcase its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences

Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri and in state capital Kolkata

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Durga Puja in West Bengal
Durga Puja. Wikimedia
  • Durga Puja in West Bengal has evolved into a platform of its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences 
  • Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri and in state capital Kolkata
  • In Kolkata, the Nepali consulate is expected to host around 100 to 150 members of the community from different parts of Bengal on Dasain

Kolkata/Siliguri, September 22, 2017: From goddess Durga draped in traditional Nepali attire for the grand celebration of Dasain, to the resplendent White Temple of Thailand to glimpses of London and the US — Durga Puja in West Bengal is not only a showcase of the state’s artistic heritage but has also evolved into a platform of its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences.

Geopolitical tensions notwithstanding, slices of soft diplomacy and globalisation are on show in a clutch of pandals (marquees) in the state.

Take Dasain celebrations in Siliguri, for example.

Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri (located at the base of the hill) and in state capital Kolkata where they are gearing up to celebrate the Nepali version of Durga Puja with pomp and splendour.

Recognised by the splotches of vermillion, rice and curd (“tika”) on the foreheads and the prominent sprigs of barley sprouts (jamara) tucked behind one’s ear, Dasain or Vijaya Dashami — Nepal’s biggest festival — has been observed in Siliguri for 25 years by its oldest social organisation, Bhanu Bhakta Samiti.

“Dasain is celebrated with the participation of all communities: Nepali, Bengali, Marwari, Bihari and others. Everyone is welcomed and people, cutting across political party lines, join in the revelry. The Bengalis even offer ‘anjali’ (floral offerings). The Gorkhaland issue is a political one and we do not let it affect our celebrations,” Krishna Lama (Pemba) of the Samiti told IANS.

“We have been having the Durga idol since the last three years. From Sashthi (September 26), we will begin the worship of the protima (idol). She will be dressed in traditional attire and we have roped in designer Alka Sharma for the costumes. Jamara (pot with wheat sprouts) is indispensable to the festival,” Lama said.

Parents and older members of the family apply tika and place the jamara as blessings for the younger ones. The jamara also signifies “shakti”.

In Kolkata, the Nepali consulate is expected to host around 100 to 150 members of the community from different parts of Bengal on Dasain.

“Every year, for over 25 years, we have a Nepali Durga puja in front of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation building. Cultural programmes are organised and representatives of around 32 samitis (clubs) across Bengal join in,” an official of the consulate told IANS.

Also readDurga Puja Pandal Decoration Catches Cinema Style, Baahubali Palace Will Be In Cruise This Year In Kolkata

Meanwhile, the Deshapriya Park committee, which registered the highest footfall for a pandal last year with five million visitors, has in store a slice of Thailand — a popular tourist destination for travellers from east India, served well with 2.5 hour-long flights.

It has recreated the 20th century Wat Rong Khun temple (or the White Temple) located just outside Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. The detailed all-white exterior with mirror trimmings stands out in stark contrast against the grassy park lawns.

Organisers have also replicated the temple’s piece-de-resistance: A mural depicting the burning Twin Towers as Angry Birds, Michael Jackson, Spiderman and other pop culture icons look on.

At Bhowanipore 75 <https://maps.google.com/?q=Bhowanipore+75&entry=gmail&source=g> Palli puja in south Kolkata, a stone’s throw from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence, a 40,000 square feet area has been converted into a typical London street. The theme is aligned to Banerjee’s vision of transforming Kolkata into London.

With 2017 being the Indo-UK Year of Culture, the club has tied up with the British Council and London Sharod Utsav.

“Big Ben and Westminster will also be replicated in the area. The idol is crafted from mahogany and brass and decorated with dokra art. Post-puja we are planning to install the idol permanently in any one of the famous institutions of the UK like the British museum or University of London,” Club Secretary Subir Das said.

The Star Spangled Banner is prominent at Badamtala Asar Sangha in south Kolkata. The club is calling its celebration ‘West Wind’ in consonance with the Year of US-India Travel and Tourism Partnership.

“Visually the pandal resembles a street in a hi-tech American city at night. The design is complete with skyscrapers and multi-hued buildings and lights,” said Snehasish, one of the artistic heads. (IANS)

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Crimes Against Women Perpetrate in Every two Minutes: NCRB Analysis

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Crimes against women in India
Father, left and mother, center of the Indian student victim who was fatally gang raped on this day three years back on a moving bus in the Indian capital join others at a candle lit vigil in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. VOA
  • Any kind of physical or mental harm towards women is deemed as  “crime against women”
  • Domestic violence is the most dominant crime against women
  • Andhra Pradesh state is the highest to report crimes against women in the period of ten years

Sep 20, 2017: A report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests that crimes against women have increased violently in the last ten years with an estimated figure of  2.24 million crimes. The figure is also suggestive of the fact: 26 crimes against women are reported every hour, or one complaint every two minutes, reports IndiaSpend analysis.

The most dominant crime against women with 909,713 cases reported in last decade was ‘cruelty by husbands and relatives’ under section 498‐A of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

‘Assault on women’ booked under section 354 of IPC is the second-most-reported crime against women with 470,556 crimes.

‘Kidnapping and abduction of women’ are the third-most-reported crime with 315,074 crimes, followed by ‘rape’ (243,051), ‘insult to modesty of women’ (104,151) and ‘dowry death’ (80,833).

The NCRB report also listed three heads, namely commit rape (4,234), abetment of suicide of women (3,734) and protection of women from domestic violence (426) under which cases of crime against women have been reported in 2014.

Andhra Pradesh has reported the most crimes against women (263,839) over the past 10 years.

Andhra Pradesh state is the highest (263,839) to report crimes against women in the period of ten years. Crimes reported for insult (35,733) ranks first followed by cruelty by husband relatives (117,458), assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (51,376) and dowry-related deaths (5,364).

West Bengal (239,760) is second most crime against women state followed by Uttar Pradesh (236,456), Rajasthan (188,928) and Madhya Pradesh (175,593).

Abduction increased up to three folds over the recent years,  with Uttar Pradesh being the worst affected state. Cases rose from 15,750 cases in 2005 to 57,311 cases in 2014.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94


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