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Why Empowering Women is key to sustainable development in Hindu Kush Himalayas?

Millions of women in the Hindu Kush Himalayan countries are fighting for empowerment and equal rights to help achieve sustainable development in society

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women empowerment (representational image), Wikimedia

Patna, March 23, 2017: Although from three different countries, Mahima Shrestha, Sadia Farhat and Rukmini Devi have something in common — they are fighting for their own empowerment in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) countries of Nepal, Bangladesh and India. They are among millions of women in the HKH region whose empowerment will help achieve sustainable development, experts say.

Shrestha has been fighting for land rights in her village near Kathmandu; Sadia has been fighting to send her daughters to school in a village in Bangladesh; Rukmini has been fighting for an equal wage as a farm labourer in a village in Bihar bordering Nepal. Their fight is not only for gender equality; it also reflects their hunger for empowerment as a means of ensuring sustainable development.

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According to a new research paper, based on a field study by two experts of the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), sustainable development will not be possible without girls and women fully realising their rights in all spheres of life.

“Millions of women have been left behind, and gender inequality remains a serious concern at multiple levels and in many different forms. The issue is more serious in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, where the gender gap and gender inequality are very high,” Kamala Gurung and Golam Rasul, the two experts, said.

They said that in the HKH in particular, universally discriminatory barriers include laws, traditions and issues of access which bar women from owning and inheriting land in many societies. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, for instance, one-fifth of the female population cannot inherit property, and virtually none of the Mro and Khyang communities can.

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In neighbouring Nepal, the government is trying to encourage land ownership for women through an incentive in the form of tax reductions for land registered in the name of a woman. However, in spite of this policy, the pace at which the share of land owned by women is increasing in Nepal is very slow. Government data based on land ownership certificates from 2011 show that women have limited land ownership, ranging from 8 to 10 percent.

This averages to less than 0.1 hectares of land per woman per holding. What must be taken into account here is that the absence of claims to property can not only muffle the voices of women but also make it harder for them to enter and flourish in commercial, economic and even certain social activities.

“An important lesson learnt from several decades of gender research is that although gender relations play a critical role in the management of natural resources, women tend to be systematically disadvantaged in terms of access to resources, and decision-making,” the experts said.

According to data from the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN), one of the most successful development initiatives in the country, women’s participation as decision-makers on the executive committees of community forest user groups (CFUGs), averaged only 25 per cent in 2012. The numbers clearly indicate that the road to achieving women’s empowerment and gender equality in a manner that prioritises the well-being of both men and women remains a long and challenging one.

Achieving greater equality between men and women will require a transformation in power relations between them and the breaking of structural barriers impeding progress in this area. Sustainable Development Goal 5, which seeks gender equality and empowerment for all women, offers an opportunity to embed gender equality into transformative approaches to sustainable development.

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“Prioritising investment in the empowerment of girls and women in the HKH is not only a direct path towards gender equality, poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth, it also ensures that nobody is left behind,” the experts said.

An enabling environmental and transformative policy is crucial to ensuring sustainable development and the social and economic empowerment of women. This would also help accelerate the implementation of existing commitments in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (for women’s rights) and support conscious efforts being made to meet SDG 5, they added.

–IANS

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‘It is time to see the world through a Feminist Gaze’, says Shabana Azmi

Jio MAMI hosted a brunch to discuss and inspire women equality and quality films, which was graced by Manisha Koirala, Shabana Azmi, Kiran Rao, Anupama Chopra, Sayani Gupta, Kriti Sanon, Neha Dhupia and many more

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Shabana Azmi
Shabana Azmi. Wikimedia

Mumbai, October 17, 2017: Veteran actress Shabana Azmi on Monday said it is the time people started seeing the world through a “feminine gaze”.

The pro-equality actress was speaking at “#F for Freedom MAMI” segment of Jio MAMI 19th Mumbai Film Festival.

“I am very delighted that MAMI this year is concentrating on making women’s work more visible. I think it is high time that we started to see the world through feminine gaze,” she said.

Jio MAMI hosted a brunch to discuss and inspire women equality and quality films, which was graced by Manisha Koirala, Shabana Azmi, Kiran Rao, Anupama Chopra, Sayani Gupta, Kriti Sanon, Neha Dhupia and many more.

ALSO READ Divya Khosla Kumar wishes to make ‘Women Oriented Films’ now

Manisha Koirala, who has been vocal about gender equality, said she was happy that JIO MAMI is recognizing women’s contribution.

“Tumhari Sulu” actress Neha Dhupia said that things aren’t changing but with a little initiative, things will change in coming times. “Just because there is a women-centric film after 30-40 others release, everyone feels that things are changing but they are not changing just yet.”

Kiran Rao, the lady behind the initiative, expressed that main objective was to inspire women and get them in mainstream cinema, either in front or behind.

“The initiative was started two years ago, to inspire females to be part of the film industry, not just tell their stories. We want females to join film industry as writers, actors, technicians, creative arts and camera persons as this will improve the condition of women,” said Kiran.

Film critic Anupama Chopra said that the issue of equality in the film was not just limited to Bollywood, “it is rampant everywhere”. (IANS)

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UN Brings the World Together to Fight Violence Against Women and Girls; 1 in Every 3 Women Currently Face Gender-based Oppression Globally

A third of all women experience violence at some point in their lives, and that figure is twice as high in some countries, according to the United Nations

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Head of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks on stage at WE Day U.N. at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, in New York City (VOA)

United Nations, September 21, 2017 : World leaders meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday launched a half-billion-dollar effort to end violence against women and girls, a crime suffered by 1 in 3 in their lifetimes.

The effort will fund anti-violence programs that promote prevention, bolster government policies and provide women and girls with improved access to services”, organizers said.

It will take particular aim at all categories of violence against women- human trafficking, femicide and family violence.

A third of all women experience violence at some point in their lives, and that figure is twice as high in some countries, according to the United Nations.

“Gender-based violence is the most dehumanizing form of gender oppression. It exists in every society, in every country rich and poor, in every religion and in every culture,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of U.N. Women, said as the United Nations held its annual General Assembly.

“If there was anything that was ever universal, it is gender inequality and the violence that it breeds against women,” she said.

In other forms of violence against women and girls, more than 700 million women worldwide were married before they were 18, and at least 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries, according to U.N. figures.

The initiative of 500 million euros (US$595 million) was launched by the U.N. and the European Union, which is its main contributor, organizers said.

“The initiative has great power,” said Ashley Judd, a Hollywood actress and goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) who participated in Wednesday’s announcement.

ALSO READ Violence against Women and Girls Imposes Large-scale Costs on Families, Communities and Economies, says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

“There are already so many effective, research-based, data-driven programs,” Judd told the Thomson Reuters Foundation ahead of the announcement. “Financing for existing programs is a beautiful thing.

“It also makes an incredibly powerful statement to show that the world is increasingly cohesive around stopping gender-based violence,” she said. (VOA)

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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