National Girl Child Day

India celebrates January 24 as National Girl Child Day. The day is marked out to observe and do away with inequalities faced by girl children in Indian society. It is a day that is meant to raise citizen’s conscientiousness with regard to sub-human treatment meted out to little girls, right from even before they are born! While the country has officially banned sex determination tests to terminate pregnancies if the foetus is a female, yet a good number still find devious ways to find out the sex of their unborn child.

National Girl Child Day therefore focuses on drawing attention to improving the status of the girl child in our society. It is time we made certain that girls get proper reverence and are not only valued as human beings but are ensured of their human rights. We still have a long way to go in maintaining the correct child sex ratio for which we have to work towards changing the warped mindsets with regard to the birth of girls.

The National Girl Child Day should focus on couples to increase their understanding that girls are important and have a definite role to play in society. Demographically and in every other sense to make the world a more balanced and harmonious place to live in.  And for doing this we need to facilitate the issues that are considered a burden in raising girls. We have to give them equal opportunities in provision of the fundamental needs of a child – health, education, nutrition and individual choices.

India is still caught up with patriarchal thinking and it is now up to the new generation to initiate and propagate gender equality among its peoples. National Girl Child Day needs to filter down to every warp and weft of our society to offer every support and opportunity to girls everywhere – urban-rural or rich-poor. Increased awareness will lead to lesser inequalities and give more chances for education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, job opportunities and decision making.

Apart from these basic needs girls upon attaining maturity need to be given freedom for personal choices like employment, marriage and rights over resources and property. It is therefore important to formulate this day in a manner of mission for creating vital changes for the girl child. Mothers and fathers have to learn to make meaningful contributions in the lives of girl children so that they are given proactive support to live their full lives.

This special day therefore hopes to promote the girls significance and status to make way for a more just and gender equal society. This is extremely important to do away with the rigid social biases that we exercise on them throughout their lives. We need to speak up from every platform – civic, social and political about the urgent need to reform the status of the girl child and pave the path for her to be free from discrimination and exploitation.

Let us all mark this day as a starting point to offer opportunities to girls to gain their full potential in a secure and facilitative setting. Let us offer them good education, nutrition and health care rights. Let us educate them regarding their physiology and reproductive health. Let us take part in this mission to fight all backward thinking and social stigma attached to the birth of a girl child. HERD Foundation looks ahead to a day in the near future when we witness pomp and music at the birth of girls.

(Images – Courtesy Google)

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Shocking!

 

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Images – Courtesy Google

Shocking! Beyond words! But words we do need to inform the kind of shameless inhuman crimes that occur against women throughout the length and breadth of our land. Despite the huge public furor after the ignominious Nirbhaya case, just a few years back, there appears to be no sign of the scourge stopping, anywhere. The callous molestation of women continues.

Trending currently is the news of a twenty year-old drunk man raping a woman in broad daylight on the footpath of a busy road in Visakhapatnam. The video going viral on social media makes it clear that passersby remain impervious to this animal-like behavior. While the person who shot the incident did make his way to the police station, but did not do anything to prevent the crime.

A similar incident today has the Mumbai police slapping sections 354 and 509 of IPC on a man shamelessly outraging the modesty of a young girl traveling with her family in a local train. Likewise, is the case of the young girl who jumped off a running train in Mumbai to escape her molester. Pick up a newspaper, follow social media or check out on the internet – you will get a spate of molestation accounts from all over, every day!

All of us on social media would be aware of the “#MeToo” campaign on Twitter and Facebook recently. This campaign has become a global rallying point for women to expose the scale of sexual exploitation in the world today. The movement started on October 15 in response to accusations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein by actress Alyssa Milano. She tweeted: “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘#MeToo’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.

In just 24 hours #MeToo became one of largest trending issue on Twitter with over half a million tweets and shares on Facebook. From celebrities to ordinary women from both sides of the globe, millions and millions of women had this campaign going viral. Actresses from Hollywood to Bollywood, media women from west and east, corporate women, working women, college girls and school girls everywhere had the #MeToo hash-tag appended to their social media sites.

You just had to scroll through social media sites to read of accounts posted by friends and friends of friends to make you realize how pervasive the problem really is. The anecdotes all sounded so similar and so familiar that it added to the sense of solidarity against sexual harassment. The culture of silence around such incidents as if lifted in unison and allowed victims to be heard. Mumbai-based HR Professional, Trevor Mark Fernandes rightly called it a “collective catharsis”.

The campaign leaves one feeling flabbergasted. The enormity of the problem comes home when you see almost everyone that you know has had some sordid experience. You are aware that such things happen. You keep reading about them. But to realize that these things happen every day around you, to people whom you know – family, friends and acquaintances shakes you completely.

Rape today is the fourth most common crime against women. The National Crime Records Bureau 2013 report has 24,923 rape cases reported across India, of which 24,470 were committed by someone known to the victim! India is characterized as one of the “countries with the lowest per capita rates of rape”! According to 2012 statistics, New Delhi has the highest number of rape reports among Indian cities, while Jabalpur has the highest per capita rate of rape reports.

In the wake of the infamous Nirbhaya rape case, followed by several other heinous rape cases that received media outrage and public protests, the Government of India reformed its penal code for crimes of rape and sexual assault. However, molestation and rape continue unabated. But the two ghastly incidents trending today are so shocking and disgusting; they call for strict enforcement of the harshest punitive measures.

International Day of the Girl

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The world observes International Day Of The Girl today on October 11. International Day of the Girl Child or Day of the Girl is an annual event that highlights issues concerning the gender inequality facing young girls. This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.” The focus is on addressing the needs and challenges that girls face and to ensure that we all promote girls’ empowerment.

Designated by the UN, October 11 is the day that reminds us all to invest in adolescent girls. A united effort in this direction will create a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. That is the idea. On this International Day of the Girl, all countries join in to highlight the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls. With nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, one can only imagine the limitless individual potential they have to offer.

UN Women rightly feels that focus on girls is disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. It is a sad fact that girls all over the world face inequity issues, protection issues, and inability to complete secondary education. Adolescent girls everywhere are uniquely impacted and this ought to be corrected by offering benefits by targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs.

There are 1.1 billion girls in the world, and every one of them deserves equal opportunities for a better future. They are a source of energy, power and creativity. They can drive change and help build a better future for all. Yet, most girls face disadvantage and discrimination on a daily basis, and those living through crises suffer even more. Therefore this year pays special attention to the theme – “Empower girls: Before, during and after conflict”.

Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence. In humanitarian emergencies, gender-based violence often increases, subjecting girls to sexual and physical violence, child marriage, exploitation and trafficking. Adolescent girls in conflict zones are 90 per cent more likely to be out of school when compared to girls in conflict-free countries, compromising their future prospects for work and financial independence as adults.

Throughout 2017 we have seen growing conflict, instability and inequality, with 128.6 million people this year expected to need humanitarian assistance due to security threats, climate change and poverty. More than three-quarters of those who have become refugees or who are displaced from their homes are women and children. Among these, women and girls are among the most vulnerable in times of crisis.

Displaced and vulnerable women and girls face higher risks of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as damage to their livelihoods; girls are 2.5 times more likely than boys to miss school during disasters; and displaced girls are often married off as children in an effort to ensure their security. Across the world, empowered girls are raising their voices to fight for their rights and protection in all contexts. They are working to end violence against women and girls, to recognize indigenous rights, and to build peaceful and cohesive communities.

Let this day be a pledge to ensure that girls are offered positive options that allow them to grow and develop social and economic skills. Let ngo’s and civil society organizations boost civic engagement and leadership for girls by advocating their social participation and resurgence. Let nations turn adverse situations into opportunities of empowerment for girls and young women.

On this International Day of the Girl Child let us all commit to investing in skills training and education for girls and livelihood activities for young women. We are well aware of the plight of young girls in our own country. Let us not be passive any more but address the issues affecting the girl child and help to rebuild our communities to create a better future for all of us.

Thus Far And More…

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Dr Amol Deshmukh – Founder HERD Foundation

HERD Foundation began operations in 2006 as a registered non-governmental organization delivering medical care, educational awareness and rural development initiatives. Concurrently it has been undertaking innovative programmes that highlight women’s issues and humanism. The vision is to undertake short term and long term projects that help change societal perceptions for a more balanced public and civic life.

Never since the launch of HERD Foundation have we felt so comfortable than in our position this past year in delivering planned and unplanned programmes for outreach of causes that are dear to us. The Foundation continues working on issues we consider essential for reaching out with our planned objectives. The most important of these is to ensure medical care and health benefits to the poorest communities.

Herein three main areas of intervention that stand out are – regular medical camps, organizing basic life support skill-trainings and ensuring smooth run of the Pauni Tribal Clinic. These were instrumental in upholding the cause of healthcare delivery wherever needed. The committed group of team-members steps up compassionately to give more of themselves, their time – often beyond regular office hours, to continue to make the world a better place for the less fortunate.

With a common desire to invest in life-changing work HERD Foundation works with missionary zeal to reach out to people in the project areas. The organization continues with its tradition of being in the fore front with considered responses to emergent situations. As such we undertake diverse initiatives to undertake activities that range from joining in for the International March Against Monsanto, distribute woolens to the needy, undertake career counseling for students and oversee international pediatric surgery camp.

Aside from direct medical humanitarian aid we also act as change makers in these communities for awareness creation through empowerment efforts across the rural landscape. We address issues like unemployment, gender discrimination, quality education, as also initiating rural sports. We are particularly grateful for the leadership and contributions of Dr Amol Deshmukh in offering a tremendous legacy and a strong base to take the intentions of HERD Foundation forward.

Dr Suchika Gupta Deshmukh as the key figure, who builds upon the founding vision, is adept at translating dreams into reality and to this end guides the in-house team of talented and dedicated staff to deliver key result areas for the organization. HERD Foundation has over this period of time invested in areas that have greatly amplified the organization’s impact. We continue with well-founded plans to reach more people with each passing year.

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Dr Suchika Gupta Deshmukh – Co-founder HERD Foundation

HERD Foundation Mural Artwork Inauguration

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Dr Suchika Gupta Deshmukh, MD HERD Foundation Encapsulating the Project

HERD Foundation commemorated the very inspirational Mural Artwork created at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport at Nagpur, dedicating it to the three little girls who are the face of the thematic visual depiction on girl-child and women empowerment. The mural completed in record 13 days is the brainchild of Dr Suchika Gupta Deshmukh, MD, HERD Foundation.

The ground breaking event held on Saturday, February 18 at arrivals lounge of the airport stands out as an innovative project undertaken inside the airport terminal, a first of its kind! The swift ceremony bore semblance to a flashmob presentation in the tightly-secured precinct. For both invitees and hosts it was an incredible experience that had everyone enjoying the artistic interlude.

HERD Foundation invited keen art lovers of Nagpur to be part of the inauguration, bringing forth bureaucrats, corporate leaders, women leaders, educationists, doctors, entrepreneurs, media people and well known city dignitaries to enjoy the mural. Dr Suchika Deshmukh spelled out the background of how the project came to its successful completion.

Invited speakers shared their thoughts and opinions about the mural artwork. The faces of the girls painted were 3 of 150 children who actually drew their aspirations on paper that were later replicated by artists on the wall. The original children’s drawings were on display at the function. The skill of key artist Augustina Droze, Fulbright Scholar from USA whose specialty is painting photographically, was instrumental in creating larger than life faces of Payal, Sonali and Kashish – portraying Contemplation, Hope and Conviction.

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Dr Amol Deshmukh Congratulates Artist’s for a Spectacular Feat

The design elements of the mural included children’s drawings and girls braids as repetitive features with blank spaces providing art-relief highlighting the creativity. The thematic representation in line with HERD Foundation’s vision is close to Dr Suchika’s heart. Knowing full well that not all girls and women get a privileged platform in life, she had to draw attention to the majority of women in need of empowerment.

Gender bias is prevalent and deeply embedded in all cultures, economies, political and social institutions. Even today women and girls face unacceptable levels of discrimination that apart from being wrong, also prevent them from playing their full part in society. The airport appeared to be a perfect place to project the theme to be used as a telling backdrop. The passionate contributions by volunteer artists who worked tirelessly made it possible to complete the artwork in 13 days!

Never perhaps in the history of airports in India has such an event taken place, to the best of our knowledge. HERD Foundation encourages passengers and visitors to stop a while and enter the innocent minds that conceived the blueprint of this enormous artwork conveying important messages in an engaging manner.  HERD Foundation is proud to produce India’s First Community Art Mural at an Airport that surely adds to the stature of the airport and the city.

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Original Children’s Drawings on Display

 

India and Her Civil Society

Women's Empowerment

Dr V. Mohini Giri – Social Activist & Padma Bhushan Awardee

Our country is signatory to UN sponsored Millennium Development Goals until 2015. We are committed to adopt eight identified goals and to achieve them by 2015. These include among others objectives like Poverty Alleviation, Achieving Universal Primary Education and Reducing Child Mortality. One of the critical goals is to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. This agenda now appears to be a travesty as our civil society daily bemoans despairing crimes committed against women, girls and infant girl-children.

One has only to open the morning newspaper to read the everyday occurrences of atrocious rapes, heinous crimes and horrific sexual crimes committed against females all over the country. The recent dreadful rape of a seven month infant girl by a forty year old neighbor in our own backyard in Zingabai Takli, in Nagpur, reminds us that this does not happen in faraway places but right in our own midst. News channels depict horrifying pictures of similar stories getting repeated endlessly in every corner of the country.

Our heads hang in shame when we hear of foreign women subject to attacks and brutalities. In March 2004, a 59-year old Australian Brahma Kumari adherent, Dawn Griggs was murdered and raped on her way to the sect’s headquarters in Mount Abu. The rape and murder of English teenager Scarlett Keeling brought international attention to cases of rape in India.  Software engineer Nayana Pujari was raped and murdered by her escort driver in Pune in 2009.  And of course the worst – the gang rape of a 23-year old student on a public bus on 16 December 2012 sparked large scale protests all over.

What is going wrong with the moral fiber of our civil society? The fact is that we have become immune to the horrible incidents. A few days back in New Delhi Dr Mohini Giri, former chairperson of National Commission for Women was beaten up when she halted her car to intervene for a teenage girl being openly molested on the road by a group of men in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. Dr Mohini Giri, 76 years of age, headed the commission in the mid-nineties. She is the daughter-in-law of Past President V. V. Giri! If something like this can happen to her, what of lesser mortals.

According to National Crime Records Bureau of India, 309,546 crimes against women were reported across India in 2013! The highest number of victims and majority of victims were in 18-30 year age group! Both these statements are fallacies. Most rapes go unreported because rape victims fear retaliation or humiliation. We all know even infants and little girls are raped. The latest statistics of NCRB state that every day 93 women are raped in our country. Also, that there is a gradual increase in the number of rapes. Despite mass protests after the Nirbhaya incident Delhi continues to be an unsafe city, followed closely by Mumbai, Jaipur, Pune. Other cities may not even be registering offences.

The truth is that conviction rates for rape cases in India need to be addressed severely. We need to deal harshly with rapists, murderers and pedophiles. There is no need to psychoanalyze their behavior but warrant immediate punishment that will act as a deterrent for others even thinking to attempt such crimes. We do not have to exhibit civil behavior to them but make them realize their crime will not be tolerated. Justice has to be exacting and swift. Delays keep victims minds re-living the tragedy for years on end. As a civil society we have to be on the side of the victims and not with the perpetrators of crimes. Make our laws more compassionate for victims and survivors of such brutalities. Let us see justice being done.

Candle Protests

Candle Protests – Whither Goest Justice

135th — This is Where We Stand

This is Where We Stand

Human Development Report – United Nations Development Programme

Each year the Human Development Report offers us a clue as to how “We The World” go about sustaining human progress. This year’s theme ‘Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience’ provides new perception on vulnerability and offers fresh ways to strengthen our resilience. The HDR covers 187 countries from all over the world and this annual publication is brought out by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The current report cites that the top five countries ranked in terms of High Development Index are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and the US. The bottom five in the ranking or on the Low Development Index are Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad and Sierra Leone. India ranks at 135, among the ‘medium development’ countries that include countries like Egypt, South Africa, Mongolia, Philippines and Indonesia.

Among India’s neighbors, Bhutan and Bangladesh are also covered in this category and Pakistan ranks 146 while Nepal ranks 145 and both are in the ‘low development’ category. Sri Lanka ranking 73 falls in the ‘high development’ category. The HDR states that over 200 million people were affected by natural disasters and 45 million (largest number in 18 years) were displaced by conflicts. Such factors play their own role in diminishing progress of human development.

According to income-based measures of poverty, 1.2 billion people live with $1.25 or less a day. However, according to the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index, almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur. Many people face either structural or life-cycle vulnerabilities.

The Human Development Report released today, July 24, 2014 in Tokyo says that measures have slowed down in the past few years. The human development index – a measure derived from life expectancy, education levels and incomes, barely grew from 0.700 in 2012 to 0.702 in 2013. Even this small improvement stands at risk of being reversed in the present bleak scenario of vulnerabilities facing people across the world.

Nearly 80% of the global population lacks comprehensive social protection. About half of all workers — more than 1.5 billion — work in “informal or precarious” employment. This slowdown in human development is a result of the lingering global economic crisis. The expected number of years of schooling too is not growing adequately, with 43% primary students dropping out before completing primary education worldwide. Life expectancy growth has slowed down in Asia, although there is improvement in child mortality rates in Africa.

HDR 2014 introduces a gender development index (GDI) for the first time, which measures gender development gaps among 148 countries. While the overall gender gap is an 8% deficit for women, the income gap is shockingly high — per capita income for men is more than double that for women. Tracking inequality in incomes, health and education, the report says that inequality has declined in health access, remained constant in education but increased by two percentage points with respect to income.

UNDP - HDR

‘Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience’