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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Need to Bridge Skill-Gaps for Rural Income Generation Activities

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The rural area around Nagpur where HERD Foundation works needs to be developed to rejuvenate its dwindling economy. Much needs to be undertaken for poverty alleviation and creation of suitable livelihood options. Comprising of tribal populations subsisting primarily on agriculture it has never appeared more important than now to create avenues for income generation. Aside from agriculture the region remains sadly bereft of any traditional skills or rural enterprises that may augment living conditions.

HERD Foundation is exploring approaches to generate fresh perspectives through people’s participation in planning their resurgence. Our initial steps in these directions have led us to probe a variety of opportune ideas. However for lack of any traditional expertise that usually offers a way out, we are left high and dry with this aboriginal population who are largely forest dwelling inhabitants. Having given up their nomadic existence both men and a segment of women simply carry on by tilling the land to make ends meet.

HERD Foundation is of the view that we need to create pathways for appropriating skills that could offer a way out. But bridging the skill deficiency gap is a huge challenge. The majority of house bound women although interested in investing their time for income generating activities remain confounded by the lack of opportunities. Many of these women are members of self-help groups but their activities are restricted to pooling bits of their money for sharing small loans to tide over economic adversity.

They have never ever attempted at using their funds for productive purposes. However with limited access to opportunities for skill building it appears an uphill task to offer them access to sustainable livelihoods. One of the reasons for this is lack of access to any sort of skill training. Relying largely on agriculture and farm based livelihood opportunities, a greater majority remain unemployed. This unskilled or untrained mass of women can be taught to imbibe certain skills for prospective enterprises.

HERD Foundation looks at these gaps in abilities as an opportunity to set up training programs in appropriate skills that may help them set up suitable ventures. Through purposeful examination we intend to establish fitting vocational training that could lead to sustainable forms of employment, self-employment and entrepreneurship. However we are well aware that any skill building program would have to be a long term project to make it viable and workable.

This then means that skill building trainings would have to be targeted towards turning rural unskilled women to be befittingly trained to be work-ready and employable. By the end of such trainings they ought to be effectively ready to be linked with self-employment opportunities. Through these skills building programs interested women could take on enterprises that have the possibility of fruition. One can even think of adopting an ‘Employer-Payer’ model in which an external entrepreneur supports training-needs by mobilizing and training the women who later become ready to be absorbed in any given enterprise.

However the most important factor here would be the interest and proficiency of the rural women in becoming an intrinsic part of the efforts. They need to be made aware of the importance of their skills, outlook, attitude and focus for continued improvement and development. HERD Foundation is looking ahead to take on tasks for appropriate skill-building and livelihood creation for employability and entrepreneurship through interventions and partnerships with government and corporate agencies who share similar futuristic plans.

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.

Nutrition Awareness Camp for Tribal Populations

 

The Tribal Clinic set up by HERD Foundation at Pauni undertakes regular health awareness programmes as part of its mandated activities to create healthier communities settled here. We systematically take on health camps to popularize preventive measures by organizing health awareness programs on issues related to health and hygiene. While last fortnight we undertook educating about diarrhea, this fortnight focused on nutritional awareness. Our team has been working for past three years in the region and the surrounding villages are familiar with the scheduled programmes of which they are informed in advance.

It is largely women patients who get involved as they are well acquainted with the medical team and they become willing participants in these awareness programmes. Such events teach them to take better care of their children and families. The tribal women are appropriate messengers to carry back the lessons to implement them in their daily lives. It leads them to take informed care of children, aging parents, and community members. These health camps are organized at the Tribal Clinic and last week the nutrition awareness camp drew nearly 60 women to the event.

Information about events gets circulated well in advance and the nutritive recipe competition was publicized to bring in more participants to the health awareness camp. The camp was organized for the benefit of the community women to coincide with the medical team’s health examination scheduled visit to the Tribal Clinic. It is when the team goes out for providing medical assistance thrice a week to this location, that they also plan and conduct activities to ensure inclusive reach for need of health awareness programs for the benefit of the people living here.

On September 8, 2017 the camp was organized with the aim to improve the nutritional status of the populations and especially targeted the tribal families. The food-preparation based nutrition approach was undertaken to create nutrition awareness to enhance consumption of nutritionally rich fruits, vegetables and ingredients. The team members made a comprehensive presentation to promote and emphasize on the importance of dietary variety in order to improve the nutritional quality of their diet and to increase knowledge and education on food preparation.

The team successfully created an environment in which the women became engrossed in learning how to add sufficient variety in their eating habits through locally available, affordable fruits, vegetables and ingredients that would add to their nutritional intake. This kind of participatory nutrition education for the women actually helped in inspiring them to learn new ways for consumption of nutritionally rich food.

Knowledge about alternate food preparation was shared prolifically. The nutrition-rich food competition announced earlier had the women bring in dishes they had prepared. Prizes were given after tasting and judging of dishes. This was done to encourage them to prepare innovative nutritious food in their households that will increase consumption of new recipes. The tribal women felt benefitted in being imparted necessary knowledge and skills to prepare and consume nutrition rich foods that they would add to their diet.

It turned out to be a wonderful effort by the medical team to raise awareness as well as to promote strategies for achieving nutrition security and enhance diversified food habits among these tribal families. These communities after all suffer from micronutrient malnutrition and the team assisted in offering solutions to address the problems. It was a wonderful participatory gathering that taught them to understand the need to learn about importance of nutrition and know of recipes using seasonal vegetables, fruits and condiments.

HERD Foundation hopes the nutrition awareness programme at the community level will promote increased consumption of nutrient rich foods. The health camp attracted the rural poor and disadvantaged women living here. The activities and advice provided by the team were to improve their awareness and skills in cooking to benefit their healthy eating habits. We know the team will be successful in bridging this critical knowledge link to educate home makers – mostly women to take better care of themselves, their children and families.

Vulnerability of Religiosity

The long arm of the law finally caught up with the so called god-man of Sirsa in Haryana. Fifteen long years of struggle since incrimination, this morning saw newspaper headlines emblazoning his 20 years imprisonment for brutal crimes. Social media is awash with more skeletons as victims come out with his strange ‘maafi’ (forgiveness) rituals for women and stories of men being castrated. It was truly all horrific! The cult-following enjoyed by this god-man can only be gauged by his Facebook page claiming – ‘more than 50 million people around the world as faithful followers’.

Even as we fail to understand such horrendous acts, so also we fail to understand the multitudes that throng such organizations. It is a despairing feature of our country that countless people become devotees of these self-proclaimed god-men. It is time we begin to question the rationality of these practices and look deeper inside to try and understand why they get so enamored. What is it that creates unflinching loyalty to these louts who get offered all the ill-founded veneration?

These bizarre figure-heads continue to draw vulnerable people in the name of religion.  Much like the axiomatic Pied Piper, be it the aged dhoti-clad reader-of-scriptures or the bling-appareled, gem-studded glib talker – hundreds of thousands of followers began to look upon them as saviors. Riddled with personal woes and copious troubles people flocked to them in hope of psychological respite and mystical ways out. They even end up offering their willing suspension of (dis)belief.  Who are these people that find time for these tricksters who soon enough begin to exercise abysmal control over them?

If you look closely it is certain classes of people who largely become followers. They are caught on by religiosity, caste-folds, paucity, and backwardness and are keen to don new identities. In the case of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Insaan, sentenced today, it was the Mazhabi or out-caste Sikhs that became firmly entrenched into the cult. Thousands and thousands of people from villages, towns, and bastis of Haryana began to find new-found dignity and social come-uppance as members of the Dera.

And the Dera was rich. As are other such ashrams providing alternate ways of life. Importantly they provide medical support, food security and psychological well-being to an otherwise neglected strata of society. The Dera in particular is quite modern in outlook. With malls and other facilities women particularly found it convenient as it afforded them a wonderful escape from ordinary humdrum lives. Not to speak of spiritual succor – the ultimate opium of the masses along with a sense of righteousness. In fact it offered all of which that should rightly be coming from the government.

It ought to be the government’s job to deliver succor, relief, fulfillment to its people. But it is the portals of such organizations that draw the multitudes seeking it there. And the government just plays the shut eye. Despite suspicions of wrong doings the powers-that-be know full-well that these god-men offer a vote bank. Electoral outcomes matter and officials do not hesitate to kow-tow to these feigning god-men. After all, their nod could mean tacit support for vote margins. The highest in the land have not hesitated to bestow patronage.

Women are willy-nilly drawn into the fold. Lower middle class vulnerable women more so. A sense of freedom, alternate lifestyle, peace of mind and most important food in their bellies are some of the alluring reasons that draw them over. But when they come to learn that gender disparity and exploitation raises its ugly head in these fiefdoms in graver and more insidious ways – often it becomes too late for a turnabout. Unfortunately young women and even young men have suffered most grievously at such places.

We can now but suggest that nobody ought to follow such god-men blindly. It becomes the responsibility of civic institutions to caution people about dangers of following cults. We should assist people to question themselves about what they do and why.  Let religion be in the private domain, within homes and reserved for inner contemplation and personal wellbeing. Let the sacrosanctity of religiosity be a matter of personal spiritualism and not become an opportunity in the hands of such culprits. Let us no longer be duped in the name of our religious vulnerability nor allow self-seeking god men to lay hand on ill-gotten gains, exploitations and our personal dignity.

Unconstitutional! Unconstitutional! Unconstitutional!

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Images – Courtesy Google 

The Supreme Court of India today granted victory to Indian women and makes August 22, 2017 a historical date! Marking a major victory for women’s rights activists, India’s topmost court has ruled the practice of instant divorce by just uttering the words – talaq, talaq, talaq as unconstitutional. The court has also stayed the practice for six months until the government brings up the needed legislation.

The Supreme Court verdict came after considering petitions challenging the so-called “triple talaq” custom. The cases were filed by five Muslim women who had been divorced this way and two rights groups. India was until now among a handful of countries where a Muslim man could divorce their wives in seconds by just saying the word talaq (divorce) three times.

With the Supreme Court’s judgment comes the suspension of instant Islamic divorces for the next six months. The Indian parliament has now to create appropriate laws and bring the legislation in place. Instigation by parents and family is the single largest reason for divorce among Muslims, according to a survey of 20,671 individuals (16,860 men and 3,811 women) carried out between the months of March-May 2017.

Interestingly, there were only 0.3% of reported divorces of both women and men respondents under the oral triple talaq at one go! The most common reasons cited for talaq and there percentiles are as follows: 13.27% – instigated by parents/relatives, 8.41% – unable to fulfill dowry demand, 7.96% – husband having affair, 7.08% – wife not having children, 6.19% – not being a good housewife, 4.87% – husband has no job/lost job, 4.42% – sexual incompatibility, 3.54% – husband does not like the wife, 2.65% – couple only has girl-children, 2,65% – wife’s health not good, 0.44% – spur of the moment anger, 0.88% – alcoholic – pronounced talaq under influence of alcohol, 37.61% – other reasons.

The Supreme Court struck down the validity of instant triple talaq by a majority of 3:2. A bench comprising of five judges, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar included Justices Kurian Joseph, R F Nariman, U U Lalit and S Abdul Nazeer. There are actually six petitions before the Supreme Court, with the main plea filed by Uttarakhand-based Shayara Bano. Her husband of 15 years divorced her by pronouncing triple talaq.

In a 3:2 majority judgment, the Bench set aside talaq-e-biddat or instant talaq, the practice of Muslim men divorcing their wives by uttering talaq thrice consecutively. If a law does not come into force in six months’ time the Supreme Court injunction will continue. Interestingly countries in which triple talaq is already banned include Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh, Pakistan, Sudan, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Algeria and Tunisia.

GENDER APPROACHES – HERD GROUP PHARMACY DIVISION

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Pharmacists, more commonly known as chemists in our country, are healthcare professionals who practice in a pharmacy. It is a field of health sciences that focuses exclusively on the safe and effective usage of medications. As health care team members they are directly involved with patient care. To be able to do this they have to undergo university-level education to understand all about biochemical drugs, drug uses, therapeutic roles, side effects, potential drug interactions as well as be cognizant of monitoring factors for using medications.

It appears to be a good idea to staff pharmacies with women team members, particularly at the store counters. This would be especially useful to interact and respond to women customers walking into the medical store. It has been seen observed that women customers are generally more comfortable to talk to women on the workforce team. Such suggestions have been going around in the sector, emanating from several quarters. It’s been given to understand that the presence of a lady makes female customers (already be troubled by disease and patients back home) instantly comfortable.

Aside from it being a great idea to increase the sales process, it would also work for enhancing the much needed gender equity in the pharmacy sector. In our country very often advice is sought from pharmacists regarding medications to be taken for general ill- health conditions. The best of us may have done so at some point. Since most medical stores are run by men there are hardly any women present to quell doubts arising for women customers. So it’s a good idea to have women pharmacists to tackle issues faced by female visitors.

More often than not in case of mild ill-disposition like common fevers, cold, coughs, and headaches, it is quite common for pharmacists to be quizzed for suitable remedies. If a pharmacy is closer at hand than a doctor many people simply walk up to the medical store and seek guidance as to what medicine should be taken. In the case of women customers having female pharmacists across the counter may be a sound idea to counsel such women as to the best course forward.

By and large, although sizeable numbers of females pass out of pharmacy education each year, a pharmacist’s job is not yet considered as an ideal job for women. Such conservative thinking and traditional opinions continue to plague the sector that keeps women largely out of it. HERD Pharmacy plans to recruit women with the aim to induct willing female pharmacy staff to enhance their diverse roles and to make the best use of their skills. We are keen to make our pharmacies women-friendly so that women customers may approach comfortably and be able to share whats on their mind.

“The feminisation of pharmacy is a fascinating insight into the overall make up of the pharmacist workforce…” ~~ Anas Hasan