Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sex Workers Daughters Access Education in India

The story below was published in Global Press Institute on Oct 11- the first International Girl's Day. I was traveling and read it myself after a couple of days. So, thought of sharing it here, with a few new photos. You can also read the original article here.

The kids at Chaithanya Happy Home sing as a proud Jayamma - their guardian looks with a smile.
NEW DELHI, INDIA – Madhavi, 12, of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state in southern India, is an aspiring poet.

“I love music and poetry,” she says. “When I grow up, I want to teach poetry to little children.”

But the girl’s own childhood was far from poetic. Deep scars on Madhavi’s face mark the time a dog mauled her at age 2 while she was living on the streets with her mother, who earned a living as a sex worker.

Yet Madhavi’s eyes shine as she smiles and dreams about her future.

“To be a schoolteacher and take care of so many children will be fun,” she says.

And she now has the opportunity to achieve her dreams. No longer living on the streets with her mother, she has safe shelter at Chaithanya Happy Home and studies in the fifth grade at a city school.

Chaithanya Happy Home is part of Chaithanya Mahila Mandali, India’s first nonprofit organization founded by a former sex worker, Jayamma Bandari. Between the ages of 4 and 14, the 35 girls living in the home are all daughters of commercial sex workers.

Even a decade ago, the fate for these girls was to join the same profession as their mothers once they came of age. Today, however, they are living in a safe place and are attending one of the best English-medium schools in Hyderabad, dreaming of becoming schoolteachers, engineers, doctors and revenue collectors.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

US Presidential Debates: Why hearing a Hummingbird could help

Obama vs Romney: Both have got it wrong on Syria.  (photo courtesy: Reuters)
So, the second round of US presidential debates is over. Now there's only one round to go. According to CNN, this one will be a 'cliffhanger'. And this suddenly makes me  wish the pundits in both Barak Obama and Mitt Romney camp had heard Hummingbird.

First thing's first: Hummingbird isn't a bird, but a pro-democracy woman activist and blogger from Syria. As a  minority Kurd, she runs twice the risk of being persecuted by Bashar Assad government (which hates all Kurdis) and therefore she uses this alias 'Hummingbird'.

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But why am I thinking of Hummingbird? Well, firstly because, the final presidential debate will be fought on the ground of US foreign policy and in all likeliness,  Syria is going to rule the debate. And secondly, Hummingbird, who was recently in the US and spoke at 18 events across the country about her country, feels that none of the candidates has got it right on Syria, or what her people really want.

First, here's what she thinks of the current president: the policy of US on Syria, under Obama's leadership: Obama's policy has been sketchy, weak and absolutely ineffective in either stopping the bloodbath, or the shipments of arms from Russia and China. 'Obama has just not shown enough courage to stop Russia and China. Its either this, or maybe that he just doesn't care enough,' she says.

Now, if Obama's policy is weak, Mitt Romney, the challenger, has got a horribly wrong one.

On October 8, hours before Hummingbird was interviewed by CNN's Suzanne Malveaux on her Newsroom International (the interview lasted only 3 minutes which in itself indicates the little seriousness the US media has been attaching to Syria). Romney had also spoken on Syria, attacking Obama for not doing enough on Syria. But,  when Hummingbird heard that Romney was in favor of a military intervention, she shouted, 'No! Syrians will never favor that..'

So, what is it that Syrians really want? According to Hummingbird, whose family lives in northern Syria and is displaced since the uprising started, there are five specific actions that US needs to take:

Monday, October 15, 2012

3 weeks of silence = 3 weeks of speaking out

Its been a while - 3 weeks to be precise - since I wrote anything. And that's because, I had been speaking, at the World Pulse Live tour that went on for slightly over 3 weeks (17th-9th) It is a tour organized by World Pulse - the US-based, world's largest women's media group. And the tour is for the three toppers of their Voice of the Future correspondent program. As one of those lucky three, I was there, participating at the 4 city (New York, Washington DC, Portland and Atlanta), 18 events tour, talking about the need and effectiveness of connecting grass root women through digital technology. Shared here are some of the highlights of what I would always remember as an epic tour!
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It happened on 8th of October. Suzanne Malveaux of Newsroom International interviewed me and my fellow World Pulse correspondent from Syria. Among other things (Infanticide, my work and my experience as an unwanted girl child), Suzanne asked me how digital technology could help stop killing of girl children in India. My answer was, by helping women quickly seek help when they were in a crisis situation, and also share their experiences directly with the global audience.  The same day, The Epoch Times also interviewed us and published this article later.