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Showing posts from 2015

Aarefa Johari: Let’s Put An End To Female Genital Mutilation

Published on Women's Web - April 27, 2015 Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is an act that violates the rights of young girls and women. Aarefa Johari speaks out against this tradition fearlessly. Aarefa Johari is a journalist with She works six days a week, nine hours a day and plays the violin in her spare time. But this is not why she is talked about. Aarefa loves to spend her time campaigning and raising her voice against the practice of FGM among the Bohra community. The practice of circumcision comprises procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes it as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a violation of the rights of girls and women. Aarefa recently participated in the Pakistan US Alumni Network (PUAN) International Women’s Empowerment Conference in Islamabad where she interacted with women’s rights activists and pro…

Rabtt: Connecting for Change

In the chilly winter of 2010, two friends from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan, gave birth to a unique idea to revolutionize education in Pakistan. They were inspired by their experience of the LUMS National Outreach Programme – a community development initiative that trains exceptionally bright students from all over Pakistan – and the annual Seeds of Peace International Camp in the United States that brings together young people from South Asia and the Middle East to deconstruct stereotypes through dialogue. These were the encounters that encouraged Imran Sarwar and Aneeq Ahmed Cheema, both of whom have been Fulbright scholars, to envision Rabtt – a social enterprise in Pakistan working to redefine the way mainstream education is imparted to school students. Though Rabtt began to take shape in Imran and Aneeq’s minds in 2010, it was formally founded in 2011. Since then, it has been a harbinger of positive transformation on Pakistan’s educational scene.

The many ‘missing voices’ in India’s Daughter

Published on SAYFTY (MARCH 30, 2015)

One film came and controversy arose. The furore over India’s Daughter, a documentary based on the December 2012 Delhi gang rape has been a subject of discussion over the past few weeks. Not just the content of the film, but issues like a ban on its broadcast have resulted in the documentary being discussed by people in India and across the globe. In all this commotion, there is hardly any debate on what the documentary missed out or what glaring problems surface in its narrative of December 16. Sections of Indian society have been suspicious of what motivated the documentary by Leslee Udwin, a British filmmaker. Was it a ploy on part of the western world to show India in poor light? Does it point to a western agenda of asserting supremacy over our part of the world, by simply telling us to reflect over the way we treat our women folk? Does it suggest that we (India) have long way to go before we can claim to becoming the next superpower? While thes…

Letting Democracy Breathe!

Indian democracy is a reflection of diversity. What, after all is India’s democracy without a myriad of religions, languages, ethnicities and ideologies? However, with these differences there are multifarious tensions that democracy encounters in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual land like India. Does democracy experience suffocation at some point of time? Have we burdened it with too many expectations? Have we, as citizens, failed to live up to democratic ideals? We now have a stable government at the centre that according to electoral results enjoys support from majority. Does this mean that now democracy will function well? For a long time now, our democracy has been hostage to appeasement politics. It has been hostage to the politics of polarization, which is the hallmark of all political outfits that dominate the democratic scene. If for all these years, one party tried to woo the minority sections of the country, there were others who claimed to safeguard the inte…

A Media Watchdog in the sub-continent

Book Review The Hoot Reader: Media Practice in Twenty-first Century India Edited by: Sevanti Ninan & Subarno Chattarji
Oxford University Press, New Delhi: 2013
A Mirror to the Indian Media As a watchdog in the democratic and liberal framework, the media’s role has come under immense scrutiny in recent times. The days of independent, objective and ‘journalism for a cause’ are long gone. In the current socio-political context wherein the media’s role in various events is being interrogated, the need for a media watchdog is acutely felt. Indeed ‘watching the watchdog’ is no mean task. The Hoot ( was established in 2001 with the aim of holding a mirror to the Indian media industry and over the years it has been carrying out this task with great acumen. The present book is a compilation of a series of articles, commentaries, analyses, pieces of research published over the years on the website. The proliferation and expansion of the Indian media industry especially in the…

The special trio

Life comes. Life goes. But some inspirations remain. For me, this inspiration stemmed from three powerful women in my family ... two of whom I lost in the year 2013. There are certain losses that do not strike you the moment they happen. You tend to treat them as just another phase of life. It takes time to accept that a dear one is not with you anymore. However, the eternal value that this person holds in your life trickles down memory lane when you start feeling their absence. I was in that sense privileged to grow in the company of women who inspired me not just in life but even during their last breath. At times, I wonder how they made it this far through their sheer grit and determination, defying all circumstances, breaking conventional rules and going all out to show to the world the stuff that they were made of.

I do not look at these three women as individuals, rather I view them as a force that lived and reckoned together. What wonders can women do when they work as a team,…

Life’s Choices – Chapa Kata (छापा काटा)

Acclaimed Marathi play staged as part of The Vadodara International Art & Culture Festival - VADFEST 2015[1] (23rd-26th January, 2015 @ Vadodara, Gujarat) poignantly narrated the story of a turbulent yet heart-warming mother-daughter relationship.
What happens when parents are driven by fear about their children developing their own wings to fly, dreaming of an independent life, even as the prospect of leaving ‘old parents’ stares them in the face? Can parents always define what is in the best interest of their child or do they at times turn selfish? At almost all points in life, we encounter dilemmas, choices that we may not like to make, but are forced to. Chapa Kata, which in Marathi means ‘heads or tails’ – two sides of a coin represents the difficult choice faced by a mother and a daughter, when the daughter tries to carve her own existence and meaning for life.
Staged as part of The Vadodara International Art & Culture Festival (VADFEST), a four day art and culture extrav…

The Question of Women's Names and Identity

Published on Women's Web

A change of last, and even first name is not uncommon for women who get married. How do we view this ‘tradition’ in the contemporary world? Marriage is a life-changing experience, more so for women who witness drastic transformation – right from leaving their homes, accepting a new (at times unknown) person as part of life to adjusting with members of the new family. Different from these changes is the one in a woman’s first and last name. Our name defines our existence, it is who we are. We grow with it, we are socialized with it and it makes a defining impact on our lives. How then does a change in name, particularly the first name impact a woman’s life? In many communities in India (especially in the Maharashtrian and Sindhi communities*), a change in the first name is an important part of marriage tradition. It is a well-established ritual, to which there is religious and socio-cultural basis. The underlyin…


SIT’s CONTACT Programme: Where South Asia lives and learns together
The SIT Graduate Institute’s annual CONTACT programme in Nepal is a platform for people from across South Asia to bond with and learn from each other.
It was the 16th of December when I landed in Delhi from Nepal. On seeing news about the dastardly killing of innocent school children in Peshawar, I wondered how my identity as a South Asian had undergone immense transformation during the past two weeks as a participant of The SIT Graduate Institute’s CONTACT (Conflict Transformation Across Cultures) programme in Kathmandu. I suddenly became more sensitive to my identity as a South Asian, pained at what was happening to my region. The nature of the attack in Peshawar shook me, since it was only a day before that I parted ways with my South Asian friends, pledging to work in solidarity for peace. My arrival from Nepal and this news reaffirmed the fact that there was a long way to go before South Asia could achieve peace,…