Ranchi girls made India proud

Beating all odds, a bunch of 18 under-14 tribal girls from Ranchi district of Jharkhand went to Spain for two football tournaments – the Donosti Cup and the Gasteiz Cup. They haven’t ever heard of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas or Fernando Torres but these girls with dreams in their eyes have made their country proud.

The man behind the team is Franz Gastler, an American who came to India more than five years ago, who is running an NGO, YUWA, in Jharkhand for the last four years. Team Yuwa, as the team was known, was the only representation from India in the Donosti Cup that was participated by 30 countries. The team was sponsored by Gamesa Wind Turbines Pvt. Ltd.

Rinki Kumari, 13, was the captain of the team. She started playing football when she was just eight, an age when most girls in the village would play hopscotch. The trip to the land of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid didn’t come easy for the girls. They had to dribble past taunts, criticism and even abuse.

Most of the girls are from very poor families and they don’t have televisions at home. So, the only time they have seen Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in action is when “Sir” Gastler showed them match clippings.

As a billion plus India slept, a few days ago in this month, a handful of tribal girls proudly held aloft a football trophy they won in far-flung Spain. But no one cared in India.  Oindrilla Roy said that All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel was not aware of the girls’ superlative achievement, nor was the country’s new sports minister Jitendra Singh.

Yuwa Supergoats at the inauguration of Donosti Cup in San Sebastian, Spain

The Yuwa team was called the Supergoats by the organizers the moment they saw the girls playing barefoot in practice matches on arrival in Spain. Why? The girls had limited football gear and could not take the risk of tampering it before the tournament. They were overawed by international teams in the first tournament, the Donosti Cup in San Sebastian, which is Spain’s biggest football tournament with over 400 teams participating from across the globe. The girls could not cross the group phase.

But they came to their own in the second tournament at Gasteiz Cup, an International Youth Soccer tournament. The Yuwa girls were placed 3rd out of ten teams with two wins, two losses and a draw.

As soon as the announcement was made for the prize distribution ceremony, the girls rushed into their dressing room and returned, some barefoot, wearing red-bordered white saris, their traditional festive dress. Many had their plastic flowers in their hairs. And when they huddled together after the mandatory photo session, some wept inconsolably because they had almost given up their hopes to participate in this tournament.

Bronze girls at Gasteiz Cup

For the girls, it was indeed a giant leap into world soccer from their impoverished village in Ormanjhi block near the Ranchi city. Now, AIFF and SAI must see that they get proper training and encouragement to bring laurels for the country, in future. Yes indeed, they made us proud.

Pink roses on Women’s Day

Pink roses for Women’s Day

I was surprised in the morning when the delivery boy brought me a bunch of pink roses. I didn’t know anything about this. I asked him – “Who sent this?”  He replied that it’s mentioned on the card. Then I found that it was sent by my husband on Women’s Day! Thanks, Jeet.

Truly said by Gurudeb Rabindranath Tagore – “Love’s gift cannot be given, it waits to be accepted.”

A tribute to a great woman on International Women’s Day

Kadambini Ganguly (1861-1923) was the other first woman physician trained in western medicine. Born in Bhagalpur, now in present day Bihar, she was the daughter of Braja Kishore Basu, an enthusiastic Bhramo leader and a pioneer of the women’s liberation movement.

In 1878, Kadambini and Sarala Das were allowed to sit for the entrance examination of the University of Calcutta, established in 1857. Before that girls were not allowed to sit for this examination. She and Chandramukhi Basu were the first two lady graduates of the University of Calcutta in 1882 and took their degrees at the convocation of 1883, and in the process became the first female graduates in the country and in the entire British Empire.

Even the University of London, established in 1826, began awarding degrees to women only five years earlier in 1878. Oxford University began admitting women in 1879, one year after the admission of female students to the University of Calcutta. Cambridge opened Tripos examinations to women in 1881. University of Calcutta’s record is therefore commendable.

Kadambini got married sometime after her graduation to Dwarkanath Ganguly – a school teacher and an ardent supporter of female education.  Leaving her five children to the care of her elder sister, she sailed for Great Britain in 1892. She returned with three Licentiate post-graduate medical diplomas in medicine and surgery from three colleges (Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin) and was attached to Lady Dufferin Hospital in Calcutta for some time. She practised Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Calcutta and was professionally very successful.

Kadambini was a caring mother, dedicated wife and social activist in spite of her busy schedule as a lady doctor. She is a model of today’s working woman. She successfully combined her work as a doctor with social philanthropy and political activities. She actively participated in social reform movements and in 1890 became the first woman to address an open session of the Indian National Congress.

Kadambini passed away at the age of 62, leaving behind 7 children. She continues to be a role model for women of the developing countries. I salute her.

Happy International Women’s day! Celebrate the elegance of womanhood. All of you are beautiful angels on the earth!

HT: Dr. Sisir K. Majumdar

Rosa Parks sat down to stand up for her beliefs

On 1st December 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama an African-American civil rights activist named Rosa Louise McCauley Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger and was arrested for civil disobedience. Though she did not know it at the time, her act of defiance became a catalyst to the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott and a prominent symbol for the modern Civil Rights Movement. The U.S. Congress called Rosa Parks “the first lady of civil rights”, and “the mother of the freedom movement”.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old African-American woman who worked as a seamstress, boarded this Montgomery City bus to go home from work. On this bus on that day, Rosa Parks initiated a new era in the American quest for freedom and equality.

She sat near the middle of the bus, just behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. Soon all of the seats in the bus were filled. When a white man entered the bus, the driver, James Blake (following the standard practice of segregation) insisted that all four blacks sitting just behind the white section give up their seats so that the man could sit there. Mrs. Parks, who was an active member of the local NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], quietly refused to give up her seat.

Her action was spontaneous and not pre-meditated, although her previous civil rights involvement and strong sense of justice were obvious influences. She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation.

At the same time, local civil rights activists initiated a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. The boycott began 5 December, the day of Parks’ trial. In cities across the South, segregated bus companies were daily reminders of the inequities of American society. Since African-Americans made up about 75 percent of the riders in Montgomery, the boycott posed a serious economic threat to the company and a social threat to white rule in the city. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the boycott, the beginning of modern Civil Rights Movement in USA.

In the South, city buses were lightning rods for civil rights activists. It took someone with the courage and character of Rosa Parks to strike with lightning. And it required the commitment of the entire African-American community to fan the flames ignited by that lightning into the fires of the civil rights revolution.

Photo by: Matt Roth

Parks’ act of defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.

Thank you Rosa Parks for staying seated 57 years ago today!

Tulsi Gabbard is the first Hindu in US Congress

Democrat Tulsi Gabbard is the first Hindu and the first female combat veteran elected to the Hill, at a time when Congressional Veterans are waning in number.

The 31-year-old will be making history yet again when she takes her oath of office. When she’s sworn in this January, she’ll take her oath of office over the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text for followers of Hinduism, or Sanatana Dharma.

Gabbard, whose first name refers to a tree sacred to Hindus, follows the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita, a centuries-old Dharmic holy book that is part of the ancient epic Mahabharata, is her primary scripture.

In a statement released after her victory, Gabbard, who was raised by a Catholic father and a Hindu mother, said that she hopes her new position in Congress will inspire other Hindu-Americans to be proud of their faith.

As a member of the Hawai’i National Guard, Tulsi Gabbard served two tours of duty in the Middle East, including Iraq. She was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for her service and was recently commissioned as a Captain.

Working for Rs. 15 a month for 42 years!

The two women, Akku and Leela, have put in about four decades of service at the Government Women Teachers’ Training Institute on a monthly salary of Rs. 15 [$0.30]. Although they were promised that their services would be regularized, they did not get any benefits even after 42 years of service.

After the women approached the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal (KAT) seeking relief in 2001, the Education Department stopped paying them even that meager salary of Rs. 15.

Their plight came to light after Ravindranath Shanbhag, president of Udupi-based Human Rights Protection Foundation, took up the matter and followed up the case right up to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Shanbhag said that although the Supreme Court, the High Court of Karnataka and the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal ruled in favor of the women and directed the government to regularize their services, the order is yet to be implemented by the government. Meanwhile, the women continue to clean the 21 toilets in the institute all through the year without any payment.

The Karnataka Administrative Tribunal asked the government in 2003 to regularize them in 90 days and the Karnataka High Court ordered the government to pay their salaries in 2004. Notices were also issued for contempt of court when the directions were not implemented. Instead of paying them salaries, the government filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court in 2005.

“The Supreme Court ruled in the women’s favour in 2010. Despite all this, the women are still waiting to get their benefits,” Mr. Shanbhag said. “Now, the authorities say that the women were not employable because they had reached the retirement age. I am surprised that the government spent lakhs of rupees on fighting the cases against the hapless women rather than pay what is due to them.”

“Is there any other court above the Supreme Court that can give justice to these women?” Mr. Shanbhag asked and urged the government to pay what is due to the women. In response to several readers’ offers of help for Akku and Leela, Ravindranath Shanbhag, the human rights activist who has been campaigning for their cause, says these women do not want any charity. All they want is for the government to pay them their due.

This is really shocking and shameful for the Government of Karnataka to exploit poor women. The Government claims to be pro-poor and this is the action! Was the government waiting for them to reach their age of superannuation to declare them unemployable? Now, what is the government waiting for? May be their death, so that there is no more claim!

Via: The Hindu

Jarawa women forced to dance for food – what a shame!

In what is a glaring evidence of what tourism has reduced the indigenous Jarawa tribe in the Andaman Islands to, a recent video released by the UK-based daily The Guardian, has been the centre of outrage. It shows females of the tribe — some bare chested, and one naked, trying to cover herself with a polythene bag containing grain — being asked to dance by an off-camera policemen.

Anthropologists believe that the Jarawas are descendants of “some of the first humans to move out of Africa”. Since the Andaman Trunk Road has cut through the area, where the fairly isolated tribe lives, the tribals have been reduced to beggary, often asking for food and money from tourists.

The Indian government has asked the Andaman and Nicobar administration to explain the incident. The Andaman and Nicobar Administration cannot hide themselves behind the date of the video. The fact is that it has been happening under their nose and they failed to take necessary action to stop selling simplicity and nudity of primitive tribes to wealthy tourists. The administration is supposed to prevent any outside contacts with Jarawas as per the Indian laws. The administration feels that they are complying with the laws by just putting up the sign boards on the roads at the entry points, asking people not to offer food to tribals and not to photograph/videograph them.

All those involved in the inhuman exploitation of poor tribals, whom they should protect must be given rigorous imprisonment for life. They have converted the tribal reserve area to a zoo and are treating the tribals as zoo animals for bribes. This is a shame! The culprits must not be shown any clemency.

Humiliating women to stop their protests?

Soldiers ‘beat and batter’ demonstrators with batons in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in a second day of clashes that have killed nine people and wounded more than 300, marring the first free election most Egyptians can remember.

Egyptian army soldiers forcibly arrest a female protester during clashes at Tahrir Square in Cairo on December 17, 2011. Her abaya was ripped open, exposing her naked torso and blue bra. Security forces surrounded her, many wielding batons. As the beating progressed, the guards hit her and one even stomped on her.

Photos of the man bringing his heavy boot down on her bare stomach made the front page of newspapers around the world. The video splashed on the YouTube shows how brutally she was beaten up and dragged. There were many messages on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter under hashtag #BlueBra condemning the beating of the helpless unknown woman.

January 9, 2012

An administrative court ruled December 27, 2011 that the Egyptian military had wrongly violated the human rights of female demonstrators by subjecting them to “virginity tests” intended to humiliate them. The general justified imposition of the tests to safeguard soldiers from being accused of raping women detainees.

The court found that protecting against potential charges of rape was no justification for violating women’s bodies, according to a text of the ruling provided by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which helped argue the case. Ms. Ibrahim was cheered as a hero by hundreds of supporters who marched with her to Tahrir Square. Men formed a ring around a group of women marching, to protect them from harassment.

At first Samira Ibrahim was afraid to tell her father that Egyptian soldiers had detained her in Tahrir Square in Cairo, stripped off her clothes, and watched as she was forcibly subjected to a “virginity test.” But when her father, a religious conservative, saw electric prod marks on her body, they revived memories of his own detention and torture under President Hosni Mubarak’s government. Together they vowed to file a court case against the military rulers. Six other women were subjected to “virginity tests” by the soldiers that night in March when Ms. Ibrahim was assaulted.

Female demonstrators have suffered sexual assaults at the hands of Egyptian soldiers protected by military courts. Human rights groups say they have documented the cases of at least 100 women who were sexually assaulted by soldiers or the security police during the time of military rule — including Ms. Ibrahim’s experience in March and the blue bra girl, by soldiers clearing Tahrir Square after fresh protests.

It’s a shame! This is not the way to prevent women coming out to protest. This is highly condemned. Now, it remains to be seen whether these new humiliations for Egyptian women will lead to significant changes.

Unusual bravery or needless provocation?

While some have called her a heroine, others have opted for the term mentally ill. But however you see her, 20-year-old university drop-out Aliaa Magda El-Mahdy has managed to become a household name in Egypt in just a couple of days by posting naked photographs of herself on social networking Internet sites and sparked a global uproar after a friend posted a photo of her naked on Twitter with the hashtag #nudephotorevolutionary.

The tweet was viewed over a million times, while Aliaa’s followers jumped from a few hundred to more than 26,000. Between supporters and attackers, Aliaa’s blog, entitled “A Rebel’s Diary“, has received more than 4,400,000 hits since she posted the pictures.

In an interview with CNN, she has said: “I like being different. I love life, art, photography and expressing my thoughts through writing more than anything. That is why I studied media and hope to take it further to the TV world too so I can expose the truth behind the lies we endure everyday in this world. I don’t believe that we must have children only through marriage. It’s all about love.”

In closing, I will say that her ideas and thoughts are too radical and represent another extreme. It is hard for the society to give any iota of acceptance although her campaign cannot be put down as a mere titillating provocation. Her method of protest is definitely controversial. Also, she is not the first person to use nudity as a form of protest worldwide, she may be the first person in a country like Egypt. I personally agree that in a free society, every woman is entitled to her freedom, but just dropping clothes in public will not make them free from their exploitations and sufferings under the garb of some age-old, social practices, which have lost its relevance in this modern world.

Please also support Irom Sharmila

Manipur’s human rights activist Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for over a decade, on Tuesday expressed her inability in her letter addressed to Anna Hazare to participate in Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption rally in New Delhi as she is under arrest. Arvind Kejriwal, a key member of Team Anna had reached out to Just Peace Foundation (JPF), a Manipur-based body promoting Sharmila’s campaign, inviting her to join the rally.

Sharmila, the Iron Lady of Manipur, is campaigning to have the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act repealed. The act provides unlimited powers to security forces to shoot at sight and arrest anybody without a warrant. She launched an indefinite hunger strike since 2nd  November 2000 after she witnessed the killing of 10 people by army soldiers in Malom village on the outskirts Imphal. Confined to a hospital ward, she is being force-fed through a nasal tube.

Sharmila has invited Anna to visit Manipur. Everybody supporting Anna Hazare, please also support Irom Sharmila.