Women Hold up Half the Sky[i]: A Special Issue on IWD 2017, in Different Truths

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Different Truths (DT) has been publishing special issues and has also brought out seven Anthologies of Poems on several topics in the past. Here’s the eighth Anthology of Poems, on International Women’s Day 2017, as part of the three-day thematic issue. We thank our writers, poets, editorial team members. Without their active participation, this special issue would not have actualised. Here’s an edit and curtain raiser by Arindam. Happy reading.

Despite over 100-years struggle, women continue to be exploited and discriminated against. The feminist movement has come a long way. The good news is that confidence and courage has percolated down to the poorest and marginal communities in India. What makes women bolder and far more assertive than before, keeping in theme of the International Women’s Day 2017, #BeBoldForChange.

Just a while back, I was watching an election analysis of Uttar Pradesh, where Assembly polls are on, on the popular TV news channel, NDTV. Prannoy Roy, a prominent psephologist, and his team talked to young Dalit women, including a scheduled tribe (less than 1% population in UP). Each of them knew their minds. They were politically aware and were conscious of their caste identities too. Similar was the case with a woman, in an east UP village, whose husband works somewhere in Nepal border. She is on her own and has sent her only daughter, now about 10 years, to Lucknow. The little girl stays in a hostel. The young mother said that she wanted her daughter to be educated and not like her, who has had some rudimentary Urdu education at home.

Roy’s team reasoned that the women from the economically weaker sections, often the Dalits and marginalised, have to struggle and fight for the smallest things in life. This instils in them courage and confidence that might be lacking in upper caste women, who lead a more protected life. Whatever be the outcome of the polls, one thing is certain that women in 2017 have come out of the shadows of their menfolk in the hinterland of India.

But, not all is not good for women. A 20-year-old Delhi University student, Gurmehar Kaur, finds herself caught in unnecessary . She has faced rape and murder threats and is being trolled. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad expressed his opinion, calling for sanity and reason, in an article published in Different Truths, on Sunday (Mar 4). It’s relevant to the issue of women , which enshrines the freedom of expression. Here’s his opinion piece:

http://differenttruths.com/governance/politics/why-is-gurmehar-kaur-in-the-midst-of-rallies-vituperative-social-media-and-vilification/

When patriarchy is challenged, it becomes ugly, red in tooth and claw. Two recent reports from Kerala was disturbing. In the first case, a Catholic priest not only raped a minor but also tried to influence the family and implicate the father of the girl he had raped multiple times, in the past year. Father Robin Vaddakumchiryil forced the 16-year-girl to have sex with him. The minor gave birth to a child in a Kannur hospital, on February 6. There was an effort by the minor and her family to cover up the misdeeds of Father Robin of a church in Kottiyoor. But, investigations by the police helped them nab the actual culprit.

In another case, a Malayalam cine actor, a well-known heroine was molested by her ex- and present drivers. Read a newspaper any day, anywhere in India. You are bound to come across such reports of crime against women. But, all these could not stop the brave women of India surging ahead, against all odds. The ordinary women, lost in the billion plus population of India, have some extraordinary stories to share.

Let me turn inward. What do we do in Different Truths?

Interestingly, there are five male columnists and 18 female columnists, every week in Different Truths. Men account for 22%, while women columnists have 78% share in the editorial content in our webzine. We practice rather than preach greater women participation.

I am thankful for the overwhelming response from writers and poets, again mostly women, in response to our invitation for submissions for IWD special issue. We have now decided to extend the IWD coverage to three days, March 6 to 8 (Monday to Wednesday), instead of a one-day issue on March 8. You all made us stand up to the challenge. The anthology of poems, which has 38 poems from around the world, is indeed a collector’s issue. We have also selected 19 best articles that shall be featured over three days.

I am grateful to our US-based Managing Editor, Anumita Chatterjee Roy, for making this special issue possible. Mention must be made of our Literary Editor, Basudeb Chakraborti and two co-editors, Alka Verma, a retired professor of Banaras Hindu University, and Lily Swarn, one of our prolific columnists. Thanks are also due to our small and smart editorial team for burning the midnight oil with us.

The special issue would not have been possible without each of you – our writers, poets, editorial team and the technical team that has been working too.

Having said that let me give us a bird’s eye view of the special issue, on International Women’s Day 2017, day wise.

Day One, March 6:

Michele Baron, a celebrated writer, and poet strike the keynote of the entire issue in her story, Milestones of a Journey from Feb 1909, near the Statue of Liberty, to IWD 2017. She recapitulates the over 100-year struggle of women to form and assert their collective identity.

Many girls are enrolled in schools but they never reach the classroom. Sehar Siddiqui details the reasons for the low percentage of the girl-child education, which stops them from empowerment, in her article, Question Marks that Still Haunt the Girl-child Education in India. She takes a macro view on the subject, in the Indian contest.

Continuing on the theme of girl-child education, Madhuparna Bhattacharya and Dr. Debanjani Guha take a micro view on the subject, in their research article, Girl-child in Labour and Learning: A Case Study in North-24 Parganas. Twenty-five girls of age group 7 to 13 years from ten National Child Labour Project schools of North-24 Parganas were studied. They found that 52% girl- were engaged in domestic labour.

In the article, Getting up on the Inside, Shernaz Wadia profiles ordinary women with extraordinary strength. There are countless women, who go through their lives quietly, bravely willing every muscle and sinew to keep them from being wrecked by adversity or daily domestic violence. We need to salute such women.

Brajesh Kumar Gupta’s research paper, African Women and Colonisation, states that African women have become more differentiated in terms of class, culture, and status, and their complex engagements, encounters, and negotiations with, and contestations against, the wide range of forces, described as colonial, are now clearer.

We close the first day with two interesting short stories. Tripti Sharan’s, The Flickering Diyas, retells the Ramayana from Sita’s point of view. The gender makes her feel that the husband she loved was distant. If only she had a husband to take care of her, not a prince. Here’s Sita’s agony, freed from the male gaze that perhaps was never told in the patriarchal epic.

The second story, A Knife for Life!, by Shail Raghuvanshi, talks of two women, Ria and Shanta Bai, belonging to different economic strata. They work in the same office. Piquantly their lives have many parallels too. Ria, a divorcee, and Shanta Bai, a widow, have similar challenges. Find out how Shanta Bai inspired Ria to deal with life.

Day Two, March 7:

Our lead article for the second day is, Sex Addiction in Women furthers Patriarchy; Compassion leads to Empowerment, by Chhavi Mehra, a Seattle (Washington)-based student of communication. She reasons that sex addiction furthers the evil designs of patriarchy. Acceptance, understanding, love and compassion hold the key to women’s empowerment.

An Anthology of Poems Celebrating Womanhood, by Different Truth Poets, is a befitting honour to women. We feature 38 poems, by as many poets, from various parts of the world. These cover a wide range of issues in an extensive and intensive take on gender issues, in verse.

Swapan Kumar Bhowmik, in his article, Dynamics of Globalisation and Women Empowerment, focuses critical globalisation literature with feminist critiques about the gendered impact of globalisation. Here’s an in-depth research on the contestations and counter-contestations between globalisation and women empowerment.

Renowned American writer, Amidha Porter, reviews two books by Stephanie Saldaña, in A Country Between Worlds, from the gender perspective. A must read.

The New Women Poets, by our co-editor Alka Nigam, states that women theorists agree that the literature of women depends on biological, social, psychological facts that govern her existence. She argues that there are four stages in women poets’ journey. Please read to know more.

Sriparna Dutta states that Thomas Hardy’s heroines are not victims of sexual anesthesia. His mainstream heroines come close to becoming emancipated women, liberated both in thoughts and actions but towards the end, the writer himself becomes judgmental and bundles off the characters to suit the taste of the Victorian reading public, in the research article, Empowerment, Feminism and the Hardyian Fallacy.

We close the second day’s issue with a brilliant short story, Three Glasses of Wine. A plush villa, a luxurious life and hidden beneath it a life that’s futile. Harshali Singh weaves an intense story of a woman who is trapped in her pain. The mystery and surprise ending hold poetic justice.

Day Three, March 8:

The lead article on the third and final day, is Women in Contemporary Democracy: Is Politics Gender Neutral? Our Associate Editor, Navodita Pande, deals with Latin American (Brazil and Chile) and African (Uganda and South Africa) case studies to understand the role of women in democratic politics. She wonders how we fare, on this front, in India, in an interesting gender narrative.

A Narrative on Women, Feminism, Sexuality and Politics in Contemporary India, is an erudite article by Chirantan Sarkar on feminism in contemporary India, covering a plethora of areas, seeking to free it from the male gaze.

Norway-based Amit Singh, our Editor-at-Large, takes a hard look at the honour killings from the rights perspective, in the in-depth article, Universalism Vs Relativism: Honour Killings of Women in India. A must read.

In the research article, Tehmina Durrani: A Champion of Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan, our Literary Editor, Basudeb Chakraborti, says that Tehmina in her first two novels, Blasphemy and My Feudal Lord champions women’s empowerment both in private and civic life. A profile.

The women-centric short story …And Two Women Suffered, by Nilakshi Roy, deals with the issue of a man who cheats his wife. A young widow is paid off but her son never gets the family name. Though his wife bore him two children and stayed with him, she too suffered. Find out about the two women in this engrossing story.

We close the special feature with Jamuna Rangachari’s salutation to women, in her article, Shaping Heroism in Women by Women. Here’s a fresh take on Gurmehar Kaur, the 20-year Delhi University student who is in the eye of the storm.

We, the editorial team, writers and poets of Different Truths, look forward to your feedbacks, comments, and discussions.  Please like and share these articles and poems with like-minded readers, your family and friends.

Happy Reading. We wish all women, a Happy International Women’s Day.

Best ,

Arindam Roy,

Editor-in-Chief

#IWD2017 #BeBoldForChange #DifferentTruths #InternationalWomensDay  #Women

[i] Inspired by Chinese proverb and also the renowned book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

©Arindam Roy

Photos from the internet.

Arindam Roy

Arindam Roy

Arindam Roy has 35 years in various newsrooms. He was the Managing Editor of a reputed Gurgaon-based Citizen Journalist portal and has held senior positions in several publications. As Correspondent and Bureau Chief, he has written extensively for Associated Press, Times of India, Hindustan Times and multiple news outlets. He has contributed 13 chapters to various publications. Of these, seven chapters were published in two Coffee Table Books, published by the Times Group. He is a co-author of a novel, Rivers Run Back that he penned with Joyce Yarrow. The novel was launched at the American Centre, New Delhi, on January 2015. He lives in Allahabad.
Arindam Roy
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