My Indian of the Six Years

irom sharmilaCNN-IBN is ratcheting up its focus on the ‘Indian of the Year’ award. My vote is for someone who isn’t even nominated. Irom Sharmila Chanu, the poet, the activist, the Menghaobi (what those in Manipur call her; ‘the fair one’). The woman who has been on a protest fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act for the past six years. The woman who has been under arrest and force fed through a nasal tube for almost as long. Perhaps I should call her My Indian of the Six Years.

I’ve written about her before, but two days ago, I found another appeal from a friend and colleague, Monisha Behal, of the North East Network (a women’s rights organisation) in my inbox:

We all know about Irom Sharmila, who has been on a fast since 2000 against the Armed Forces Special Power Act. There are small movements in different parts of this country demanding the Centre to repeal this Act. Signature campaigns in favour of Sharmila are going on as well, especially from women’s organizations. I realized that news channels which publicized Jessica Lal’s case were unbelievably successful. NDTV conducted opinion polls through SMS on mobile phones. I never thought this new technique would work so well.

I visited Sharmila at a New Delhi hospital last evening. I conveyed to her messages of goodwill and support from friends and colleagues. And yet I knew that most do not know about her the way people know about Jessica. Just then Sharmila’s brother showed me an article about her in the Femina February 14, 2007.

I read the piece and saw a small message in the end of the final page. It says: DO YOU SUPPORT IROM’S WAY OF FIGHTING THE AUTHORITIES? SMS us your replies at 3636 (type FE [space] F0038 then your response, name and city).

I hope very much that this new technique of the media will do some magic to a woman who wants to live, see and enjoy the beauty of this world. Please, do SMS your support to young Sharmila.

On World Aids Day

From Stephanie McMillan‘s blog.

5.7 million Indians are reportedly HIV positive. Of these, nearly 40% are women. And no, they are not sex workers. They are mainly young, married women, more than three-fourths of whom have had sexual contact only with their husbands. As Breakthrough puts it: the greatest risk of HIV/AIDS for many girls and women is marriage.

Should women marry career men?

And if this sounds absurd to you, why doesn’t the opposite sound equally absurd to Michael Noer (he of the infamous Forbes article ‘Don’t marry career women’)… or to many others on this planet?

Bageshree had an interesting piece (which has bits from yours truly, ahem) in the Hindu yesterday, in which she quotes an admirer of ‘Nooyi’s Nintendo strategy’ (!) through which Indra Nooyi allegedly combines “the high-octane energy of her job with the calm, collected demeanour required to manage the equally central responsibility of a mother and a wife.” Bageshree then asks, rather pertinently:

But what happens to slightly lesser mortals who might be doing okay in their careers but may not quite have arrived at what’s called “Nooyi’s Ninetendo strategy”? Those who leave a pile of washing undone or don’t read a bedtime story to the child because there’s a deadline dangling over the head? Or rush off to an emergency surgery without feeding the child hot soup when she returns from school?

Most likely, someone will be whispering into the husband/partner’s ears: “I told you to keep away from these career women, didn’t I?”

The article also profiles Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett’s article, ‘Gasp, I married a career woman!‘ which is well worth a read. They say:

We have just completed a major new analysis of data from our study of dual-earner couples that was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. The data, not yet published, utterly contradict the Forbes thesis that men will be unhappy if they marry career women. Our study–which looks at men’s marital happiness–finds that among dual-earner couples, as she works more, his marital quality goes up. Why so? Probably for a number of reasons.

Men’s wages have been stagnant or declining for nearly 20 years, so her income may be easing financial tensions and making it possible for the couple to pay their bills. Her enhanced earnings may be heightening her self esteem, and so she brings these good feelings about herself into the marriage. He may want to spend more time with the family, and her work eases the breadwinning burden. Research tells us that men today do want more family time and are actually spending more time with their families than they used to.

Lucky I married a feminist. 🙂

Ignorant MPs

From The Hoot:

NDTV India did a random survey of members of parliament to see if they knew something about India’s history. What is the order of colours on India’s flag? What was Mahatma Gandhi’s full name? Who wrote the national anthem? Lots of blank faces around, but no red ones. Our MPs apparently think history is for the schoolbooks, and did not seem particularly embarrassed at their ignorance. Najma Heptullah referred to Bankim Chandra Chatterjee as Bumkum Chottopadhya.

Minimum security, maximum impact…

Or: women political cartoonists and why we need more of ’em.

I thought it was about time I introduced Stephanie McMillan to those of you who read this blog, but don’t know about her (and possibly don’t check my blogroll; hey, that’s okay, forgive you). I came upon her when this brilliant cartoon did the rounds:

This was up on Stephanie’s site, Minimum Security, in April 2006, in response to Republican Senator Bill Napoli‘s support to a legislation in South Dakota limiting abortion services access to (in his words):

a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married.

The rest of us, married or otherwise, virgin or otherwise, religious or otherwise, clearly don’t count. So Stephanie felt, if anti-abortion politicians can be so certain about telling women what to do with their bodies, why not let them deal with other decisions women make? All other decisions…!

Continue reading “Minimum security, maximum impact…”

Geeky Gals at the BlogHer Conference

I know I was being cheeky by commenting on Stake Five that we might explore Feminist ColdFusion or ColdFused Feminism, but the interfaces between gender and technology do fascinate me. Unsurprising, now that I’m with a geek who’s feminist and slowly turning into a feminist gee-eek! myself (what else can explain my evangelism around Ubuntu, which is my OS, and various other minor joys around website constructions and blog creations?). Any which way, it made me interested in learning more about the second BlogHer (‘where the women bloggers are’) conference, held in San Jose, July 28-29.

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‘News’ bhi kabhi news thi

In other words: once upon a simple time, News!!! used to be plain, common, possibly boring, but certainly unadorned: news. On one channel, if we were lucky enough not to be interrupted by power cuts at a drop of rain. And now? Move over soap operas. Here comes the news.

Last weekend, a concerned Indian public spent breathless hours – over two whole days – in front of the idjit box, gazing fearfully at the sight of a little boy trapped in a 60 foot well. Without seeking accountability from the contractor(s) for gross negligence, the (un’countable) news channels jostled with each other to provide us a whimper by whimper account of Prince’s trauma. While no one is denying the fear and hope of the situation – and the classic plot of a feel-good ‘human interest’ story when Prince was finally rescued – did we (and Prince) have to be submitted to the indignities of sensational media coverage?

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Whose news is it anyway?

If you’re lucky, you’ve been able to blog about it. If not, you’ve been fuming in offline silence over the Indian government/ISPs’ inept blocking of blogsites over the past couple of days. But in the midst of all this cyberspace critique, a news item in early June seems to have passed under the radar of many bloggers. Or was there a blackout there too? And this time, by the mainstream media?

On June 5th 2006, The Hindu carried a story on the first ever statistical analysis of its kind: a survey of the social profile of more than 300 senior journalists in 37 Hindi and English newspapers and television channels in Delhi. As Newswatch India commented, if sex, religion and caste are to be taken together, more than two-thirds of the top media professionals in the India come from less than 10 per cent of its population. Shocker (or is it really?): there is not a single Dalit or Adivasi amongst these top 315 media decision-makers. Hindu upper caste men hold 71% of these jobs, and Muslims, only 3%. Interestingly, a gender analysis gives the most positive spin, but there too, mainly in the English electronic media: women account for 32 per cent of the top jobs. In the English print media, women form 6 per cent of top editorial positions and 14 per cent and 11 per cent in the Hindi print and electronic media. But there is no woman amongst the few OBC (Other Backward Classes) decision-makers: groups that suffer ‘double disadvantage’ are almost entirely absent from those surveyed.

Continue reading “Whose news is it anyway?”