Small Steps Big Leaps



While several NGOs working for women’s empowerment have been calling for a ban on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in India, will the victims from the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community in Gujarat not rise in protest? Evidently, that day is not too far. 17 women from the community have come out in protest against the notorious practice, locally known as ‘Khatna’. The women, on whom ‘Khatna’ was forced, petitioned the Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, along with two other ministers. Their online petition Speak Out on fgm has already received nearly 5000 signatures from a cross section of the society. Considering the current scenario in India, female circumcision is prevalent among 1.5 million Bohra Shia-Muslims. Aiming to curb sexual urge in women, ‘Khatna’ is also carried out in the belief that it enhances sexual pleasure for men. who has earlier termed this as a violation of human rights. The practice was recently banned in Nigeria and Gambia.


For a transgender, to merge with the mainstream has always been a thorny issue. Take the story of 25-year-old K Prithika Yashini, the first transwoman sub-inspector in the country from Tamil Nadu, for whom the ordeal was no different. Today when she wears Khaki after long years of legal battles filled with traumatic indignities, she indeed feels vindicated. Son of a driver-tailor couple in Salem, Yashini began identifying herself as a woman since she was in Class XI. Of course, the obstacles to convince the society at large began with her own family. While filling a form for the sub inspector (si) test, she noted the only gender categories available were male and female. But she resolved to fight for her right to identity and become a police officer as a transwoman. For the si written exam, she collected a hall ticket at the eleventh hour, having fought to obtain one, according to her terms, in the High Court. Of late, she has begun preparations for civil service exams.


Arunachalam Murugananthan, a school dropout, post his invention of a cost effective sanitary pad-making machine, originally intended for his wife, has inspired people around the world. Amy Peak, a yoga teacher from a village in south-west England, read Murugananthan’s story and saw moving pictures of women in war-torn Damascus. Eventually, she collected 40 kg of clothes and headed for Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan where 79,000 Syrian refugees reside. While there, she realised that Murugananthan’s sanitary pad making machine could lead to the betterment of menstrual health among the women in the refugee camp, where one in every four required pads. In her efforts to provide cheap sanitation to these women, Peak also visited Coimbatore to learn about the process from Murugananthan. Simultaneously, she also got in touch with Swati Bedeker from Vadodara, who improvised on Murugananthan’s basic idea.


that the the advent of new media has done its part to fuel religious and political discord holds some truth. People who had quit social media to avoid such polarities might be heartened if they were to log back now. In the shocking aftermath of the Chennai floods they will find one tale of undaunted humanity. Chitra and Mohan, a couple from Chennai, wants to name their baby girl Yunus. They have their reasons too, behind this unusual choice. The baby will derive her name from Yunus, an engineer who had rescued her parents. The couple was struggling in neck deep water, in their village Urappakkam, during the devastating floods when Yunus spotted them. He subsequently took Chitra to a nearby hospital while she was in labour pain on that dreadful night. Yunus and his friends had learnt about the terrible condition in Urappakkam through social media. Following a concerted effort they saved around 400 people stranded in the area.