women farmers' movement in IndiaIndia is experiencing one of the largest and longest-lasting protest movements in world history. It has seen continuous protests for about seven months, most prominently in New Delhi, the capital city. Hundreds of thousands of protestors have gathered to support the movement, in which farmers demand the repeal of three agricultural laws passed by India’s government in September 2020. Women, many of them farmers, are leading these protests.

The Farm Laws

The three laws passed are known as the Farm Laws. They allow for the privatization of agricultural markets. While the government stated that the Farm Laws would “give expanded market access and provide greater flexibility to farmers,” protestors say the laws will push small farmers into poverty by curtailing produce prices and favoring large corporations.

Women’s Role in Agriculture

Women are prominent in the farmers’ movement protest scene for multiple reasons. The laws can affect both their work as farmers and their family lives as spouses to farmers. According to India’s National Council of Applied Economic Research, women account for more than 42% of India’s agricultural labor force but own only 2% of farmland.

In 2019, more than 10,000 agricultural sector workers in India committed suicide, partially due to financial hardships. Widowed women were left to provide for themselves and were often unable to gain rights to their husbands’ farmland due to gender-biased inheritance traditions.

Women’s Role in the Protests

The farmers’ protests and women’s role in them have received mixed reactions from the public and the government. S.A. Bobde, the Chief Justice of India, asked, “Why are women and elders kept in the protest?” Bobde asked advocates to encourage women to stop showing up at protest sites. However, women responded to his remarks by yelling “no” into microphones and continuing to protest.

Jasbir Kaur, a 74-year old farmer, told Time Magazine, “Why should we go back? This is not just the men’s protest. We toil in the fields alongside the men. Who are we — if not farmers?” On Christmas Eve, protestor Amra Ram, the vice president of the All India Kisan Sabha, acknowledged the work and importance of women in the farmers’ movement in India.“Women farmers are fighting the battle at the threshold, and we are here to follow them,” he said.

Global Response

Despite governmental dismay toward the protestors, there is support for the Indian farmers’ movement across the globe. Solidarity protests have been held in Great Britain, the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, women celebrities such as singer Rihanna, climate activist Greta Thunberg and author Meena Harris have used their Twitter platforms to stand in solidarity with the Indian activists.

“We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters,” Harris tweeted in February.

India’s foreign affairs ministry accused foreign celebrities of being dangerously “sensational” after Rihanna’s tweet reading “why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest” increased anger toward India’s government officials.

History of Women in Protests

A large female presence is not new in Indian protest scenes. In the 1960s and 1970s, women activists stood up against gender violence and the economic exploitation of women. Their efforts drew the attention of the United Nations, which called for the reassessment of social conditions for women in India. That led to the founding of the Committee for the Status of Women in India (CSWI) in 1974.

More recently, in 2012, protests following the gang rape of Jyoti Pandey demanded public safety reform for women. India passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 2013 to address concerns about sexual violence.

In India, women protestors have historically been persistent in demanding reform. Women are propelling the farmers’ movement in India, one of the largest protests in history. However, the Indian government has yet to repeal the Farm Laws as protestors demand.

– Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr

Manisha Mohan, a research scientist at MIT Lab, has developed a sticker-like wearable sensor that can detect sexual assault in real time and quickly alert nearby people, as well as send distress signals to the victim’s family and friends. This sensor to detect and prevent rape sticks to clothing just like a sticker would, and can be trained to learn the difference between when a person is undressing themselves and when they are being forcefully disrobed.

If the device detects forceful disrobing, it sends a message to the wearer’s smartphone to confirm if the act was consensual. If the wearer does not respond in 30 seconds, the phone emits a loud noise to alert nearby people. This alarm can only be stopped by the user with a predefined password used within 20 seconds. If the alarm is not stopped, the app automatically sends distress signals to family and friends, along with the victim’s location.

The sensor learns from the environment and is trained to differentiate between normal undressing and forceful disrobing, which allows it to detect signs of an assault even when the victim is unconscious or not in a position to fight against the attacker. This can act as a life-saver, particularly for victims that are minors, bed-ridden patients or intoxicated people. This sensor to detect and prevent rape works in two modes. In passive mode, the wearer is assumed to be conscious and can set off distress calls on their own by touching a button in case of an impending danger or threat. In active mode, the sensor tries to detect signals from the external environment.

From heart rate monitors to fitness watches, wearable technology is becoming a norm in today’s society. In a world where an estimated 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence, Mohan’s sensor to detect and prevent rape comes as an immediate and effective solution. In Mohan’s own words, “We don’t need bodyguards, I think we should have the ability to protect ourselves.”

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly signed a Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. More than 20 years later, one in three women still suffer from physical or sexual violence. It is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence some point in their lives. However, some national studies show this number to be as high as 70 percent. In 2012, a study conducted in New Delhi, India found that 92 percent of women reported having experienced some form of sexual violence in public spaces. Adult women account for almost half of all human trafficking victims detected globally and women and girls together account for about 70 percent, with girls representing two out of three child trafficking victims.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr

Indian_HealthcareThe American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) will focus on women’s health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India in its 10th Global Health Summit.

For almost a decade, the AAPI has gathered to contribute to the discussion of healthcare in India. This year, the focus will be on women’s health and non-communicable diseases, which plague 5.8 millions of Indians each year, according to the WHO.

Also included in this year’s summit will be a launch of the country’s first Trauma and Brain Injury Guidelines, reports ETHealthworld.

“This GHS promises to be one with the greatest impact and significant contributions towards harnessing the power of international Indian diaspora to bring the most innovative, efficient, cost effective healthcare solutions to India,” says AAPI.

This year’s summit will be held from Jan 1 to 3, 2016, in New Delhi.

The annual summit is not the only effort by the AAPI to improve Indian healthcare.

The organization also houses the Global Clinical Research & Trial Network (AAPI-GCRTN), which fosters collaboration on research and clinical trials; the Young Physician Section (AAPI-YPS), which educates and enhances the careers of young physicians; and the Charitable Foundation (AAPI-CF), which serves the poor in remote areas of India and the U.S.

The AAPI and its contributions to health in India serve as an example of the country’s growing interest in health and poverty, as well as its growing resources.

The Government of India has made tremendous progress recently, especially in commitment to pressing issues concerning the poor members of its population.

At the beginning of this year, India became the first country to adapt the Global Monitoring Framework on NCDs. In line with the WHO’s Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020, the framework’s targets are aimed at reducing the number of global premature deaths from NCDs by 25 percent by 2025, says the WHO.

India is paving the way for developing countries’ healthcare, and this summit will provide solutions for multiple healthcare problems that can be applied to other areas.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: India Times, AAPI Global Healthcare Summit, AAPI USA, AAPI Charitable Foundation, AAPI YPS, WHO                                                                                                                                                                      Photo: Flickr

World’s Most Polluted City-TBP

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that Delhi, India is the most polluted city in the world. Delhi is home to a large younger population, putting the future health of millions of children at risk.

Children no longer play outside, many preferring the safety of their homes rather than the dusty, polluted outdoors. Even when the searing Indian summer temperatures subside in the evening, children remain indoors.

Adhinav Agarwal, a pediatrician in Vaishali, says that about one-third of his patients suffer from chronic respiratory ailments. This is a direct consequence of the appalling pollution in Delhi.

According to the survey released last year by the WHO, Delhi has “an annual average of 153 micrograms of the most dangerous small particulates, known as PM2.5s, per cubic metre.” To put this information into perspective, Delhi’s level of particulates is six times the WHO’s recommended maximum, 12 times the level of U.S. standards and more than twice the level considered safe by Indian authorities.

Because nothing has been done to lower the level of particulates, there are now fears that millions of children in India will suffer serious health problems later in life. This will cause a domino effect, affecting the future generations of children.

Dr. Guleria, a lung specialist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, voices his concern, “If you look at lung function in children [here], there is significant decline with constant exposure. This will probably be irreversible. For adults, there is also a more rapid decline that usual with age. Some suggest it is the equivalent of smoking around 10 cigarettes per day.”

The severity of health problems depends on the level of exposure. However, many children in India often ride a bike or walk to school along busy roads. While trying to further their education, children are exposed to high doses of toxic chemicals and damaging particulates every day. And even while attending school, children are continually exposed to damaging chemicals and particulates as “Daily levels in schools are four times worse than those that are supposed to trigger alerts in London.”

The pollution in Delhi has been caused by the emergence of modern conveniences. Traffic is very heavy at all times of the day. Families often own more than two cars, increasing the traffic congestion.

But traffic is not the only factor adding to the pollution. Huge landfill rubbish dumps are set on fire. Industries that pump out pollution daily are located just a few miles outside the city. Construction sites generate clouds of dust. And seasonally, crop fields are burned in neighboring states.

Many parents are worried about their children’s health, but they cannot afford to send their children to a boarding school or move out of the city.

Delhi has seen improvement decreasing the pollution, but these efforts have slowed or stopped completely. Health experts urge the government to implement strategies to slow pollution.

Many have only looked at the problem of pollution from an economic standpoint, yet the cost of health has been forgotten. A generation of children is expected to have lasting health problems, and future generations will likely face the same health consequences if nothing is done to improve the air quality.

– Kerri Szulak

Sources: BBC, The Guardian
Photo: Vox

In the developing world, one in three girls is married before age 18, and over 200,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women account for approximately 60 percent of HIV infections, despite making up just over half of the population.

The International Center for Research on Women, or ICRW, a Washington, D.C.-based global research institute and registered nonprofit, has been working for nearly 40 years to combat statistics like these.

Founded in 1976, the ICRW conducts empirical studies intended to measure the obstacles that hinder women in the developing world from reaching their full potential. The ICRW then recommends policy priorities and designs “evidence-based plans” for donors, program designers and policy makers that enable needy women to lead happier, healthier lives.

The ICRW focuses its research on several main areas related to women’s empowerment. The first of these areas centers on issues that begin in adolescence.

Specifically, the ICRW conducts research on child marriage, education, work, healthcare and relationships. By identifying ways to make the attitudes and options of adolescent boys and girls more equitable, the ICRW hopes to empower women to take better control of their own futures.

The ICRW also focuses its research on how disparity between men and women affects agricultural productivity and food security in developing nations; women’s economic empowerment, employment opportunities and property rights; reproductive health and fertility control; HIV contraction, stigma and discrimination; and domestic violence issues.

In the four decades since its inception, the ICRW’s research has been instrumental in bringing about meaningful change in the lives of women in need. Its research efforts have, among other accomplishments, guided the passage of a 2005 law in India working to combat domestic violence, increased the availability of microfinance loans available to women in developing nations and helped integrate women’s empowerment and gender equality into the Millennium Development Goals.

With new regional offices in Kenya and India, the ICRW continues to conduct relevant research aimed to produce “a path of action that honors women’s human rights, ensures gender equality and creates the conditions in which all women can thrive.”

– Katrina Beedy

Sources: International Center for Research on Women, Coalition for Adolescent Girls
Photo: Flickr

In 2001, the Indian Supreme Court mandated the implementation of a mid-day school lunch program with the explicit goal of feeding 120 million Indian children daily. For years, this program has been credited with increasing school attendance throughout India, as well as serving as a boon to a large malnourished population. This school lunch program has come under considerable scrutiny when, in a single day, two separate schools shut down with ill children-25 of which have died this past week. While politicians dodge accusations of corruption, many have made it clear that without adequate regulation, this program faces an uncertain future.

In 2001, the developing nation of India was, as it is today, plagued with undernourished and undereducated children. While entering the arena of developed nations was, as it is today, a major goal of India, the government understood that with undernourished and undereducated children, their goals would be harder to meet.

It may come as a surprise to many, but India has had a long culture of ensuring food for their young. Dating back to 1925, the Mid-Day Meal Program has grown from providing food to disadvantaged children of the Madras Municipal Corporation to feeding 120 million across the country.

The benefits of such a program are multi-faceted. On one hand, the program serves as an incentive for children to attend school and become educated. Where students don’t have adequate nutrition, lethargy makes learning near impossible. Through strict nutritional requirements, the program aimed to curb this issue. On the other, the program gives young children the nutrition necessary for healthy mental and physical development.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development reports “food norms have been revised to ensure balanced and nutritious diet to children of upper primary group by increasing the quantity of pulses from 25 to 30 grams, vegetables from 65 to 75 grams and by decreasing the quantity of oil and fat from 10 grams to 7.5 grams.”

Without any doubt, India’s recent economic growth has been impressive. Yet, despite the countries bourgeoning transformation into a powerful player, certain growth indicators remain stunted. With the United Nations Children’s Fund has reported that India boasts one third of the words undernourished children, programs such as the Mid-Day lunch program are crucial to further development.

With the events of the passed week, this program is under fire. In a matter of hours, 25 children from the Bihar state went from a health, happy disposition to vomiting, diarrhea, and death. Concurrently, in a nearby Bihar district, 60 children were hospitalized after exhibiting traits food poisoning.

After cursory investigation, the culprit was found to be cooking oil stored in a used insecticide container. With this revelation, charges of corruption levels of deregulation have been levied against all levels of government. Saurabh Sharma, a representative of New Delhi non-profit JOSH, has stated that “the government has no monitoring system about the quality of food”, he continues “the school principal will blame the private contractor who will blame the government for paying as little as four rupees [6 cents] per meal.”

With an incensed citizenry, many feel the program, or at least the breadth of the program will suffer unless adequate regulation is implemented. Without any doubt, such a program is absolutely necessary and absolutely zero patience should be afforded to government corruption. India’s future depends on it.

– Thomas van der List
Sources: Unicef, MDM, Christian Science Monitor, CNN
Photo: International Science Times

In the north Indian city of New Delhi, severe water shortages affect the entire city, a problem that will only be exacerbated as demand rises in the summer months. As the heat rises, demand for water can outstrip availability by 25% — and this number only refers to those areas of the city connected to the city infrastructure. Up to a quarter of the inhabitants of New Delhi have no access to piped water. In these areas people are forced to seek water from overused wells or polluted rivers, or the occasional tanker of water that is delivered.

As ever, the shortages are felt more strongly in lower economic circles. But even middle-class citizens are left scrounging for water to supplement what the city provides.

Many factors contribute to these continuing shortages. New Delhi’s population has swollen by nearly 50% over the past 20 years, and the city has been unable to keep up with infrastructural development. Across the city’s network, 25-40% of piped water is lost due to leaks, before arriving at its destination. Additionally, the majority of waste produced goes untreated, and is released into local bodies of water, polluting them and making them unusable as resources. For example, the Yamuna river, whose source lies in the Himalayas, enters the city still relatively clean, at which point some 200 million gallons are extracted from the river every day by the public water agency. However, as the river runs through the city, nearly a billion gallons of public sewage is dumped into it daily.

This problem of waste causes severe health concerns, especially in slums with no connection to the city’s sewage systems. In these areas sewage is left exposed,  contaminating water sources used for bathing and washing.

The irony of these water shortages is that New Delhi has access to enough water to feasibly provide for the demand. But due to these issues of infrastructure and treatment, the system is failing. And those most strongly affected are those underprivileged to begin with.

With water scarcity becoming increasingly a source of potential conflict, providing the infrastructure to alleviate the burden must be a primary concern of governments globally. Demand will only continue to increase exponentially, and while cities like New Delhi will be the first to feel the strain, they will not be the last.

– David Wilson

Source: New York Times, Wall Street Journal

BRICS Think Tanks Plan Involvement With AfricaBRICS think tanks are planning the proceedings of the 2013 BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa. The proceedings will decide the course of BRICS’s support and capitalization on exploring African economies.

BRICS (an association of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will be discussing the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank which was proposed at last years’ BRICS conference in New Delhi.

Although it would be an internationally supported bank, the BRICS Development Bank would not be competing with larger banks such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund (IMF). Instead, the BRICS Development Bank will be concerned with financing and supporting intra-BRICS programs and emerging African economies.

Among the finance projects of the BRICS Development Bank will be creating job prospects, urbanization and infrastructure development of African communities and economies. While the goals of larger organizations such as the World Bank are in line with these same pursuits, many representatives affiliated with the BRICS association feel that reform is necessary and that a more focused bank could better meet the needs of developing African economies.

If the BRICS Development Bank is established, South African officials believe that it should be based in their country.

-Pete Grapentien

Source Business Day