Asia

RADIO INTERVIEW: ICRW's Nandita Bhatla Discusses Gender Equality in India

Wed, 03/27/2013

ICRW's Nandita Bhatla joins Indian radio show "Have a Heart" to discuss gender equality in India, ICRW's research with Indian youth, and what can be done to combat pre-existing attitudes and behavioral norms.

ICRW's Nandita Bhatla joins Indian radio show "Have a Heart" to discuss gender equality in India, ICRW's research with Indian youth, and what can be done to combat pre-existing attitudes and behavioral norms.

Listen to Nandita's interview here>>

Radio Interview: Gender Equality in India (Segment 2)

ICRW's Nandita Bhatla, on Indian radio program Have a Heart, says that while conflict is natural, using violence to resolve conflict is not. She continues to discuss violence and equality and says that violence starts with name-calling and teasing as children. Bhatla says that we have to shun violence in all forms.

Click here to access the next segment>>

Radio Interview: Gender Equality in India (Segment 1)

ICRW's Senior Technical Specialist Nandita Bhatla joins Have a Heart, an Indian radio program, to discuss how attitudes and everyday actions, even unconscious ones, can influence gender equality in India. 

Click here to access the next segment>>

Video: Reducing HIV-related Stigma in India

Fri, 03/15/2013

ICRW researchers spoke to participants of a new project that has transformed attitudes and opened minds.

ICRW researchers spoke to participants of a new project that has transformed attitudes and opened minds.

Watch the video here >>

A Price Too High

The cost of being young and female in India
Thu, 03/07/2013

ICRW’s Jennifer Abrahamson talks to adolescent girls about violence, child marriage and the cost of being young and female in India.

The Indian state of Haryana, a short drive from the capital New Delhi, is known for its social conservatism, a declining female population due to sex selection, and more recently, for a number of brutal rapes reported by the national media.

As I would soon learn, life in rural India is full of contrasts and contradictions. The first family I met wanted to tell me about a local unmarried heroine who at 25 took home a gold medal after winning an international wrestling competition.

“If she’d gotten married, then her concentration would have been on the household and her husband, but she didn’t, and now she’s doing really well,” Susheela, a 37-year-old mother of four daughters, told me.

Life is hard for Susheela but she still smiles a lot. She even smiles when the conversation finally turns to more serious matters: what it was like for her to be married as an illiterate child and move in with a strange family, in a strange village, miles from home.

 “At 14, what had I seen? I never even went to school – parents didn’t send girls to school back then. I came here and my in-laws said ‘work in the fields,’ so I worked in the fields. Because I suffered, I didn’t want them to do the same. I thought it would be better if at least my daughters studied,” Susheela says.

Despite this recognition, – marrying their own teenage daughters off as soon as possible remains their priority due to deeply rooted cultural norms.

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is currently evaluating an innovative government program that used cash incentives to encourage parents like Susheela to delay marrying their daughters until they turn 18 – with the added hope that attitudes about a girl’s inherent value would improve. One of Susheela’s daughters, 17-year-old Kirin, is among the first girls to take part in the effort, called Apni Beti Apna Dhan (ABAD) – “Our Daughter, Our Wealth.” ICRW’s findings will be released in late 2013. 

For now, Kirin and her older sister, Heena, 19, remain unmarried, and later this year, they will have both completed secondary school. Once Kirin gets her payment (worth $350-$500) the two girls will be immediately married in a joint wedding.

The girls have ambitions to continue on to college and start a career as teachers before settling down. Yet they seemed unsure if they would be able to lead a life outside of the home, despite their parents’ desire for them to study further.

“If our parents-in-law say we can’t continue our studies or get jobs, then we’ll have to listen to them and our dreams will only stay a dream,” Heena says.

Kirin, adds “I become hopeless and my heart breaks at the thought of not going to college. Boys have all the permission, they can go, but not girls, parents are scared. We want to go to Bhiwani town to study full time. But we can’t because of ‘the situation.’”

“The situation” refers to a spate of horrific rapes in the past several months in Haryana. In one of the most severe cases, eight men raped a 16-year-old girl. The powerful Khap panchayats which govern social affairs in Haryana, proposed a solution: lower the legal age of marriage for girls. Although they do not have the authority to do so, girls fear they will incur an additional cost for this escalation in violence against them.

“It is always the girl who is blamed. One does the bad deed, and the other always pays the price,” Heena says.

There is still a long road ahead to gender equity in rural India. But the fact that Heena and Kirin will both finish secondary school, and are still living at home, signals that a generational shift has occurred. At the very least, the quality of these educated sisters’ lives will undoubtedly far exceed that of their mother. Even if it’s unlikely they’ll ever become world class wrestlers.

Jennifer Abrahamson is ICRW’s Senior Director of Strategic Communications. A version of this story appears on the ONE Campaign web site. Not Her Mother's Daughter was Jennifer's last story about adolescent girls in India.

To learn more about how ICRW is working to “change the course for adolescent girls worldwide” visit the Turning Point campaign.

In Tamil Nadu, Domestic Violence Cases Rise, and Women’s Activists Cheer

Thu, 03/07/2013
The New York Times India Ink Blog

Data from one of ICRW's reports - Fertility Decline and Changes in Women’s Lives and Gender Equality in Tamil Nadu, India - was cited to highlight the increase in women's workforce participation in Tamil Nadu.  

Not Her Mother’s Daughter

Breaking the cycle of child marriage in India
Mon, 02/04/2013

ICRW Senior Director of Communications Jennifer Abrahamson recounts her recent visit to Haryana, India, where ICRW is evaluating an innovative government program that uses cash to encourage families to keep their daughters in school instead of marrying them off at a young age.

Savita Singh, a slight 18-year-old schoolgirl who confesses she is poor at math but aspires to attend college to study Hindi and history, admits she has another, secret dream.

"I want to work for the Haryana police force," Savita told me, explaining that she is passionate about prosecuting families who she says abuse and sometimes even set fire to their daughters-in-law in the region. "But I know that my dream won't be fulfilled. I'm not tall enough."

Savita shared her secret with me in a cramped, dark room two days before the barbaric gang rape and subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi that caught the world's attention and sparked outrage across India in December. We sat on low charpoy beds, the wooden and rope structures that are ubiquitous in Haryana state, along with Savita's sisters, Kirin, who is 20, and Rekha, 15. High, concrete walls behind the girls were adorned with posters of Hindu gods and faraway places. Rekha and Kirin also told me about their ambitions to become teachers, to continue their studies, to wait to marry until they are ready.

While child marriage is still prevalent throughout India, the fact that the Singh sisters harbor such dreams at all may signal a subtle, generational shift in this conservative, agricultural state bordering the capital. Many women still practice a form of purdah here, hiding their faces behind a full diaphanous veil when in public or when in the company of non-blood related men. And until recent years it was extremely common for girls to marry in their early to mid-teens. Although illegal, they still do, but to a lesser degree.

One of those girls was Munni, Savita's 37-year-old mother who thinks she married when she was 15. Both Munni and her husband Amar, a soft-spoken farmer with high cheekbones, a kind face and a sixth-grade education, were determined to see all three of their daughters finish high school even if they can't afford to send them to college. Munni in particular was adamant that Savita and her sisters focus on their studies instead of working the fields.

"I never went to school because my parents had fields and I had buffalo to tend to and they said to me, 'what's the point of you going to school if you're only going to work with dung anyway? What's the point of pretending you'll be a Madam?'" she told me over hot cups of spiced chai in a modest courtyard just outside the girls' bedroom. "I feel very good that my daughters have the chance to study. Two things happen. One, a girl can learn how to speak properly – I don't know how to speak, my language is course as you can hear. And two, if a girl is educated she'll know how to manage the household accounts."

This was not the first time I heard such statements during my short visit to Haryana, where I met with a number of girls from poor families like Savita. She is among the first class of girls who took part in a Haryana government scheme established in 1994 called Apni Beti Apna Dhan (ABAD) – 'Our Daughter Our Wealth' in English. The government is now in the process of paying out bonds that were deposited in each participant's name when she was born. Today they are worth somewhere in the range of $350-$500; girls will receive them only if they were still unmarried at the time of their18th birthday last year.

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is currently undertaking an evaluation of the scheme to determine its impact on this first cohort of girls. Initial findings will be published in late 2013. While the ICRW evaluation is still underway and its findings are still far from conclusive, its seems the scheme may have, at least in part, contributed to delaying marriage for some participants – even if it didn't mean a fundamental change in attitudes about a girl's value.

The Singhs told me – as did others in Haryana with whom I met – that they decided to wait to find a husband for their oldest daughter, 20-year-old Kirin, until Savita receives the cash transfer (her father was just about to submit her paperwork when we met). Marrying girls in a joint wedding is relatively common in Haryana among low-income families as it helps cut costs. The Singhs youngest daughter, Rekha, is also scheduled to receive an ABAD cash transfer after she turns 18 in a few years' time.

Amar and Munni seemed especially enlightened regarding the importance of their daughters' education. However, after speaking with them in the fading afternoon sunlight next to a couple of lazing buffalo, it soon became clear that an education was mainly so important because it means increasing the chances of finding their daughters good husbands who hold down good jobs.

In the meantime, Savita and Rekha will continue their secondary school studies, while Kirin works as a teacher's assistant in her village. Savita knows marriage is on the horizon, but she recognizes the value of living out her childhood and staying in school – even if her future in-laws, whoever they may be, won't allow her to become a policewoman, or be able to finance a college education.

"I wouldn't have liked getting married at a younger age. I would have had to leave school and take on the responsibilities of another household," she told me.

When I asked Savita if she would have been able to care for a baby when she was still herself a child, she was quick to shake her head.

"This is my time to 'eat and drink' – my time to have fun, my time to be in my parents' house. This is the time when I can do it. This is my time."

Perhaps another shift will occur when the next generation comes of age. Perhaps Savita's own daughter will have the chance to go to college or become a policewoman. Just as long as she's tall enough.


This story originally appeared on Too Young to Wed, a multimedia partnership between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and premier photo agency VII.

India Confronts the Problem of Violence Against Women

Fri, 01/04/2013
National Public Radio

During this National Public Radio broadcast, ICRW's Priya Nanda discusses the vulnerability of women and girls in public spaces in India and the root causes of their unequal status in society. Nanda was joined by three other guests on the "To the Point" show to discuss whether the December gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old New Delhi woman marks a turning point in what many say is the cultural, legal and political oppression of women and girls in India. 

The show begins at 8:00, and Nanda is introduced at 27:00.

ICRW's Priya Nanda Discusses New Delhi Gang Rape

Nanda is a guest on National Public Radio discussion about gang rape, murder of New Delhi woman
Fri, 01/11/2013

During this National Public Radio broadcast, ICRW's Priya Nanda discusses the vulnerability of women and girls in public spaces in India and the root causes of their unequal status in society. 

During this National Public Radio broadcast, ICRW's Priya Nanda discusses the vulnerability of women and girls in public spaces in India and the root causes of their unequal status in society. Nanda was joined by three other guests on the KCRW (89.9FM) "To the Point" show to discuss whether the December gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old New Delhi woman marks a turning point in what many say is the cultural, legal and political oppression of women and girls in India. 

Listen here. The show begins at 8:00, and Nanda is introduced at 27:00.

Child Marriage Policy Briefs Released in Nepal

ICRW policy and advocacy briefs help inform regional plan to end child marriage
Wed, 12/19/2012

ICRW policy and advocacy briefs that provide recommendations for preventing child marriage in Southern Asian countries were released in Nepal this week. The briefs will help policymakers develop a regional plan to end child marriage.

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) policy and advocacy briefs that offer recommendations for preventing child marriage in nine Southern Asian countries was released this week in Kathmandu, Nepal during a regional consultative meeting of representatives from governments, nongovernmental organizations and others. 

ICRW Asia Regional Office Director Ravi Verma participated in the event, which was organized by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, an inter-governmental body created by the governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Participants used the gathering to review commitments and actions on behalf of girls and develop a regional action plan to end child marriage.

The ICRW policy and advocacy briefs provided a regional perspective on the issue of child marriage, highlighted common challenges to preventing the practice and offered evidence-based policy options. Produced in partnership with UNFPA and other organizations, the briefs provide important guidance on how to kick-start strategies for reducing early marriage in a manner tailored to the unique context and needs of each country.

“Our advocacy kit and policy briefs provided the larger evidence-based background for these countries to design a regional action plan to end child marriage,” Verma said. He added that event attendees also drew lessons from evaluations of child marriage prevention programs worldwide to inform the regional plan.

Read the policy briefs: Child Marriage in Southern Asia: Policy Options for Action

Help change the course for adolescent girls worldwide by joining ICRW’s Turning Point Campaign. 

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