Literacy, foeticide, malnutrition - issues galore for women leaders

January 8th, 2009 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) It may seem like a small change but Shakuntala Devi’s fight against the change in a widow’s surname - from Devi to Kunwar - in Bihar is an issue big enough to strive for. A widow herself and having gone through the experience, she knows what she is talking about.“When the Bihar government granted me financial assistance, the cheque came in the name of Shakuntala Kunwar, but I wanted to open my bank account with Devi as my surname,” said the feisty Shakuntala, who was in the capital for a workshop of the Hunger Project.

“After a lot of persuasion, the bank manager finally agreed to let me retain Devi as my surname. This gave me the confidence that I can resist any change that is being forced upon me, so what if I am a widow?”

One of the 47 women who were selected by Hunger Project’s initiative, Aagaz Academies, for Transformative Leadership, Shakuntala was in Delhi to present her research project - Condition of Single Women - for which she was awarded a fellowship.

Khushboon Khatoon, who also hails from Bihar, said her research project on domestic violence was again an issue close to her heart.

Carrying out a survey in 1,500 households in five villages of her Panchayat, Khatoon found that cases of domestic violence which either led women to escape to their parents’ homes or get abandoned, and even driving some to commit suicide, were aplenty.

“I started visiting the homes of women facing problems in their marriage. Reasoning with the woman’s in-laws, bringing up some matters in front of the Panchayat and motivating couples to get a marriage certificate within a month of their wedding have helped a lot.

“Moreover, when people come to know that I got the fellowship from Delhi especially to end domestic violence, most got scared and resolved their problems by themselves,” Khatoon said.

The one year long fellowship programme, which got over at the end of 2008, aims at helping women representatives build their own perspective, increase accountability and understand their potential in dealing with various issues.

Therefore, if child malnutrition was an important issue for Sakhubai Rathod of Nashik, it was women’s property rights for Meera Devi of Bihar. For Shobha Patil it was literacy for women, while for Madhumalini of Bangalore it was hygienic waste management.

The fellowship, which came into being February 2007, is given to chosen elected representatives.

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