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#Sundayreading -Favela Girls Pirouette Out of Poverty in Brazil



FORTALEZA, Brazil — Bom Jardim, home to some 200,000 people, is one of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in this city. Located at the southwestern tip of the metropolis, with long streets laid in a grid, the signs of poverty appear everywhere: cracked cement or none at all, half-built houses and other makeshift architecture recently occupied by migrants from the countryside.

It is here that the Brazilian prima ballerina, Dora Andrade, has set up her School of Dance and Social Integration for Children and Adolescents (Edisca), which enables girls from the favelas, or slums, to not just get a formal education and learn dance but also to learn important social skills. Moreover, it provides the students a daily full meal and shows them how to care for and respect their bodies.

Free of charge, the girls who enroll in Andrade’s school generally come from three of Fortaleza’s poorest localities, one of them a shantytown built on the edge of the city’s garbage dump. A majority of the girls cannot read or write and come from broken homes.

“Since 1991, Edisca has been providing high-quality interdimensional education that combines reason, emotion, willpower and self-improvement through art, preparing students for life and creating opportunities,” said Andrade, adding, “Dance can make a more humane world. . . .  The best thing is knowing that all the girls are well fed, happy, intelligent and that they can realise their dreams. They have a sparkle in their eyes that is not often seen on other girls, rich or poor. For me, this is the most important.”

Madeline Abreu, a psychologist at Edisca, understands the emotional burdens that the students are carrying and thinks the school gives them a shot at normalcy.

“The reality is that socioeconomic hardship often pushes young people in these localities towards drug abuse, child labor and even prostitution,” Abreu said. “Initially, we started off by offering dance lessons in ballet, which is generally taught to girls from wealthy families. From there they moved to contemporary forms. So, in a way, Edisca now specializes in modern dance, which has its foundations in the classical ballet techniques. Of course, as it evolved, the dance school expanded into other disciplines, including singing, theatre and visual arts as well as new educational functions, such as tutoring and English and computer classes.”

It soon became necessary for the school to provide food for the students because many of them were undernourished and had poor eating habits. “Dance is a physical language and it is essential for dancers to be in excellent physical condition and practice good hygiene,” Abreu said. “Another cost that the school felt necessary to absorb was transportation. Most children who go here live on the distant outskirts of the city and often cannot afford the bus fare.”


Tatiane Gama, a 31-year-old Edisca graduate, said in an interview, “I learnt to eat vegetables here.” Gama’s life turned around the day she stepped into the school at age 8. She was one of the school’s first students and is now a professional dance instructor there.

“Our education happens in stages,” Gama said. “At the onset we dance. Ballet particularly teaches discipline. Then we get on to the basics of reading and writing. There’s also psychological counseling for most children, traumatized as they are witnessing street violence day in and day out.”

Gama has been teaching dance since she she was 18 and thinks it has saved her from a life of hard work with no returns. “I was fortunate to have been inducted into Edisca,” she said. “By then, the school management had realized that once children turn 16 or 17, their parents are keen on withdrawing them from school so that they can take up a job.” This led to the start of the Edisca Dance Company, which draws the most talented dancers at the school and tours worldwide. The dancers are paid a monthly stipend of around $50, Gama said.

Some Edisca students move into academia or other professional careers. Jamila de Oliveira Lopez, 23, hopes to become a journalist soon. “I want to be able to express myself in words, too,” she said. Lopez was always at the top of her class even though she had to do her homework in her family’s kitchen because she shared a room with her two sisters in a house located in a rough neighborhood.

Edisca currently has 400 students enrolled, and to keep it and the dance company going, it must do extensive fund-raising through performances and donations. Unesco, in addition, has created a partnership with the Repetto Foundation, built on the French ballet costume maker, to help finance Edisca.

“Poverty is not just lack of resources, it’s the inequality that can steal a child’s future,” Lopez said. “Seeing the students of Edisca on stage is like seeing them overcome all the difficulties that deprivation brings with it. Girls forget their sadness and learn to take destiny into their own hands.”


Favela Girls Pirouette Out of Poverty in Brazil

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Mumbra’s Muslim Girls Kick Out Stereotypes #Womenrights


Kamayani Bali Mahabal 


They started off as a secret sports club. What brought them together was their shared love for football, a game they couldn’t dream of playing owing to their conservative family backgrounds. After all, how could young girls, who weren’t even allowed to step out of their homes without the ‘hijab’ (veil), run around kicking ball in an open field? But they showed exceptional courage when they defied parental dictate to pursue their passion for the sport.

Three years back, Sabah Khan, Salma Ansari, Sabah Parveen, Aquila, Saadia and 40 other girls got out of their homes in Mumbra, a small town 40 kilometres from Mumbai, Maharashtra, to play football. Today, this group that calls itself Parcham, inspired by Asrar ul Haq Majaz, an Urdu poet who saw women as crusaders with an inherent quality to revolt against exploitation and injustice, has truly lived up to its name. They have not only broken gender stereotypes by regularly playing football but have been responsible for bridging the gap between the Muslims and the Hindus in their communally volatile city.

Sabah Khan, the captain of this unique all–girls team, recalls how their journey of change began, “Around 2011, a bunch of us were approached by the NGO Magic Bus that uses sports as a means to help poor children lead a better life. They wanted to teach football to both girls and boys but we told them that in Mumbra Muslim girls cannot take up a sport let alone play alongside boys. That’s when they decided to exclusively train girls who were keen to try out something they had only dreamt of.”

The target was to put together a group of 40 girls but that was easier said than done. “Most of us hail from families that struggle to make ends meet. We can never really spare time for fun and games. We study, chip in at home or work. That’s why we were unable to personally go to motivate girls to join in.


At the outset, the girls decided to call their team ‘Parcham’. Aquila, one of the founding members, narrates the story behind it, “We decided to call ourselves ‘Parcham’ as we are inspired by Asrar ul Haq Majaz, better known as Majaz Lakhnawi. Through his romantic, revolutionary verses, Majaz urged women to look at the hijab not as a barrier but as a flag or banner. He has written: ‘Tere maathe pe ye aanchal bauhat hi khoob hai, lekin tu is aanchal se ik parcham bana leti to achcha tha… (The veil covering your head and face is beautiful, but if you make a flag out of it, it would be better)’. We, too, have transformed something that many see as a sign of repression into a symbol of revolution.”

Through sports Parcham strives to build a just and equal society that is respectful of diversity and celebrates difference and interdependence. Their mission is to empower marginalised communities to access their fundamental rights, creating spaces for dialogue among diverse sections of society. “And our one great achievement has been getting official recognition for our struggle to get a playground for the girls,” says Aquila.

When they met with MLA Jeetendra Awhad he was amazed to see this strength of association. He told them that it was perhaps for the first time that 900 girls had got together to ask for a playground to be reserved for them. He also assured them of their very own space to play.

Saadia’s brothers still have no inkling. “After I won a trophy at a tournament I told them that it was a friend’s. There are many like me who cannot yet be completely honest with all their family members. We don’t want to make them unhappy nor do we want our freedom curtailed. This way we all get what we want,” she says.

Adds Salma Ansari, 22, who has supportive parents and is pursuing an MBA degree, “What we need is for the society to accept that girls have an equal right to public spaces; that they too deserve to experience the joy of being able to run free, kick a ball, hold a bat, sprint, jump or swim. Nowadays, we are trying to break gender stereotypes by training a group of 50 young boys and girls together.” The religious divide, too, has been overcome with the inclusion of girls from other faiths.

Simran, 15, the youngest member of the team, is a Sikh. “We have so many misconceptions about other religions. But perceptions and attitudes change when we meet and interact. Being in Parcham, I am learning about gender, equality, justice… Watch out, I am a feminist in the making!” she says emphatically.

What’s next on Parcham’s agenda? “We want to set up a resource centre for our girls, complete with books, newspapers, computers and a wi–fi network. Every Saturday, we plan to hold meetings where we can discuss the latest news and concepts like secularism and citizenship to enable everyone to think and form opinions on subjects they are passionate about. The centre will be a safe haven for Muslims and non–Muslims to build friendships,” says Sabah.

In the home town of Ishrat Jahan, the young woman who was tragically shot in an encounter in Ahmedabad in 2004, these girls are gearing up to drive out prejudice and hatred. (WFS)

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Odisha – Faulty exam results lead 3 girls to commit suicide #WTFnews

 NHRC seeks ATR from Odisha govt

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, June 18:

The National Human Rights Commission has asked the Odisha government to submit an action taken report (ATR) on three girls, who committed suicide after finding their names in the dreaded ‘F’ (failed) list in the annual Class X examination conducted by the Board of Secondary Education (BSE) – not because they performed badly but due to the sheer callousness of the Board.

The names of all three girls figured in the ‘E’/Pass grade after BSE published the revised mark sheet on May 10 following complaints of large scale bungling in the evaluation of answer sheets. But by then, it was too late. Three precious lives ebbed out in the prime of their youth for no fault of theirs.

The three girls are: Rinky Dehury, a student of Jarasingha Girls High School in Dhenkanal district, Rasmita Sahu from Khurdha and Sagarika Pati from Athamallick in Angul district.

Rinki committed suicide on April 30, soon after the results of the matriculation examinations were declared.

The NHRC order came on a petition filed by Subash Mohapatra, executive director of Global Human Rights Communications, which brought the Board’s gross negligence to the Commission’s notice.

“The wrong result publication is a criminal negligence and due to criminal negligence of the public authorities, they committed suicide. We are concerned about the death of the students due to wrong result publication. The police are yet to investigate into the matter properly,” Mohapatra said in his petition.

The petition requested the NHRC to direct the state government to investigate the matter by an independent authority, suspend the concerned authorities involved in the matter to prevent further malpractice during the investigation and bring the culprits to justice.

He also requested the NHRC to direct the government to pay an interim relief of Rs. 10 lakh to the next kin of the victims.


Read more here –

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#BringBackOurGirls: Kidnapping Horror in Nigeria #Vaw


Abuja, Nigeria (CNN) — Nigeria defended its response to the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the terror group Boko Haram, even as details emerged Tuesday about a second mass abduction, adding to a growing global outrage over the fate of the children.

President Goodluck Jonathan has been under fire over accusations the government initially ignored and then later downplayed the abduction of the girls, who have become the focal point of a social media campaign demanding their safe return.

“The President and the government (are) not taking this as easy as people all over the world think,” Doyin Okupe, a spokesman for Jonathan told CNN.

“We’ve done a lot –but we are not talking about it. We’re not Americans. We’re not showing people, you know, but it does not mean that we are not doing something.”

In detailing the government’s response, two special battalions have been devoted to the search for the missing girls, Okupe said. That search includes 250 locations that have been searched by helicopters and airplanes.

London joins campaign for kidnapped girls

It was unclear whether these were additional troops being dispatched or were forces already in place. More troops, he said, are also on the way.

“Certain things have been ordered. Certain things have been put in place, which I am not in position to say now,” he said. “I am very, very sure that this time around, you know, the terrorists have made a major error, and we will get them.”

U.S. offer of military help

But in a sign that Nigeria may be bowing to international pressure and outrage, the government announced the creation of an information center dedicated to answering questions and provide daily updates about rescue efforts, Okupe said.

Nigeria’s President also accepted an offer of U.S. military support in the search for the girls.

“So what we’ve done is — we have offered, and it’s been accepted — help from our military and our law enforcement officials,” U.S. President Barack Obama told NBC Newson Tuesday. “We’re going to do everything we can to provide assistance to them.”

That help includes the creation of a “coordination cell” to provide intelligence, investigations and hostage negotiation expertise, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The cell will include U.S. military personnel, she said.

The joint coordination cell will be established at the U.S. Embassy in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the work is expected to begin immediately.

But even as the help was offered to Jonathan, new details were emerging about the abduction of at least eight girls between the ages of 12 and 15, who were snatched Sunday night from the village of Warabe.

The village is located in the rural northeast, near the border of Cameroon, an area considered a stronghold for Boko Haram, a group that U.S. officials say has received training from al Qaeda affiliates.

Villagers in Warabe told CNN that gunmen moved from door-to-door late Sunday, snatching the girls and beating anybody who tried to stop them.

The latest abductions come amid international outcry over the April 14 kidnapping of more than 200 girls. According to accounts, armed members of Boko Haram overpowered security guards at an all-girls school in Chibok, yanked the girls out of bed and forced them into trucks. The convoy of trucks then disappeared into the dense forest bordering Cameroon.

‘Western education is sin

Boko Haram translates to “Western education is sin” in the local Hausa language, and the group has said its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Africa’s most populous nation, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.

Kidnapper: I will sell them in the market

The United States has branded Boko Haram a terror organization and has put a $7 million bounty on the group’s elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau.

In recent years, the group has stepped up its attacks, bombing schools, churches and mosques.

But it is the abductions of girls that has spawned the biggest outrage, with a #BringBackOurGirls campaign that initially began on Twitter and then quickly spread with demonstrators taking to the streets over the weekend in major cities around the world to demand action.

On Tuesday, the United Nations human rights chief blasted Boko Haram, saying the group’s claim of slavery and sexual slavery of girls are “crimes against humanity.”

“The girls must be immediately returned, unharmed, to their families,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a news release.

‘I abducted your girls’

A man claiming to be Shekau appeared in a video announcing he would sell his victims. The video was first obtained Monday by Agence-France Presse.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” he said, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language. “There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”

In the nearly hour-long, rambling video, Shekau repeatedly called for an end to Western education.

“Girls, you should go and get married,” he said.

Pillay, along with three other African United Nations women leaders, sent a letter reminding the Nigerian government of its “legal responsibility to ensure that girls and boys have the fundamental right to education and to be protected from violence, persecution and intimidation,” according to her statement.

Nigerian Minister of Information Labaran Maku told CNN that despite international reaction and media reports, there have been some successes in combating Boko Haram.

But when asked about bombings in Abuja, which came the same day as the mass abduction of schoolgirls, he said: “In the case of insurgency and guerrilla warfare, you can never rule out surprise here and there.”

He also declined to agree that misinformation released by the military in the aftermath of the April kidnapping added to the growing outrage.

First, the military said all the girls had been released or rescued. But after the girls’ families began asking where their daughters were, the military retracted the statement.

“When they made that statement, it was based on a report they received,” the minister said.

Nigeria’s finance minister said Monday that her country’s government remains committed to finding the girls but should have done a better job explaining the situation to the public.

“Have we communicated what is being done properly? The answer is no, that people did not have enough information,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told CNN’s Richard Quest.

‘I will sell them,’ Boko Haram leader says

What’s at stake in war against girls’ kidnappers?

6 reasons why the world should demand action

CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery

Read mor ehere —

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Cycling in India is not pleasurable at all, compared to the West #Vaw #Sundayreading

More skirts in the saddle

, TNN | Oct 27, 2013,

Shalini Rao can cycle in the French Alps but the far less challenging Nandi Hills stresses her out. The 48-year-old ENT surgeon, a cycling enthusiast , says dealing with street harassment is far tougher than working her leg muscles for the ride up the hills off Bangalore.

Cycling in India is not pleasurable at all, compared to the West. Here, men on motorbikes hit you inappropriately and pass lewd comments . It is hard to cycle while looking over your shoulder all the time,” says Rao. She no longer wears shorts or cycling tights, carries pepper spray and has a rear-view mirror to spot approaching vehicles.

Whether in a car, a bus, or on foot, the fear of being pawed and harassed sits quietly within every Indian woman and cycling is no different . Of course a woman in a neon helmet and riding suit on a special bike is bound to draw stares but gawping is the least of her worries.

The levels and frequency of harassment vary from city to city. Delhi roads are inhospitable for cyclists and the recent hit-and-run in which environmentalist Sunita Narain was injured early last Sunday illustrates this. “I see this particularly in Delhi,” says Vasu Primlani, a standup comic and triathlete. “SUVs force me off the road, especially when they see it is a woman. They stare, whistle, make comments like, ‘Oye kya cheez hai. Dekh taangey dikh gayi (Look you can see her legs). I have cycled all over the US, and even the grizzlies in Alaska gave me more right of way than Delhi’s men.”

Other women cyclists, too, rate Delhi lowest on the safety scale. For Satabdi Das, 30, software engineer, her move from Bangalore to Noida meant giving up her favourite sport. The daily street harassment got to her. A year and a half ago, a car rammed into her cycle near India Gate, giving her a concussion. “I haven’t been able to get my confidence back. But I don’t have the heart to sell my cycle either,” she says. Das doesn’t cycle in NCR any more but recently took her bike out to Khajuraho for a vacation.

Given the traffic hazards and daytime pollution, many women cyclists, especially in Mumbai, prefer to venture out after hours. Hema Ravi, 45, a Mumbai-based yoga teacher, goes out pedaling on her “me-time” and feels that till a certain time, arterial roads are safer than alleys. “I prefer the highway, which is signal-free , and more fun though most people point out that it isn’t safe. But I don’t go riding solo after 10 pm and if I do, then it is in a group and someone drops me home,” says Ravi.

A city’s cycling history and infrastructure also play a big role in convincing women to go riding. A study on gender and cycling by iTrans, an urban transport consultancy supported by IIT-Delhi , explains how infrastructure in Indian cities is designed for young male cyclists. It states: “Women cycling with children and shopping bags may need more width of the track and safe space at parking areas where they can unload children and bags comfortably. They would have longer acceleration times and need longer leads at green signals.” It also points out that the most common cycle in the market is custom-made for men and the cheapest ladies bicycle is more expensive than the cheapest male bicycle.

The iTrans study says that lack of dignity for cyclists and harassment are reasons why women avoid cycles. The deterrents are even more unfortunate for women from poor backgrounds because they need affordable and efficient transport. “Harassment is very real but a lot of it is also perceived,” says Anvita Arora, MD and CEO, iTrans. “When you grow up with harassment everywhere, it is hard to shed the dread. So women are naturally afraid of taking a cycle out by themselves.”

Pune’s streets, on the other hand, are kinder to women cyclists. Vidya Athreya, an ecologist, moved to the city in 1987 and was impressed by the number of women cycling. “Former municipal commissioner Praveensinh Pardesh was also a cyclist and created a lot of cycling tracks in Pune,” she recalls. Since women bikers are a common sight, no one is surprised by them. “If I am going uphill and I stick my hand out, I will get right of way,” she says.

Most cyclists feel that women need to make their presence felt on the streets. Says Rao, “The more women cycle, the more people get used to it. For instance, on Siva’s Road (Bangalore) people used to pass comments but in the past 2-3 years, people have got used to women and it is much less unpleasant.”

The ratio of women to men cyclists is low everywhere. The most common image of an Indian cyclist is of a man making deliveries or commuting to work. Women prefer public transport or walking. And while women have largely taken to running and various other fitness regimes, cycling is still not popular with them.

Atul Khatri, standup comic and member of the Mumbai cyclists group, says that it is hard to convince women to ride on streets. His wife tried it and found it so stressful coping with the harrassment on the streets that she opted for other forms of exercise.

But for most who have stuck to the sport, it is uplifting and inspiring. Divya Tate, a 44-year-old Pune architect who has been cycling for 20 years and now does long-distance , endurance riding, says that the good experiences far outweigh the bad ones. “Women cyclists are low in number all over the world,” she points out.

A lot of women cyclists get their daughters to cycle. Both Athreya and Rao have lifted their daughters to the saddle. In fact, the latter was bitten by the cycling bug while teaching her daughter. “It started off with keeping my daughter company but the sense of achievement was so great that I kept riding,” says Rao.



Women in a low-income settlement in a south Delhi colony were taught to cycle by their husbands. As in most slums around affluent localities, the women from this cluster work as domestic help. The difference was that instead of walking, they cycled to the homes they worked in. This, in turn, made them self-reliant , reduced commuting time and increased savings. Says Anvita Arora, head of iTrans, which did the study: “Women earned more as they were faster and serviced more number of houses. They could also come back home for the kids, and go back to work.”


In several states (Bihar, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu), cycles have helped keep girls in school. The Bihar government started giving free bikes to girls when it was found that the dropout rate soared when girls reached Class IX because high schools were further away and involved long travel. Preliminary results of a study by the International Growth Centre, LSE, show that these bikes have bridged the education gender gap in Bihar by 20 to 25%. The study shows that since the bicycle programme was introduced, the number of girls for every 100 boys has increased from 60 to 70.


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