Time is Running Out by Sarojini Sapru

India’s Water Crisis – Why Groundwater Recharge is Key
India’s sixth largest city Chennai, has run out of water. The NITI Aayog has released a study, stating that India is facing its worst water crisis in history, and that the demand for potable water through the country will outstrip supply by 2030 if steps are not taken. The report goes on to say that nearly 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress, and about 2 lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. Twenty-one cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people. Moreover groundwater resources, which account for 40% of India’s water supply are being depleted at “unsustainable” rates and upto 70% of India’s water supply is contaminated.

This crisis is real, and it is happening now. The intensification of human activity, coupled with extreme weather events caused by climate change can lead to longer periods of droughts and floods (India is facing its worst drought in decades, resulting from a deadly heat-wave and delayed monsoons). These extreme conditions increase the demand for groundwater – which is already a critical and overexploited resource in the country. Enhancing the underground storage of water is a practical and robust measure to augment the availability of fresh water, and to enhance climate change adaption. It is therefore imperative that groundwater play a more prominent role in climate debates.

These unsustainable levels of exploitation have serious implications for the sustainability of agriculture, economic growth and livelihoods, as well as long term food security. A 2012 report by the World Bank notes that India is the largest user of groundwater in the world (“using an estimated 230 cubic kilometres of groundwater per year – over a quarter of the global total”). The report further estimated that more than 60% of irrigated agriculture and 85% of drinking water supplies are dependent on ground water. The potential social and economic consequences of continued weak or non-existent groundwater management are serious. The implications are also disturbing for a plethora of reasons: for sustaining economic growth and local livelihoods, and for environmental sustainability. The consequences will be most severe for vulnerable populations.

Noting the high percentage of irrigated agriculture that is dependent on groundwater, it is important to notes that in states, such as Rajasthan (which is one of the driest states in the country) it is primarily women who work in the fields and perform agricultural tasks and labour. However, several studies have highlighted that despite the fact that it is the women who perform the bulk of agricultural labour in fields in India, they are largely excluded from decision-making activities . The role of women in water conservation and recharge is integral. Providing women with a platform to engage with water conservation and recharge on both a policy level, as well as a ground level is essential. By acknowledging the role that women play in agriculture, and water-related work and building their capacities in this regard, so they are not “invisible workers”, women’s voices and leadership will increase, along with their participation in decision making, and therefore social and economic life.

Source: Niti Aayog Composite Water Resources Management Report

Because kicking ‘like a girl’ is just as cool – KamyaYadav & Akanksha Sharma

Centre for Social Research is undertaking a project that is focused on empowering girls through sports. Focused on five districts of Haryana that are the most sex-skewed, that is have the worst gender ratios, the project aims to make communities in these districts understand how sports can be empowering for young girls. CSR is one of the many NGOs in India that has taken the mantle of using sports to further the development and advancement of girls in the country. How exactly do sports like football or cricket empower girls in our country, and around the world?

Over the years, a lot of journalists and media houses have covered stories of girls around the world who have used sports to move out of poverty, to gain access to healthcare and education, to advance their careers and achieve independence. In the simplest way, when girls get access to sports, via training and coaches, and they acquire a certain proficiency level in the sport they choose to play, it illuminates a pathway to education that didn’t exist before.This is through admissions into quality schools that provide scholarships to talented athletes, and to prestigious universities that have a provision for sports quotas.Educational attainment is one of the most important ways of breaking cycles of poverty, gender inequality, and creating a gateway towards financial independence.

When girls get access to sports, via training and coaches, and they acquire a certain proficiency level in the sport they choose to play, it illuminates a pathway to education that didn’t exist before.

In addition to increasing educational attainment, sports provide a medium for girls to pursue a non-traditional, alternative career, which can sometimes propel them towards international recognition as well. Many female sportspersons in India, such as GeetaPhogat and Dutee Chand, have broken the glass ceiling for women in India through their respective sports and have become vocal advocates for promoting sports for girls.

But even today, how accessible are sports to girls? More importantly, how wide is the gender gap in sports? The FIFA Women’s World Cup has been making headlines around the world, but perhaps not for the right reasons. Eclipsed by the Indian men’s cricket team’s success in the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup, many in India don’t even know that the women’s football world cup is underway. And these are the same Indians who flock to Kolkata’s football clubs every day to play the ‘beautiful game’ and to the Salt Lake Stadium by the thousands to watch Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

Eclipsed by the Indian men’s cricket team’s success in the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup, many in India don’t even know that the women’s football world cup is underway.

The beautiful game, in fact, is quite ugly. Furor has surrounded the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup because of the gross and utter inequality of the FIFA Federation towards the two genders. To begin with, there exists a $370 million gender gap between the total prize money offered at this year’s Women’s World Cup and last year’s Men’s World Cup.

Below is the infographic provided by Forbes, which not only shows the disparity between the total prize money, but also between the prize money provided to the winner of the world cup. FIFA claims that this egregious disparity comes from the difference in the revenue earned by the two World Cups. But critics don’t buy this claim. They say that FIFA’s revenue books are closed off to

the public and there is no way to validate the veracity of this claim. But even beyond that, why should the revenue pulled by the same organization for two different events be split according to which event pulled more? Why can’t FIFA pool the revenue and split it equally among the two genders?

FIFA, however, is not the only one to blame. Country-wise clubs and football associations are equal perpetrators in this inequality. According to a 2017 article published by Forbes, 1693 female footballers across the top leagues of seven countries receive the same amount of pay as Neymar’s

contract for Paris St-Germain for the 2017-2018 season. In a similar vein, UN Women recently tweeted that Lionel Messi’s annual income was almost twice as much as those 1693 women. Such a disparity is beyond simple inequality; it is disrespectful and dismissive of the effort, talent, and skill of female footballers in the world today.

1693 female footballers across the top leagues of seven countries receive the same amount of pay as Neymar’s contract for Paris St-Germain for the 2017-2018 season.

Beyond prize money and pay gaps, FIFA has been accused a number of times of not investing nearly enough money into promoting football for women around the world, and of not advertising female football enough. So what can be done to rectify this situation? For one, at the behest of PFA and FifPro, both football associations, FIFA has agreed to negotiate to reduce the gender gap post the Women’s World Cup.

At the behest of PFA and FifPro, both football associations, FIFA has agreed to negotiate to reduce the gender gap post the Women’s World Cup.

In addition, national football associations should introduce equal pay for men and women. The United States Women’s Soccer team is fighting a legal battle to ensure equal pay, as they argue that their pay is a violation of the Equal Pay Act. In Norway, the Football Association earlier this year struck an agreement to introduce gender parity among the male and female internationals. National change can help generate the momentum needed to push FIFA towards modifying its own policies.

Sports is perhaps one of the most unequal arenas for women. Given that it can benefit the future of girls everywhere tremendously, it is time that we fought and pushed organizations to become accountable and initiate a positive change towards gender parity for girls.

It is time that we fought and pushed organizations to become accountable and initiate a positive change towards gender parity for girls.

It’s not about reservation; it’s about our rights By Kamya Yadav

With all the talk about reservation for women, and continued headlines surrounding sexual assault and harassment of girls and women alike, let’s ask one simple question first: why do we care? Beyond the fact that all genders are equal and deserve to be treated with equal respect, empirically why should we worry about not having enough female politicians in our country? Research has proven that have more women politicians in legislative bodies improves health and education indicators in a country, with the additional benefit of paving way for more women in politics.

“let’s ask one simple question first: why do we care? Beyond the fact that all genders are equal and deserve to be treated with equal respect, empirically why should we worry about not having enough female politicians in our country?”

A recent paper by Ross Macmillan, Naila Shofia and Wendy Sigle used mortality related data from 155 countries, collected over the span of 24 years. It highlighted that nations with 30 percent or higher female representation, especially those that were lesser developed and weak democracies, experienced significant downturns in four indicators of mortality. These four indicators were neonatal, infant, child, and maternal mortality. India’s mortality rates have generally been higher than the world average, and if there is a direct correlation between having more women in decision-making bodies and improving mortality rates, why shouldn’t we encourage more women in politics?

“nations with 30 percent or higher female representation, especially those that were lesser developed and weak democracies, experienced significant downturns in four indicators of mortality”

In addition to simply have more women in politics, we should try and encourage more women from lower castes to run for elections. Another study by Irma Clots-Figueras showed that female legislators who were elected from seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes/Tribes and Other Backward Classes in India invested more in health, early education and tended to favor the passage of more “women-friendly” laws. Given that the cases of sexual assault and harassment against women and young girls are becoming more and more prevalent every day and that India still lags far behind in achieving gender parity in education, careers or politics, it becomes imperative that we advocate for more women in politics.

Above all this, having more female politicians has a compounding effect on future female representation in legislative bodies. Two different studies, one by Rikhil Bhavnani, and the other by Thushyanthan Baskaran and Zohal Hessami, suggest a similar conclusion: that seats or constituencies that previously had female representatives, are more likely to elect another female representative in the following election. What this tells us is that watching female candidates run, win elections and then act in power changes the mindsets of local communities. Just by seeing more women in power, people become more amenable to the idea of the same. Bhavnani’s study was carried out in India, looking at the electoral data from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, proving that such an effect is produced in our home country.

None of this is to say that India hasn’t made progress. The results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are an indication that not all is stagnant with respect to how this country views women. Association for Democratic Reforms published their analysis of the 17th Lok Sabha elections in which they stated that this parliament will have 77 women members. This number is the highest it has ever been for India. Two major states, Odisha and West Bengal, saw local parties, BJD and TMC respectively, give 33% tickets to female candidates. This action of Chief Ministers Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee has been appreciated and hailed by women around the country. Even apart from the elections, conversations around the Women’s Reservation Bill have constantly remained in mainstream news, reflecting a rising consensus and awareness about the same.

“this parliament will have 77 women members. This number is the highest it has ever been for India. Two major states, Odisha and West Bengalsaw local parties, BJD and TMC respectively, give 33% tickets to female candidates”

So, how do we increase female representation? The first step forward would be to encourage all political parties to field 33% female candidates in local and state elections. If every political party managed to achieve that mark, the number of women MLAs in state legislatures will definitely see a rise. In addition, now that the original Women’s Reservation Bill has lapsed, women’s rights organizations, locals, politicians, and political parties should unite to reignite the call for a new bill. This bill shouldn’t ask for reservation but rather for the rights of women, as political representation is just as much a right as access to education and sanitation in India. But more importantly, as equal stakeholders in the future of the country, the bill should ask for 50 percent reservation, and not 33 percent, for that will be true equality.

“women’s rights organizations, locals, politicians, and political parties should unite to reignite the call for a new bill. This bill shouldn’t ask for reservation but rather for the rights of women, as political representation is just as much a right as access to education and sanitation in India.’

World Economic Forum released a report on the gender gap in various sectors in 2018. According to WEF, the gender gap in politics will take 99 years to bridge. The little girls who are brutally raped don’t have 99 years. The girls who don’t get access to or quality education don’t have 99 years. The women who deserve their share of power in politics, in society, in careers don’t have 99 years. We’ve already waited 23 years, let’s empower our women now.

“We’ve already waited 23 years, let’s empower our women now”

ABORTION *T&C Applied

Anti-abortion laws in America recently, have taken the world by a storm. Abortion has been legal in America since the 1973. Roe v. Wade ruling provided access to safe and legal abortions as a constitutional right. Right from the beginning, anti-abortions groups have continuously attempted to undermine this ruling. In light of this, following Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi and Kentucky, the near total ban in Alabama has been the most extreme and sweeping law that has been passed in recent memory. Challenging the constitution, anti-abortion politicians have, once again, highlighted how women are undermined and not even included in the policy making decisions, especially when the law is about the bodies of the women.

Abortion has been legal in America since the 1973. Roe v. Wade ruling provided access to safe and legal abortions as a constitutional right … the near total ban in Alabama has been the most extreme and sweeping law that has been passed in recent memory.”

The law not only bans all abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal viability, this would also see doctors who perform an abortion facing up to 99 years in prison.

Fact: THIS IS 89 MORE YEARS THAN SOMEONE CONVICTED OF RAPE.

After Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri soon followed with severe bans on abortion after six and eight weeks respectively. In contrast to this drive to ban or heavily limit options for abortion, the Democratic-led states have made a conscious decision to bring abortion to the forefront and make rights, safe abortion avenues and making it more accessible. This year Illinois became the third state, after New York and Vermont, to ensure that abortion remains legal even if the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade ruling.

The proposition of this bill had more than 500 #StopTheBans demonstrations spearheaded by several abortion rights groups and liberal organizations including American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). Taking the streets with slogans screaming “Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is a right.” The fact that 25 men decided that they can make a law that directly questions not only the democratic rights of the women, but also questions their own understanding of their biology and strips them of planned parenthood entirely, is what the people have been protesting against.

Taking the streets with slogans screaming “Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is a right.” The fact that 25 men decided that they can make a law that directly questions their democratic rights and their own understanding of their biology is what people have been protesting against”

This wave of laws and amendments has forced women to come out and express why it has to be a decision that only they should make, and it has also intrinsically linked abortion to politics and what has become obvious is the lack of women policy makers and a lack of understanding of women’s issues.

Protestors participate in a rally on May 19, 2019 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo: Getty Images)

When you look at India, before 1971, abortion was a criminal offence under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, except in cases when it was necessary to save the woman’s live, labelling it as deliberately “causing miscarriage”. After the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill was passed in 1971, this allowed for stipulations such as health risk, possibility of substantial risk of serious physical handicap to the child, rape and risk for the mental health of the woman and made abortion available up to 20 weeks of gestation. Despite this, according to an article by The Lancet Global Health , it is estimated that 15.6 million abortions take place in India every year, and a majority of these are unsafe abortions. Unsafe abortion is the third largest cause of maternal morality leading to the death of 10 women each day. There’s also the fact that even though abortions are supposed to be legal, accessibility wise abortion clinics have been decreasing and in anti-choice states they are often not even covered by state or private health insurance. In India, we also have the stigma attached to abortion, especially when it comes to unmarried and underage women seeking access to safe abortions.

“It is estimated that 15.6 million abortions take place in India every year, and a majority of these are unsafe abortions. Unsafe abortion is the third largest cause of maternal morality leading to the death of 10 women each day.”

Seeing the rise of unsafe abortion seekers and the result, the Government took cognizance of the challenges faced by women and proposed four major amendments to the MTP law:

  • To increase the base of legal MTP providers and ensure better access to safe and legal abortions.
  • To increase the gestation period. This amendment was proposed on the basis that it takes more than the initial 20 weeks for medical practitioners to detect severe fetal abnormalities.
  • Increasing access to legal abortion services for women
  • Changing the indication to include unmarried women and to make more women aware of what MTP rights they have access to.
“Amend the Bill to include increase in abortion clinics, to amend the minimum time of 20 weeks, to make services safe and to provide legal abortions for unmarried women as well”

Despite the proposition of these amendments, the most important point raised was the gestation period. Appealed for by rape and sexual assault victims, this area specially needs amendment because the victims of any kind of sexual abuse might not discover the unwanted pregnancy till 24 weeks at least. Due to this negative aura that has been created around unwanted pregnancies and the idea of abortion as murder,what becomes apparent is the lack of female presence and female’s perspective when it comes to making laws about women’s bodies and their choices in our country. To challenge this notion, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, in his Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill, 2018, proposed that instead of being called the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, it should now be known as Legal Termination of Pregnancy Act so there is no mistake of understanding that the woman herself holds autonomy over her body and decisions related to her body. As a first step towards realizing women’s rights and respecting the their choice regarding sexual intercourse, menstrual health and unplanned or forced pregnancies, the Bill raises a strong voice in favor of women’s sexual autonomy, menstrual hygiene and abortion rights. There’s an apparent and glaring divide between men and women, and to have policy makers who will never actually experience the changes of pregnancy, what is needed the most is the inclusion for female policy makers, health care providers and even mobilization to educate as to how unsafe illegal abortions can be.

Due to this negative aura that has been created around unwanted pregnancies and the idea of abortion as murder,what becomes apparent is the lack of female presence and female’s perspective when it comes to making laws about women’s bodies and their choices in our country.

Photo: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30453-9/fulltext

The Disaster of Denmark

With the vision that the world has of Denmark, it comes as a surprise that only one is six Danes consider themselves to be ‘feminists’. This was announced as a result of a poll conducted by YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project of more than 25,000 people in 23 major countries, targeting Denmark as one of the candidates because of its narrow gender pay gap, equal employment rights, and universal nursery care.
In a global survey of attitudes of gender, equal rights for both men and women and the importance and wide-spread reach of the #MeToo movement to come out and encourage women to share their voice and stories of harassment, that Denmark is one of the least feminist countries in the world.

This project was conducted three years after the country’s equality minister and member of the party Venstre, Karen Ellemann, said she did not consider herself to be a feminist. The project also found that only two out of five Danes supported the #MeToo movement and only 4% of men and 8% of women questioned in the survey had a ‘favorable’ view of the #MeToo movement. Some even raised challenges like they believed #MeToo would make men feel constrained in their relationships with women. Sara Phil was noted saying “I think some men are afraid of talking to women at work, in case they get accused of something.”

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She Guards for All

With over 40 years of experience in individual advancement and female empowerment, Centre for Social Research, in collaboration with Honda Two Wheelers, launched its Women’s Security Guard Training Program in the Mini Secretariat, Gurugram, on 29th October 2018.

We are happy to share the great success of our short film on the occasion of #CSW63- ‘Access is Empowerment’!

“It is a powerful story of courage and resilience.”- Director Of UN Women who was there to release the film.

The film lead to an extremely engaging discussion by the international community-
US, Taiwan, Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, Canada, India, South America and representatives of the African subcontinent among many others.

We are extremely encouraged by appreciation and the demand of many to further screen and share the film!