|WOMEN||Sunday, June 27, 2004, Chandigarh, India|
lip-stains to lipsticks
Charumathi Supraja reports on the unique experiment that has given voice to an area of information-drought
AGAINST the backdrop of women struggling to be heard on various issues throughout India, the voices of women from village Boodikote in Karnataka ring out loud and clear. Not merely at home and in their village, but and on their own local radio called Namma Dhwani ('our voice' in Kannada).
"Namma Dhwani has brought out creativity and sharing of art skills in the community. We share and talk. We are better informed," says Uma, a social worker. "Some husbands used to lie about the vegetable rates in the local market yard. But now we get to know what price our produce was sold for even before the husbands get home, as Namma Dhwani announces them everyday."
By narrowcasting—airing within a small area—a wide range of programmes (in Kannada) on education, agriculture, health and the law, this unique community radio project reaches out to the rural community, especially women, in 22 villages in Karnataka's Kolar district. The villagers share stories, interview people, present talks and discussions; they also sing, laugh and enact plays. While one of the studio managers is a woman, the network's management committee consists of 10 women and one man.
Namma Dhwani is not a women-only radio network. There are substantial numbers of children and men involved in the production of radio programmes. It's the 200-odd women who have led this UNESCO-sponsored project to success.
VOICES, an NGO from Bangalore, started the initial studies for the project in 1999. Boodikote was chosen as the site for the community audio production centre because the village was identified as an "information drought zone". Since legislation is yet to support the use of transmitters for community radio, VOICES started recording programmes and playing them on speakers at women's Self-Help Group (SHG) meetings. Significantly, the Namma Dhwani project has grown out of a programme to facilitate and empower women's SHGs in the area. The Bangalore-based NGO, MYRADA initiated the SHGs in 1992. While women members of these SHGs have grouped together, saved and taken joint decisions on disbursing loans, they have also moved far beyond the functions of micro-credit organisations. Over the years, SHG members have increased their confidence and skills. They manage their finances, juggle housework, childcare, farming activities, village development work and income-generating ventures. "At first, we wondered why we needed Namma Dhwani but now when we hear our voices, listen to the informative programmes and to the review of SHG meetings on the radio, we know it was one of the best things that happened to us," says Triveni.
Says Yasmeen Master of MYRADA, "We chose to work with women because women take learning home, while men don't." While there are 80 SHGs in the area, Namma Dhwani is managed by a committee of representatives from 14 SHGs. Women from all the 80 SHGs come regularly and record programmes.
For the community radio project, women were trained in programme planning and recording by professional radio journalists and producers from All India Radio (AIR). In 2000, Namma Dhwani acquired its own studio; and Mangala Gowri, a trainee, became one of the studio managers. Four years into the responsibility, Gowri—in her 20s and a mother of two—is a respected member of the community. She has trained many women as well as children below 10 years to record programmes for the radio. "My mother-in-law is very supportive. She listens so much to Namma Dhwani that we sometimes don't get our breakfast on time!" she says.
Currently, Namma Dhwani's programmes are received through cable in the village; they play on a TV channel without any visuals. Modified radio sets, provided at a nominal cost, are also used to listen to the programmes. "The aim of this project was to see if giving Information Communication Technology (ICTs) to the poor could help alleviate poverty," says Seema B. Nair, Project Coordinator of Namma Dhwani. "We thought of involving the women from the SHGs. These women already knew the value of information and that information could actually translate into money."
Bharati earns well from the shop she set up using a loan from her SHG. She wants to educate her children and has started saving for their future. "My husband asks me to keep him informed about any new informative programmes that we are told about in the Sangha (the SHG)," she says. Mangamma was waiting for her daughter to fail so she could stop sending her to school. "But she didn't fail; now she's completed Class 12 and gives tuitions at home. Only after I joined the sangha and listened to Namma Dhwani did I understand what education could do for a person. We worked as coolies (porters) for people in the sun and rain and earned erratically. But now my daughter can teach in the house every day and earn a monthly amount."
There's a distinct smell of cow dung in the air while walking through Boodikote. The cows are lean but cared for. The mud lanes are swept clean and the floors are patterned with rice flour. The women welcome visitors with warm smiles and talk readily about their experiences with the SHGs and Namma Dhwani. They all feel they've found a new world "outside the four walls of the kitchen".
When Subbamma's husband deserted her, she toiled on his husband's fields and educated her children. Her truant husband returned after several years and tried telling her how she should lead her life. She says: "I told him to shut up". Subbamma told her story on Namma Dhwani. Repeats have been requested for many times since, says Nair.
Parvati's husband doesn't
like her involvement with Namma Dhwani because he's afraid she'll
"talk back". A regular listener, she even makes programmes
when he is not at home. "I used to be very silent till I attended
the SHG meetings and listened to Namma Dhwani. Now, even if he says no,
I fight and go," she says. "Earlier, we were shy and afraid.
Now we feel free. When the men try to dominate the committee meetings we
tell them, this is an equal platform. We were penniless, now we are
earning members," says Triveni. — WFS
From wrecking relationships to pepping up a woman’s morale and finally to a symbol of sensuality, it has been a long journey for this stick of colour, which is more than merely a beauty aid for countless women, writes Aditi Garg
FEMININITY at its most recognisable manifests itself in the form of lipstick. It has left an undeniable mark on the face of the modern woman (quite literally so) and does not fail to leave telltale marks on personal and not so personal articles. It is the harbinger of more than just beautiful faces; it heralds the look of the season. It has become as important as clothes in the varying fashion scene. If last year it was the nude look, it could be scarlet this year and frosted - the next. Having a few basic colours is just not enough. For the fashion conscious, the colour palette has to change with the trends.
Applying lipstick is no longer restricted to social visits. An increasing number of women find their faces ‘unnatural’ without it. It is an everyday ritual like taking a bath or brushing your teeth. One just has to spend a few extra moments pondering over the lipstick of the day. A few strokes can make or mar any look. But this seemingly simple and harmless cylindrical tube does much more than that. The history of lipstick is as remarkable as its place in the world of cosmetics. Make-up did not always enjoy the reputation that it does nowadays. During the Middle Ages, women who wore any make-up were looked down upon. They were either thought of as prostitutes and women of bad character or ones with evil powers – witches. Hence, no sane woman wanted to invoke the wrath of the society and risk being burnt for a witch.
Lipstick has led to the issue of some freak laws in countries around the world. The most recent is the ban on its application by the Malaysian government on the basis that it encourages illegitimate sexual activity. German and American Governments unsuccessfully tried to curb its use. Even Hitler had to bow to the wishes of women who stopped working when he forbade them from using lipstick. But the cherry on the cake was the British law in the late eighteenth century that ruled that women could not wear lipstick before marriage and any marriage with a woman who uses make-up before marriage could be annulled. The basis for such a ruling was that women successfully hid their real selves behind layers of make-up. Though France did not have any rules against lipsticks; women steered clear of them as those sporting lipsticks were thought of as fakes and trying to look younger than they were.
In the face of such severe opposition, it took a situation as oppressive as World War II to take the criticism away. It was then that make-up came back in vogue. Women coloured their lips and it was soon very fashionable to do so. But way before the Middle Ages, Lipsticks have been reported being used by the Egyptians. Cleopatra is said to have used a lipstick made from the paste of a particular beetle and ant’s eggs. Other Egyptian women dyed their lips with henna.
It was not until recently that safety became a priority in cosmetics. Lipsticks that women had been using for over centuries were potentially fatal. They were made using chemicals that were dangerous even in small amounts. Over a period of time they not only lost their looks to disfiguring ailments but also poisoned themselves from inside out. As awareness increased, people realised the need for lipsticks that could be produced on a mass scale and were not hazardous to health. Ingredients that were beneficial or harmless readily replaced toxic ingredients. If an ingredient is used that could have some adverse effects, its quantity is reduced to such amounts that would pose no threat. Wax became the main ingredient of all lipsticks, coupled with fats, oils, colouring agents and flavours. Nowadays, sunscreens are also included in lipsticks due to the growing consciousness about protection from the sun. Hypoallergenic lipsticks are available for people whose skin is very sensitive to external agents.
Lipsticks are now
available in all the possible shades that one could think of and more.
Apart from shades there are various textures like matte, gloss, glitter,
shine and the like. And with umpteen number of companies to choose from,
one gets so carried away that we fail to think beyond what we see. The
process of assembling the cylindrical tube and the ingredients that make
it slide on the lips, stay there and give just the colour one desires
– they all speak volumes about the long journey of lipstick to its
present form. Despite all the wonderful things they do for the women
around the world, they have rocked many relationships when stains on
handkerchiefs and collars of men have given away their promiscuous
RENEE Singh, a daring woman who tip toes in the man’s haven and successfully runs a cable network, Prime Channel says, "I have never felt any difference in running a cable network from any other business venture. Of course, it is a little different from the normal work line that women pick up. Incidentally, during our latest protest I realised I was the only woman among men this side of the world."
Being the eldest child in the family, she learnt from a young age to take care of her siblings. Her father’s army background exposed her to indoor and outdoor activities. Always a confident and assertive child, she excelled in all fields that she ventured in. A school-level basket ball and volleyball player who represented her school at regional and zonal level matches, she plays the sitar and bongo equally well. A liberal father allowed her to take her own decisions. A product of Scindia school, a Bsc in home science and later on a diploma in textile designing, she married Maninder and set up home in Chandigarh. In 1993, she expressed her desire to work and her husband, the owner of C-con a cable network in Sector 22, asked her to help him in accounts. That was her first step towards the cable networking and slowly Maninder eased himself out of the business and ventured into the export and import business. Before she could realise what had happened she had taken the reins of the business in her hands. Recently, because of the price hike by paid channels, four cable network companies have joined hands and set up Future Communications, the Prime Channel, a parallel to Siti cable in the city, which caters to 75 per cent of Chandigarh and Mohali consumers. At present, Renee is also in-charge of the news section of the network. Renee talks about her experiences as, "Apprehensions in the mind of the workers was met with stern steps and efficient decision-making whenever any crisis arose. They soon realised that I was here to stay and was their pay master so they just accepted me as their leader. Emergencies in the middle of the night arise when someone cuts a connection or there is theft of wire etc., I never ever think twice and hold back just because I am a woman. I just pick up my staff from office or inform the police at times and reach the trouble spot. We have a team of 30 boys working for us and I look after them just as my own boys. In return they give me due respect." She muses "I wish the paid channels could realise our problems. We have to pay tax to the municipal corporation, income tax and then to the paid channels plus provide good service to the customers."
Surely, cable networking is not the
only thing this effervescent lady manages. She indulges in her
recreation activities with the same fervour. She loves to travel and
drives around town in mean, sleek station wagons. She recently drove
out to Manikaran and Rohtang pass in her Scorpio with friends. Taking
time off from her busy schedule she has enough energy to teach tie and
dye to students of Viivek High school as she says she loves working
with children. She continues to inspire women from all walks of life
in her endeavours at leading a secure and successful life. She dreams
to open a grooming school one day and looks forward t facing all her
future challenges upfront.
JYOTI Brahmin, Miss India Earth, 2004 who secured the crown after the exit of Laxmi Pandit from the pageant is definitely a lucky girl. At 20, she is raring to go. Born under the Capricorn sign, she says:"We can climb mountains and are slow and steady in every aspect of life." Moreover, she feels that there is no substitute for hard work. A contented woman, she is grateful to life.
What according to her is the concept of beauty " To be really beautiful one has to be beautiful from within also".
She believes in the institution of marriage and longs to have a loving family." Only a family can provide true contentment in life", she says. As far as live-in relationships go, it is an individual's choice. Philosophy of her life ? Be good, do good and enjoy life.
The New York Awards fest was a glamorous affair in which gorgeous celebrities from the movie and fashion world arrived in style.
The awards, also known as the Oscars of Fashion, included a special award this year called ‘The Fashion Icon of The Year’, which went to the sexy Sarah Jessica Parker.
The Sex And The City star sizzled in a chic girlie tutu with a red satin bodice covered with black lace.
According to British media reports, the star studded event included the who’s who of the fashion world. There were many awards in different categories.
Designer Zac Posen was awarded the ‘Emerging Talent’ award while veteran designer Donna Karan received the Lifetime Achievement Award. (ANI)