Around the world in
Peer pressure affects
Bangalore-based Hema Bedi had no idea that one day she would start an anti-trafficking organisation in Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh. Six years after she set up Sthree, she is a role model for other NGOs. Recently, she was honoured by the Chennai-based Centre for Social Initiative. She talks to Kuldip Dhiman about her mission
Could you give us some idea about the seriousness of the flesh trade problem, and the scale of it?
Nearly five million women and children were trafficked within the borders of India to meet the demands of big city brothel houses in 2005 alone. Of this, Andhra Pradesh’s contribution is nearly 35 per cent. The allied problem of AIDS is another time bomb that is ticking, as nearly half of the trafficked girls are left to die in villages.
You believe in awareness through multiple intervention. How do you go about it?
Awareness is one thing, but it must also get translated into action. For example, when we advise family members to accept AIDS patients, we stay in the village for a night or two with the trafficked girl, eat off the same plate as hers to show that AIDS does not spread through physical contact. Then, we get alternative livelihood loans for these girls fairly quickly, increasing the confidence of other girls and the communities that had so far never seen such assistance. This helped in other victims wanting to change their lives as well as prevented others from thinking that prostitution would be the only source of income for their livelihood. Further, we were the first to offer care and support for the HIV+ members in the communities through referral linkages to an AIDS hospital in Bangalore.
You must have upset a lot of people. What sort of problems do you face?
We were threatened and attacked, but the truth of the matter is that "jo dar gaya, who margaya". We know this work is difficult and dangerous, but it is to the credit of our volunteers, our district and state police, as well as donors that we have reached so far. Besides teething trouble with the police, we created an impact on the communities and created a fear among the traffickers by filing 54 PITA FIRs and arresting nearly 59 traffickers, over the last five years. Over the last two years, things have cooled off considerably and now the traffickers are seeking help to avoid convictions.
What is the magnitude of the AIDS problem?
It is devastating. Unfortunately, too much emphasis is given to awareness raising, but little is done to ensure care and support to the victims, besides testing facilities that at a time don’t give confirmatory reports for positive members. At the village level, only the rapid or Tridot elementary test is done, which will not show HIV during the window period (six months), so the patient is counselled and asked to return after six months for another check up. From experience, we know that a villager does not return for a second check up, as he/she is so relieved that his/her tests are negative. Also the sense of well being in the first three to five years or more makes him or her confident that nothing is wrong. He/she may well be positive, but no confirmatory test has been conducted, therefore he/she continue to have dangerous liaisons with all and sundry, infecting any and everybody in the process.
Once you rescue the girls, how do you help them start life afresh. What is the success rate of rehabilitation?
A rescued girl is brought to our shelter home, counselled and we prepare her to start life afresh. We teach her skills, empower her through capacity buildings, education (formal or non-formal) and hook her up to government schemes for livelihood options, land and housing loans, or free housing schemes. We also give her all round exposure through visits to other donor or NGO partners, or in making products we expose her to the marketing linkages. In some cases, we train them to have their own micro-enterprises and give them basic business management skills. The underlying philosophy is — A community empowered to produce regular income for below poverty line families will not see their women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Ramesh Kandula meets two young singing sensations from the South
Talented singers Karunya and Hemachandra are from the South, but have captured the hearts of the Hindi audience in the recent singing competitions on TV.
Karunya narrowly missed the recently concluded Indian Idol 2 (Sony TV) throne, but he has made a mark as a singer with strong foundation and great talent. The judges, including Sonu Nigam and Anu Malik, rooted for him from day one, and even the viewers were bowled over by his sonorous voice and impeccable rendition of songs.
He floored everybody with a Punjabi song in the very first Piano round. His Laayi vi na gayi and Kavah kavah elicited a standing ovation from the judges and thunderous applause from viewers.
"I wanted to present something that is not a regular on such shows. And I have been practising singing in several languages, including Punjabi," remarked the singing sensation.
"I may have lost in the voting arithmetic, but the kind of support and recognition I got was unbelievable," he smilingly said.
Opportunities have already started pouring in for the talented young singer. "I have got a dream debut in Bollywood with the film Munnabhai 2nd Innings. I have already recorded a solo for Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s prestigious banner," he revealed.
Apparently, Vidhu Vinod’s sister in the US followed Sony’s popular programme and became a big fan of Karunya and recommended him to her brother. The Abhishek look-alike is already getting a lot of offers from the South Indian film industry. "I have already given my voice for five Telugu songs, and one each in Tamil and Kannada," he said.
The other singer from Hyderabad, who made a splash in a popular contest on Zee TV Saregamapa, is Hemachandra. The lanky boy, incidentally, is Karunya’s cousin. "Music runs in our family," says the shy 17-year-old, who was the second runner-up in the show. Hemachandra’s soulful rendition of Nahin samne tu from the film Taal literally swept director Subhash Ghai and hero Akshaye Khanna off the floor. Ghai even publicly offered him a chance in his banner, before announcing the talented singer’s ouster from the competition.
"Aadesh Shrivastava who was my mentor in the show stood by me and encouraged me. It was unbelievable that he spent so much time on me," said a grateful Hemachandra.
Interestingly, Hemachandra, unlike Karunya, was not familiar with any other language except Telugu. I had learnt my first Hindi song a month before I was to participate in the Saregamapa competition, he said.
The dark, tall and handsome teenager has already moved to Mumbai to pursue his dream of playback singing. He has already sung for Abhishek Bachchan in the film Alag, and is waiting to record for Subhash Ghai’s Good Boys, Bad Boys. He has already performed at several stage shows, and is scheduled to go on a world tour in October with music director Aadesh Shrivastava.
Both singers believe that they did not make it to the top because of the limited viewership for Hindi TV channels in the South. "But we have made a mark and that can be an inspiration for others," they say with conviction.
WOMEN over the decades have moved from constricting undergarments to glamorous lingerie. The term ‘lingerie’ is not properly understood in the Indian context. In the West, the word mainly means nightwear, which range from simple satin chemises to exquisite gowns edged with French lace in gorgeous plums, vintage gold and sumptuous reds.
According to fashion designer Renu Bhandari, "Lingerie is the basic foundation garments/innerwear for women. However, in India, practically no effort was made to cash in on this essential market."
Until a few years ago, Indian newspapers did not accept advertisements for lingerie with scantily-clad women. This lead to the publication of India’s only lingerie magazine Lace N Lingerie in 1998 by Sanjay Manocha.
Then there were very few models to show off these teeny-weeny pieces in the few fashion shows organised by the industry. Till five years ago, even in major metros of India, when one went to buy the lingerie, all personal details like cup size of the breasts had to be discussed with male shop assistants. But all-female staff lingerie boutiques are now becoming the vogue.
The lingerie market for women in India is said to be worth Rs 1700 crore. Out of this, only Rs 170 crore of products are in the organised sector, the rest 90 per cent being that of the unorganised sector. But recently, the rapid increase in demand has resulted in the entry of multinationals, including Lovable, Jockey, Underlines, Triumph, Vanity Fair Libertiworld, etc.
Few years ago, a multinational team reported that India was the greatest latent market — a market of 200 million women for the women’s innerwear. But recent surveys have shown that only women between the target age group of 18 and 50 belonging to urban households with a monthly income of Rs 30,000 think of buying lingeries. That adds up to just two million.
Psychographic research points out that among these women only three kinds will buy a high-priced lingerie: the hedonist gregarious spender, the affluent sophisticate and the contemporary housewife. They constitute about 40 per cent of the two million women. They are the core target group of these foreign brands. The starting price for a brassiere made by the international MNC is Rs 1,000 with the average being Rs 1,500, whereas the local Indian make costs about Rs 75 to 100.
In men’s innerwear, brand plays a big role. But for women, if a bra looks good and fits well, it will be bought regardless of the brand. The men’s underwear market is actually larger than the women’s, though, on an average, women own six pieces of undergarments and men own four. This is because women’s innerwear doesn’t reach all rural markets.
The growing fascination for well-groomed, toned bodies has triggered a demand for high quality innerwear. The influx of foreign media has caused this segment to make inroads into the normally conservative Indian consumer.
— MF (with inputs from the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India.)
Around the world in
AFTER 178 days afloat and after successfully negotiating fields of icebergs, equipment failure and ever-present loneliness, yachtswoman Dee Caffari emerged ultimately unscathed.
Buffeted by the huge swells rolling off the continental shelf and only a few hours behind schedule, this 33-year-old is the first woman to complete a feat once thought impossible—sailing around the world non-stop and alone against the prevailing tides and winds.
Caffari’s record-breaking 29,100 mile voyage lasted 178 days, 3 hours, 6 minutes and 15 seconds. On May 18, she crossed the official finish line in sight of the observer from the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) off Lizard Point, UK, and completed a passage which ensures her a place in maritime history.
"At the moment it is only the adrenaline that is keeping me going. It has been a huge adventure and I’ve learnt so much about myself. I have levels of determination and tenacity I didn’t realise. And I’ve found out that I quite like myself which is quite a good job after spending so long alone," said Caffari, a former teacher from Gosport, Hampshire, who set off last November.
Caffari took 100 days longer than Ellen MacArthur, who crossed the same line between Ushant in France and the Lizard last year to set a new record for the faster— and easier—easterly route in her much swifter multi-hull. But completing the westerly passage in her 72-ft boat Aviva marks not just the end of a gruelling odyssey for Caffari but the culmination of a life so far dedicated to adventure and challenge.
She was encouraged into her feat by Sir Chay Blyth, who confounded the doubters in 1971 when he became the first person ever to make the westward voyage. It took him 392 days. In 1995/6 an attempt by Samantha Brewster to become the first woman to repeat his voyage foundered when she was forced to stop for repairs and assistance.
Sir Chay convinced the 33-year-old to have a go on her own when she was sailing in his Global Challenge in 2004—a mixed ability team racing event which encourages "ordinary people to do something extraordinary". He paid tribute to the yachtswoman, praising her "astonishing" achievement.
"Her determination is second to none and she has inspired people all over the world to take on their own challenges," he said. It has not all been plain sailing for the adventurer. As well as missing her boyfriend Harry, she said she was craving a break from freeze-dried food, and was particularly looking forward to an apple.
In January problems with the autopilot nearly scuppered her dream. She was then faced with negotiating a vast field of icebergs that had drifted northwards after the collapse of an Antarctic iceshelf. "I didn’t sleep for three days and there were five or six icebergs in sight at all times," she said. She admits she faced "rock bottom" and almost conceded defeat.
— By arrangement with The Independent
Male-male competition, violence and accidents could be reasons for men having lower life expectancy than women, says a study.
More men than women die in car accidents, other types of accidents, homicides, and suicides, said Daniel Kruger and Randolph Nesse, two University of Michigan scientists, in the journal Human Nature.
Kruger and Nesse took a big-picture look at how evolution may contribute to male-female death rates.
Evolution may play a role. The male-female gap in death rates may be a sign of male-male competition in society, researchers say.
"The major killer in early life for women was maternal mortality, and that has been tamed considerably," said Carol J. Hogue, a professor of maternal and child health and epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta.
"The major killer for men is violence and accidents, and that has not gone down as dramatically as childbirth deaths have gone down," she said, reported health portal WebMD.
In 2004, researchers in England predicted that 2006 may be the year in which women would outlive men all over the world, even in the world’s poorest countries.
The earlier study has found that in 2004 life expectancy for US women was 5.2 years longer than men.
Women shouldn’t take their longer life expectancy for granted. The 2004 gender gap in the US life expectancy was the smallest it’s been since 1946. If women continue to adopt unhealthy habits like smoking, the gap may narrow further. — IANS