Monday, June 26, 2017

A Role Model and a Change Maker

Pramila of Gokulgaon village

Pramila Dhirde, 45, lives in Gokulgaon – a village with population of 280 people, in Shahapur block of Thane district in Maharashtra. Most families in the village are engaged in agriculture, cultivating rice and a few vegetables. Pramila is educated up to 10th std., considered a high qualification for a woman of her age in the village. She lives with her two daughters and husband. Her husband has barely gone to school and is engaged full time in agriculture on a small plot of land he inherited from his father. Pramila works equally hard in their farm in addition to taking care of the household work. The household income of around Rs. 45000 per annum is enough to cover basic necessities including the school education of the girls.

When PF, under it's AMCHI field project introduced vermi-composting as an income generation activity in the village in March 2015, Pramila was one of the first women to enroll for the activity. As the initiative was agro-allied and did not require much travel outside the village, Pramila was keen to try. She was eager to get the additional income that it promised.

Pramila said, "Apart from the vermi-compost enterprise, I got lot of information from sessions on ante-natal and post-natal care which were being conducted in my village. I make good use of the information. I share this with other women of the village. I am able to talk to the doctors at PHC and RH very well. This has increased my confidence further."

Pramila convinced her sister-in-law to have the delivery done in the government hospital instead of private nursing home. She accompanied her to the hospital alone and had her delivery done. As soon as she notices any pregnant woman in the community or family, she ensures that her registration is done with the ANM / Anganwadi Centre.

Pramila and her group mates were trained by the AMCHI team in production and marketing of vermi-compost.  The group not only learned the skills quickly but also took various initiatives to develop the enterprise.Pramila along with the group members printed a pamphlet describing the benefits of the manure. They packed 5 kg bags of manure for distribution as sample to farmers. With this investment the members went around the village and met farmers and farmhouse-owners. The farmers were appreciative of the benefits of the manure as well as the effort made by the women. 

Pramila (left) working in her vermi compost unit
Pramila and her partners did not stop at that but regularly followed up with the farmers who had shown interest. The communication skills learnt in the training sessions came handy to them. The group also made a tie-up with a nearby buffalo-owner who steadily supplied them with good quality animal dung at reasonable price. The group thus established links in the market as well as for obtaining raw material.

The effort paid off and the sale increased gradually. The group made a good profit in the second year of the enterprise. Pramila got around Rs.10000 in the year and was very happy to support her younger daughter’s higher education and elder daughter’s marriage. Besides having the purchasing power Pramila now commands respect of her immediate and extended family. She is respected in the community too as she is a member of the first group of women to have a successful business.

Going beyond what was taught in the training sessions, the group now plans to increase their production by increasing the number of earthworms in the pits. They are developing clients outside Shahapur who would pick up the manure regularly. They are targeting farm houses of Murbad taluka. They wish to sell manure under their brand name “Sanjivani” – the life-giver. All the group members have been able to garner the support of their husband as well to give boost to the production and sale.

Pramila explains benefits of vermi-wash
Like Pramila there are around 175 women across 24 groups in different villages of Shahapur who enjoy the small financial freedom the enterprise has given them. For the first time in their lives they are getting money for their work. They are enjoying the mobility and enhanced social interactions too which the enterprise brings along. Women feel confident and hopeful of achieving much more. They wish to do something for the development of their community. They are being role models for so many girls and women across villages.

Written by Ms. Meenal Gandhe, Programme Manager, AMCHI

Friday, May 5, 2017


Over the past few years, Indian movies have consistently made efforts to bring forward inspiring stories of women from from all walk of life. Laadli applauds this welcome effort by Cinema and it gives us great pleasure to announce that the South Asia Laadli Media and Advertising Award for Gender Sensitivity 2015-16, Feature Film category, goes to:


Directed by 

Leena Yadav

Writing Credits 

Supratik Sen

Leena Yadav


Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Suvreen Chawla, Lehar Khan

In the parched lands of a desert the three protagonists long for meaningful relationships with the men in their lives, who fill their lives with only violence of the most heinous kind. The perverted and skewed perceptions of masculinity, the fragility of male egos and the violence  perpetrated by men is starkly contrasted with the warm friendship and bonding between the women which makes them acknowledge and explore their own desires and sexuality, ultimately exercising their agency and choice to chart their own path. The women of Parched rescue each other, triumph over their insecurities and unleash their inner strength.


Directed by 
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)  

Nitesh Tiwari, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari,
Neeraj Singh,
Pranjal Chowdhary


Swara Bhaskar, Ratna Pathak, Riya Shukla

Nil Battey SannaŠĻ≠a, sensitively tells the story of the conflict between a single working mother from lower economic strata and her adolescent and defiant daughter. It brings out the conflict between the despair of the daughter who sees no value in education and no hope for her future except to be a maid like her mother and the aspiration of the mother who sees hope for her daughter’s upward mobility in education. It is an inspiring story of a mother teaching her daughter to dream, aspire and achieve. This film tells the story of aspirations of a working class single mother with sensitivity, simplicity and humor that resonates with the audience.

Both rousing and powerful films, Nil Battey Sannata and Parched make a statement on sisterhood between women of all ages and social strata, united in their hope of a better future. 

We congratulate the winners and hope to see more and more of such gender sensitive movies in the coming years!

Written by: Dr. A L Sharada

Monday, May 1, 2017

"Where a woman is unpaid, unheard and unrecognised"


It is only fitting to announce the South Asia Laadli Media and Advertising Award for the Short Film category, on Labour Day. "The Water Wives" is a short film released by ActionAid India, which is based on true stories. It draws our attention to the discrimination and inherent dehumanization of women in certain parts of our country where men marry multiple times in order to have a wife exclusively for the task of fetching water. The whole premise begs the question, how are multiple marriages the solution for
water scarcity? Is it because a wife's work is unpaid and expected as servitude in marriage? Why does our social fabric weave a picture of bonded labour when it comes to a wife's tasks? Or is it another excuse for the man to derive sexual pleasure from a younger woman?

Caught in the vicious cycle of worsening plight and worsening poverty, the Water Wives have ended up as commodities that work to the advantage of the men involved, who now have another woman in the house to fulfil their sexual urges as well. The film highlights the unpaid and unappreciated labor women put in for running households and how they can be reduced to mere tools of achieving unpaid domestic work.

The film is a testament to how poverty and water scarcity, difficult circumstances, affect men and women differently. While crises lead to an increase in exploitation of women; men turn them around for their benefit. An objective assessment of the situation could lead to solutions like obtaining a shared motorized vehicle by the villagers to fetch water, or hiring some villagers for the task, or taking turns among households in a locality; simple methods of water conservation to ensure sufficient water supply, etc. And yet men have chosen polygamy as the solution, exposing a situation rife with discrimination.

In appreciation of shedding light on this appalling practice faced by women, we announce our first winner "The Water Wives" and congratulate all those involved in the making of this short film. Below is the invite for the award function. We hope to see you there!

Watch this space for announcement of our MOVIE Winners next!

Suggested videos- Water Wives:

Written by : Dr. Ishmeet Nagpal
Editing credits: Dr. A L Sharada, Ms. Srinidhi Raghavan

Thursday, April 13, 2017

'Anaarkali of Aarah' is a giant leap for Bollywood

A look at 'Anaarkali of Aarah' through the gender lens 

Anaarkali of Aarah is a song of retribution and a classic revenge story, Bollywood masala style, and yet it is so real that you feel you are part of her every decision. Maybe it's just me, but rather than watch something like Bat'man' and Super'man' fight it out in incredible VFX, give me Anaarkali's fight for her dignity and bodily autonomy any day.

Anaarkali of Aarah, through the story of sexual harassment of an entertainment dancer, makes you curious to dissect the psyche of men who perpetrate such assault. What are we as a society enabling by encouraging use of a female body dancing suggestively as a source of entertainment? Same logic goes for item songs, strip clubs, dance bars. The movie resonates with real life more than we could imagine. Do yourself a favour and google a certain music company in Haryana (hint: it's named after a bird) and watch a fully clad performer gyrate to regional song about a 'solid' anatomy. The channel has millions of followers— in fact, my friend's barber showed him a downloaded video while shaving him, and said, "Ye dekho mast cheej". The videos have awestruck men staring at the performer, who by the way, brings a man in the capacity of a bodyguard (like the character of Swara Bhaskar’s manager in Anaarkali, played by Pankaj Tripathi). Some would argue that the position of power Anaarkali holds over the crowd as she performs, is empowering in itself, yet the nagging feeling that this isn't right in the first place, just does not go away.
The movie’s premise of harassment endured by entertainment dancers is eerily reminiscent of the woman shot dead on stage in Punjab while entertaining a group of drunk men at a wedding. There has been no word in the media on what retribution the perpetrators faced. In fact all headlines read "girl shot dead/dancer shot dead/pregnant girl shot dead" and hardly any headline mentions who shot her (note the prevalent use of ‘girl’ to describe a full grown woman). The theme with all crimes related to women is the same, "Girl raped/girl molested/girl murdered" with more focus on the profile of the victim and her personal life, rather than the accused. Consider this- "Drunk man kills a wedding performer on camera", "Rifle firing by men at weddings claims another life", “Violence by men on the rise”. Oh wait, let's not say too much, we may trigger another #NotAllMen outrage.
The movie also explores the stigma that comes with being branded a sex worker in this country. It's apparent that being branded a sex worker (whether you are one or not) makes you a second class citizen immediately, a citizen who has no recourse with the authorities or sympathy from society, and whose self respect suffers a great deal. This brings about a technical question as well about the laws of our land. Sex work (I hate the word prostitution) is legal in India and yet many women and men are arrested and harassed on this charge. For the sex workers this is double jeopardy because if they are scared of the authorities, who protects them?
Anaarkali uses the system to her advantage to exact revenge on her own terms. The climax of the film has the audience spellbound, internally cheering for Anaarkali. The movie makes you root for a woman who is not a pious, quintessential abla naari, and that I think is great progress in itself where Bollywood is concerned.
The writer is Programme Manager, Population First and the review was published in DNA India on April 5 2017.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Is modern Bollywood representing us well?

Karan Johar’s rendering of ‘unrequited love’ in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil speaks of anything but love. Systematic stalking and emotional abuse are not love. Trying to kiss your platonic friend when she’s clearly uncomfortable, and then resorting to domestic violence, is not love. Yes, breaking vases is also domestic violence. The characters stumble in and out of toxic relationships, and the audience is supposed to feel sorry for them and root for a happy ending.

Let’s take a look at all the characters without their glossy Bollywood faces. Alizeh is portrayed as a modern woman who makes split second judgement, assessing (even before meeting her) that Ayan’s girlfriend would only be with him for money. Feeding the golddigger stereotype is not doing us any good as a nation that consumes Punjabi rap about girls ‘selling their affections’- so to speak- on a daily basis. Also, in an era of strong women who want to stand up against not just physical but emotional abuse, Alizeh’s initial choices are hardly a beacon of hope for women suffering silently in their homes. But we have to give her due credit for extricating herself from one toxic relationship at least, which was her marriage. No such luck with ridding herself of Ayan though, whose re-entry is juxtaposed with the entry of cancer.

When it comes to Ayan, his caustic behaviour toward the people in his life has been excused by various write-ups and reviews by calling him a ‘Man-child’, but this just sounds like another version of “boys will be boys”. This excuse-culture needs to be stopped. People must be held accountable for their deeds and bear the consequences. To give Ayan a happy reconciliation with his ‘friend’, is an assurance that no matter how badly you behave you will be rewarded for persistence that borders on stalking and harassment. The lowest point of the movie occurred in the thankfully deleted ‘Evening in Paris’ song, when Ayan grabs a random stranger’s hand. Instead of calling out his groping and sexual assault, she playfully caresses his cheek. What does this convey? That it is okay to be sexually harassed when a ‘hero’ is doing it? The second problem in this blink-and-miss moment is the stereotyping of ‘firang’ females as ‘loose’ women who would not mind being groped.

Saba, played by the ethereal Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, breaks through the cacophony as a sole voice of reason when she dumps Ayan, on being used as shiny trophy to show off to his true lady love, Alizeh. Saba’s ex-husband played by Shahrukh Khan is very eloquent, and yet invades his ex wife’s personal space time and again. Do any women, even the happily divorced ones, want their exes to breathe down their necks in public? What are Bollywood movies subliminally planting in the consciousness of the populace? It is high time mainstream filmmakers woke up to the subtle hints in their movies that help develop a culture of abuse.

This review is by Ishmeet Nagpal who is a programme co-ordinator for Laadli -A Population First Initiative