‘Back to Work’ Policy to be a significant step in empowering women

Women are super humans! They efficiently juggle between raising children, domestic duties, earning bread, and manage to do it all effortlessly. We witness women rising to top offices—take Leela Nair as CHRO of ULE and Geeta Gopinath as Chief Economist of the IMF examples—and also becoming the sarpanch in village panchayats.
Although, the potential in the middle rung still remains latent. It has long been an obligation for women to give up their dreams in the interests of their families. And it should come as no surprise to the reader that half of our population does not get ample representation in the working force. The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2019-20 finds out that the proportion of women in the overall labour force has dropped down to a meagre 20.7%.


In a bid to counter this disproportion, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot recently announced the launch of a ‘Back to Work’ scheme on 30 November, during the discussion on the Finance and Appropriation Bill for the Budget 2021-22.
The policy attempts to bring back into the workforce the women who have had to quit their jobs in the past due to personal or family obligations. A three-year target of providing 15,000 regular/work-from-home jobs with the assistance of the private sector has been set, wherein priority will be accorded to women who have been abandoned,widowed, divorced or subjected to violence. Additionally, skill training will also be provided through Rajasthan Knowledge Corporation Limited (RKCL) to make them more employable.
Recently, Tata Consultancy Services also grabbed the headlines with its recent launch of a recruitment drive to hire more women professionals, followed by other IT majors like Wipro, Infosys and HCL.
The participation of women in urban areas is still encouraging, but overall participation is far from desirable. This policy raises the prospect of bolstering the financial status of vulnerable women and children. More women employees are not only good for gender equality, but they also create stronger national economies.
Besides, more participation of women in the workforce would help India achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 1 on ending poverty, SDG 5 on achieving gender equality, SDG 8 on ensuring economic growth and SDG 10 on reducing inequalities. More women in the workforce is a win-win situation for all.

THE CYBERSPACE- A GENDERED POINT OF VIEW

The introduction of digital technology was seen as a game-changer. The anonymity of cyberspace gave us the ability to destabilise gender differences, alter gender relations and empower women even more. However, the real doubt arises when one questions its attainment.

Cybercrime is a comprehensive term that encompasses all illicit operations carried out with the use of digital technology with the intent of causing harm to an individual’s or group’s physical, psychological, or financial well-being. 

Whilst men are also vulnerable to online gender-based abuse, research suggests that women are disproportionately victimised and endure significant ramifications, like being silenced, particularly women of specific religions, ethnic or racial groupings, sexual orientation, economic status, and with disabilities. 

According to a survey conducted by Bumble India, 83 per cent of women have reported that they have been victims of online harassment in some form, and 1 in 3 have reported that they experience it every week. The numbers are devastating.

WHY DO GENDER-BASED CRIMES TAKE PLACE?

It is important to realise that the internet is a virtual extension of our real lives. The prejudices, stereotypes and oppressive social systems transcend into the realm of the worldwide web wreaking havoc for female users.

Recent incidents such as the Bulli Bai app, sexual assault taking place in Meta’s virtual reality platform and a report stating that Indian women politicians face one of the highest levels of online abuse- are outrageous outcomes of patriarchy and deep-rooted prejudices against women and minority social groups.

According to the ITU’s 2017 data, men continue to use the internet at a higher rate than women in two-thirds of the world’s countries, with around 200 million fewer women online than men. This not only indicates the exclusion of women from online space but also points out that men are more likely to get an opportunity to be technologically advanced. This leads to women being more susceptible to cyber-attacks. In most cases, the victim does not know what course of action to take due to the lack of awareness about laws along with the fear of being sidelined by society.

The anonymity of cyberspace acts as a safe haven that allows oppressors to indulge in cybercrimes. A large chunk of the gender-based online abuse is faced by women who have actively raised their voices against systemic oppression. These women are not only targeted for their identity but also because of the influence they wield in the digital space. 

The lack of access to sex education and gender sensitivity is also among the primary causes of gender-based cyber-crimes. The objectification of women which takes place online would cease to exist if children are taught the nuances of gender sensitivity from an early age. However, the lack of sexual education leads to adolescents looking for answers online from, more often than not, unreliable sources which act as underbellies of the patriarchal mindset. 

‘Online abuse seeks to maintain gender hierarchies and prevent the complete emancipation of women’ 

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

·       To counter gender-based cyber-crimes, states have put laws in place however, that does not relieve the state of its obligation to ensure a safe digital space for women. The state has the responsibility to adopt and implement measures to eradicate prejudices, stereotypes and practices which act as the structural root causes of gender-based cyber-crimes. If online sexism and misogyny is not appropriately countered, it adds to a culture in which subordination of women is normalised and institutionalised, which the state should reverse.

·       Sex education and gender sensitivity should be made mandatory especially for adolescents.

·       Digital platforms through which these atrocities take place should be held accountable, considering that they not only economically profit from these abuses but have policies that reflect a gender bias.

·       Most citizens lack digital awareness thus there is a need to Impart knowledge about redressal mechanisms and remedies available in law, in case they or their peers fall prey to online perpetrators

References:

–        Silencing women in the digital age by- Louise Arimatsu

–        Cyber Safety through a Gender Lens© Red Dot Foundation & Cyber Saathi Foundation

Remembering bell hooks, the undaunted feminist

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”

The world still mourns the incalculable loss of an inimitable author, professor and activist, bell hooks. The impact of her works that range from gender, race, class to education and critical pedagogy could clearly be felt as people from all corners of the world took to social media, expressing their grief and paying tribute.
Born as Gloria Jean Watkins, she borrowed the pen name “bell hooks” from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. Some of us might wonder, “why did she prefer writing her name in lowercase?” Well, there were alot of reasons for it, this is how she explained it herself – “Many of us took the names of our female ancestors — bell hooks is my maternal great grandmother — to honor them and debunk the notion that we were these unique, exceptional women. We wanted to say, actually, we were the products of the women who’d gone before us,” she expressed in an interview with Randy Lowens in 2009. “I think it’s more important that you read my work, reflect on it, and allow it to transform your life and your thinking in some way,” she added.


Her spirit was truly unmatched, her writings sparked every soul it reached, her critical perspectives made us all wander into the path less taken and her words so powerful that they moved us all, irrespective of whatever race, gender, caste and class one was born into.
Her legacy has initiated conversations around almost every social issue and she will always be remembered for what she lived for; a black woman not afraid to call out the perpetual system of oppression and class domination, a radical feminist who was ready to shake the pre-existing feminist notions built around prejudices and exclusion, an educationist who asserted the importance of allowing students to question the dominant ideologies instead of becoming passive recepients in the classroom and an author who reminds us that we can be a part of a loving community. (All About Love, 2000)
HER WORLD INDIA celebrates bell hooks for her nonpareil boldness, authenticity and uniqueness.

Savitribai Phule

– Yasir Pathan

Savitribai Phule (3 January 1831 – 10 Walk 1897) was an Indian social reformer, educationalist, and poet from Maharashtra. In Maharashtra, she assumed a significant and crucial part in further developing women’s privileges in India. She is viewed as the trailblazer of India’s women’s activist development. Savitribai and her husband established one of the main present day Indian girls’ school in Pune, at Bhide wada in 1848. She attempted to nullify the segregation and out of line treatment of individuals dependent on station and gender. She is viewed as a significant figure of the social change development in Maharashtra. Savitribai and Jyotirao Phule were running three schools in Pune with a joined strength of roughly 150 girls. It was anything but a simple undertaking for them. Moderates from their own local area and from the upper standings were against them. Individuals regularly heaved cow compost, mud and stones at them.

The dauntless Savitribai would frequently convey two saris with her while going to the schools. With her dear companion and associate Fatima Begum Sheik.
Savitribai additionally began showing women and youngsters from oppressed ranks including Mang and Mahar who were viewed as untouchables. Savitribai and Jyotirao opened 18 schools for offspring of various standings. In 1852, the British government regarded the Phule family for their commitment towards schooling and named Savitribai as the best educator. In 1855, the couple even began a night school for ranchers and workers.

Mother to many orphan children, Sindhutai is no more

Well known Social Worker, Padma Shri Sindhutai Sapkal, died on Tuesday following a heart attack atGalaxy Care Hospital in Pune. “She had undergone a hernia surgery one and a half months ago and recovery was very slow. Today (Tuesday) she died of a heart attack around 8 PM.” Said Mr. Shailesh Puntambekar, the medical director of the hospital.


A brief look at her life Sapkal, fondly known as “mother of orphans”, was born on November 14, 1948, in Wardha district of Maharashtra.
Having been born in extreme poor conditions, she was forced to drop out of school just after passing class IV, was married to a 32-year-old man at the very age of 12. Pregnant Sindhutai was abandoned by her husband at the age of 20 with her three children. Society continued to play the evil role in her life as she was refused any help by the villagers and even her mother, forcing her to beg to raise her daughters.

Her determination and will power helped her overcome these circumstances and she started working for orphans.
Her achievements She has received more than 270 awards from various national and international organizations. In 2017, she was bestowed with the Nari Shakti award, India’s highest civilian award dedicated to women by President Ram Nath Kovind. In November 2021, she was conferred the Padma Shri in the Social Work category.
Having raised 1050 orphans, “mother of orphans” breathed her last at the age of 73.

ONGC GETS IT FIRST FEMALE CHAIRPERSON: ALKA MITTAL

Alka Mittal who has previously served as ONGC’s Director of Human Resources, has created history by becoming the first female interim chairman and managing director of ONGC. The position was previously filled by Subash Kumar, who recently retired on 31 December. Mittal is also the first woman to hold the post of a full-time director on the board of ONGC. ONGC leads the country’s oil and gas production industry. Mittal’s appointment is greatly significant for this male-dominated industry, which has never seen a female chairperson before. Previously, When Nishi Vasudeva took over the reins of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd, an oil refiner and fuel marketing company, in 2014, she became the first woman to lead an oil company (HPCL).


Alka Mittal graduated from Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia in 2001 with a PhD in business/commerce and corporate governance. In 1983, she graduated from Dehradun’s M.K.P.P.G College with a master’s degree in economics. As her work as director of Human resources, Mittal has played a leading role in encouraging and ensuring a safe working space for women employees of the company. She is also recognised for implementing the ONGC’s National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), which involved over 5000 apprentices across all work centres. Mittal will superannuate in August-end or until the appointment of a regular incumbent to the post is done.

#saluting_Women_in_Leadership

Ease of living, transparency and access: AI-enabled life certificates leading the way

India has often been called a young country and in living up to that touted phrase, we ignore the presence, struggles and lives of the aging populace. Dependency due to debilities, lack of awareness and financial dependence create a negative spiral. While states take up independent measures alongside Central schemes and policies like PM Vaya Vandana Scheme, National Old Age Pension Scheme and more, loopholes in terms of bridging the gender divide, digital literacy and access and abuse prevent adequate success.

Against this backdrop of a vortex of issues, the pandemic has only exacerbated the problems where cases of abject poverty, neglect and denial of medical attention came up. According to National Statistical Office’s Elderly in India Report 2021, India’s elderly population is projected to rise 41% over the next decade. The dependency ratio is also rising and a huge gender gap is seen in terms of literacy, with only 28% female elderly literate as against 59 % males. In rural areas, this divide is still higher.

To identify and assure a dignified life is an important area that is gradually being addressed through policy interventions and civil society action. Recognising this gap in delivery of social justice, the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh recently launched a unique Face Recognition Technology for Pensioners, stating that it would bring in ease of living for the retired and elderly citizens. This technology that expedites granting of Life Certificate has far-reaching benefits not just for the 68 Lakh Central government pensioners but also those of the states, Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation and more. The technology for the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare was devised by the National Infomatics Center (NIC), the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology as well as UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India).  Prior to this, the elderly citizens had to circumvent hassles of travel, physical mobility and more. With the facial recognition technology, life has considerably become easier while larger questions are being continually taken up.

The Prime Minister has lauded the efforts of this Department in valuing the lives of the aged and the retired not just through this pathbreaking initiative but even during the pandemic, enabling sanctions of pensions. Other moves that have made ripples beyond the Digital life certificate include the software, “Bhavishya” that intelligently processes pension cases, the move towards issuing electronic PPOs and linking it up with the Digilocker have made the processes easier and more transparent for the aged sections of the society. E-booklets for awareness and campaigns being run on social media parallelly drive changes and conversations. The Department has further created a resource base portal called “Anubhav” chronicling the experience of retired officials. Pension adalats and the recently introduced Digital adalats through video-conferencing have made life easier for this section of our society. 

The Department had further started registering Pensioners’ Associations in different cities with 46 registered associations, spreading awareness at the grassroots about Pension policy reforms, bringing out NPS service-related rules as well as gratuity rules for officials covered under the NPS. The herculean task of review and rationalisation of CCS(Pension) Rules, 1972 is currently underway and its findings are to be released soon.

While there are pressing issues yet to be checked, this move is promising in terms of the sheer commitment it showcases in recognising and valuing the lives of the elderly in the Indian society. Over and above the moves of the Government, the general ecosystem must also improve to ensure that they lead dignified and secure lives, while attempting to shift the narrative that would push people to retire from active life, enabling conversations to contribute through their ideas and experiences.

The Padma Awards

One of the highest civilian honours in India, the Padma Awards are given for exceptional and distinguished service in a particular field. The official ceremony for the Padma awards for the year 2020 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was held on November 8, 2021, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, where President Ram Nath Kovind presented the awards to 119 awardees. Among the 119 awardees are 29 incredible women from different walks of life.

The Revolutionary Women under Spotlight

SOCIAL SERVICE:

  1. Dr. Niru Kumar – “I have a passion to bring diversity and inclusion to every corner of the country.”

The prestigious Padma Awards for 2021 have recognized achievements by people with disabilities across diverse fields.

Dr. Kumar is a medical doctor, psychologist, and diversity and inclusion consultant. She has been changing the lives of people through a blend of modern medicine, psychology, coaching skills and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Dr. Kumar is a pioneer in raising awareness about the concept of diversity and inclusion among Indian companies.

Dr. Kumar has been living with a physical disability. She has been battling Polio from the time she was three years old. She has faced barriers due to her disability and is passionate about spreading awareness about diversity and inclusion.

2. Padma Shri Tulasi Gowda – ‘Encyclopedia of Forest’

Tulasi Gowda, a 72-year-old tribal woman from Karnataka, was conferred the Padma Shri award on Monday for her contribution to the protection of the environment. Barefoot and dressed in traditional attire, she received India’s fourth-highest civilian award from President Ram Nath Kovind during a ceremony in New Delhi. She has planted more than 30,000 saplings and looks after the nurseries of the Forest Department. Despite having no formal education, she has made immense contributions towards preserving the environment.

She has been given the title ‘Encyclopedia of Forest’ for her vast knowledge of the diverse species of plants and herbs. Since the age of 12, she has planted and nurtured thousands of trees.

3. Sindhutai Sapkal – Mother of Orphans

She is a woman of valour and courage who faced unprecedented ups and downs in her life but nothing deterred her will to live for others. She was married at an early age of 12 years and was a victim of domestic violence. It was while living as a homeless person and begging at railway stations that she saw many children abandoned by their family members. Battling all odds, she decided to devote her entire life to orphans. She used to travel from one place to another, singing in temples, and even begging. She is fondly called ‘mai’ and has nurtured over a 1000 children.

In 2013, she became the first recipient of The National Award for Iconic Mother. She also received the Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2017 and Social Worker of the Year award from Wockhardt Foundation in 2016, among many others

4. Dr. Birubala Rabha – Human Rights Activist

The 72-year-old, Assam’s crusader against witch hunting, devoted her life, and through her organisation, Mission Birubala, is responsible for the state passing the Assam Witch Hunting Act in 2015. Her fortitude has guided her against witch hunting, through a remarkable life – a life that has been awarded with one of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padma Shri.

Dr. Birubala Rabha is fighting against the social menace of witch-hunting prevalent in the state, especially among the tribal communities. After dealing with personal struggles, she heard stories of people in her village being labelled as ‘witches’. Several women from the neighbouring village had been brutally raped and exiled because they were claimed to be ‘witches’. She has been campaigning against witchcraft and witch-hunting, fighting for the cause for more than 15 years now. Rabha has travelled far and wide to spread awareness about the mistreatment of women.

5. Lakhimi Baruah- Banker turned Social Entrepreneur

She is the founder of Konoklata Mahila Urban Cooperative Bank, licensed from RBI. She has provided credit to thousands of women and made a positive change to their lives in Jorhat, Sivasagar and Golaghat districts.

Before starting the bank, she worked closely with underprivileged women through Mahila Samiti in Dakshin Sarbaibandha area of Jorhat district, which she founded in 1983.

6. Manjamma Jogati – Only Transgender Woman to be awarded a Padma Shri

Manjamma Jogati is an Indian Kannada theatre actress, singer and dancer of Jogti Nitya, a golf dance form of North Karnataka.

Manjamma who was named Manjunath Shetty by their parents is no stranger to challenges. Disowned by their family after they identified as a woman in their teenage years and having battled poverty, social discrimination, and rape, Manjamma found solace in mastering Jogati Nritya, Janapada songs, and other rural folk art. They are also the first transgender President of the Karnataka Janapada Academy. 

Tweeting on being conferred India’s fourth highest civil honour, they wrote, “Human is human; there are no lesser human beings. Art is Art; there are no lesser Art/Artists…For many like me – Art itself is Life!”

7. Pappammal – A 105-year-old Organic Farmer

“Even today, I wake up before the sun, wash my face, and go around the village once, I cannot sit still.”

From the Thekkampatti village near Coimbatore, Pappammal is a 105-year-old woman who has given a leg up to organic farming. Even at this age she wakes up before the sun to head to the fields. She was married off at an early age of 14 and in an era when women were supposed to be confined within the four walls of the house, she had ambition.

Pappammal is from a family of agriculturists. She owns a 2.5-acre farm in her village, and in the past, grew lentils such as horse gram and green gram. Now, she mostly grows bananas. Over the years, she has worked closely with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

SPORTS:

  1. P.V. Sindhu
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the Rio Olympic Silver Medal Winner & Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Awardee of 2016, Indian shuttler P.V. Sindhu, in New Delhi on August 28, 2016.

President Ram Nath Kovind presented the third highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan, to shuttler PV Sindhu.

The 26-year-old, who has already received the Padma Shri in 2015 and Khel Ratna in 2016, won a silver medal in women’s singles badminton at the 2016 Rio Olympics and followed it up with a bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

2. Mouma Das

Ace Table Tennnis player Mouma Das has represented India at various international events including the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2012. She partnered with Manika Batra and reached the quarterfinals of the women’s doubles event at the 2017 World Table Tennis Championships. The duo also bagged the silver medal during the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Hailing from Kolkata, the 36-year-old was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 2013.

3. Anshu Jamsenpa

Anshu Jamsenpa scripted history as the first woman to scale the summit of Mt. Everest twice in a month – in May 2011. The mountaineer broke her own record by scaling the summit twice in five days in 2017. 

Hailing from Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh, Anshu is also mother of two children and her journey as a mountaineer is dotted with many recognitions and awards. She received the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award from President Ram Nath Kovind in 2017 and India’s Highest Adventure Award in the following year.

4. Anitha Pauldurai

Anitha Pauldurai is a former captain of the Indian women’s national basketball team – the youngest one at 19. The sportswoman holds a record of 30 medals in national championships from nearly two decades of playing for the Indian Women National team. She is also the first Indian woman to have participated in nine Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) championships. 

5. MC Mary Kom

The face of women boxing in India, Mary Kom was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award. Mary Kom set a new standard in amateur boxing without ever competing in professional boxing. In 2015, she became the first amateur to surpass several professional athletes in India in earnings, endorsements and awards.

6. Oinam Bembem Devi

She is an Indian footballer born in Imphal, Manipur. In 2017, she was honoured with the Arjuna award by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. She was nicknamed the ‘Durga of Indian Football’ and is currently involved in spreading awareness about Women’s football in India.

The ‘Durga of Indian Football’ Oinam Bembem Devi became the first Indian woman footballer, and the seventh overall to receive the prestigious Padma Shri Award on Monday.

Out of a long list of Padma awardees, 29 women from different walks of life, have been awarded. This year these awards have been People’s Padma Awards in the true sense since people working at the grassroot level, the ones who deserve to be under the spotlight, have been honoured.

These women are a source of inspiration for and have left  a mark on generations to come. The valour with which they have faced unprecedented challenges and emerged gloriously is immensely encouraging.

Afghanistan’s Women Face Bleak Future, lament Afghan Women Activists

The future is bleak for Afghanistan’s women as the Taliban consolidate their hold over a shaky country and its people by reinforcing its barbaric interpretation of Islam which has stripped the women of all their rights and freedom, claim Afghan women activists.

In an emotional online interaction with members of the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) yesterday, they spoke of a return to the earlier nightmare Taliban regime of the 90s when women and girls were barred from educational institutions and publicly thrashed or executed for stepping outdoors alone.  “Women worked very hard to get back on their feet since 2000, but in a matter of days they have been stripped of all their rights,” said  Dr Humeira Rizai, researcher and activist.

Observing that women in exile have a duty to raise their voice for all the women in Afghanistan,  Shunkai Karokhail, Member of Parliament and a vocal advocate of women’s rights in Afghanistan,  came down heavily on the United States ,Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran for pushing their own ‘vested interests’ at  the cost of the Afghani people.

She said the U.S made an ‘historical mistake’ by exiting the country in such a hurried manner and should accept its mistake. “They ignored the democratic institutions and civil society in Afghanistan which only made the local war lords more powerful.”

Despite the Taliban claims that there will be a better from of governance in which women  and minorities will continue to enjoy basic rights, the facts suggest otherwise and the Afghan activists are openly skeptical.  “We do not recognize this Taliban regime as they have no religious minorities in their cabinet,” Dr Rizai, who belongs to the Hazara community, pointed out.

“They have not changed since the 1990s when they set the country back a 100 years. We witnessed the killing frenzy of the Taliban as they massacred Hazaras, Sikhs and Hindus. And now the last Jew has left Afghanistan, she said. “Now they have issued a Fatwa that Hazaras are infidels and should be killed.”

There have already been killings and beatings of women and men associated either with the previous regime or with banned activities like politics, sports and music. Many women activists and politicians are trapped in Afghanistan and keep changing their hide-outs because the Taliban ransacked their homes and took away their cars and the weapons of their security personnel, said Karokhail. “This is the way they are scaring women who either had to run away or keep silent.”

Afghan journalist Fatima Faramarz said the Taliban consider women as ‘animals’ to be treated as they please. She recalled a TV interview in which a Taliban leader had said that women were not able to shoulder responsibility. She cited the case of her own sister who was working in the police service and on reporting  for duty on August 15 to take up a  special training assignment was instead asked to hand in her resignation.

Karokhail warns that an internal uprising will start sooner or later as the Afghan people will not accept a government that does not keep abreast of other countries. “In today’s Afghanistan, women know how to raise their voices. Recently, they even protested against the Taliban regime. In return the Taliban raised their guns and beat them up publicly.”

Faramarz claims two of her colleagues were brutally beaten when they went to cover one such protest. “They were taken by the Taliban to a police station and beaten with batons and electrical cables.”

The activists have accused the former leaders of Afghanistan for the current situation and said they should be held accountable for their actions. “Former President Hamid Karzai called the Taliban ‘our brothers’ while Ashraf Ghani ran away from the problems and the deals that he had made with the Taliban,” said Dr Rizai.

Karokhail stressed that the way forward is for the Taliban to bring back women into the system and governance in Afghanistan. She said the country has been suffering from drought for the past several years and now with the Corona pandemic all economic activity has ceased. “As a Minister, I have not received any communication from the Taliban. All communications have closed even with  Afghanistan’s embassy in Canada. “

Karokhail was on the Taliban’s hit list and in one instance barely escaped with her life.  She fled Afghanistan on August 20 and now lives in Canada. Rizai and Faramarz have also taken shelter in other countries to escape the Taliban regime. END

Pushpita’s Artisanal: A Tale of Triumph over Hardship

A Manipuri by birth, Pushpita Aheibam is the brilliant mind behind the brand Pushpita’s Artisanal. Specializing in handcrafted food products, Pushpita’s Artisanal is known for making varieties of mouth-watering pickles(both vegetarian and non-vegetarian). Some of her popular pickle flavours include Sweet & Spicy Mango, King Chilli, Muya-King Chilli, Jujube Berry (Boroi), Prawn Pickle and Chicken Pickle.

Currently based in Pune, Pushpita Aheibam calls herself an ‘accidental entrepreneur’ as business was never in her mind. Since her childhood, she has always been fond of homegrown pickles – her mother and her paternal aunt were experts in this field. Being away from home for more than ten years encouraged her to make pickles, for her own consumption as well as for gifting them to friends. This personal fulfillment led to the delicious masterpiece known as Pushpita’s Artisanal.

Pushpita Aheibam completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Economics in 2002 from Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (SNDT) Women’s University, Mumbai and pursued her Master’s Degree in Economics in 2010 from SNDT Women’s University, Pune. She started her career as a Market Research Analyst with Indica Research Pvt.Ltd in 2005 and Gitanjali Gems in 2006. After her elder son was born, she took a break from work from 2007 onwards and continued as a homemaker. After a long break, she began working as a Freelance Content and Feature Writer for a Canada based lifestyle publisher, Florida, USA based healthcare e-publisher, a Dubai based e-publication and a Bengaluru based publisher in 2013. Her writings were based on areas such as lifestyle, economics, foreign exchange, crypto currencies, engineering and healthcare. 

She started as an independent Manipuri food blogger (Blog: Pushpita’s Chakhum) in 2015 before starting her pickle venture Pushpita’s Artisanal; and even now, from time to time, she continues to collaborate with and contribute to several print media as a Manipuri food blogger.

However, dusk befell when in 2017 she was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer, just two months after she started her venture and relocated to Pune from Vadodara. But with a determined mindset, she overcame all the challenges and hardships that blocked her way during this inspiring journey.  After a year-long treatment from October 2017 to July 2018, she survived the advanced stage breast cancer and continued with her pickle business. Moving forward in life, she completed her second Master’s degree in Population Studies in 2021 from the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai.

There have been multiple hurdles in her path towards being an entrepreneur. Many people approached her with negative remarks with respect to her choice of career. But with unconditional support from her family members and her unshakable willpower, focus and determination, Pushpita Aheibam made her dream come true. She says, “We have to know our own worth first. We should continue doing what we think is right; and if we have that self-confidence and we strongly believe in ourselves, then definitely I don’t think others should matter and come into the scenario.” (Her World India Talk Show)

Pushpita Aheibam encourages women entrepreneurs to work with an independent and firm mindset. In her words, “I always had this at the back of my mind that when you have the right set of education, you are a qualified person, then why do you have to depend on somebody else?” She also aims to include other women in her journey who can work and collaborate with her. She hopes to see a world where women can think independently and make their own decisions.

Pushpita’s Artisanal is a symbol of triumph over hardship – a story that shows us that hardships are inevitable but where there is a will, there is a way. Pushpita Aheibam inspires many young minds, specially aspiring entrepreneurs, to work towards their goal. She states, “It gives me immense satisfaction in doing what I am doing. It’s like never looking back for me right now. I am quite determined with what I am doing. ” (Her World India Talk Show)