This wonderful post from the Guardian’s bike blog, describing a project which provides bicycles to schoolgirls in the Indian state of Bihar, resonated with me in its description of how it has led to an increase in school attendance.
“Three years ago the state’s new chief minister Nitish Kumar adopted a “gender agenda” and set about redressing his state’s endemic gender imbalances in an attempt to boost development in one of India’s most backward states. His vision was to bring a sense of independence and purpose to his state’s young women, and the flagship initiative of this agenda is the Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna, a project that gives schoolgirls 2,000 rupees (about £25) to purchase a bicycle.
“The project’s results so far have been extremely promising: in those three years in Bihar alone, 871,000 schoolgirls have taken to the saddle as a result of the scheme. The number of girls dropping out of school has fallen and the number of girls enrolling has risen from 160,000 in 2006-2007 to 490,000 now.”
Read the rest of the article here.
A recent Schumpeter article in The Economist examines the way in which women in emerging world countries such as India, China and Brazil are outperforming their sisters when it comes to education and progress in the corporate world.
Some of the article’s findings as they relate to women in India include:
- 11% of chief executives of large companies in India are female, compared with 3% of Fortune 500 bosses in America and 3% of FTSE 100 bosses in Britain.
- 26% of students at the Indian School of Business are female, a figure comparable with those of Western schools such as the Harvard Business School and INSEAD.
- Living in emerging markets offers many advantages for female professionals. Most obviously, there are plenty of cheap hands to cook and take care of children. “And corporate culture is changing astoundingly fast, not least because companies are hiring so many young people. (Youngsters in India and China grew up steeped in capitalism; their parents did not.)”
- The article also highlights women-friendly programmes offered by Indian corporates, such as: Goldman Sachs (India) pairs expectant mothers with seasoned working mothers. Infosys, an IT firm, provides “pregnancy yoga”. Wipro, another IT company, arranges child-care camps on its campus during long holidays. GE India provides its female staff with assertiveness training.
Business leaders must cultivate their emotional intelligence if they want to relate effectively to their customers and employees, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi told attendees at BlogHer last week.
Competency, confident and communication are among the “5 C’s” that shape her leadership philosophy, which she shared with a group of women bloggers and business leaders.
And, perhaps more significantly, should she even try?
The BBC reported last week that the American singer has set her sights on cracking India’s lucrative music market, suggesting that:
“With her choreographed routines, colourful costumes and catchy tunes, she has many trademark Bollywood characteristics … With a growing economy, and a population of more 700 million people under the age of 30, India’s rising middle classes have more money to spend. Bollywood music is still the most popular genre, which might explain why, as part of her mission, Lady Gaga has remixed a number of her songs to give them a more Indian flavour.”
I would love to hear the Indian-influenced remixes of Judas and Born This Way, which have reportedly been tweaked by American-Indian music company Desi Hits – but I can’t get past the sense that Lady Gaga’s primary USP is her appearance and her outrageous stage outfits. She’s not just about the music – she’s about theatre and pageantry.
And dresses made of meat … in a country where 80% of the population are “pure veg” Hindus?
Good luck, Gaga!
A new survey has named Afghanistan the worst place in the world for women to live; Congo, Pakistan and Somalia also fail females, with rape, poverty and infanticide rife.
The survey has been compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark the launch of a website, TrustLaw Woman, aimed at providing free legal advice for women’s groups around the world.
The Guardian reports that: “… the appearance of India, a country rapidly developing into an economic super-power, was unexpected. It is ranked as extremely hazardous because of the subcontinent’s high level of female infanticide and sex trafficking.”
The article continues:
India is the fourth most dangerous country. “India’s central bureau of investigation estimated that in 2009 about 90% of trafficking took place within the country and that there were some 3 million prostitutes, of which about 40% were children,” the survey found.
Forced marriage and forced labour trafficking add to the dangers for women. “Up to 50 million girls are thought to be ‘missing’ over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide,”, the UN population fund says, because parents prefer to have young boys rather than girls.
… according to a recent article by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times.
He goes on to say that the newly elected chief minister of West Bengal is the “dynamo”, Mamata Banerjee, part of a broader trend of “charismatic female politicians”; read the rest of his article here.
I arrived back in the UK just in time to celebrate the centenary of International Women’s Day and to speak at an event called “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” at the University of Southampton.
Here’s one of my favourite photos from Mumbai – two female police officers, on duty near the Taj hotel.
And this article from The Hindu offers a sobering look at the lives of many women in today’s India and also lists some of the many trailblazers of the last one hundred years.
I’ve been in Goa for the last two weeks, interviewing a range of very different women for the book and hearing some amazing – if heart rending – stories.
Sangeetha’s story is shared over at the Gender Blog. This photo shows her, second from right, with two of her three children. She now earns £14 per MONTH. Click the article link to read more …
I leave for Mumbai this evening and will be undertaking my first interviews for Mother India on Thursday and Friday. As I had hoped would be the case, I’ve already managed to secure three very different women as interview subjects: a young MBA student, a former Bollywood star and a senior VP in a global investment bank.
It’s also been great to receive such positive feedback on the idea of the book, with my first interview subject commenting that:
“I’m also thanking you on behalf of all Indian women for taking up a topic such as this, which is not known or understood in totality to the western world. Your project sounds wonderful and I’d be more than happy to help in any way.”
All three interviewees have commented on the proposed title of the book and have asked me if I was aware that it’s also the title of an iconic, award winning Indian film from 1957. The answer is “yes!” – and, as I replied to one questioner, the book in part is about acknowledging the film’s iconic place in Indian culture and reflecting it in the title of my book, by bringing the phrase into this new century and using it as a reference to a role that was, perhaps, once the only way in which Indian women were known and acknowledged.
But, no longer.
More updates to follow from Mumbai. I’m so excited to be returning.
Remember, if you’d like to be part of the book or to suggest possible interview subjects for me, please get in touch – thank you.
“If you wish to learn about India, study her villages and women …”
India, the world’s largest democracy and its second most populous nation, is a place of endless contrasts and extremes: wealth and poverty, billionaires and illiteracy, mansions and slums. It is a country in which Goddesses are worshipped and where women have occupied the highest positions in the land – and yet it remains a patriarchal society in which only 23% * of the female population fuel India’s extraordinary economic growth.
So who are the women creating twenty-first century India? Urban and rural, from politicians to entrepreneurs, mothers-in-law to daughters, students to illiterate fruit sellers, corporate high flyers to doctors, teachers to Bollywood stars, call centre workers to housewives: Indian women have many guises.
Mother India tells their stories – and depicts a country which is not so much a single nation but rather a million different ones, separate but linked.
Authored by Cleo Thompson, Mother India contains interviews with women from all over the sub-continent and gives them a voice for the first time. Passionate about India since her first visit there in 1999, Cleo is a freelance writer who specialises in all aspects of diversity and global HR stories – click here to read her profile.
And, if you are an Indian woman based in the sub-continent, please use the Comments section
below if you’d be interested in sharing your story and contributing to Mother India
* World Economic Forum, Corporate Gender Gap, 2010