The International News Weekly EDIT 08 April 13, 2018 | Toronto The w w w . canadianparv asi. c o m Publisher & CEO Associate Editor Editor (India) Online Graphic Designer Official Photographer Contact Editorial Sales Rajinder Saini Meenakshi Saini Gursheesh Kshitiz Dalal Naveen Bashir Nasir email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Temple, mosque, gurdwara join hands in this town With inter-community violence reported from many parts of India in a society increasingly polarised on religious and caste lines, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is setting an extraordinary example where a temple, a mosque, and even a gurdwara, have joined hands to clean a polluted river while bringing their communities together. About 100 km from the state capital Lucknow is the town named Maholi in district Sitapur. Here lies an old Shiva and a Radha- Krishna temple along with Pragyana Satsang Ashram and a mosque, all at a stone's throw of each other. Along the periphery of this amalgamated religious campus, passes a polluted river called Kathina, that merges into the highly polluted Gomti River, a tributary of the mighty but polluted Ganga. Often used as dumping site by dozens of villages and devotees, the stink from Kathina was increasing daily. The solution -- Ganga- Jamuni tehzeeb (a term used for a fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements) - of Awadh. "The river belongs to everyone. Hindus use it for 'aachman' (a Hindu ritual for spiritual purification), Muslims use it for 'wazu' or ablution. Due to lack of awareness, people had been dumping solid and bio waste here, and also doing open defecation. The situation was worsening. Only solution was to start cleaning it ourselves," said Swami Vigyananad Saraswati, head of the Pragyana Satsang Ashram, as he inspects the river stretch along with Muhammad Haneef, head of the mosque's managing committee. Swami said that once the ashram and temple administration began rallying volunteers for the cleaning drive, the mosque also came around to help. Even Maholi's Sikh gurudwara committee came forward and brought along many volunteers from the Sikh community. "Once the communities came together, number of volunteers multiplied. The initiative has now become a kind of an environmentmovement which is being driven by religious fervor and bonding. Watching our efforts, the local administration also offered help, and other unions like traders and Sikh gurudwara committee also joined hand for cleaning the river," Swami told IANS pointing out the potential of possibilities when different communities join hands for good. Ujagar Singh, a member of the Sikh gurdwara committee, equated the effort in cleaning the river with 'sewa', an important aspect of Sikhism to provide a service to the community. From victim to crusader for sex workers Indo-Asian News Service Hyderabad : Jayamma Bhandari was orphaned at the age of three and spend her childhood in grim poverty. She was forced into the sex trade by her husband. But unlike other victims who are forced into the murky business, she decided to challenge her destiny -- becoming, in the process, an inspiration for many other women like her. Now 40-years-old, Jayamma runs the Chaitanya Mahila Mandali (CMM) to help sex workers leave the exploitative profession and find respectable livelihoods. CMM works in highrisk slum communities to raise awareness on sexual rights and reproductive health, and takes up skilling and livelihood courses. According to the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), there are 1.65 million registered sex workers in the country -- the actual numbers would be much higher -- who lead very sordid lives. Though they are not in the profession by choice, they have to bear the stigma associated with it, feeling ostracised, alone, unwanted and disposable. There are the ramifications of the exposure to various sexually transmitted diseases too. Jayamma is credited with directly impacting the lives of some 5,000 women in sex work and nearly a thousand of them are now engaged in alternative livelihoods. Also, over 3,500 children of sex workers have been provided vocational training through her efforts. Fondly called "Amma", or mother, her efforts were acknowledged by the government and she received the Nari Shakti (Women Power) Award on International Women's Day last month. Earlier, the Confederation of Indian Industry conferred her with the Exemplar Award in 2017 Jayamma grew up in her uncle's home in Nakrakal in Nalgonda district, about 300 km from Hyderabad. After a tough childhood and a difficult adolescence, she was married to a man in Hyderabad who, soon after she had a baby, started pressurising her to join the flesh trade. Her refusal led to her being tortured, both physically and mentally. With minimal education and no one to support her, she succumbed to the wishes of her husband. Selling not only her body, but also her soul, Jayamma toyed with the idea of suicide many times. But the thought of what would happen to her daughter after her death -- that she too could be pushed into the same trade -- gave Jayamma the strength to go on. For Jayamma, it was a meeting Jai Singh Thomas, an NGO executive from Hyderabad, that proved a turning point. He encouraged her to leave sex work and do advocacy for the community. With Thomas' help, she decided to set up an organisation that would enable sex workers to find viable alternative professions. Thus began her journey as a change agent. Now Jayamma -- who finally mustered the courage to part ways with her husband in 2012 -- and her organisation reach out to victims like her, counsel and try to convince them that there can be a better ways to lead their lives. "It's really a daunting task to convince them as some of these women have become addicted to alcohol, drugs, smoking, sex and living in that vitiating environment," says Jayamma. "They have many questions: Will they be able to earn enough to support themselves and their kids? Won't their situation be more miserable if the world doesn't accept them due to their past? "We have the challenge to win their confidence and persuade them by offering help and support. Forcible rehabilitation doesn't work in such cases and, as such, de-addiction, counselling, and slow, long-term therapy become necessary to restore their lives," she said. The tragic life of sex workers is not limited to them -- children born to such women are bigger victims. Being vulnerable, they usually end up finding themselves trapped in this or allied professions. Hyderabad has no designated red-light area, and sex workers go out and solicit clients. They usually take their children along as they have nowhere to go. The sight of their children sometimes getting abused in front of them is disheartening for these mothers. Jayamma thus felt that working to prevent the victimisation of children of sex workers was important. She set up Chaithanya (meaning awareness) Happy Home in 2011 where children of sex workers are provided with all basic necessities of life -- food, access to education, life skills and a safe roof. CMM not only rehabilitates the children but also carries out routine follow-ups to check whether they are safe. The initiative today has 43 such children with big dreams of becoming teachers, engineers and doctors. With the aim of changing societal attitudes stigmatising sex workers -- and with the belief in building a system equipped and sensitive to address the issue of trafficking -- Chaithanya also conducts sensitisation training for police officers in Telangana. On being asked whether sex work should be legalised in India, Jayamma said a firm "no". "First the law needs to be in place. Policymakers, police and activists need continuous sensitisation on this issue." Prostitution itself is not illegal in India, but soliciting and living off the earnings of a prostitute are. And the law is open to a lot of misinterpretation and manipulation by the police and pimps. Parvasi weekly & people associated with it are not responsible for any claims made by the advertisement & do not endorse any product or service advertised in Canadian Parvasi. Please consult your lawyer before buying/hiring/contracting through the advertisement Publised in this newspaper. 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The International News Weekly INTERVIEW April 13, 2018 | Toronto 09 I have a lot of dreams for Indian girls, says Priyanka Chopra Indo-Asian News Service New Delhi : She is a woman who follows her heart and is an inspiration for other women. Priyanka Chopra, who is effortlessly straddling two worlds and is also a Unicef goodwill ambassador, says women have always been considered secondclass citizens globally and she would like to see a change in the mindset of those who devalue a girl child. "We are living in an extremely patriarchal society, not just in India, but in the whole world. Women have always been second-class citizens. We have to fight to get opportunities, to become a leader (but) the one thing that I have seen is that now women are not willing to settle (for less) any more, and that's the big difference," Priyanka -- a Bollwood star who has now made her mark in Hollywood -- told IANS when asked to comment on the changes she has noticed among people towards women and the girl child in India. "It's not like the world is going to change in 10 years. Hopefully, I will see it in my lifetime. But if not, (it should change) for the next generation. That's what I am hoping. I love the tenacity... of seeing women supporting each other, of women turning around and telling that 'it's wrong'. "The fact is we are living in the era of social media, you are not alone. There's good and bad in everything, but in this case, you are not alone and that is the biggest change. You see more men standing up for women and saying 'that's wrong', but there is yet a lot of work to be done globally," she added. Priyanka was in the capital to attend the curtain-raiser of The Partners' Forum, a platform for learning and exchange between countries and partners to improve the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents. It was hosted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) and support of other partners. Priyanka's journey in showbiz started at the age of 17 when she was crowned Miss World. It was followed by her Bollywood debut in 2003 with "The Hero: Love Story of a Spy" and she later made headlines when she bagged the lead role in American show "Quantico". The year 2016 also saw her becoming a presenter at the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards ceremony, followed by an invitation to the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. She was conferred India's fourthhighest civilian honour, the Padma Shri, and featured in Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of the world. Priyanka finds it wonderful how women have an innate ability to fulfill different roles. "Women have the ability to take care, get married, have children and work at the same time. They make sure that the house is taken care of, but at the same time they go out and meet their dreams. All they need is someone to stand with them and say, 'Yes, you can', and that will come when families, husbands, fathers and mothers start teaching their children that it is going to be all right. "Of course, women should settle down, men should settle down, have babies, but that shouldn't be the end of a girl's life. It should be the beginning. You should marry in a home that allows you to have wings and the parents need to make sure of that," said Priyanka. Girls need to be valued, stressed the actress who has made a name for herself internationally with the show "Quantico". "I have a lot of dreams. I don't want any child to go to sleep hungry, but the big change I want to see is girl children should not be treated as a commodity... (used) just for reproduction. I want to see a change where we invest in our girls, where we treat them and give them the opportunity to have merit to prove themselves. "At least we should give that chance to her. Devaluation of girls is something that I want to see change," she said. Priyanka is herself as invested in philanthropy as in her showbiz career as an actor and producer. But what is keeping her away from Bollywood films nowadays? Laughing off the question, she said: "I will do it when I find the right script. It's not like I am not working. I am shooting a TV film which has gone to 64 countries. I have produced seven films this year. I am working. And I will work (in a Bollywood film) when I find the right film to do." "I am not someone who will compromise or settle for less," she signed off.