The image above was included in a recent (June 2020) batch of photos sent to us by Karunadeepa. We don't know the name of the young woman yet, or anything substantive about here, other than that this photo was taken in Pune, but we hope to. We might be projecting, but we believe that this young woman deserves as much opportunity in her life as any other person, and we fear her opportunities will be limited.
Gender and violence against women and girls in South Asia
At our first ever public symposium, held in June 2019, at the Australian National University, we were delighted that one of the speakers was Associate Professor Shanti Raman, a paediatrician who is originally from South Asia, and a BODHI advisor since 2005. Shanti's talk reminded us of some of the shocking facts about the lives and risks of girls and women, including in South Asia. Risks faced by females include foeticide, infanticide, girlhood neglect, early and forced marriage, and femicide including from "honour" killings and acid attacks. A recent report by UNICEF found a highly encouraging (almost unbelievable) improvement in the rate of child marriage in India (comparing (2015-16 to 2005-06), however, even according to this, 1.5 million girls in India are still married each year before they reach 18, even though this is technically illegal.
Shanti's slides are available here (currently embedded as slides 10-44, with all the other slides presented at our symposium).
A beautifully photographed essay published in National Geographic mentions that in Shravasti, Uttar Pradesh (a city where the Buddha once walked) the average woman has five children over her lifetime. The essay shows photos of a married girls aged only nine. It also clearly describes the links between high fertility, poverty, child marriage and exploitation. A recent report in the Economist points out that Pakistan (also in South Asia) accounts for one in every 13 of the world's unschooled, and that most are girls. BODHI's work has always tried to reduce such risks to girls and women by focusing especially on the education of girls, and by encouraging the empowerment of their mothers.
BODHI's gender sub-committee
The gender sub-committee was established in 2019. It has been formed to focus specifically on projects aimed to improve the lives of women and girls. We are currently (June 2020) investigating a collaborative project with Green Tara Trust in Nepal, to give marginalized women skills in psychosocial support and counselling. There is a high burden of mental ill-health that goes unrecognized in Nepal, and the concept of working psychologically is fairly new in the country. We plan to work with our local and international partners who have experience in this area to design and deliver a programme that is tailored to local need and is culturally approrpriate.
Current members: Emilia della Torre (chairperson), Dr Jane Stephens (founder Green Tara Trust), Dr Gilles Rohan and Maxine Ross (bios to follow). If you have a specific interest in this area please contact BODHI gender sub-committee members at firstname.lastname@example.org.