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Fascinated by Indian women The stars of her book are women making a difference to the country
Fascinated by Indian women The stars of her book are women making a difference to the country

French journalist Dominique Hoeltgen explores the paradoxes of Indian women in her book

Women of India from every strata of society fascinated French journalist Dominique Hoeltgen. That was the simple reason behind her book “Inde, la revolution par les femmes” (Indian Women; The Power of Change). “I met so many amazing women during the course of living for four years in Mumbai as a correspondent for ‘L'Expansion' in India, that I had to put my stories into a book,” says the author. The research took her three years, and she wrote the book in a year. The book was released recently at Alliance Française . It was the paradoxes of Indian women which she found fascinating and foreign to her.

“India has so many powerful women at the top of the political arena and at the same time, their position is difficult.” She finds Indian society cruel to women, whether it's with jobs or salaries or positions, there is no equality. “There is one rape every 30 minutes, women trafficking is rampant, baby girl foeticide, dowry deaths and untold cruelty to women.”

She goes on to explain that, “I am not a feminist but this paradox bothers me. I met bankers, lawyers, vendors, teachers, students, artists — any woman making a difference to the country. They are the stars of my book.”

Empowered

In reply to the question if there were any special women who stood out in the 200 she had interviewed, Dominique immediately cites Ela Bhat who is the founder of SEWA. “Ela is a power house . Her work is to empower women, especially the rag pickers of Mumbai who are struggling to have a better life. She has taught them to raise their voices and made them visible today. That was the first challenge Ela took on, that we are poor but we are so many and therefore a force to contend with. She has over one million women members in SEWA. Even walking into the bank she has started, is a different experience for these women.”

Radha Bhat of Chipko Movement (to save the trees and the environment) impressed her.Also, Alkaben Jani of the Kutch region in Gujarat. “Alka has trained rural women capacity building and leadership. Now 15,000 women in Kutch have been empowered, to lead both in their homes and outside, making small improvements at the grass-root level. Alka was cited for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.”

Indira Jaising, the renowned Supreme Court lawyer and founder member of the Lawyers Collective is another Indian woman who got Dominique's attention. “Indira has been lobbying for the Domestic Violence Bill to be revived and she is hoping it is made into an Act,” explains Dominique.

The 265-page book is in French and published in France by Philippe Piequier.An English edition will follow.The book can be bought at www.amazon.fr and www.fnac.com

MARIANNE DE NAZARETH

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