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2014 TCi Photo Contest Celebrates Inspirational Women and Girls in India

During early 2014, TCi held a photo contest around the theme, “India’s Inspirational Women and Girls.” Cornell staff and students submitted the photos and stories of Indian women they had met living and doing work or research in India. Below are select photos and stories from our finalists. 

This woman, Ratani Bai, was the most hospitable person I met in India. She was one of the participants I selected to interview for my survey. I went to her house, and we hit it off immediately. At the time, she was cleaning up cow and goat manure with her bare hands to put on the fields. She didn’t speak English, and my Hindi was rocky, but we somehow communicated. She was joking how I needed to get down on her level, so she took manure and wiped it all over my face and arms while we both laughed hysterically. After that, her house became my home base when I was passing through her village. She was always stuffing me full of chapatis, offering her delicious chai, and trying to convince me to stay the night. My translator and I would simply refer to her as “my favorite lady”. This photo was taken when I followed her goats in the mountains during their daily hike. She was acting like her normal, fun-loving self as she held down tree branches for her goats to reach the uppermost leaves; probably telling some joke at my expense. Ratani Bai inspired me with her hospitality, and I think this photo shows the kindness in her eyes. It is a beautiful thing to feel so comfortable and welcome in a stranger’s home. I hope to meet Ratani Bai again one day. -Maureen Valentine
This woman, Ratani Bai, was the most hospitable person I met in India. She was one of the participants I selected to interview for my survey. I went to her house, and we hit it off immediately. At the time, she was cleaning up cow and goat manure with her bare hands to put on the fields. She didn’t speak English, and my Hindi was rocky, but we somehow communicated. She was joking how I needed to get down on her level, so she took manure and wiped it all over my face and arms while we both laughed hysterically. After that, her house became my home base when I was passing through her village. She was always stuffing me full of chapatis, offering her delicious chai, and trying to convince me to stay the night. My translator and I would simply refer to her as “my favorite lady”.
This photo was taken when I followed her goats in the mountains during their daily hike. She was acting like her normal, fun-loving self as she held down tree branches for her goats to reach the uppermost leaves; probably telling some joke at my expense. Ratani Bai inspired me with her hospitality, and I think this photo shows the kindness in her eyes. It is a beautiful thing to feel so comfortable and welcome in a stranger’s home. I hope to meet Ratani Bai again one day. –Maureen Valentine, PhD candidate, Animal Science

 

It was my first trip to India. The women in this photo greeted me on my first day in the Indian countryside with a necklace of marigolds. When asking further about how the clean water pump/filter would change their daily lives, these women said that they would save at least 2 hours and that they would be able to properly ready their kids for school, start cooking, and get to the fields earlier.  In this photo, the older woman smiling at the young baby spoke up and said something to effect of, “I’m getting older and I’d like to have some time for leisure. I hope the access to the water can give me that.” I appreciated this woman who was honest enough with us to say that what she really needed was to be able to have some down time. It made me think hard about how I’ve yet to ever see or work on a development project that explicitly addresses that need.  As practitioners and researchers, how can we ensure that development work meets that need?  -Katie Ricketts
This photo was taken on my first trip India. These women (pictured) greeted me on my first day in the Indian countryside with a necklace of marigolds. When asking further about how the clean water pump/filter would change their daily lives, these women said that they would save at least 2 hours and that they would be able to properly ready their kids for school, start cooking, and get to the fields earlier.
In this photo, the older woman smiling at the young baby spoke up and said something to effect of, “I’m getting older and I’d like to have some time for leisure. I hope the access to water can give me that.” Everyone laughed and I got the impression that the comment was about a luxury most couldn’t imagine. I appreciated this woman’s honesty. It made me think hard about how I’ve yet to ever see or work on a development project that explicitly addresses the need for women to have their own ‘free time.’ As practitioners and researchers, how can we ensure that development work meets that need?
Katie Ricketts, TCi Project/Research Manager
I was serving lunch to children in school and I was told that it is what they have for all day. Even the food is not much and not as abundant compared to what we normally have in USA, these children they truly appreciate it. They are so behaved to line up for the food and gave me a truly smile when they get the food. The girl in the photo is one of them. The smile she gave me let me realize how grateful I should be and how I should treasure what I have. -Nancy Chen
I was serving lunch to children in school and I was told that it is what they have for all day. Even the food is not much and not as abundant compared to what we normally have in USA, these children they truly appreciate it. They are so behaved to line up for the food and gave me a truly smile when they get the food. The girl in the photo is one of them. The smile she gave me let me realize how grateful I should be and how I should treasure what I have. –Nancy Chen, Dept. Food Science
The woman in the picture is a worker for the Pochampally Handloom Park in Hyderabad, India. She is a member of a nearby village and commutes to the park everyday to make her living. Despite only making about 10,000 rupees a year, she works diligently everyday to provide for herself and her family. Despite her low pay, she greeted us with a smile and allowed us to take pictures of her while she worked. This women helps to tie the dyed pieces of thread together, which are eventually stretched out to larger frames. The handwork she utilizes is intricate and impressive, I was amazed by her skills and the speed at which she completed her craft. Pochampally Handloop Park specializes in making Ikat fabric. Ikat is a traditional Indian textile in which the wrap, the weft, or both are tied and died in a specific patter that lines up during the weaving process to create a specific design. Ths park provides a training program for both men and women, providing job opportunities for people in the neighboring villages who are jobless. The women are trained in different parts of the Ikat process and whichever technique they like the best is what they choose as their final job.  -Dale Kinney
The woman in the picture is a worker for the Pochampally Handloom Park in Hyderabad, India. She is a member of a nearby village and commutes to the park everyday to make her living. Despite only making about 10,000 rupees a year, she works diligently everyday to provide for herself and her family. Despite her low pay, she greeted us with a smile and allowed us to take pictures of her while she worked. This women helps to tie the dyed pieces of thread together, which are eventually stretched out to larger frames. The handwork she utilizes is intricate and impressive, I was amazed by her skills and the speed at which she completed her craft.
Pochampally Handloop Park specializes in making Ikat fabric. Ikat is a traditional Indian textile in which the wrap, the weft, or both are tied and died in a specific patter that lines up during the weaving process to create a specific design. Ths park provides a training program for both men and women, providing job opportunities for people in the neighboring villages who are jobless. The women are trained in different parts of the Ikat process and whichever technique they like the best is what they choose as their final job. –Dale Kinney, Dept. of Fiber Science & Apparel Design

Gender discrimination is one of Indian society's gravest ills. Tamil Nadu being no exception: a patriarchal society where women are still seen as a burden to their families. This perception of the role of women explains many guises of gender issues such as educational gaps, sex-selective abortion and income inequality.   Sharanya Sundaraj embodies the fact that education empowers women to challenge and overcome societal norms and biases. From a very poor background, Sharanya overcame many obstacles to complete her studies. She subsequently focused on professional development instead of taking on society driven roles for women. This photograph portrays her happiness on her 25th birthday, with all her colleagues from the Puthiya Thalaimurai TV channel where she is a leading news correspondent. -Samir Kiuhan
Gender discrimination is one of Indian society’s gravest ills. Tamil Nadu being no exception: a patriarchal society where women are still seen as a burden to their families. This perception of the role of women explains many guises of gender issues such as educational gaps, sex-selective abortion and income inequality.
Sharanya Sundaraj embodies the fact that education empowers women to challenge and overcome societal norms and biases. From a very poor background, Sharanya overcame many obstacles to complete her studies. She subsequently focused on professional development instead of taking on society driven roles for women. This photograph portrays her happiness on her 25th birthday, with all her colleagues from the Puthiya Thalaimurai TV channel where she is a leading news correspondent.       –Samir Kiuhan, Cornell Alumni 

 

 

Born and brought up in a relatively non-agrarian state in India, with small farms, big towns and homestead backyard gardens, seeing families dependent on agriculture was an experience for me. I had assumed that even in more marginal places that some kind of farm machinery was always used and that farm work was dreary and monotonous. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Among the many aspects of agriculture in Vidarbha that are etched into my brain, the single most impactful fact was the sheer amount of work undertaken by rural women. The scale of operations is stupefying. I never had to do it, but if I were to hand-weed or apply manure to my whole 1.5 acres, I would assume that the task was unrealistic. In my fieldwork experience, an hour in the scorching heat would leave me on my knees, looking up and begging for a snowstorm, or a least cold water and a lumbar-brace! But the women in this picture—both much older than me—are doing it. Throughout the season, every year millions upon millions of acres of farmland across India are undertaken by women. An amount of work beyond the stretch of imagination in a world of mechanized agriculture! This inspired me and will inspire any who look at it. It is a picture that shows how much you can achieve even without limitless means, if you took it one relentless step at a time.  -Vinay Bhaskar
Born and brought up in a relatively non-agrarian state in India, with small farms, big towns and homestead backyard gardens, seeing families dependent on agriculture was an experience for me. I had assumed that even in more marginal places that some kind of farm machinery was always used and that farm work was dreary and monotonous. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Among the many aspects of agriculture in Vidarbha that are etched into my brain, the single most impactful fact was the sheer amount of work undertaken by rural women. The scale of operations is stupefying. I never had to do it, but if I were to hand-weed or apply manure to my whole 1.5 acres, I would assume that the task was unrealistic. In my fieldwork experience, an hour in the scorching heat would leave me on my knees, looking up and begging for a snowstorm, or a least cold water and a lumbar-brace!
But the women in this picture—both much older than me—are doing it. Throughout the season, every year millions upon millions of acres of farmland across India are undertaken by women. An amount of work beyond the stretch of imagination in a world of mechanized agriculture! This inspired me and will inspire any who look at it. It is a picture that shows how much you can achieve even without limitless means, if you took it one relentless step at a time. -Vinay Bhaskar, Ph.D candidate, Horticulture

 

The woman in this photograph is a resident of the local village Pochampally and she goes to work here at the Pochampally Hand Loom Park seven days a week.  She works so hard to create her own independence.  This hand loom park is run by a Co-op system, where men and women can work and become financially independent for themselves and support their children, family members and even friends.  It is a place that cherishes the traditional, yet intricate ways of creating beautiful textiles for clothes, accessories, homegoods and furnishings.  This woman is proud to have her job and able to support herself and family.  Her job may be simple, but it is this job that provides her with freedom and flexibility to shape her life the way she wants it.  It was incredible to watch her spin at top-speed to tie in the new warp yarns into the existing yarns.  These new yarns will then contribute to be woven into an ikat styled fabric that is special to the south of India.  She is contributing to the movement of preserving India’s complex and exquisite textile techniques that have been around for thousands of years; despite the increasing opportunities in industrialized textile looms and apparel mass production facilities. -Caroline Donelan
The woman in this photograph is a resident of the local village Pochampally and she goes to work here at the Pochampally Hand Loom Park seven days a week. She works so hard to create her own independence. This hand loom park is run by a Co-op system, where men and women can work and become financially independent for themselves and support their children, family members and even friends. It is a place that cherishes the traditional, yet intricate ways of creating beautiful textiles for clothes, accessories, homegoods and furnishings. This woman is proud to have her job and able to support herself and family. Her job may be simple, but it is this job that provides her with freedom and flexibility to shape her life the way she wants it. It was incredible to watch her spin at top-speed to tie in the new warp yarns into the existing yarns. These new yarns will then contribute to be woven into an ikat styled fabric that is special to the south of India. She is contributing to the movement of preserving India’s complex and exquisite textile techniques that have been around for thousands of years; despite the increasing opportunities in industrialized textile looms and apparel mass production facilities. –Caroline Donelan, Dept. Fiber Science and Apparel Design 

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