Over four years, researchers talked to 450 children aged 10 to 14 with a parent or guardian, from low-income families in Bolivia, Belgium, Burkina Faso, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Scotland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam for the research produced with the World Health Organisation.
Not just girls but also boys are victims of societal notions. That a girl’s biggest asset is her body and that boys are around to protect it…that girls could be assertive about changing the way the world looked at them but boys couldn’t…that girls were supposed to stay home while boys explored…the pitfalls of imposing societal expectations are many…
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A visit to Nongsa village in Batam, Indonesia led us to Ahmed, a small-time snack vendor.
Apart from feeding us sweet tender coconuts, he surprised us by playing a Hindi song from the 70s. Fitted with a crate full of icecream, his bike also has a tape recorder that belts out emotional Indian songs.
“Main na bhoolonga” he hums — “I will never forget”…originally sung by Indian singers Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar, this song was released in 1974 (even before I was born!).
Little did I know that I would hear it in a small sleepy village in Indonesia more than four decades after it captured the hearts of millions of Indians — and that too hummed by a Muslim vendor in a Muslim-dominated nation during the month of Ramadan amidst calls for prayer and fasts…and acts of violence in the name of Islam.
Not particularly religious, I have always believed that human beings define their faith. It’s not the other way around. Ahmed reinforced my belief in his own sweet way. Thank you, Nongsa.
Hindu goddess Bhudevi sits under a tree on a junction near the royal palace in Siem Reap.