Fate Breakers : Stories of Outstanding Indian Women

Apr 03, 2015 11:49 | Chandigarh

Chandigarh,3rd April Thursday, 2015 (Kulbir Singh Kalsi):-Fighting against prejudice and determinism, be it from birth, from life's perils , from intolerance or disrespect towards the other, leading this battle as a woman... "Fate breakers" portrays several outstanding women in India who make a difference and empower themselves, for themselves and for others, against all odds. These remarkable women, who transcend darkness to enter the realm of light by the invincible force of their will, are glorified in their daily struggle for life's lessons and the courage they represent. These incredible women show us that things can be the other way round.

About the photographer Pascal Mannaerts

Pascal Mannaerts was born in Brussels (Belgium) in 1978. He studied law at the Free University of Brussels and is currently working with asylum seekers in Belgium. Blessed with an artistic bent and wanderlust, he discovered
photography during his student years.  Sharing and recording his travel adventures became a priority.  A first visit to India in 2000 revealed a deep admiration for the Subcontinent and he returned for a one-year visit at the end of his university studies in India and across Southeast Asia.  This is the first of many return engagements.
Backpacking to Asia, Africa, Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East during the last 15 years has given Pascal the opportunity to portray humanity in its strongest forms.  Curiosity and a passion for images have been fused with a profound attraction to the human element. Pascal is a self-taught photographer with publication credits in Geo Magazine, the Lonely Planet, le Guide du routard, and other European magazines. Several exhibitions of his pictures were held in Europe, Brazil and India.

The 6 series of the exhibition :

01 - Untouchables
Stepping out of determinisms

Over many generations, women of their families, owing to their caste, served the employers, who made them carry out the task of collecting their litter and faeces by hand since sewer drains did not exist in villages at that time. Being a manual scavenger was one of the jobs meant to be done by Dalit women in return for petty wages.
By and by, with their own desire for dignity and with the help of certain associations like Sulabh international, Seema and Uganta headed forward to learn beauty culture, stitching, and sale of textile products in Alwar and Tonk, in Rajasthan. Henceforth, their families started earning respect and now they can hope to escape the life of violence and class prejudice.

02 - SHEELA-ji –  Divyajyoti Centre, Varanasi
Building tomorrow: Humans First

On figuring out that their child has a handicap, certain parents attribute it to Karma. Due to lack of understanding and fear of misfortune, even the neighbours aren’t really kind towards them; as a result handicapped children are often marginalized, if not abandoned. While nothing was being done to help such children, Sheela Ji, in 1997, takes the initiative of opening Divyajyoti Centre (Divine light) in her neighbourhood in Varanasi. Today, she takes care of education of 22 adolescents in a small house close to Ganges. All of these children are mentally challenged with cerebral dysfunction or multiple deficiencies. Some of them are autistic too. She teaches them to read and write and also mathematics. When they grow up, she trains them in handicrafts; she guides them to learn music or even household chores. She aims to make them independent despite the fact that it could have
been considered determinism in the beginning. She also works towards sensibilizing parents and the neighbourhood to facilitate the acceptance of these children in the society.

03 - Manju- Guria Prostitutes
Against slavery and for the future of the children

The district of Shivdaspur in Varanasi is a ghetto of prostitution like many others with its slaves and conditions without any future. In 1993, Manju, living in Varanasi, founded with her husband the association ‘Guria’. Today, she is fighting against the sexual exploitation of women and young girls of not only Shivdaspur but of entire north India. The actions of this Association include prevention against hazards faced by sex workers, rescuing the abducted victims and prisoners of brothels, their reintegration in the society and following up judiciary proceedings against the traffickers. Manju helps not only these women but also their children. 150 children are
taken care of in a school in Shivdaspur.   The Association also owns a floating school, on a boat along the ghats of Varanasi. The children receive education and several workshop trainings. Today, Shivadaspur has become the country’s first child prostitution free area.

04 - Widows
From marginalisation to respect

In the eyes of most of the conservatives, a woman whose husband has died, should live no longer because she failed to retain the soul of her deceased husband. Abandoned by their dear ones after the death of their husbands, thousands of them make their way to Vrindavan, a pilgrimage city in Uttar Pradesh, located about 100 kilometres away from the capital city of India. They are all Hindus, belonging to different age groups and casts, hailing mainly from West Bengal or Orissa. They have no choice but to live in one of the ’vidhwa ashrams’,
ashrams for widows, existing in this city of Hindu majority. Clad in white, they help one another while singing hymns in praise of Lord Krishna. Earlier marginalized by the society after being rejected by their families, they become more and more respected and have started to participate actively in religious festivities, which was forbidden in the past.

05 - Acid attacks
‘Not survivors but fighters’

Laxmi, Ritu, Rupa and Sonia suffered a vitriol attack at a very tender age, by those who tried to destroy their identity with the motive of condemning them to a dark life of silence. Today, there is nothing like that. They have established the associations named ‘Stop acid attacks’ and ‘Chhanv’ which are the first support and rehabilitation centres for acid attack victims in India. Their actions and sensitizing campaigns are widespread in the entire country aiming mainly to pressurize the government to monitor the selling of acid and to implement fast track procedures for getting justice.
They make clothing lines, have opened a tea shop in Agra and they are developing their artistic skills. They interact with members of LGBT community, rape victims and elderly people abandoned by their families. They refrain from being called ‘victims’ but prefer the term ‘fighters’.

06 - Hijras, transsexuals
Women against all odds
Abheena and Amitava… one a hijra and the other a transgender. Originating from Mumbai and Kolkata, these women, though born as boys, always felt feminine since their birth. Difference, indifference, rejection, condemnation… and this body that doesn’t connect with their inner-self.
They step on the path of self-affirmation, in quest for respect and acknowledgement for who they are and the way they are. They work extensively across India for claiming rights of Hijra community and LGBT and they also strive against HIV. Today, they work for an NGO named “Alliance India” and are as active abroad as they are in India