Friday, June 07, 2019

Sexual Slavery: A Case Study of devadasis in South India

The notion of women as ‘transferable property’ of men is most practically observable in the community of the Devadasis (or Joginis). This idea is demonstrated unequivocally in a saying in rural India that goes as ‘A Devadasi is a servant of God but a wife of the whole town.’
As ‘servants of God’, these women are disowned by the entire village and only used for the sexual gratification of all the men there, including the priests and the upper castes. Sexual abuse towards the lower caste women is one instance where the religious ideas of ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’ are disregarded by the society in a culturally acceptable manner.
The United Nations identifies a broader idea of slavery as follows:

[A]ny institution or practice whereby a child or a young person under the age of 18 is delivered by either or both of his natural parents or by his guardian to another person, whether for reward or not, with a view to the exploitation of the child or young person.
The practice of ritual sexual slavery through theogamy has existed for several centuries in the ancient cultures across the world, including Africa, South Asia and even Europe, in many forms. What is astonishing, though, is the continuity of this practice in certain areas, primarily the Devadasi practice of Southern India, which successfully resisted many years of efforts of eradication.
Even in the twenty-first century, it is unfortunate to witness large sections of an ostensibly democratic Indian society being affected by the trappings of ignorant, discriminatory and unjust practices like the Jogini system. The practice has persisted in the deep recesses of southern India, has claimed the lives of women and has been perpetuated in the lives of their progeny.
What are the key reasons for this?
Poverty, lack of proper health care, social exclusion and systemic caste and gender exploitation is a daily reality for the girls initiated as Joginis. Fuelled by caste, patriarchy and inefficient legislation, the immediate future for the existing Joginis seems rather bleak.

The existence of the Jogini system in today’s state should serve as a bold headline for those left behind in the mainstream discourse of development.

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Friday, May 31, 2019

What are the policy initiatives required to make rural women economically active?

As an economy transforms from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy, a decline in participation of female labour force is observed.
With an increase in income levels of the households, a woman no longer prefers working as an unpaid worker or a helper or as a casual worker unless the work is remunerative (as in MGNREGA). 
However, such opportunities are limited in rural India and as a result women are not finding jobs matching their preference (regular part-time jobs close to their households). Furthermore, with low skill levels, jobs in the non-farm sector are also limited.
These factors perhaps have led to the withdrawal of women from the labour force.

Policy Strategies
The decline observed in rural female labour force participation is due to a complex mix of several forces working simultaneously.
While the focus is on education and income effect, research reveal that the lack of sufficient non-farm jobs in rural areas has forced women to stay out of the labour market. The wage conditions prevalent in the rural labour market show that female workers have experienced a better hike in wages/salaries; it implies that the gender gap in terms of wages/salaries has started declining. But the opportunities available in rural India which are compatible with their education levels are dying out.
Dedicated efforts in skilling, re-skilling and improving their educational outcomes through infrastructure development, female teacher availability, incentives along with creating an adequate number of favourable job opportunities are necessary to harness their potential.
Considering the constraints experienced by the rural females to enter the labour force, policy initiatives are required to make them economically active. The initiatives should focus on microfinance-supported self-help group-centred activities, which will make them economically active along with handling domestic duties.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

The Essence of the Story is in How one Creates it

“I have been a Research Analyst for 10 years, but after this training, I feel that I’ve been doing it all wrong!”, said one of my Training participants recently.

The key reason we are not able to communicate effectively with data is that we don’t have a clear understanding of the ‘message’ we want to provide to the audience. We get stuck in numbers, facts, and lose sight of the insights that these numbers lead to. More often, we have a tendency to present the data and insights that we think are interesting without once considering what the audience might want or need.
Charts and Words are just tools that help us convey our thoughts. The star of the show here is our ‘thoughts’, but often we get bogged down and overemphasize on the usage of these tools rather than focusing on ‘what we wish to convey’ with these tools.

When people hear the term Data Storytelling the first thing they think about is complex and fancy charts and then their focus shifts on learning how to use the tools that help them create these. Unfortunately, it is often forgotten that no matter how complex or advance a tool might appear, it still needs ‘your direction’.

When talking about Data Storytelling, first comes the Storyteller – their take on the story and then the tools come into the picture. The emphasis should be on creating an impactful story – which depends on the Storyteller’s ability to think, analyze and then connect relevant insights to present clear conclusions and messages. When the story is well-formed in the storyteller’s mind, even the most basic of charts and writing can make the message impactful.

When creating reports or presentations one should remember that the star of the show is not the complexity of the charts, but it is in fact the simplicity with which the Story – the message, is communicated to the audience.

The Power of Data Storytelling strongly emphasizes on the need to build the story before crafting it and introduces new tools to make this story building exercise simple and effective.

*Credits: Sejal Vora, author of The Power of Data Storytelling

                                               Do you want to ace the art of Data Storytelling?                                  

Click here to buy the book

Thursday, May 16, 2019

‘RACE’ towards positivity at workplace

“When leaders adopt positive practices for change, it has significant outcomes”

Positive organizational change has grown out of the newly emerging field of positive organizational scholarship (POS), which refers to the investigation of positive outcomes, practices, attributes, and changes that occur in organizations and their members.

Positive change examines factors that influence adoption of a positive lens, focusing on positively deviant performance, effects of an affirmative bias, and impact of virtuousness or best of human conditions.

Individuals who energize others performed higher than even those who were in the central role in the network.

After the global financial crisis, there was an urgent need for change at a Middle-Eastern financial services firm. The management team designed a positive business initiative called ‘RACE’, which involved various sports, arts, cultural, and everyday business activities, intended to engage employees and build their psychological strengths.

The RACE initiative had four major events—

Marathon (daily business parameters), hurdles (business challenges), sprint (sports), and relay (arts and cultural).

The WOW factor of “RACE”:

  • These practices engage the employees cognitively, emotionally, and physically.

  • These positive practices generate positively deviant performance.

  • Individuals feel safe to express themselves in these informal settings.

  • The fear of underperformance gets converted into the joy of participation.

  • On an ongoing basis, they set goals and identify alternative pathways for goal achievement.

  • When routine jobs are converted into games, employees are more likely to work with intensity and invest their energies into it.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Is blockchain the future of finance in India?

Currently, the financial system depends on a number of centralized trusted intermediaries.

Until a decade ago, it was commonly assumed that these central hubs were extremely unlikely to fail. More importantly, it was supposed that they were too big to fail (TBTF), so that the government would step in and bail them out if they did fail. The Global Financial Crisis of 2007–2008 shattered these assumptions as many large banks in the most advanced economies of the world either failed or were very reluctantly bailed out.

Repeated instances of hacking of the computers of large financial institutions is another factor that has destroyed trust. When trust in the central hubs of finance is being increasingly questioned, decentralized systems like the blockchain that reduce the need for such trust become attractive.
The blockchain is a decentralized, replicated, tamper resistant (immutable), append-only ledger of transactions.

Benefits of the blockchain

  • A full audit trail is available to all participants. Moreover, the inbuilt cryptographic integrity checks ensure that this audit trail is verified by all of them. The result is a significantly lower need for trust in central hubs.
  • Second, the blockchain is partition resistant: if a few nodes fail or are disconnected from the network, the rest of the nodes can continue to function because they all have a copy of all the data.
Blockchain is still an evolving and therefore immature technology; it is hard to predict how successful it would be outside its only proven use domain of cryptocurrencies. History teaches us that radically new technologies take many decades to realize their full potential. Thus it is perfectly possible that blockchain would prove revolutionary in the years to come despite its patchy success so far.

Worth-exploring reads also from Vikalpa:

About the journal:

Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers is the journal of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad ( Launched in January 1976, this peer-reviewed journal is
published quarterly. The word Vikalpa, in Sanskrit, carries a rich repository of meanings: diversity,
alternatives, logic, and freedom of choice.

Connect with us here.

Data Storytelling – What is that?

‘Data’ and ‘Storytelling’ are two commonly used English language words which when combined can often leave people perplexed. Even the ones who have heard about ‘Data Storytelling’ earlier are always curious to know what exactly does it entail and how can I use it?

If either of these questions were raised in your minds, then you are not alone. Although the essence of Data Storytelling has been around forever, the term in itself is quite recent, a by-product of the Data big-bang I believe.

At it’s core Data Storytelling is about communicating effectively with your data – the findings, analysis, insights, and message. This Data communication in business is often written or visual; through emails, reports, presentations or dashboards. All of these can be made much more effective, impactful and engaging when painted with the Storytelling brush. Storytelling is believed to be the best tool for impactful communication, hence it is the most preferred choice when communicating with data as well.

If you are doing the following, you are not communicating effectively with data:
  • Your charts and writing are number heavy with no clarity of underlying insights
  • The audience requires to analyze the chart (just like with a data table) to decipher for themselves what’s going on?
  • The audience is compelled to re-read the writing and still might not get the desired clarity of the message
  •  The data points or insights from one paragraph/chart to another seem to be jumpy and you aren’t always successful in understanding how they connect

If you are doing the following, you are conveying an impactful Data Story:
  • The key insights, conclusions, and messages are clear at first glance (for a chart) or first read (for writing)
  • You can sense the invisible thread that logical connects all your data points giving it a much-needed flow and structure
  • You are not giving numbers to your audience, but you are taking them on a journey
  •  The audience finds your charts and writing to be interesting and often agree with your conclusions

If you believe that you need a little help or guidance in transforming your data communications into Stories to make them more impactful and engaging for your audience then welcome to the world of “Data Storytelling”.

Insights from the book: The Power of Data Storytelling by Sejal Vora                                            
                             Click here to know more about the book

About the author

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Caste, as it is experienced in everyday life!

Let us begin with a story where a woman makes a strong gesture of anger against an old man who insists on knowing her caste before drinking the water she offers when he is thirsty. When the old man almost chokes on a betel nut, one of the other passengers helps him out. He is a doctor. He tells the woman: Madam, you might feel compelled to show that you do not believe in caste. I don’t. Even though I don’t believe in it, it still stays sticking to me. I just have to keep dusting it away as I go. I should not allow it to make me, or the others who are close to me, lose self-respect. That is all I care about….

Caste, as it is experienced in everyday life, is the pièce de résistance of a recently published book by SAGE, ‘Black Coffee in a Coconut Shell’ that talks about living, loving and dying with caste as an indelible marker. Thirty-two voices in the book narrate how from childhood to adulthood, caste intruded upon their lives—food, clothes, games, gait, love, marriage and every aspect of one’s existence including death. Like the editor, Perumal Murugan says, caste is like the god, it is omnipresent.

 Award-winning book on casteism that you must-read

“If you insist that you do not know me, let me explain myself … you will feel, why, yes, I do know this person. I’ve seen this man.”

With these words the author, Manoranjan Byapari points to the inescapable roles all of us play in an unequal society. It talks about his traumatic life as a child in the refugee camps of West Bengal and Dandakaranya, facing persistent want—an experience that would dominate his life.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

5 valuable lessons from entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs

A ‘start-up’ is the ultimate expression of who the entrepreneur is and what he values and in India, start-ups have become a mainstream phenomenon.
India is ranked 77th for ease of doing business in the world but budding entrepreneurs often tend to make mistakes which they could have averted if they had proper guidance.

Here are 5 valuable lessons from entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs

Take external money only if you want to grow super-fast in the short term and don’t mind risking long-term sustenance and free control.

Understand that the right people to hire are those who are dependent on the salary led to building a good on-field workforce.

Focus on the visual aspect of the product as it turns out to be an important selling point in most cases, even if it means hiring a professional to do it.

    Figure out channels that work
Put money in figuring market channels in the beginning as it helps in achieving the long-term objectives.

    Right incentives
Start-ups are often tight on money but freedom, responsibility, and equality are a kind of incentives that empower the team.

Insights from the book: No shortcuts

 Click here to order your copy today!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

“Planned urban development will be a vehicle for India’s transformation” —Prasanna Mohanty

India’s urban population, estimated at 410 million in 2014, is projected to reach 814 million by 2050.

The country will have three times as much population in cities and towns in the next 75 years.
It is not cakewalk to lead a city or nation into reduced poverty and accelerated growth. It requires years of planning, merit and tools to be able to bring home progress.

Let us take the example of Smart Cities Mission launched by the Government of India with the objective to promote sustainable and inclusive urban development. This mission targets the improvement of civic services through “smart” solutions. Effective planning and management of urban land and transport are critical for this mission.

In the light of this urgent need for reformation and planning of cities for a better tomorrow, Professor Mohanty “calls for incorporating the economic approach to cities into urban planning. This approach advocates a people-centered, rather than place-centric design of the city.”
—Excerpt taken from Planning and Economics of Cities

Drawing from theory as well as practice, Planning and Economics of Cities is an exemplar resource that adds value to our understanding of urban planning as well as development strategies.

Mohanty posits a solution that the nation awaits.

To find out, order your copy here.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The ‘borderless’ and ‘boundaryless’ markets

The power of digital is everything business and marketers should have hoped for. There still remains this doubt about whether digital will make any difference to those that buy and sell at the Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Chickpet, Burma Bazaar, FC Road, Bapu Bazaar, Serenity Beach Bazaar, Jew Town and other such bustling marketplaces that are strewn across the vast country that is India.

Read our author Ray Titus’, experience to find the answer to this intriguing question.

At Jama Masjid, as I walk through the narrow lanes, everyone seems to be buying something or the other. Sellers on their part try and ward off any  negotiations by putting up boards that say, ‘Fixed Prices’ but the buyers continue to try and drive prices down. My colleagues, when they spot a  sought-after product, they stop to bargain. Plus they do something that opens up a window for me in my digital quest. They click pictures of the products they have zeroed in on and use WhatsApp to relay it back to their folks in Bengaluru. Soon they are on a video call discussing the merits of the product and the price being charged. They also do a quick check on various e-commerce sites to see if there are similar products available & prices being charged. Armed with such digital information, they restart the bargaining. They even pass their mobile phones on to the scarf seller to show him pictures and prices elsewhere, and online. The bargaining reaches a crescendo; the seller seems to be on the back foot. A deal is reached, and the price agreed on is a tad bit lower than before.

Digital Matters!
Even in such marketplaces. My further observations at Jama Masjid and studies elsewhere reinforce the fact that many more buyers in such marketplaces are using digital information to strike a hard bargain. The majority of people seem to be combining physical with digital in buying journeys.

-A case study from the book: Round the clock by Ray Titus

The Seed Bearers of Change

By Dr. Anjali Hazarika

Is it possible for a bird to fly only on one wing? This may sound like rhetoric. But that’s what we have been doing with regard to women- fifty percent of our human resource for the past seventy years.
Ask them what does it feel like to be stereotyped? Is it possible to move out of the female stereotype & be seen in a new light? What does it take to offer differing views, skills & competence while still holding one’s own? Addressing such questions place new demands on us to examine the content of our beliefs, attitudes & assumptions. For these are the filters that color our understanding. Although seeing is believing, we tend to see what we believe & also see things as who we are & not as they are.

As a result, good intentions do not get translated into good practices due to local cultural norms & societal attitudes. No wonder that Centre for Innovation in Public Systems (CIPS) have encountered & reported enormous inequities on gender issues when implementing the agenda on innovation in areas of education, health, workforce participation & governance. For instance, while offering Life Skills & Career Guidance Programs for high school students in three districts of Andhra Pradesh, girls are influenced not to have career ambitions since they will be forced to marry after completing Class X. Could it be that our biases are so deeply ingrained that our actions are not still caught up with our views on gender equality
In order to advance gender equality in India, we need to focus on one critical dimension -
Men as Agents of Change.

Recognizing that young boys & men are the seed-bearers of change, they have to be engaged early. Education is the vaccine for violence. If the idea of an equal relationship between the boys & girls is discussed at school level then the gender role attitudes become more egalitarian & the notion of masculinity will get more positive.
It is heartening to note that the younger generation of fathers want to be involved in their children’s upbringing & be active parents. In many ways, the role model of a young boy is his father. It will create a lasting impact on a growing child if he sees his father sharing household work. Until men are fully equal inside the home, women can never be equal outside of it.

We also need more role models from among influential men to speak up for women’s rights & dignity. They need to be invited to contribute to development of family-oriented policies – whether reproductive health, family planning or parenting- that are not only good for women but also for the entire family.

Achieving gender equality is a complex multidimensional journey with multiple partners who must work together to create an empowered ecosystem. Governments can act as catalyst & shape policies to create an enabling environment. Business enterprises need to invent & invest in new practices that help working mothers that are not only good for women but also good for business. A major challenge in ensuring equality of treatment for the girl child is getting men to be sensitive to the issue. NGOs need to engage men whether as gender champions to help improve the sex ratio across India or as key players to ensure gender parity. Women need to rethink their roles & careers & put the new attitudes to work. New age parents need to groom their children well. Young boys & girls need to be trained in homemaking just as they need to be trained in career making when the time is right. After all gender inequality in society gets reflected as gender inequality at work. However, equality alone is not the solution unless it is accompanied by a complete overhaul of mentalities of both men & women. It is basically a partnership orientation for including women & not excluding men in creating a more equal world.

Dr Anjali Hazarika’s book Walk the Talk recently won the 2nd prize in the prestigious DMA-NTPC management book awards. A must-read which suggests how together we can ensure equity with effectiveness. It provides ideas and agenda for action to create an ecosystem of empowerment.

Click here to know more about relevant books for professionals

Monday, April 15, 2019

Values-an integral part of company’s DNA

 There is skepticism regarding the role of values in business. Values are at best implemented as checklists and codes of conduct and not as a fundamental way of enhancing stakeholder wellbeing, including employees, customers, vendors, and the larger ecosystem. In the current scenario, organizations take note of values only when instances of ethical malpractices surface – be it financial, gender-based, IP, etc. 

Truly speaking, values bring out the best in individuals, teams and the organization, by establishing a strong foundation for actions and interactions. Right from improving the effectiveness of day-to-day meetings, to creating a culture of creativity and innovation, values form the substratum for every aspect and functioning of the organization.

A recent publication by SAGE Good Values, Great Businessestablishes a strong rationale for instilling values in business organizations, by demonstrating how values are the foundation for excellence, productivity, creativity, quality and for creating a stress-free work environment. By presenting experiences, challenges, inspirations, and conflicts regarding values, this book will help employees at all levels strengthen their conviction regarding values at the workplace.

Addressing managers at all levels, the senior management, and the leadership, the book pragmatically discusses how to build and nurture a values-based culture in the organization.

The authors examine the subject of values from the point of view of each individual’s personal journey and finally delve into the crucial topic of values-based leadership, which is indispensable for a culture of values.  
Want to know more?