India’s estimated 700,000 hijras, or transgender women, generally get little or no schooling, their families often reject them, and they join marginalized and feudal communities where their employment options are sex work or ritualized begging. They are likely to die young, of violence – like Anil Sadanandan, a transgender activist murdered in Kerala state during my recent visit to India – or AIDS. They are among India’s most destitute women, yet they are ignored by the World Bank, despite its strong focus on the “gender agenda.”
On April 3, 2012, the World Bank announced the “Imagining Our Future Together” art exhibition competition for young artists (those born after 1975) to submit samples of their work to be included in an upcoming traveling exhibition, “South Asia Artists: Imagining Our Future Together.” The deadline for submissions was April 30, 2012.
We received applications from 231 artists in all eight South Asian countries:
Sri Lanka: 8
South Asia is among the fastest growing regions in the world, but it is also home to the largest concentration of people living in conditions of debilitating poverty, human misery, gender disparities, and conflict. In my book, Reshaping Tomorrow, I ask if South Asia is Ready for the Big Leap.
The optimistic view is that India will achieve double-digit growth rates benefitting the rest of South Asia. The pessimistic view is that growth will be derailed by structural and transformational challenges. Which of these two outlooks will prevail?
The Optimistic Outlook
The optimistic outlook is based on favorable trends, including improved governance, the demographic dividend, the rise of the middle class, and the new faces of globalization.
All countries in the region have an elected government for the first time since independence leading to governance that is more focused on development. Improved governance will enhance the politics of democratic accountability; diminishing the importance of identity politics; and the rates of incumbency – the likelihood of a sitting politician being re-elected – are down.
The social institution of caste and the many ways it can create exclusion amongst different groups has a generated much literature in South Asia, primarily focused on India. Caste is often incorrectly characterized as a social hierarchy inherent within Hinduism. In fact, caste is a social phenomenon that exists across groups in South Asia, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians throughout South Asia in varying degrees.
In Pakistan, research and debate on the implications of caste and poverty has been limited. While a substantial literature exists about the social structures of Pakistan, including various caste, kinship groups and tribes such as zaat (caste), biraderi/qaum (kinship groups) and qabila (tribe), development practitioners and policy makers have largely ignored the issue of caste and social exclusion in Pakistan with its links to inequality in rights, access services and representation.
What is the account penetration among women in South Asia? Has the spread of bank agents affected how adults do their banking in Bangladesh and Nepal? How are people all over South Asia saving, borrowing, making payments and managing risk?
In the past, the view of financial inclusion in SAR has been incomplete, and the details unsatisfying. A patchwork of data from diverse and often incompatible household and central bank surveys was the only information available with which to construct a regional picture.
With the release of the Global Financial Inclusion Indicators (Global Findex) we now have a comprehensive, individual-level, and publicly-available database that allows for comparisons across 148 economies of how adults around the world manage their daily finances and plan for the future. The Global Findex database also identifies barriers to financial inclusion, such as cost, travel time, distance, amount of paper work, and income inequality.
In our blog post last November, we discussed Pakistan’s decision to grant India most favored nation (MFN) status. We were hopeful about the gains from easier trade between the two, but noted the many stumbling blocks in between. In the past 20 weeks, both countries have made serious efforts to address these blocks. Things are looking good. Here is an update.
Both countries mean business
In addition to the goodwill gesture of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visiting India this April and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh considering visiting Pakistan, important issues addressed include:
- Pakistan issued an order in March 2012 to move from a positive list of 2,000 items for India to a negative list of 1,209 banned items. Pakistan intends to phase out the negative list altogether and formally give India MFN status by the end of 2012.
- India, which formally granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996 (but maintained barriers) has agreed to reduce its sensitive list of 865 items by 30% within four months. India has also agreed in principle to allow Pakistani foreign direct investment in the country.
Can economics trump politics in South Asia, a region fragmented by decades of strife? Will greater regional cooperation and lowering barriers to trade bring harmony along with economic growth?
Those were the questions on the table Thursday as a panel from across the region discussed “Breaking Down Barriers: A New Dawn in Trade and Regional Cooperation in South Asia.”
Most panelists expressed optimism about trade’s pacifying abilities. Moderator Barkha Dutt, an Indian television journalist, opined that “What trade does, in its very ordinariness, is modulate the emotions.” Teresita Schaffer, former U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka, agreed that “Trade can provide another conversation… and provide reasons why rivalries should not be allowed to get out of hand.”
But which comes first, the chicken or the egg? asked another panelist, Nepali journalist Kanak Dixit. Clearly, he said, it’s the chicken (commerce), because other things have been tried and have not worked. He said that “chicken” will lay two “eggs”: peace and prosperity.
Are you a South Asian artist from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka and born in or after 1975?
You are invited to share examples of your work for the exhibition South Asia Artists: Imagining Our Future Together.
Imagining our Future Together is a juried group exhibition that will be on display in throughout South Asia and beyond.
The concept of the exhibition comes from the realization that cooperation among the countries of South Asia is the key to the region’s success in the 21st century. And what better example of transcending borders and breaking stereotypes can be seen than in art created by emerging artists, some of our society’s most perceptive, creative and genuine minds?
Imagining our Future Together is an opportunity to communicate your experience, feelings and thoughts as visual artist to the rest of the world.
Ten year old Vibha Kumari looks like any Delhi school girl. Except that a clean but well- worn old handkerchief masks her young face. For Vibha has multi-drug resistant TB - or MDR-TB - caused by a strain of bacteria that has developed resistance to the first line of antibiotics.
Vibha’s is a classic case of drug-resistant TB. Two years ago, when she had a terrible cough that just wouldn’t go away, she was treated by a village doctor at home in Bihar. When she didn’t get any better even after eight months of treatment, the family moved to Delhi where her father sold drinking water on the teeming streets of the city.
Moving into a one-room tenement in an overcrowded urban slum – where large families share small badly-ventilated rooms in conditions that are ripe for the infection to spread –Vibha was tested for TB. When MDR TB was found, probably as a result of inappropriate treatment in the village, she was put on the second line of drugs for a two-year course of treatment.
Dr. Suneeta Singh made that simple yet powerful statement during a panel discussion on “Empowering Gender Minorities in South Asia” on March 14, 2012 at the World Bank. Singh, a former Bank staffer and CEO of consulting firm Amaltas, spoke via videoconference from Delhi, India, while Nepal’s first openly gay elected official, Sunil Babu Pant, dialed in from Kathmandu.
Pant told the story of how he built a grassroots movement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people in Nepal, beginning in 2001. A turning point was in 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled that gay and transgendered people “are natural” and mandated certain benefits and an end to discriminatory laws. Today, the country is drafting a new constitution, and Pant said that if passed, it will be one of the most progressive in the world with regard to the rights of sexual and gender minorities.