Empowered women are best change agents, says philanthropist Zarina Screwvala

You have been engaged in philanthropy for so many years now — what are some of the biggest issues you have observed trouble the rural population …
Written by Prerna Mittra | New Delhi | October 15, 2020 10:50:48 am

International Day of Rural Women, philanthropist Zarina Screwvala, Zarina Screwvala interview, Swades Foundation, rural India, women empowerment, indian express newsZarina says both men and women need to understand they have a valuable role to play in the world. (Source: PR handout)

For many years now, Zarina Screwvala — co-founder of Swades Foundation — has been working for the upliftment of rural life in the country, especially that of women and children. Through her foundation — that works to empower lives by covering four key areas, namely health and nutrition, education, water and sanitation, and economic development — she and her husband Ronnie Screwvala have been striving to make a difference at the grassroots, by teaming up with full-time staff members and community volunteers, to cover 2500-plus villages in the country.

On the occasion of International Day of Rural Women, Zarina interacted with indianexpress.com to highlight key problems plaguing our villages, its women and young girls, and how empowering them can bring about economic stability in the country, among other things.


You have been engaged in philanthropy for so many years now — what are some of the biggest issues you have observed trouble the rural population of the country, especially women?

We believe in and work for empowered village communities, allowing all members to live a life of dignity. All means all: women, men, children, youth and the elderly. We believe the work must be sustainable and scalable; but change happens one village at a time. At our foundation, we all work for one dream — to create a model of rural empowerment that can lift a million people out of poverty every five years. An almost impossible dream, but one we deeply believe in and work for every day.

We also observed poverty is not just material but also mental, manifesting as a lack of hope, aspiration for a better life for themselves and their families. This mental poverty is a critical blockage to any kind of change, resulting in forced migration to ill-equip cities where their conditions are perhaps worse than in the village.

Wealth in the hands of women ensures not just economic stability to the family, but it also ensures that children complete education. A woman’s role in uplifting her family is not appreciated. She may be doing the work in the fields, looking after the buffaloes and cows, walking miles for water, but she has no idea of her own worth and nor do the others in the family.

One of our planned Dream Villages ⁦@WeAreSwades⁩ -in Poladpur block Raighad -where our school was totally damaged post cyclone and entire village got together to re build it brick by brick – Their Dream Their Village – and thanks to the District Admin for sanctioning grants pic.twitter.com/jP3jw2Su7u

— Ronnie Screwvala (@RonnieScrewvala) October 1, 2020

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What are the pre-conditions for the betterment, development and empowerment of rural women?

At Swades, we believe every life is valuable and has something to contribute. And that barriers to overall development, especially that of girls and women, are not that obvious to most. You have to know your community, love and respect them before they open out to you. And this is what we have done for 20 years and more — especially in the last six years. And the learnings have been rich and varied:

Women can only earn a living if they have water in/near their house. When we first went to our villages, we wanted to work on girls’ schooling. The villagers laughed and said their daughters had to fetch water for almost two hours a day. We decided to work on water. It was life-changing; the girls started going to school. Women started growing a second crop, started poultry, goat rearing, dairy, stitching and a host of micro-businesses.

Every woman must have a toilet in her home. When we first started going to our villages 20 years ago, we met women who went to the loo in the open fields before sunrise and then after sunset! They got bitten by snakes, developed kidney issues and urinary tract infections. Girls did not attend secondary school, because there was no safe place for them to go to the loo. By building 23,813 toilets, we have been able to protect women from rural Raigad.

Women must attend village meetings. When we first entered our villages only men attended community meetings; within two years we had equal numbers of men and women. Their regular attendance has empowered the village committees. Tribal women from Dharechiwadi, Poladpur, banned the sale and purchase of illegal alcohol in their village. They recognised alcohol menace as the biggest problem in their village’s development.

Empowered women are the best change agents. “Because women can manage poverty, they can manage development best” — this is what Sir Fazle Hasan Abed told Ronnie and me when we visited him and his amazing organisation BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee). I was starstruck and asked for a picture with him!

Rural or urban, women in our country have to struggle with basic rights, safety and dignity in the society…

We are a patriarchal society. And thousands of years of societal thought is hard to change. It’s the mental attitude that needs to change. In the villages we serve in rural Maharashtra, we see a lot of hope, we see families struggle to enable their girls to go to school. As soon as water comes to their villages, the girls are in school.

What have been your personal struggles vis-a-vis your foundation and the humanitarian work you do?

I have been fortunate that my struggles are related to my own deficiencies, not because I’m a woman. I come from a supportive family and have a supportive husband. I think right from day one, my parents never made me feel less valued, my school principal (Shirin Darasha of J.B. Petit Girls High School) was an inspirational firebrand and made us all feel valued.

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Can you explain the structure of Swades Foundation?

Swades nurtures our dream of uplifting one million rural lives out of poverty every five years. We implement a 360 degree holistic model of rural development which addresses four key needs of rural communities: water and sanitation, health, education and livelihoods. These lay the foundations for strong and self-sustaining rural communities.

Community members are empowered to make their own village development plans and Swades facilitates the interventions. We ensure community participation by small contributions or through shramdaan (voluntary labour). This, along with strong village development committees, is our approach to ensure sustainability once we exit the villages.

We believe true impact is not just in numbers but also when we are able to remove the mental poverty and change it to a can-do attitude.

Our strength is 90 per cent of our full-time staff of 270 people, who work directly at the grassroots. Another 1,000 are community volunteers making us a strong execution foundation impacting over 5.5 lakh population today in 2500+ villages.

How big of a support is your husband in all your social and humanitarian endeavours?

He is not a mere support, he is working with me and our fabulous team of 1,300 people, to make our impossible dream come true!

As equal partners, what can men do to make life easier for women?

Both men and women could begin by understanding that we each have a valuable role, a place in the world. We need to create a space to blossom. We are equal but different. Respecting this, we can make everyone’s life better.

Any advice for the women in our country who are reading this?

Believe in yourself, in your own self-worth and dignity. We have much to bring to the world. Find out your role and be that. Don’t let anyone stop you. I also recommend being like water that is a force no one can stop. If we are hard and stone-like we can be stopped in our journey. But water always flows. A river always finds its way to the ocean.

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Movie Theaters Market to Witness Huge Growth By 2027 | Top Manufacturers – AMC/Carmike …

Movie Theaters Market to Witness Huge Growth By 2027 | Top Manufacturers – AMC/Carmike, Regal Entertainment, Cinemark, Cinemark Theatres, …
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    North America: USA, Canada, Mexico

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  • Harvard University Is Trending Weirdly on Facebook with Around 19 Million Engagements- Here’s …

    … asking whether their testimonies are real. ALSO READ: Neuralink Update: Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin Warns Over Elon Musk’s Brain Chip Implant …
    Harvard University ( Unsplash )

    Harvard University’s social media pages are weirdly trending on online platforms and have been receiving a lot of talks from netizens. The epicenter? Southeast Asian country, Philippines.

    The esteemed Ivy League university based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is stirring a lot of talks in its Facebook page and confuses some social media users as to different testimonies coming from people who haven’t studied there were sharing their insights.

    Inquirer.net states that this is not a hoax, a technical glitch, or a paid advertisement campaign, and indeed not a hack. Instead, a handful of Filipino social media users who invaded the university’s Facebook pages and posts by commenting and pretending to be students of the Ivy League university.

    This weird internet trend’s roots are not identified and remain unknown. Basically, it just started as a handful of Filipino users in Facebook sharing their “testimonies” during their time in Harvard as a “student,” carefully recounting their happy moments and even the weird ones.

    The posts and comments made by the Filipinos even attracted the attention of people who might even be affiliated with Harvard or its students, asking whether their testimonies are real.

    ALSO READ:Neuralink Update: Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin Warns Over Elon Musk’s Brain Chip Implant

    Harvard University’s Social Media Status

    Because of the Filipino’s engagements, Harvard’s Facebook likes grew 5.6 percent over the past week. The Ivy League university gained 336,000 more likes and currently exceeded six million page likes and followers.

    Harvard’s four social media posts on Facebook gained a total of 18.6 million reactions, comments, and shares collectively. This is a massive surge for the university’s Facebook page that is only used to less than 10,000 collective engagements on their previous post in July.

    Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Harvard’s campus is unusually quiet.Posted by Harvard University on Wednesday, July 29, 2020

    What’s Happening?

    Some of the comments and shares that the Filipinos who did not go to Harvard include their sentiments about how they miss the campus. Other testimonies included reviewing for examinations, meeting the love of their life, and even allegedly starting their freshman year there. The profiles of the people who said these sentiments list another school’s name, thus voiding them of their affiliation to Harvard.

    Filipinos who engaged in the online “gag” to Harvard went as far as engaging comments with foreign national accounts who were merely commenting their opinions about the Harvard post.

    In a very different move-in this year, a limited number of students were welcomed to campus yesterday.Photo: Jon Chase/Harvard Staff PhotographerPosted by Harvard University on Monday, August 24, 2020

    Where did it start?

    A quiet campus.Photo: Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff PhotographerPosted by Harvard University on Friday, July 24, 2020

    Harvard’s post about the campus that shows an image of the tree captioned “A quiet campus” was the first post that Filipinos started to share and put their captions in. Soon after, each post got weirder and weirder.

    Other posts by Harvard were also spammed by Filipino social media users, including its back-to-school limited dorm accommodations amidst COVID-19.

    Some foreign nationals questioned this bizarre moment in social media but were given indirect responses that included lyrics from songs and native Filipino languages. However, harsh comments also attacked Filipinos, saying that they have the lowest IQ in the Southeast Asian region.

    ALSO READ:Auschwitz Memorial Condemns TikTok Holocaust Challenge; Hurtful and Offensive for Victims

    This article is owned by Tech Times

    Written by Isaiah Alonzo

    ⓒ 2018 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

    China’s Red Star Macalline to add 120 new RealD Auditoriums

    … to 60 auditoria utilizing RealD’s patented and industry leading 3D systems. … Red Star Macalline Pictures, a subsidiary company of the Red Star …

    LOS ANGELES and BEIJING, Aug. 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today global visual technology company RealD and Red Star Macalline Pictures Development of China announced an agreement to install 120 screens with RealD technology over the next 3 years.

    The agreement includes 15 premium format LUXE and 45 RealD Cinema screens in addition to 60 auditoria utilizing RealD’s patented and industry leading 3D systems.

    This deal continues the close collaboration between RealD and Red Star Macalline, who together have already successfully launched 17 LUXE and 5 RealD Cinemas across 11 cities in China.

    “In the past four years, we have worked in collaboration with RealD to establish 22 premium screens and are delighted with the attendance and incremental box office returns at these LUXE and RealD Cinema venues. The auditoria deliver on the promise of quality represented by the branding, far surpassing moviegoer’s expectations,” said Simon Xu, president of Red Star Macalline. “Audiences are choosing premium movie going experiences, and RealD’s solution has worked perfectly for the development of our cinema business.”

    “RealD has been perfecting the 3D for over 20 years and have expanded that mission to every element of cinema. We are honored to extend our partnership with Red Star to offer Chinese moviegoers the best possible theatrical experience,” said Edman Chan, Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific for RealD.

    RealD offers two premium options; LUXE: A RealD Experience is a premium large format for screens larger than 16 meters wide and RealD Cinema is a superior solution for screen sizes between 12 and 15 meters. Both options include the patented, state-of-the-art RealD Ultimate Screen, and 3D projector technology.

    About RealD

    Named three times as “Most Innovative Company” by Fast Company, RealD’s mission is to perfect the visual experience on every screen and on every device. RealD pioneered digital 3D cinema and today has the world’s largest 3D cinema platform with well over 2 billion people having experienced a movie in RealD 3D.

    About Red Star Macalline Pictures

    Red Star Macalline Pictures, a subsidiary company of the Red Star Macalline Group and funded by the Red Star Macalline Investment Co. Ltd, is an integrated movie business development platform with an aim to grow into the most influential cinema, film distribution and cinema investment group in China.

    Media Contact

    Sean Spencer(RealD)

    +1 310 730 9756

    [email protected]

    SOURCE RealD

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    Russell Crowe’s ‘Unhinged’ had a promising opening weekend at the US box office, but its biggest …

    Ahead of major theaters chains like AMC Theatres and Regal reopening their doors last week, Morning Consult released a survey of 2,200 US adults …
    • Russell Crowe’s new movie “Unhinged” opened in the US over the weekend with $4 million, as major chains like AMC and Regal opened their doors for the first time in five months amid the coronavirus pandemic.
    • Despite the encouraging box office, the movie’s five biggest venues — all drive-ins — suggest that audiences may not be comfortable returning to traditional theaters just yet.
    • A Morning Consult survey of 2,200 US adults released last week found that just 17% would go to a theater right now.

    Russell Crowe’s new road-rage thriller, “Unhinged,” hit theaters in the US over the weekend as the first major theatrical wide release since theaters shut down more than five months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The movie earned an encouraging $4 million from just over 1,800 screens, but its biggest venues suggest that audiences are largely still uncomfortable with going to a theater amid the pandemic.

    According to the Exhibitor Relations senior media analyst Jeff Bock, the top five venues for “Unhinged” were all drive-ins and four of them were in California, where traditional theaters remain closed due to rising coronavirus cases this summer.Advertisement

    “Paramount DI in Los Angeles was the #1 venue in the US, and has just 2 screens–beating out other traditional Top 10 venues that have anywhere between 15-24 screens,” Bock tweeted.

    Ahead of major theaters chains like AMC Theatres and Regal reopening their doors last week, Morning Consult released a survey of 2,200 US adults that found that just 17% would go to a theater right now. 51% of those surveyed said they would feel comfortable going to a movie theater only within the next six months or longer.

    In an interview with Business Insider last week, Mark Gill — the CEO of Solstice Studios, the new studio behind “Unhinged — said that if the movie makes its production budget of $30 million in its full North American run, that will be a success.


    “This is just the most baffling thing ever,” he said. “There’s a reason nobody else did this. There are so many unknowns.”

    “Unhinged” was originally slated for release in September. Solstice moved it to July when “A Quiet Place Part II” initially took that date (it’s since been pushed to next year) and the rest of the theatrical calendar looked crowded. It was delayed several times amid the pandemic.With a modest budget, why didn’t Solstice do what some major studios have done and release it to digital platforms?Advertisement

    “We set the company up to be a theatrical company,” Gill said. “And we had sold this and other movies internationally to other distributors and one of the requirements of those contracts was to release the movie wide in the US in theaters.”

    The movie has received mostly negative reviews from critics and has a 48% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. Vulture said it “isn’t worth getting COVID-19 for.”

    “Despite its bullet-point nods to toxic masculinity and some glib armchair sociology about the rage-fueled society we have become, ‘Unhinged’ doesn’t have much on its mind,” Justin Chang wrote for The Los Angeles Times. Advertisement