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Play it again, sis

Maribel Dominguez

Will she, won't she' She's small ' even scrawny. But there's no denying her prowess on the field. Maribel Dominguez , the 26-year-old Mexican striker, is certainly the face to watch out for in 2005. Because if FIFA rewrites its rules, Dominguez will become the first woman ever to play for a men's national league. Dominguez ' with an enviable record of scoring 42 goals in 43 games for Mexico's women's team ' made headlines in late December 2004 when she was signed up by Celaya, a second-division Mexican team. All bubbles went ping with FIFA putting its foot down, saying the rules required a clear separation between men's and women's teams. Visibly upset, Mexico's golden girl is now looking for opportunities to play in Europe. If Dominguez manages to find a berth at the level of the men's European league teams, her achievement will be nothing less than historic as FIFA has blocked admission to women to these male clubs earlier. But Dominguez is clinging to the belief that the European football clubs are now better positioned to take on the wrath of FIFA.

Indira Jaising

Indira Jaising, renowned Supreme Court lawyer and founder-member of the Lawyers Collective, spent last year lobbying the government on reviving the Domestic Violence Bill, 2002. It asks for far more stringent punishment for offenders. This year, women are fervently hoping the bill will become an Act. Jaising is among the experts being consulted by the law ministry on how to make it accessible to all women. And as the whole nation directs its eyes to the progress of the Bill in Parliament, Jaising will not rest even after it is enacted. It's her mission to appoint women lawyers for victims in districts.

Thockchom Ramani

In July 2004, 75-year-old Thokchom Ramani led 12 Manipuri women to strip in front of the gate of the 17 Assam Rifles Battalion, to protest against the alleged rape and murder of a Manipuri woman, Thangjam Manorama, in the custody of Assam Rifles. This action may be responsible for saving the lives and dignity of hundreds of Manipuris in 2005. This is because Ramani's extreme form of protest ' according to her, the only way she knew how to draw attention to the excesses committed by security forces in the state on the populace ' made a lot of people sit up and take notice. It even prompted a visit by the Prime Minister, whom Ramani, the secretary of the All Manipur Social Reformation and Development Samaj, met. The naked protest prompted demands to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 implemented in the state in 1980, following insurgent activity in the valley. The state government is on record saying that the security forces (sent by the Centre) have been abusing the provisions of the Act, arresting, torturing and faking fatal encounters. And raping. But Ramani's protest last year may go a long way in finally putting an end to that this year.

Jyotsna Dwivedi

When Jyotsna Dwivedi, a 27-year-old final year student from Delhi University's Law Faculty filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court over the sorry state of many Kargil widows on September 6, 2004, little did she know that its effect would spill over into the new year, bringing hope to war widows everywhere. Dwivedi's attention was drawn by a story on TV about Shakuntala Devi, a widow who had attempted self-immolation before the bungalow of the UP chief minister after her five-year-old attempt to avail of the welfare packages accorded to war widows failed. Dwivedi's reaction was to do something. 'And as a law student, I could only think in legal terms,' she says. According to the petition, over 40 per cent of Kargil war widows have not benefitted from any rehabilitation package promised to them. The apex court took Dwivedi's petition seriously and issued notices to the Centre and to the Uttar Pradesh government. The case will again come up for hearing in the second fortnight of January, 2005.

Sherifa Khanam

If she gets her way, Muslim women will have a mosque all to themselves ' a world first ' before the year 2005 is out. Daud Sherifa Khanam, founder-director of Tamil Nadu-based women's organisation, STEPS, will most definitely carry into 2005 the fight she started last year for a separate place of worship for her gender where, according to her, 'they can freely discuss their problems'. The former Hindi teacher decided to turn to social work after seeing the plight of women and their pathetic economic status. As she worked at awakening Muslim women to their rights, she observed that as the jamaats attached to mosques, which adjudicate on family matters, are totally male, the woman's point of view is not even heard. Hence her desire for a place of worship and discussion where only women will reign. She will not have an easy time getting the mosque. Orthodox Muslims have opposed her plan. She needs land and a sum of Rs 1 crore. You can express your support at [email protected].

Farah Khan

If the phrase 'Main Hoon Na' has passed into national terminology, and even into the lexicon of politicians (the finance minister used the phrase in his budget speech), we have the film of the same name to thank for it. The top grosser of 2004 ' which surpassed the first-week record collection of Rs 12.5 crore set by Yash Chopra's Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham by more than a crore ' was made by a woman ' choreographer Farah Khan (on Suniel Shetty's right in pic). Women directors are hardly unknown in India but Khan was the first of her kind to venture into that traditional domain of men ' the masala film. 'Women directors in India have mostly made niche films,' she observed in an interview related on rediff.com. 'Naturally, those films have a limited market.' This year will also see Farah Khan's second film hit the theatres (no, we don't know what it is about yet, but yes, we do know this much, that it will have Shah Rukh Khan) and many more debutante women directors ' Vinta Nanda, Leena Bajaj, Soni Razdan and Zoya Akhtar ' and none of their subjects will be woman-centric.

Mandira Mitra

Among the films that may touch the lives of ordinary Indian women this year, is a little known feature, being made by Mandira Mitra (left), a documentary filmmaker and graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India. It is a series of ancient stories retold by modern women and will explore how the same story looks different when told by women. 'The stories told to us since childhood are all from the perspective of the male,' says Mitra, 'and I think that in any culture, mythology plays a big part in giving people a sense of identity. Indian women too look for anchors in these traditional tales of ours, but find none". The characters in her upcoming film are from the modern age. "This is so that every woman who sees it can identify with her," says Mitra. A little bird says that Rani Mukerjee might figure in the titles. Though Mitra has mainly done documentaries, her only other fictional film, Ayonija, which had won the International Jury Award in Oberhausen, was about this sense of not belonging.

Alka Pande

In September 2004, while releasing her book Ardhanarishvara The Androgyne (Rupa), curator, critic and scholar Alka Pande promised her audience a bombshell in 2005, what she called an 'everywoman's Kama Sutra'. The 'queen of erotica', as she is sometimes called, has explored the 'female' part, or the Sutras of the Vatsyayana classic, and tried to dispel the myth that the book is a guide for men. According to her, the Kama Sutra has as much to offer women as men.

The book, in fact, 'will be a celebration of female sexuality,' she added. And with its release, perhaps, women, especially Indian women, might have something to gain. As Pande said, 'The enactments of seduction are also firmly rooted in India, and there is no reason why we should look to the West to express our sexuality. We have everything right here.'

Isha Sharvani

Unlike most of Subhash Ghai's heroines, she refused to change her name to comply with his predeliction for the letter 'M'. 'It is not my name,' she said firmly, 'but my performance that will count'. Nobody who has attended the 19-year-old's dance performances around the country, and abroad, would have any doubt that she will deliver the goods when her debut film, Kisna, releases on January 15.

She has stage presence that makes her stand out in a crowd and she dances like a dream. Sharvani is also unlike anything that Bollywood has seen so far. Daughter of maverick parents who toured the world, she has led a gypsy's life. Her mother is Daksha Seth, well-known contemporary dancer, and her father, Davissaro, an Australian who came to India as a monk and is now an established composer and musician. When she resolved at 13 to leave everything for dance, they acquiesced. 'I was determined,' she said in a recent interview, 'I asked my parents to pull me out of school. I promised not to peter out.'

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