OM ASTHA RAI
LAWPANI (ASSAM), INDIA: Whenever the villagers of Lawpani, a nondescript village in the North Indian state of Assam, organize meetings to discuss local issues, Rita Devi Magar, a 40-year-old illiterate woman, represents her family there. Her husband never attends local meetings.
Like Rita Devi, many women in Lawpani village, which is located by the Brahmaputra River, attend local meetings as de-facto heads of their families. Usually, they are the ones who decide what contribution their families can possibly make to dealing with recurring problems like flood, inundation and erosion by the Brahmaputra River, which is the source of both livelihood and misery for hundreds of thousands of people in Assam.
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