Monday, February 1, 2016

Devyani now in race to promote girls' education

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NEW DELHI: Diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was charged in 2013 with visa fraud by US authorities, will later this month undertake a cross-country run in her home state of Maharashtra aimed at promoting women education and

Khobragade will try to keep pace with legendary ultra-marathon, endurance runner and former Australian MP Pat Farmer, who has undertaken a 4,600 km 'Spirit of India Run' from Kanyakumari to Srinagar to raise funds for girls' education in India, as also to improve bilateral ties between India and Australia.

In an exercise promoted by both the Indian and the Australian governments, Farmer started his run from Kanyakumari on January 26, India's Republic Day and which is also celebrated as Australia Day by the island nation, and is expected to enter Maharashtra on February 9. That's when Khobragade will join the Australian MP.

Khobragade, who has done two half-marathons and several other runs, will also help organise meetings for Farmer with schoolchildren.

Sources said Khobragade was keen to become a part of Farmer's campaign because she saw it as an opportunity to bring forth the significance of women's education, issues related to their health and also self-defence exercises meant to ward off sexual violence.

Farmer and Khobragade are expected to speak and give demonstrations on some of these issues along the route. Schoolgirls will also be encouraged to run short distances with Farmer and, in case the world champion of endurance running scampers away too soon, with the diplomat.

Farmer's run is supported by the foreign ministry, tourism ministry and Mahindra Foundation. According to the foreign ministry, the run is a one-of-a-kind public diplomacy initiative intended to promote India-Australia relations, and raise money for the education of the girl child. It is expected to promote goodwill, friendship and trade between the two countries.

"As Pat runs through cities, towns and villages, stopping to interact with the local community, he will witness India's immense diversity, natural beauty and vibrant culture - capturing in two short months, the Spirit of India," the foreign ministry had earlier said.

As a diplomat, Khobragade has in the past spoken on issues related to women's rights. As acting consul general in New York, she held a round-table on the same. Some of the issues she sought to address were gender sensitisation, need for holistic approach to education and reservation for women in Parliament.

In a write-up on sexual harassment, she said the solution was to raise girls and boys more fairly and equitably. "So they do not stand by the next time anyone is subjected to touching or staring by men. So they stop going to films which show stalking as acceptable behaviour or women as brainless sex objects," said the diplomat, who currently works as the director of MEA's states division responsible for the ministry's liaison with states.

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