I kid, but it isn’t funny: women in India face significant challenges, and too often, it seems, issues like gender parity fall by the wayside as the country focuses on its spectacular economic growth, etc.

It’s probably just lip service, but it is heartening to hear the country’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, thrusting the issue into the public eye. In a speech Monday, Singh said, “We are an ancient civilisation and we call ourselves a modern nation. And yet, we live with the ignominy of an adverse gender balance due to social discrimination against women built into our societal structures. … Our record in female literacy is far from satisfactory as the last Census recorded only 54% female literacy in the country. The last Census again showed a declining child sex ratio. This is a national shame and we must face this challenge squarely here and now. It indicates that growing economic prosperity and education levels have not led to a corresponding mitigation of the problem.”

For a good primer on the social status of women in India, I’d suggest the Bridge “India Gender Profile” (PDF). The Wikipedia page on women in India, though of debatable quality, also surfaces a number of issues and provides a bit of historical context.

Cool piece in the Indian Express on a tribe that’s gone from subsisting on sales of pulses to positioning the coffee it grows as a brand symbolizing sustainable development in emerging markets:

The foundation helped the around 8,000 tribals of the valley organise themselves into the Small and Marginal Farmer Mutually-Aided Cooperative Society, with support from the Green Development Foundation of the Netherlands, and assisted them in setting up a coffee processing plant with machinery imported from the UK.

The Tribal Cooperative set up by the farmers happens to be the only cooperative in the country to have both fair trade and organic trade certification.

Although the tea culture in India seems much more entrenched than the coffee culture, there’s a surprisingly long coffee tradition: