Empower women to combat violence - Hindustan Times
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Empower women to combat violence

Jul 23, 2023 12:06 AM IST

Gram sakhis and women's forums in Kishangarh, Ajmer are promoting helpline numbers to deal with violence against women, covering 33 villages in the district.

Violence against women thrives where a combination of factors ranging from isolation, shame and patriarchy combine to ensure a culture of silence. Change can be effected when women come together to put up a joint front. A perfect example is the coming together of gram sakhis and women’s forums in Kishangarh, Ajmer, promoting helpline numbers to deal with violence. These agents of social change are undaunted by the patriarchal environment they live in, now covering 33 villages in the district.

A group of village women show inked fingers, after casting their votes during the local body elections at Bikamau Bhawanipur polling booth in Lucknow’s Bakshi ka Talaab, on Thursday. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo) PREMIUM
A group of village women show inked fingers, after casting their votes during the local body elections at Bikamau Bhawanipur polling booth in Lucknow’s Bakshi ka Talaab, on Thursday. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)

Violence against women thrives where a combination of factors ranging from isolation, shame and patriarchy combine to ensure a culture of silence. Change can be effected when women come together to put up a joint front. A perfect example is the coming together of gram sakhis and women’s forums in Kishangarh, Ajmer, promoting helpline numbers to deal with violence. These agents of social change are undaunted by the patriarchal environment they live in, now covering 33 villages in the district.

In a remarkable effort, they have formed survivor support groups, trained themselves to be paralegal volunteers, and are tirelessly working to raise awareness about violence against women. Each gram sakhi is responsible for one gram panchayat with a know-how of legally and socially addressing the issue of violence, empowering those who have suffered and holding the perpetrators accountable. Saraswati, a gram sakhi from Roopangarh, is also a suraksha sakhi (protection buddy), designated by the Roopangarh police station. She says, “I was able to gain knowledge on laws and redressal mechanisms, which gave me the confidence and motivation to spread awareness in my village. Now, I am sharing information on helplines and providing self-defence training to school-going girls.”

These women feel that despite comprehensive laws to protect women, many still face violence. One reason is the lack of knowledge of the available redressal mechanisms. “We have launched an intensified door-to-door awareness campaign to inform women about the helpline for violence against women. This helpline serves as a crucial resource for women who may be experiencing violence or abuse. By spreading the word about this valuable tool, we hope to empower women,’’ says Sakina, member of the women’s forum and a survivor of violence from Chundari village. “We were unaware of any mechanisms to lodge a complaint or reach out at the time of need or in trouble, and if we are told verbally, we forget the numbers. But now that they are pasted on the walls of our houses, it is easy to remember,” says Lali Rao, a Scheduled Caste woman from Roopangarh.

To its credit, the government has established various resource centres to provide justice to women, such as the district legal services authority, one-stop sakhi centres, women’s safety centres, and the state women’s commission. However, these can only be effective if the women are aware and have access to appropriate mechanisms.

Are the women worried about a backlash? Not at all, is their resounding answer. The women’s group was set up to create a narrative around preventing violence against women. This group has taken up the responsibility to educate every woman in the village about the legal framework and helplines established by the government. They are diligently going door-to-door and putting up posters outside each house that contain vital information regarding all available services, including helpline numbers that can be utilised in the event of any violence against women. This group hopes to empower women to seek support through the helplines in case of violence against them or their female peers. It’s a commendable effort to create a safer and more informed community.

The campaign, which has been jointly mounted by the district legal services authority, department of women and child development, one-stop crisis centres, gram panchayat, and suraksha sakhi groups with support from the Centre for Advocacy and Research in Kishangarh, has reached 3,210 households. If this becomes a movement, as it should, the message will go out that there really is strength in numbers and in creating wider ownership both within the government as well as in civil society.

The views expressed are personal.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Lalita Panicker leads the opinion section at Hindustan Times. Over a 33-year career, she has specialised in gender issues, reproductive health, child rights, politics and social engineering.

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