It was towards the end of my study in university when the brother of my best friend brutally abused me. Since the society does not accept an abused girl and I did not want my family to suffer for what had happened to me, I had no other choice but to marry him. My parents raised me with an open mind and taught me that there is no difference between boys and girls. I always had a lot of friends both male and female.
Only after marriage I realized how both worlds can clash and not everyone has this mindset. I showed my love to my husband, took care of him, more than of myself. After one year of marriage I gave birth to Ayush who is now no more. Then my husband faced an accident and he couldn't work anymore. To meet the family needs, I taught students in the mornings and during the days I worked in an NGO as a trainer of health workers. In the meantime I gave birth to my second son, Rudra.
But things turned bad when my husband fully recovered and that is when the terror started. Now he was able to work and thus he tried to force me to leave my job. I was satisfied with my job and couldn’t understand why he refuses to accept me gaining income. He was also suspicious that I might see other men. This was the beginning of the daily mental and physical abuse.
His torture was terrible and I was often not even allowed to eat food. After six years of marriage he forced me to sign divorce papers. In my society, a divorced woman becomes a disgrace for the family and neighborhood. Many women commit suicide because the divorce becomes a greater burden than an abused marriage. I left my home with nothing but my three year old son.
Luckily, within fifteen days I was invited by the State AIDS Control Society to work as a Counselor in the Keonjhar hospital. This helped me to become financially independent. Even in the workplace, I was judged and criticized by senior colleagues. In the hospital I came across many women who were affected by domestic violence, just like me. This showed me how bad the situation of women is and it gave me the strength to fight for their rights.
During 2016, I met Gouri Shankar, an activist, who campaigns against child labor and violence against women. He is respected by people and at the same time feared by the local administration. He gave me the strength to develop my ideas and start my own organization.
Vision: To make India a country where people have zero tolerance towards violence against women
By capacitating violence affected women about their rights and ensuring opportunities for formal education for girls.
By enhancing enterprise promotional skills and ensuring permanent income source for violence affected women
By providing professional support and assistance to the violence affected women in order to make them confident to address the bondages that affect them
By establishing a network among violence affected women, where they identify their issues and problems and initiate village to country level advocacy to address the same.
By advocating people centered policy with government and implementation of same from bottom to top level
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, in 2015, 2251 rape cases were recorded by police, where as in 2014 it was 1978. The NCRB report says Odisha is fifth among the 36 states and union territories in the country in terms of high number of rape cases recorded in 2015.
Every year there is 15% increase in domestic and workplace violence on tribal women in Keonjhar district of Odisha(PTI 18/10/2014).
An official report by the Odisha government states, 42% of women in the age group 15 to 49, are affected by physical or sexual violence.
Information given by the Odisha Police in 2015, 6016 cases of violence against women were reported. Only 57% (3436 cases) were submitted in court.
Information given by Crime Bureau of Odisha in 2015, 72 adolescent girls were victimized by forced marriage in Keonjhar district. It also shows that violence affected women in Keonjhar are 67%.
These cases were: torture, marital rape, sexual abuse and murder. What are the root causes of all this?
Lack of education is one of the main reasons for tribal women becoming victims of violence. In tribal communities Bhuyan, Juang and Ho, girls are not allowed to go to school. Instead, they are taught how to take care of the family. They are taught to look after their younger brothers and sisters. Also they are forced to do all household works including preparation of food, collection of woods etc.
The tribal women’s life is limited within their homes where men take decisions and women follow them. Poverty is another main reason for increasing domestic and workplace violence. Even if women are the main earning persons, since the family is patriarchal, the decision of male members is binding upon all the members.
In the work places, men are paid higher wages and women are paid lower wages. Apart from that the contractors physically and sexually abuse women. All the income of women is spent for the families. On top of it, the husband steals money from her for alcohol consumption. Husband beating his wife is accepted as something normal.
If women report about harassment at workplace and domestic violence to police, police officials will not listen to them or they will not file the cases.
Most of the time police request women to compromise with the accused. If the violence case is put up against a contractor, police will never keep the First Information Report against contractor since the contractor bribes the police.
Women are not allowed to exercise their power, whether at home or in the society. At local self government level, husband or father of the elected women members will be attending the meetings instead of elected woman. The tribal women are not aware of their rights including human rights as well as sexual and reproductive rights. They are also suppressed by the age old social taboos and blind beliefs
As a result, they are not able to raise their voice against injustice done to them. Women are not confident to speak or demand their rights or express what they want and what they do not want. It even leads to death.
Some of them commit suicide when they are unable to stand the pressure and many women are tortured and murdered.
To address the cases of violence against women, the government of India established (537) a helpdesk for Women and Children.
Additionally the government provides support to some NGOs. For example SWADHAR, UJJAWALA, Short Stay Homes which provide transit / counselling / vocational training centers to women. However, it is disappointing to note that only 3 out of 16 homes are currently functioning in Keonjhar district.
The government of India brought out the Domestic Violence Act 2005. This is regarding all domestic violence cases and prevents, prohibits and redresses the Act of 2013 to control any type of abuse at workplace. Still it was not practiced due to lack of awareness and ignorance.
At the ground level, people have no idea about the policy and its practice. The individuals with vested interest will misuse and manipulate the policies for their advantage.
Moreover the existing projects are not trying to create awareness about women’s rights or trying to raise their voice and build support to make the legal system in support of women.
Case study 1: Surani is 26 years old and her husband died of Malaria. Her brother had thrown her out of her home. She has no shelter or food. She can’t go to her father’s home, because she has only one brother and he is very poor. Hence she lives in the street. She struggled to meet her basic needs. She went to a contractor’s home for a job and one night, she was raped by him. He provided her a job. After that he continued to abuse her for two months. When she stopped him from abuse, she lost her job.
Case study 2: Kuni was married at the age of 16 and she has two children. She took care of the family members. Though she had health issues, she always did her duty. One day, due to sickness, she was not able to cook for the family or bring the water to wash hands. The father in law had beaten her in front of her husband. She complained about this to her husband but he kept silence. She could not tolerate this and she left home. Her husband and father in law followed her and tried to kill her. She escaped from them. Later she tried to return home twice. But they did not allow her to enter the house. Now the husband is married to another woman. So now she has no place to go.
Odisha is one of the poorest states in India, having 62 tribal communities. 23% of the total population are tribal people. Out of these different tribes, 13 are known as so called "primitive tribes".
Bansapal block of Keonjahr district respectively are predominantly inhabited by primitive tribes like Bhuyan, Juang and Bhumij tribes who are living in thatched houses. Family income for 76% of them is less that INR 20,000 per annum (Pancahayti Raj 2016).
72 adolescents in Keonjhar are found to be victims of forced marriages. Studies also shows that violence affected women in Keonjhar is that of 67%. Rape cases increased to 21% between 2014 and 2015 (District Crime Report 2015).
To meet family needs, most of these women are engaged in collecting and selling of forest produces and engage in various works including construction. This is seasonal work and provides income only for 6 months. Rest of the six months in a year, they are forced to work for lesser wages as decided by contractors. The working conditions are very unhealthy, hectic and unhygienic, especially for women. For example, some women have small children and they find it difficult to breastfeed them due to lack of a healthy and closed space. Sometime they are sexually abused by contractors. The rate of workplace violence is 71% (Nabajeeban Times 2016).
Due to religious beliefs and poverty, many force their daughters to take care of their own family and marry them off at the age of 15 which create trauma in the minds of adolescents. As they are not educated, they are always controlled by husband and they have no right to keep their own income. If they try to report to police, police officials refuse to help. They also get threatened by community elders, leaders and others. This builds pressure that can even lead to their death.
Imagine a little tribal settlement, far up in the hills of Odisha. No car has ever reached, thus the community lacks access to health interventions, education and family planning. And now imagine me riding a donkey packed with first aid kits. Together we climb the rough paths. Once entering the village, we hear a happy cry: "Ah. The donkey Doctor!" and suddenly we are surrounded by children and their mothers who are eager to learn about medical care and hygiene.
My project address tribal women, especially those who are affected by domestic violence. Through different interventions, we offer moral, psychological and infrastructural support; we will train women in first aid and in entrepreneurial skills.
This will be implemented in 5 stages:
Rescue and Professional assistance
Care and accommodation
Awareness and Training
Networking and advocacy
We see an Odisha where suffering women can support each other and fight violence together. Join us on the Donkey-doctor-tour!
In “Enough is Enough” project will be started with three steps. The project needs nine months support their after the project will be runned by the trained violence affected women. Once the project is successful implemented with specific support thereafter the project can be run without any assistance since long. Where every year the trained violence affected women, able to support another 10 violence affected women on similar sector. To implement this project we would request an amount of INR 949,822
Stage – A – Rescue and Professional Assistance
30 violence affected women will be rescued and given professional assistance and support. We will give priority to restore them with their family if there is openness from the family. If the relationship with the family cannot be restored, we will connect the beneficiary with government rehabilitation centers such as SWADHAR, UJJAWALA, which are "Short Stay Homes". During their staying period in government rehabilitation center we will counselling them and providing legal assistance to get rights from their families.
Stage – B – Care and Accommodation
During the initial days of rescue, and if the women cannot go home again, also they may not get immediate support from government rehabilitation center. During this time we provide care and accommodation in our own organisational premises or in governmental rehabilitation centres.
Stage – C – Awareness and Training
To prevent violence in rural communities we enable women to reflect and understand the root causes of social issues, the need for social change and the importance of rights and policies. Additionally we will give training to children on health and hygiene and we educate mothers and adolescents about sexual and reproductive health. During this session we will establish the group among violence affected women
Stage – D – Sustainable Livelihood
We offer training programs for 30 violence affected women to assist them to find new jobs or help them to establish social enterprises. Training in the production of local snacks, packaging and marketing, dress designing and garment making, mushroom cultivation and financial management will enable them to have a sustainable income.
Stage – E – Networking and advocacy
During implementation of project simultaneously we will establish a network amongst NGOs, lawyers and activists, which connects those women who are affected by violence and other women groups. The network will work across many regions of Odisha. In this way we will build a link from village to state level.
After the enterprise promotional training the violence affected women able to earn INR 2,500 every month at their own.