By Indrani Goradia, Founder of Indrani’s Light Foundation and Tanushree Soni, Associate Director of Programs, GBV, PSI
To envision a world without violence is a path toward ending poverty and empowering women, their families and communities. We are fortunate to be working with some of the most incredible woman in India and in the world on ending violence — women who want to see a dramatic change in their lifetime. Fortunately, the will is there. And in the country set to be the most populous by 2020, India, the government, individual philanthropists, USAID, and powerful local NGOs are coming together with both women and men to pilot and test new solutions.
Confronting this endemic problem is no simple task. According to the Government of India’s 2014 National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) Report, every four minutes a woman in India suffers cruelty at the hands of her husband or relative. What does this really mean? It means that the biggest threat to a woman’s safety and well-being isn’t from a stranger, but from someone she knows, trusts, and loves.
But there is a solution. We must address the root cause of violence at all levels — individual, relationship, community and societal — to reduce its widespread hold on families everywhere, and in this case, India. We must also care and love the resilient survivors, so that they can lead lives full of light, far from the darkness of their pasts. When we achieve this freedom from violence, we will see a ripple effect through entire neighbourhoods, cities, and countries. When women have agency over their bodies and their lives, they and their families are healthier and more productive in their local economies.
So in 2014, PSI and Indrani’s Light Foundation teamed up to create Wajood, an innovative approach to support India’s women who are affected by GBV and to take action against the harmful norms that permit such atrocities to occur. Nearly two years after this project began, we have provided over 3,000 women survivors with health and support services and informed nearly 95,000 people about gender-based violence and its harmful impact on women’s lives. We have also advocated for an end to GBV at events around the world, including most recently the TEDx in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.
Through this process, we have guided many women to better lives. But they have also shown us how we can best serve others like them. So, what have we learnt so far?
- Every woman must be told and shown multiple times and in multiple ways that she has right to live life with dignity and free of violence. And that her partner doesn’t have a right to hit and abuse her just because she is his wife.
- Every woman should be educated about the laws and legal provisions in place to provide her with safety and security. She needs to know where and how to access these legal services.
- Support networks must exist in each community for GBV survivors to meet others who understand their situation and needs. There is great potential in developing women’s collectives as strong, cohesive support groups that provide essential peer-to-peer encouragement.
- Men and boys must be engaged to change the culture of violence. To make this happen men and boys in the community must recognize how gender norms can restrict their families from thriving.
- A comprehensive solution must exist to take care of a GBV survivor the moment she steps out of her house to escape abuse. To provide the necessary security, it must address her real fear of losing her children, her home, her monetary support and her place in the community.
- Guidance must be made available for every woman going through the process of recovering from this traumatic experience. We must strengthen the communication, collaboration and coordination among the multiple players that provide support and health services to survivors of GBV.
We’ve learned that the majority of women in India want to see these dramatic changes in their world in their lifetime. They want to empower all women to thrive — to be included in their families’ decision making, to work outside the home, and to develop India to its full capacity. Let’s give them this chance. Let’s raise their voices this 16 Days of Activism so that we can change the world together. By creating stronger and safer families, we can lift entire countries out of poverty.
Photos taken from the Wajood Program