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Regaining control

Teaching our Snehadhar girls their rights is vital

Snehadhar, our women’s shelter and helpline, works to ensure ‘Dignity for Women’. We offer refuge, legal aid and alternative futures to women who have survived rape, domestic violence, acid attacks, verbal abuse, illegal human trafficking, kidnapping and other traumas.

Even today when Pallavi remembers the eve teasing incident that happened a few months back, it sends shivers down her spine. Snide remarks and lewd comments that she received on the bus that day forced Pallavi to become bold. Pallavi is not the only woman in Ahmednagar who faces this kind of harassment. Not just on the bus, even walking freely on the road is often uncomfortable. However, today, thanks to the positive intervention of Nirbhaya Kanya Abhyaan – our Snehadhar initiative, Pallavi and many other girls are being armed with skills to face any challenge and seize control of their lives back.

The programme focuses on the challenges faced by women and empowers them through self-defence courses, counselling and information on legal aid. “We work with female groups to identify and find solutions - from counselling to legal aid we are giving them the support and knowledge to be fearless and informed when dealing with the problems of female foeticide, dowry harassments, rape and acid attacks,” says Shilpa Khendare who heads the project.

One area of concern is on eve teasing, a form of sexual aggression that ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks, brushing against women in public places and catcalls to groping, as experienced by Pallavi. By visiting schools, women’s shelters, girl’s homes and other female groups we are reinforcing that this behaviour is not acceptable and explaining the legal procedures, laws and rights should they encounter it.

Another element is teaching the women and girls self-defence, including precautions they can take to minimise risks and how to use their bodies and everyday objects that they carry with them to defend themselves in an attack. The programme seeks to bring positive change, for example by arming girls and women with the facts which they can use to argue their case and educate others against female foeticide where the female sex ratio of their community area is already low.

By recruiting local volunteers and training them to help spread the word further through follow up sessions we are ensuring that the initiative is sustainable. They are playing a key role in building the confidence of women and girls to seek legal help and also promoting the services and support available through our Snehadhar helpline.

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