Self-respect through self-defence
Shilpa comes from a large family with 10 siblings where she is the youngest of seven sisters. Growing up in a family known for its strong women who were always ready to help anyone in distress, she learned the values of self-respect and respect for all humanbeings from childhood.
After finishing school, she completed her education degree at Sarda College, Ahmednagar, where she joined the Rashtriya Seva Yojana. As a keen member of the student volunteer organization, she joined a volunteer camp in ‘Anand Van,’ the NGO for those with leprosy and differently-abled, founded by the legendary Baba Amte, which gave her a unique insight into the social sector. This was followed by a similar visit to Snehalaya. After hearing the experiences of our founders and fieldworkers, Shilpa realized that social work was her ultimate ambition. After graduating from college, she continued to study for a masters in social work after which she joined our Snehadhar (women’s shelter) project as a counselor.
Snehadhar proved to be a fantastic learning ground for Shilpa as she faced the many challenges of social work, rescuing girls trapped in brothels and helping women facing domestic violence through shelter and legal aid while boosting their self-confidence became a regular job for her. Young girls lured into relationships by false promises are highly vulnerable and counseling them often proves to be very difficult, but Shilpa fearlessly rose to the challenge every day, despite cases where she received personal threats from the victim’s families.
Having proven her talent for social work, four years ago, Shilpa was made manager of the project. Since then she has worked tirelessly for the rights of the women and girls who come through our doors in the worst of conditions. Her ‘Nirbhay Kanya Abhiyaan’ initiative helps make the women and girls living in the very small rural towns and villages of Ahmednagar more self-reliant. The program presents street plays depicting the rights of women, motivational speeches and the success stories of our past beneficiaries to a range of audiences. Self-defense techniques are also taught and the model is being successfully replicated in many colleges and schools.
Shilpa believes in family and that every case should be treated individually and without prejudice and need not always end in divorce or estrangement. Through counselling and support, she has successfully reunited many of our women and girls with their families and children. Even more remarkably she has helped trafficked women and girls from as far away as Kolkata and South India to safely return home, crossing all the barriers of language and boundaries to unite them with their loved ones.