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Sensitisation on Discrimination and Violence

RDT’s programmatic outlook to changing attitudes towards rural women has included various awareness building measures, with an emphasis on including men in the dialogue and action on gender. Special initiatives with reference to health and rehabilitation have been taken to address discrimination and violence against women.

RDT’s work with women in the villages of Ananthapuram district from 1982 onwards rested first on capacity-building of SHGs, wherein awareness exercises like gender-sensitisation workshops were conducted and leadership training imparted with a focus on bringing and circulating attitudinal shifts towards women in the community. Migration as a practice also contains a subset of women lured or conned away from their homes to be trafficked. The scale of this malpractice can be identified by the fact that in 2004, around 27% of women migrated from the Kadhri village. Mitigating early marriage by discouraging parents to wed minor children has been a primary concern in gender sensitisation.

This pro-action is evident in the fact that during 2013-14 alone, as many as 39 early marriages were uncovered by RDT staff and SHG members.

“After we held the Boys' Awareness Workshop, boys have become conscious of how they speak with and of girls in general.”
Ms. Rajeswari,
Community Organiser

RDTs Women Sector team has constituted Social Action Teams (SATs) to monitor and identify possible malpractices and abuse at the village level. SATs are mixed teams comprising 2 women, 1 man and of late, 1 PWD- they have been trained by RDT staff to identify and report issues. 351 men and 865 women are part of SATs across 405 villages. The SHGs and SATs have together intervened in promoting girls’ education, dealing with the issue of domestic violence and abuse, and alcoholism among men.

Since 2010, an important programme dealing with the issue of violence against women and girls was initiated to raise awareness and support for women facing various kinds of harassment. In 2011, 6 counselling centres were started around Ananthapuram district- these are manned on specific days for each centre by a STL (Sector Team Leader) along with 1 CO, and a lady doctor also makes visits. The major centre is the shelter home inaugurated at Bathalapalli campus on a priority basis to extend rehabilitative support. The shelter can house up to 100 women at a time and serves as a safe halfway house for women in distress.

These rehabilitative centres also provide counselling to women and their family members, helping them to recover from traumaGender-equality is not a pre-condition in the villagers’ minds, if anything, men and women have been hardwired over time to accept that women are an inferior sex meant to be subjugated. Hence, counselling men in these matters is an important component of these exercises, alongside fostering confidence in women.

By and large, boys have responded better to gender-sensitising efforts and were more open to receive explanations about gender and patriarchy compared to grown men. Boys have even expressed that by widening girls’ role in society, their villages can be bettered.To this end, RDT staff have outreach sessions in villages where the use of role-play in particular (charts and posters are also used), has proven most effective in demonstrating to mixed-audiences the negative impacts of practices like migrations, patriarchy and other gender-issues. Women’s sector staff members receive regular training from external resource persons from Hyderabad and Orissa on matters of sensitisation, and new developments in the field of gender-discourse. The ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ is one such initiative under which the government has announced a Rs. 10 billion corpus to support NGO’s and its own initiatives of protecting women dignity and safety.

Impact of the Counseling Centres on the lives of the women:

The qualitative changes in the lives of the women and girls who have acquainted themselves with the counselling centres include:

  • Improved self-confidence
  • Social inclusion and greater solidarity amongst other women
  • Sensitisation and support on girl children’s education
  • Involvement in economic decision-making and improved transactional abilities over time
  • Increased community participation, mobilisation and recognition on issues concerning them, e.g. their children’s education, livelihood opportunities and health.

A total of 1216 members representing SATs are being trained to identify women facing violence and extending necessary support to solve their problems with the help of RDT. The Kadiri region is one such area, where to reduce migration for livelihood, and to prevent incidents of adolescent girls and women becoming victims of illegal trafficking for prostitution, vocational training for skill development and rehabilitation services providing counseling and shelter were instituted, which included a nutrition programme for widows and destitute women.

Trainings are imparted to staff and SAT members on different aspects of harassment and violence, and education provided on first information response. Victims are referred to medical psychiatry and provided with appropriate medical assistance. Awareness camps covering women and girls through meetings, workshops and cultural programmes address gender discrimination, domestic violence and other atrocities against them. Information is provided on women’s rights, availing legal aid and medical assistance, police stations and family courts etc. Along with a continuing focus on deterring violence, improving literacy among girls by mainstreaming school dropouts and the non-enrolled into formal schooling system, and enhancing awareness of women on various development programmes and fostering their participation in these processes is the chief focus of RDT’s successive interventions with rural women.

STAFF SPEAK
 

“In the past few years, RDT has concentrated on building a team which can work on the most critical concerns related to gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence against women and girls. We are very committed to gender equality and working towards a just and caring society free from gender-based violence. Acting on this philosophy, RDT has also constituted an internal complaints committee consisting of 4 women and 1 man to deal with any cases of sexual harassment faced by women working within the organisation”.

Ms.Shakunthala, AD, Women Programme

SUCCESS STORY
 

“For many years, I have been mentally and physically abused by my husband. He would take away the wages I earned by working as a coolie and come home drunk only to physically abuse me, even when people watched from outside the house. Even for the household, my husband refused me money and was not interested in my daily needs. I have four daughters out of which two are married and the other two are studying and I went through a lot of hardships to bring them up. One day, I locked myself in my room, poured kerosene on my body and set myself on fire. People outside heard my screams and became aware of my problem but I was not given any treatment for three days. Finally, the matter was taken to Social Committee leaders who immediately rushed me to the Bathalapalli hospital and also talked to my husband. RDT counselling centre was a boon for me because I could finally talk about my problems and I also want my husband to attend the sessions. With renewed confidence, I know I will never take such an extreme step again and certainly, won’t bear any kind of torture. ” – Ms. Vaishali,village,

PARADIGM SHIFT
 

Gender sensitisation has led to a new sense of confidence amongst school going girls. Earlier, they hardly participated in their class activities or raised any doubts fearing a backlash from their male classmates. But now they are equally active, responsive and are well supported and respected by the boys.

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