Friday, 6 December 2013

Salma and Shaista rise!

     President of Nyay Samiti (left) and a member (right)
Today, we feature a guest contributor,  Utthan, and their work empowering women to harness their voice through the development of women's federations. 
In Gujarat
, one of the core areas in which Utthan works is women’s empowerment and gender equality. Since 1981, Utthan has operated in the coastal (Amreli and Bhavnagar districts) and tribal areas (Dahod district) of Gujarat. Following the infamous communal violence of 2002, Utthan also reached out to the deeply affected minority communities in predominantly tribal Panchmahal District. One of Utthan’s key strategies in this area has been to empower women to institutionalize their voices through women’s federations (mahila sangathan). Today, Utthan supports four women’s federations in Gujarat. 

After the events of 2002, regardless of community or religious background many women felt insecure and afraid. In 2004, responding to the need to re-establish common ties and communal harmony, Utthan helped institute Ekta Mahila Sangathan, an independent women’s federation comprising women from diverse backgrounds. Nine years later, Ekta Mahila Sangathan has grown to 822 members. This post focuses on the experiences of the women members of the Ekta Mahila Sangathan (Unity Women’s Federation) in Panchmahal District.  

They will fight for their own rights and seek justice.
 'This way, I want women to become self-reliant and motivate other women to do the same too.'
 - Manjula ben Suvar (member of Nyay Samiti)
One distinctive aspect of the women’s federations Utthan works with is the Nyay Samiti or Justice Committee within each federation. In Ekta Mahila Sangathan, the Justice Committee specializes in addressing the issues of violence that most directly impact women in the area including domestic violence, rape, dowry, inheritance, education, and the issues of single or widowed women. The justice committee offers emotional and social support to victims and interfaces with both formal and informal authorities on their behalf, including the victim’s family, the village panchayat, caste panchayats, the police, and judiciary. In the beginning, women would approach the Nyay Samiti secretly. However, as Ekta Mahila Sangathan has grown in both size and legitimacy, women are now comfortable approaching the Nyay Samiti in public. Women from all community backgrounds (Muslim, Hindu, and tribal) have reached out for help and understanding from the Nyay Samiti. The stories of two such women are below.

Salma – Standing up to domestic violence

One morning a young woman named Salma came to Nasim ben, who is currently heading Ekta’s Nyay Samiti, crying. Salma told Nasim ben that she was the victim of both mental and physical torture at the hands of her husband. He beat her on a regular basis and forced her to work much more than she could manage. The marriage had been arranged by Salma’s own aunt and despite many complaints by her aunt, Salma’s husband continued his abusive behavior. At Salma’s request, the Nyay Samiti stepped in and approached the local panchayat (village council). The police were contacted and, as a result, a warrant was issued for the husband’s arrest and Salma was finally able to return to her parent’s home. Salma is now living a better life, able to voice her opinion and live as she chooses, free from the fear of her husband.

Shaista Sheikh – Fighting the abusive cycle of child marriage

In 2011, Shaista Sheikh was the victim of a child marriage. She was continuously tortured and abused by her husband and in-laws. After an incident in which her in-laws poured kerosene on Shaista and tried to light her on fire, Shaista and her family finally had the courage to fight back against the situation. The family approached the Nyay Samiti and the members registered a case against the abusive husband, even while his family refused to accept any allegation of wrongdoing. The case was registered in the Santrampur Police Station and while the case is still pending, Shaista is now able to lead a normal life away from her husband.

In a society still influenced by many patriarchal norms, the Nyay Samiti is fighting to ensure justice for the victims of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence and discrimination. You can find out more about Utthan and our work to instill a culture of gender equality at and

Why do we rise?

'We, the members of Aman Youth Unity Federation,
 believe in the association of girls and boys to bring justice to
 victims irrespective of the caste, creed, or religion of the victim.'

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Rising for Justice!

Last year, one billion people from around India and the world rose to demand justice for women and an end to gender based violence as part of the first ever One Billion Rising Campaign for Justice on February 14. This year, in 2014, we challenge 2 billion people from around the world to rise again.

The massive success of One Billion Rising 2013 wouldn’t have been possible without organizers like you; organizers who brought hundreds of men, women, and children to Parliament Street in Delhi to dance against violence; organizers like you that formed drum circles on the Mumbai seaside to give a voice to women who otherwise felt voiceless; organizers like you that held meetings, workshops, and festivals to demand that we can do better for our mothers, sisters, cousins, friends, co-workers, and future daughters.

Now, we need your help again to make One Billion Rising India even more powerful, and inclusive for all. We challenge community activists ( both self-proclaimed and employed), journalists, and feminists (that includes you too gentlemen!) to organize events around India that honor women and their right to a safespace and a justice system that works for justice.  In addition, we need your help collecting stories of both injustices against women throughout India, and stories of organizations and people doing amazing work for justice. These stories can come in the form of poems, videos, photographs, interviews, editorials.

We hope the One Billion Rising India blog will stand as your go to source for OBR updates form across India, as well as a portal for inspiration and information focusing on justice and injustices from across India.  

To submit content for the blog, please email . And don’t forget to follow us on twitter. Running an event focused on women? Have a story you want to share to a network of passionate individuals across India? Remember to hashtag your tweet with #OBRIndia.
We can make our communities, schools, public transportation, justice systems, and homes safer for women, but only if we do it together. “Rise, Release, and Dance” with us.