An exhibition showcasing photographs, illustrations on chart-paper, skits and TV spots marked the end of another academic year at the ‘School of Life’ where children learn to be drivers of change.
The programme, initiated by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), helps children to interact with survivors of domestic violence and mentors to understand gender-based discrimination both inside and outside their homes.
“When children see discriminations like a sister being asked to do house-hold work while the brother studies or when the father beats the mother – they grow up to think that is the way it is. We want them to engage with survivors of domestic violence to show them that women are no different,” said Akhila Sivadas, director, CFAR.
Injila Abbasi, a student from Miranda House, said she learned about experiences of child brides at the School of Life. “We never realized how young girls who were married off early dealt with both marriage and its break-up; the interaction with the survivors was inspiring for many of us,” she said.
Sonia Pawar, 30, was married off when she was just 15. Her husband used to fight with her over trivial issues, beat her and abused her for the 12 years she was with him. “He used to say – you are a woman, what will you do without me? You cannot earn a living; you cannot live on your own. And, I believed him,” she said.
When she was pregnant with her daughter, her husband left her for a few days and she had to work as a domestic help just to buy food for herself. “After that, I realised I could do anything. I trained as a beautician and now I have a parlour of my own. I separated from my husband five years ago and now I support my children – daughter Janvi and son Dipanshu,” she said.
She also trains other women like her free of cost so that they can escape the cycle of violence.
CFAR also trains the survivors of domestic violence and other women from the community to be legal councillors. “I get calls throughout the day, asking for legal consultation or even to resolve arguments,” said Noor Jehan Begum, who is a survivor of domestic violence and a councillor at CFAR.
She remembers a time when she had to counsel a family at 3 in the night to withdraw a rape case against a boy, who wanted to elope with the daughter.
“When I called the girl, she said she wanted to marry the boy. I told the family that if she says that in the court they will be accused of filing a false case. The families reached a mutual understanding and the girl married to the boy the same night at the temple,” she said.
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