Like most Dalit women in Pithora, a tehsil in Chhattisgarh, Rajim Tandi got married when she was still in her teens. Soon after, she realised her husband was an alcoholic and wife beater, like most other men in her village.
"Domestic violence is a tradition of sorts. This system of relegating the women to the status of slaves has been evolved by men," laments the 47-year-old, who decided early on in life that she was not going to put up with this indignity.
So, with two young daughters in tow, Rajim walked out of her marriage and into an uncharted territory. She decided to make women in her community speak up against domestic violence and turned activist.
This was way before the central government promulgated the Domestic Violence Act for protection of women in October 2006.
Today, her women's groups put together plans to help "sisters" facing similar issues. Sometimes they talk to family members from both sides to sort out things.
In fact, an idea about the their electoral rights resulted in over 90% women's turn-out during the recent assembly elections and led to the ousting of three-time Congress MLA Devendra Bahadur Singh.
"Politicians are least bothered about our problems. We carried out an awareness drive ahead of the assembly elections. We didn't campaign for any party but voted for the candidate who we think can serve the greater concerns of women. So we voted for a woman candidate (Rupkumari Chowdhary from BJP)," says Rajim.
The non-existence of any medical assistance such as auxiliary nurse midwives or lady doctors in several villages have added to the misery of the women, who out of hesitation nurture the habit of concealing their ailments.
In attempt to improve things, the women's group led by Ranjim has picked young women who have studied up to Class 10 and put them through a three-year health worker's course. These women, popularly known as sanjeevanis offer health advice and attend patients free of cost.