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Silence Has No Honour
Naureen Khan, Oxfam India
Married at the age of 18, Usha, the mother of three children between the ages of 16 and 12, came to Oxfam India's partner program to seek respite from her husband Ram Achal, an alcoholic, who would often beat her up. Usha’s decision was prompted by the determination that her children would not suffer at her husband’s hands.
“I would have tolerated it but when he started locking the children out of home, I knew I had to act”, she says. Usha was directed to the Oxfam India supported program in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh in 2009 by village elders who knew of its work.
At the organisation, Usha and her children were housed in the short stay home for a while and a Domestic Incident Report filed with the Probation Officer at the Social Welfare Board. Her husband was asked to appear at its office. Both parties were counselled separately and then together. An agreement was drawn up with Usha consenting to return on the condition that her husband would not beat her or the children. As Ram Achal worked intermittently and would blow up his earnings on alcohol, the organisation also offered Usha work as a cook. She also found work under the Mid Day Meal scheme at a nearby primary school.
Usha’s new found economic independence and the constant follow up of her case by Oxfam India's staff on the ground and its partner has ensured that her husband has adhered to the conditions of the agreement, even though he has not given up alcohol. Usha though is trying to rid him of the addiction by stealthily mixing a homeopathic medicine that promises to cure alcoholism, in his food.
The change in circumstances has bestowed Usha with immense confidence. She says that she no longer depends on her husband to ensure their children’s future.
“I will educate my daughter as much as possible. Every day I teach my sons to respect women”, she says. Usha’s struggle is remarkable because, despite her father and brother asking her to and promising support, she never thought of leaving her marital home.
“I have complete rights over this home, why should I give it up?” she asks. In her own way, Usha has also turned counsellor for other women in distress, and directs them to the centre. She says, “Women like me suffer abuse because we stay silent. But I tell other women that silence does not help. There is no honour in it, and we must speak out for our rights”. Usha has proved that it is possible.
Impact by Oxfam India
• 49 women survivors have approached to Oxfam's women support centre for counselling, legal and medical aid.
• 4 meetings held with Department of Women and Child and Police Department at district level for better coordination and getting help in solving and highlighting of the issue. 5 cases were solved with the support of local police station.
• 32 Community meeting were held on the issues of gender, 5 new vigilance committees emerged as an outcome of the meeting and a Total of 800 men and women attended these meetings.
Azamgarh is one of the extreme backward districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The mindset of the people is still very feudal. Gender and caste are the sources of various kinds of discriminations, assaults and violence. Women are principal providers of care and support to families. Yet social indicators show a fundamental social bias and inequality. Newspapers and periodicals of all hues in India often carry reports about violence against women (VAW). These include among others incidents of young brides being burnt for bringing ‘insufficient’ dowry, women dying in abnormal circumstances, rape on hapless women and molestation of young girls. In some cases there are public protests by women activists and such protests receive media coverage.
Domestic violence suffered by women on a regular basis in the form of psychological or physical abuse goes unreported. Very rarely do women themselves file police cases against the ill treatment meted out to them. A few women who escape death end up in shelter homes, but the majority continues to live in marital union and endure abusive behavior.
It is Oxfam India's endeavor to help women like Usha become aware of their rights, raise their voice and get a chance to live a life with dignity. And we can not do this without your support.
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