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May 21, 2018

Stories of Change: Rise. Resist. Rebel

Megha Kashyap

“My name is Shivaratri which stands for light that emanates after a long period of darkness... Hence, I want to be a light for others and try and eradicate darkness from every woman’s life,” she said to one of our team members who had gone to meet her.

Shivaratri Patri, a Gond tribal woman from a small village in Madanpur Rampur block of Odisha, was married as a child to her husband who was just 17 years old then. On the day of her marriage, she learnt that she had to leave her parents’ house. “I was very angry and many questions came to my mind. Why do I have to live in someone else’s house? Why can’t my husband come and live in our house?” she recalls.

At the age of 16 she had her first miscarriage. She had no idea what went wrong nor did anyone tell her. She gave birth to 14 children in her 17 years of marriage. Only 4 of her children are alive today.

“I remember I told my mother that I don’t want to have children anymore and she replied that I had no choice as a wife I have to obey to my husband’s demand,” she recalls.

She got her eldest daughter married after she completed 20 years, both her younger daughter and son are going to college and her eldest son married a 20-year-old girl. “Years of bad health, loss of children has taught me the importance of not getting married when you are too young,” she affirmed.

Shivaratri is leading the women’s group facilitated by Oxfam India's and its partner organization, NAWO in the Kalahandi district. She takes active part in all discussions related to violence against women and child marriage and mobilises her neighbours. Because of her active social work, she has been nominated to the school monitoring committee and as part of her responsibility, she ensures that all boys and girls go to school.  She has been accepted by the Gond Samaj (tribal caste panchayat) which till now was a very male dominated space.

Denial of rights- right to choice, right to mobility, right to residence, right to decent food and clothing are part of the violence women undergo without realizing and tolerating and giving way to severe forms of violence. Women and Girls are taking action against this across the country.

Empower more women like Shivrarti 

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