Education in Empowerment
You enter the by lanes of Kusumpur Pahadi in South Delhi and Sunita Chauhan is a household name. A victim of child marriage and domestic violence herself, ‘Sunita didi’, as she is fondly called, is a fighter.
Starting off as a volunteer with an NGO during her school days, she has paved her way to clinch the C Subramaniam Award by National Foundation for India (NFI) dodging through persecution, deprivation and family oppression. The award recognizes grass root works of community leaders for community development and social change.
Her organization, 4B Foundation has been working for the causes of education and health for years now.
“Being born as a Dalit, we have always faced deprivation. This somehow helped me develop an empathy towards the causes of the poor and the deprived. I was associated with multiple NGOs and social work since I was in school. But with time I thought I should be doing something for our own neighbours first, the ones I have grown up with. Hence I started this organization to work for the children and the women I always see around facing injustice in one form or the other,” said Sunita.
Sunita was married off by her parents at an age of 14 to a groom of 16 in the year 1992. While talking on her marriage, she still finds no words to justify why her parents would take her out of school to get her married into a family for whom patriarchy and domestic violence was a norm. Where removing the ‘pallu’ was treated as outrageous, going out for work or education was certainly a sin.
However, with 2 young children, Sunita decided to chase her passion for social work while she joined Prayas NGO as a volunteer. Starting from 1998, when she started to venture out as an NGO worker she appeared for her 12 boards examination with bruises and cuts after she was being beaten up by her husband and in laws for pursuing education. She subsequently went to college and completed her graduation facing tremendous family opposition.
She has even been targeted repeatedly in the community for her work. People alleged her of manipulating women against their family, interfering in people’s personal space, creating rifts between couples etc. She has been through situation when she would be chased by men and she had encountered injuries in a bid to escape them.
She, at present, is accompanied by her daughter, Priyanka (23) who helps her mother in all innovative social services including the Youth Tech Hub Programme where volunteers impart basic technical knowledge to underprivileged kids, Youth Leadership programme, Business module among others run by 4B foundation.