By Madhumita Das
2015 is off to a great start for ICRW and three young women from our Parivartan program, a program which uses the sport of kabbadi to empower young women and adolescent girls in Mumbai’s Shivajinagar slum community.
Three program mentors, who are integral in empowering other girls as part of the program, have been nominated to the Mahila Dakshata Committee, a committee within the Shivajinagar police station, which is designed to help ensure a safer community for all. The main goals of the committee are to:
Laws mandate that each police station must have a Dakshata Committee, with local women from the community where it’s located, serving as members. The members are selected by a group of officials, including the local officer in charge, the assistant commissioner of police of the State Intelligence Department, the deputy superintendent of police of the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the social worker in charge of coordinating the committee at the local police station.
In their new role, the three selected Parivartan mentors will go through a series of trainings designed to help them better understand laws on domestic violence and sexual harassment, cybercrime against women and girls, substance and alcohol abuse, the protection of the rights of women, and mental health, among other topics.
The nomination came as a bit of a surprise to Komal, Rubina and Sapna, the three Parivartan mentors chosen. As Rubina, age 20, who currently works as a nurse in a city government hospital, stated, “It was quite a surprise though I was given a choice to say yes or no, but my immediate response was YES. Why…at that moment I felt that this way I will be able to do more for women and girls in my neighborhood related to violence against them, which is so rampant.”
As a member of the committee, each girl is responsible for reporting any kind of crime or violence that occurs in their neighborhood to the police. This is designed to ensure that violence is reported and documented, which often does not happen because many women don’t know the laws surrounding violence and harassment. Additionally, many women often don’t report violence because they don’t have the necessary information about how to report a crime or they simply don’t feel comfortable reporting crimes to police.
Komal, age 19, who is currently a student, said: “As part of the training we were told about all the laws and acts around crime and violence and now my responsibility is to ensure that I pass those information to the women and girls who are in need.”
The selected mentors believe that women in Shivajinagar slum community, who experience violence at the hands of their family members as well as others, fear going to police and reporting crimes committed against them. “There is a fear among women and girls in my community to any action against the perpetrator of violence or even speak about it,” said Rubina. Komal added, “Registering a case at the police station is not been considered at all. Now as a member in this committee I can bridge this gap. By knowing about all the possible ways I can speak to women and girls about it and also support women and girls by accompanying them if necessary and to Police by informing them if I witness or hear any of such incidence in my neighborhood.”
The young women also believe that other women in their community are worried that police will fail to listen to them or won’t address their concerns. This apprehension is not without precedent. Sapna, age 20, currenly a student, told us that, “When woman come to share their experience of violence and they burst into tears, usually police officers shout at them and ask to leave the room.” She continued, “I mentioned this during the training program that when we come to you, you [police] need to speak nicely to the women. There is so much of distress, fear and pain, the first thing that women need at that point is your support.”
The three mentors hold a lot hope for the future and for their participation on the commission. They know they play an important role in representing other girls and young women in their community and they want to make sure that take the time to reach out to women and girls to talk about services that are available if they become a victim of violence: “I think there has to be someone who needs to take an initiative to bring positive change… why not me,” said Komal.
“Through this committee, we can also support police to help reduce unauthorized gathering of substance (drug) and alcohol users who make our neighborhood unsafe for girls,” said Rubina. She added, “We have had such problems getting enough space for Kabaddi practice but I have a big hope that in future we will surely have more space where girls from this community will be able to play and enjoy. I want to make sure I take up this as well in my two-year tenure of being member of this committee.”
It’s only been a month, but the girls are already putting their training to good use. Sapna, who witnessed a woman being physically attacked by her husband, didn’t think twice before heading straight to the police station to put in the First Information Report, a report given to police that becomes an official document, which can later be used as evidence.
Sapna, Rubina, and Komal all understand the important role she plays in making the community safer and each inspiring girl believes that her new role in the committee is simply the start of her journey in helping to create a much safer neighborhood where all women and girls can feel safe and enjoy all the same rights that men and boys have for decades past.