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Dec 9, 2014

True Grit

Savvy Soumya Misra

Sudha at the HUMSAFAR office in Lucknow

Posted Dec 9, 2014 by Savvy Soumya Misra

Sudha walked out of her marriage ten years ago
She left her house
Her son in tow
Her man was a bigamist
She wanted out
She wanted a divorce; there was no doubt

          Globally, seven out of ten women face domestic violence
          They are beaten, abused, humiliated and silenced
          Seven out of ten women[i], in India, think it’s justified
          If she is a bad cook or not adequately domesticized

Sudha is a survivor;
She came to HUMSAFAR and spoke her mind
But many aren’t able to break the bind
They live in fear,
They never speak up
Some give in
Some give up

In HUMSAFAR, Sudha works to end gender violence now
She motivates them to stand up for their right
She has brought them together to put up a fight

‘It is tough. There are angry husbands you see’, she says
She has been followed; there have been days
‘That’s society. That’s part of the deal’ she grins
She didn’t give up; and makes sure no one gives in

          During the 16 Days of Activism observed everywhere
          Lots will be written about survivors- of their grit and dare
          But take a moment; spare a thought
          For fighters; who survived, stood up and fought

          Fought for themselves and for those who couldn’t
           Fought for themselves and for those who wouldn’t
          Fought domestic violence and gender discrimination
          Fought to stop early marriage and to get education

Bhanu (wo)mans the support centre at the police station
A dalit from Puri, now in Dhenkanal
She is quite an inspiration
The eldest of five siblings, school was going to be tough
Especially for the daughters as the father didn’t earn enough

She was adamant. She insisted. He finally agreed
He sold his animals to make sure his daughter could read
To school,
Bhanu did a daily 12-mile hike
Her father sold another cow to get her a bike

She worked through college, completed her law
Over a decade ago she joined Dhenkanal’s ISWO
At the support centre she works with marginalised women
And mobilizes community every now and then

Bhanu looks up to Pushpanjali
Mami Apa—as people call her fondly
Mami Apa is a fighter
In Dhenkanal she fought the liquor shops
She started young
She had the chops

           She was warned and threatened
          Asked to leave town
          Not giving in. She stuck on.
          Pushpanjali was enterprising — got her friends together
          For tailoring and cooking, for income generating venture

She refused to marry; She had bigger plans
Soon she started literacy program
The liquor fight is closest to her heart
To end domestic violence
She says, “that is a start”

          Mami Apa is a survivor; She beat ill health
          Septicaemia, gall bladder stone and cancer of the breast
          Mami Apa is a saviour; She takes under her wings
          Them who have been humiliated, harassed and are suffering

In Cuttack, a former reporter
Turned activist by accident and ardor
Farhat Amin works with Muslim women
Braving fatwas, fanatics and orthodox men

Undaunted; at her BIRD Trust
Amin’s women come first
Their rights
Their fights

She opposes the takeover of Quran
By Qazis and Muftis, Maulvis and Imam
She interprets the Sharia for the women
So they can handle better
Divorce, polygamy, property rights and custody of children

She works with Muslim women
On gender violence and right to education
On health, law and security
On fighting dominance and levity

          Sudha, Farhat, Pushpanjali and Bhanu
               We bow to you

           You are gutsy; have lived the pain
          You are gutsy; and fighting the bane
           You might not be, so often, in the spotlight
           But because of you
          There is a ray of hope; and a hope for life

The author is with policy, research and campaigns, Oxfam India

[i] NFHS data (2005-06) show that 69.6 women in India feel domestic violence and sexual violence is justified

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