Safety for women has been a matter of concern lately. Prioritising their worth is gaining importance and so, women today are responding to the violence that they are going through, which is a good thing. Lot of self-help groups and NGOs have come up in support with the empowerment and safety of women as the focus areas.
Likewise,Hyderabad-based NGO/ Women’s counseling centre‘Operation Peacemaker’ has left no stone unturned to reach out to the women who are prone to domestic and sexual violence. Archana Brian,Head of Operations,who has been associated with the Peacemakers since 2014 andPearl Choragudi,Head of Intervention, who has been working with the team since the start, in the year 2012,share a few insights into the activities.
Archana: My Choice Foundation is the base foundation under which we have two operations which is Operation Peacemaker and Operation Red Alert. This started in the 2012 by Elca Grobler, a South African, who came to help women in India. She comes from finance background and so worked in few financial organizations. She also met a lot of women from various communities and NGOs. When she wanted to know if they needed financial help, she found out that women were suffering with domestic violence and this led to founding Peacemakers.
Archana: Peacemakers are women we have chosen carefully from different communities and have trained them for a period of two weeks as peace agents in the community. We upscale them on counseling skills, perspectives of abuse and violence, patriarchy, gender discrimination and all the rights. Most of these peacemakers have been victims of domestic violence, and so, when they go through the training it is like an empowerment stage for them. We have trained over 220 Peacemakers so far. We have five centers in Hyderabad atShah-Ali-Banda, Golconda, Lakdi ka pul, Secunderadad and one at Warangal.
On Operation Red Alert
Archana: Most non- profits who work in the space of sex trafficking do work related to rescue and rehabilitation. Statistics says that only one percent of those who have been trafficked are rescued and 99 percent are still struck. So instead of running after that one percent, how about going on the prevention side and doing something so that none of the girls ever get trafficked. We have invested a lot in research and the final mile of the research has also won an award. We do a two-day village programme called the ‘safe village’programme in traffic prone villages. We have reached 2000 plus villages so far, since 2104.
This we do through implementing partners as we cannot be physically present everywhere. We are investing in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana where we have mapped traffic prone villages. Quantum Technologies is our partner for all these activities; they have done the mapping for us and based on that mapping we have identified other NGOs in those places who are our implementing partners. They too go through the entire training programmes.
On Rakshak Programme
Archana: We have started this a year ago. After we do a programme in a village, we normally do not go back. Therehas to be someone, who has to be looking out. So, we identified a person in the village – a Rakshak, who is the eyes and ears for that particular village. If he finds something unusual happening, he will immediately report to the implementing partner and they will take action. Two rounds of Rakshak trainings have already happened. We have the Rakshaks in all the villages that we have reached out to so far. And this comes under the Red Alert operation and we hope by 2025 the message goes out to the entire country about trafficking.
Archana: If in the middle of the night a woman is thrown out of the house and has no where to go, she can use the shelter home that we provide until she gains back whatever she lost and until decides what to do further. Both the mother and the children are given space to live in these shelter homes. We have minimal donors for this, but they have been very helpful consistently. We have a Lotus fund that helps women financially to starttheir own creative skilled work.
In case of child sexual abuse
Pearl: we had girls, who have gone through sexual abuse come to us when they were as young as three. They were not direct cases, but their mothers approached us for counseling and during the process we learnt of child abuse cases.