I am tired of being afraid, and I want to fight for myself- Kavita (Name changed)
“What kind of activities are you conducting? Our girls do not need any of these skills.” This was the statement of a few parents from Sonipat, Haryana when we initiated self-defense activities under project Wel Netrutva. It was hard to convince them that it will only help them in protecting the so-called ijjat (respect) that they all brag about during all kinds of conversations they have with their daughters.
As per the latest report shared by National Commission for Women (NCW), there was a gradual increase in the number of crimes against women in the first eight months of 2021 as compared to the figures of last year. Over half of these were from the states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh only. The rate of crime against women (CAW) has been increasing day by day. Haryana alone reported 39.7% cases of CAW as per the report published by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) - “Crime in India-2020”. Women need self-defense training and skills to protect themselves inside and outside the home. However, the parents of these girls were not supportive and were completely unaware of this. For them, the most important skill that they must acquire is “chulha, chowka and bartan”. This will help them in getting a better groom, going forward. They were least bothered that they might have already been subjected to violence while they go out or they may face even inside their homes after marriage even.
“Home is the only safe place for girls”, they believe. So they restrict their mobility until they are married off. They considered marriage as the righteous option to provide protection to their daughters.
A single woman on the road is more vulnerable to crime than a man or a woman traveling along with a group. Self-defense training is a powerful tool for empowering girls and women so that they are not on a man for their protection.
Welspun foundation for health and knowledge and Deepalaya NGO came together to initiate the Welnetrutva project with an aim to empower adolescent boys and girls from 5 villages through a gender transformative approach and empower young girls through skill development for better livelihood- leading to a dignified and sustainable life. In this project, various target group-specific activities and training have been conducted with adolescent girls and boys. Adolescent girls associated with this comprehensive project would have increased self-confidence, reduced fear, etc. They will be more comfortable during interactions with strangers, acquaintances, and intimates and will feel better about themselves and their bodies. The project aims to instill a general sense of self-worth and empowerment.
The locations are really difficult ones. Our Outreach workers have faced so many challenges in the field while interacting with different stakeholders. Deepalaya conducted these self-defense training sessions for the selected adolescent girls falling in the age group of 12 yrs to 18 yrs from five villages - Bahalgarh, Kumaspur, Barhi, Ganaur, and Bain from Sonipat District of Haryana.
The sessions were conducted over a period of fifteen weeks. These girls were taught various techniques to protect themselves during untoward incidents. The day generally began with basic warmup exercises and then punches and kicks (front, side, flying side, hook kick, outside kick, round hook kick, etc.). As they learnt the basic techniques, the sessions even taught certain techniques to overthrow an assailant who attacks you from behind or attempts to strike you in the face or if he seizes you by the waist belt or attempts to grasp the pocket of your coat. The exercises taught them to disengage themselves in such circumstances. Not only this, they were taught how they can remove a troublesome man out of the room or overthrow the assailants who seize both your wrists and also how to hold a man on the ground in such a position that he is unable to move. The sessions usually ended with trial and practise of what they were taught.
After completing most of the self-defense training sessions, various beneficiaries have shared their experience, which motivated us to cover more villages. Some of the statements are “I was tired of being afraid. Now there is no fear inside me like earlier. I can feel my inner happiness instead of fear,” and “feeling of self-dependence is incredible.”
If you think this project promotes gender equality and can reduce the crime rate against women, please come forward and support us in these initiatives.