Ghaus Sivani/New Delhi
Naseema, a native of West Bengal works as a housemaid in Southeast Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area. She takes care of her two young children with her income, and her husband, who drives a cycle rickshaw spends most of his earnings on drugs and alcohol.
He also regularly abused his wife and children and didn't pay for their upkeep. A wise woman, Naseema was worried about this situation and wanted to live a normal life.
Luckily, one day, she came in contact with the Mahila Panchayat, a group of volunteers who help people like Naseema. The Mahila Panchayat intervened and tried to persuade her husband, but it had no impact on her husband. Finally, the group sought legal help and Naseems’s life changed for the better. Her husband still uses drugs but he is quiet and home and doesn’t resort to violence.
Naseema also gets some financial help from the Mahila Panchayat for meeting financial emergencies at home.
A session of Mahila panchayat in progress
Thanks to the intervention of Mahila Panchayat, about 3,000 women like Naseema are out of the are living in peace and dignity. The Mahila Panchayat not only extricates these women from a situation of domestic violence but also helps them financially.
The Mahila Panchayat works under the supervision of the Social Pride Welfare Society of Shaheen Bagh and is supported by the Delhi Government.
Firdous Begum of the Mahila Panchayat says that women come up to them with a lot of problems but the majority of the cases are of domestic violence. She says that the number of women victims of domestic violence is more than we could imagine.
“Usually women suffer violence at home silently and they approach us only after it turns serious and chronic,” she said.
She says that so far the Mahila Panchayat has addressed more than 3000 cases of domestic violence. “Usually, in such cases, we try to solve the problem by counseling. When the counseling doesn’t help, we also take the help of the police.”
Dr. Kamal Ahmed, President of the Social Pride Welfare Society says that many women victims of domestic violence also need treatment that the Society provides.
A counselling session
Dr. Ahmed explains that the key problems that women face at home can be solved by empowering them. For that, the Society tries to train women and girls in self-defense.
The society also runs a skill training center for women at Jaitpur, Badarpur area of Delhi where women learn tailoring and cutting and applying henna. So far more than 300 women have been trained in the center and others are enrolled in it.
Dr Ahmad said that crimes against women are increasing across the country. The data shows that India’s capital Delhi is at the top of the cities where crimes against women are high. To deal with this alarming situation, the society also organized a self-defense program for women in collaboration with the Delhi Women's Commission.
In the camp, the trainers try to explain the importance of self-defense to women and girls. While women are taught the art of self-defense, the camp also prepares them for using force."
Dr. Ahmed says that Delhi has great facilities for free treatment in hospitals and yet the common people don’t understand how to avail of these. Most of the women victims of domestic violence are uneducated and therefore unaware of their rights. Therefore the Pride Society helps them. Some women are also referred to neighborhood clinics and government hospitals.
The Social Pride Welfare Society also organizes free medical and health checkup camps and has set up about 200 such camps in the Delhi NCR so far where more than 40,000 patients have been treated. Generally, these camps are organized close to the slums and areas inhabited by poor people.
He said a large number of Nepalis who live with their families and work as domestic helpers are very poor and they need medical treatment. Similarly, Rohingya, refugees from Myanmar living in Sharm Vihar and Kanchan Kunj also need similar help.
“Our society tries to help them with medical treatment,” he said.
Women attending a session of the the Social Pride Family Welfare
S meeting of the Social Pride Family WelfareDr. Kamal Ahmed says poor people often neglect the education of their children because of the lack of money and awareness. The society provides basic training and guides the children of garbage pickers and Rohingyas to enable them to get admission into government schools.
He tried to open a school for such children but it did not work because of the lack of resources. Besides, he said Rohingyas in particular don’t show interest in educating their children.
Firdous Begum Awazdi, the caretaker of Mahila Panchayat told Awaz-the Voice that any problem a family faces - poverty, disease, or natural calamity - affects women the most. “We cannot free women from all their problems, but we can and do try to reduce their problems.” The society also arranges food and clothing for needy families.
Ration kits with rice, flour, lentils, oil, salt, tea, etc. are regularly distributed to poor families and during Ramazan extra goodies are added to the kit for Muslims to enable break their fast. During the Holy month,.
The society has distributed ration kits to more than 4000 families so far. The Society was very active during the Covid-19 pandemic. It also helped the victims in Madanpur Khader and Kanchan Kunj during the Yamuna floods of 2023. The society cooked and distributed to more than 3000 people. It also distributes blankets and warm clothes to the needy in winter.
On their plans, Firdous Begum says that there is a lot of work to be done but the lack of resources comes in their way. “We get support from well-wishers and it keeps us going. We want to keep focus on women and children. We want to build a shelter for women victims of domestic violence and destitute elderly women,” she said.