From being a victim of violence, Champaben rose to be a community leader. She was barely married for 3 years and gave birth to a baby girl, for which she faced immense harassment from her in-laws and was often overpowered with thoughts of ending her life. Despite the ceaseless efforts of the larger family, there was no improvement in her situation. Champaben had lost hope. Just then, she attended AWAG’s awareness camp and joined as a community leader and decided to fight for justice. She filed a court case claiming maintenance. Yet her troubles from her in-laws did not end. They were neither ready to accept her nor to relieve her. At this juncture, AWAG helped her fight the case that spanned over 10 long years.
Exasperated with the situation, Champaben went to her maternal village and settled down independently with her daughter. She worked hard to educate her daughter. Soon, she was appointed as an Anganwadi worker in the village and busied herself so as to overcome her grief and trauma.
She also realized that it is possible for a woman to live without her husband and served as a role model for other women.
Champaben strives to ensure that no woman in her village succumbs to death due to family abuse. When the situation gets serious, she accompanies distressed women to AWAG for further help and support.
She is grateful to AWAG for creating an opportunity to help her build a sound understanding and confidence.
Manjuben has been involved as a community leader in the slum area of Ahmedabad since 2002. This was a period when communal violence had manifested itself in a brutal form across Gujarat. She lived in a communally-sensitive area where Hindus and Muslim communities lived in close proximity. As part of the organization’s communal harmony activities, Manjuben was active in gathering women and youth of the local communities and organizing them to attend awareness raising workshops that were aimed at alleviating misconceptions, prejudices and animosity among the two participating communities.
Alongside, Manjuben was also involved in identifying and helping women who faced trauma due to the outbreak of violence. She would accompany such cases to the police station, court and even hospitals; as per their needs. She also guided and supported women who were victims of domestic violence and brought them over to AWAG for further treatment and action.
Nadiraben (54 years) has studied uptoStd 7 and is associated with AWAG as a leader since the last 12 years. She had initially approached AWAG due to a mental problem she was facing and, with regular counseling and medication, she recovered.
Thereafter, she joined AWAG as a leader in relation to the savings and credit activity that was ongoing and gradually roped in other women from her locality. Over time, the participating women expressed a concern about the clogged drainage and damaged roads in their area, the result of which would be heavy water logging even in their homes during the monsoon season. Nadiraben took up the issue by organizing the women and presenting the matter before the local corporation. The resultant impact was that the road of the locality was paved out and the drainage too was rectified.
Presently too, in addition to the above tasks, Nadiraben is occupied with helping women faced with violence through primary counseling and, in severe cases, she accompanies them to the organization for further treatment.
Hemaben joined as a community leader in 1997. Along with her co-worker Santokben, she was instrumental in organizing 120 women in the Self Help Group formed in her village. These women earned their living through sale of provisions and miscellaneous items in their handcarts in their village. Soon, Hemaben became a member of the village education committee. She took up issues concerning the functioning of the village school. Under her leadership, teachers who were not performing were transferred and new, dedicated teachers were appointed. She also ensured that women’s attendance in village/council meetings increased, wherein problems such as availability of drinking water were also brought to the fore and resolved collectively. Clearing of dung heaps was also carried out widely under her leadership. Hemaben was sensitive towards women’s issues and helped a number of women subjected to violence from their families and brought them to the organization for further support. Through her efforts, she has built understanding among women to develop their own identity, individuality and confidence in society. Both Hemaben and Santokben sought to ensure that the nurse resides in the village itself and performs her duty. The duo is still active within the village, with the same spirit that existed when they joined AWAG.
Salmaben lived with her husband in a makeshift hut outside the organization’s Centre at Bapunagar. She attended a three-dayawareness-raising workshop in the area and showed readiness to take on the role of a community leader. She soon grasped the realities of the various forms of violence inflicted on women in the communities.
Whenever there were conflicts among families, Salmaben would rush to the spot and resolve the matter amicably. Having gained some legal literacy, in severe cases of violence, she would take the victim directly to the police station to lodge her complaint. She also spread awareness among other women to start opposing violence.
In addition to this, Salmaben helped the local communities to demand and access primary civic amenities such as water, drainage and toilets from the local municipal corporation.
With her rising confidence and influence among the community women, the local political parties would seek favors from her during elections, although she resisted their overtures.
To this day, community women confide in her and approach her for lending them her ear to their problems. After the customary primary counseling, she accompanies them to the organization for further support and action.