Maitri Network:
Effectively combating violence against women in India

Subject:
Prevention of violence, legal aid, empowerment of women

Location:
Indian states Madhya Pradesh (coordination), Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan

Duration:
01.06.2020 to 31.12.2023

Budget:
741.460 €, including 556.095 € subsidy from the BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development). The remaining 185.365 € will be financed by Karuna Deutschland e.V. and Karuna Trust UK.

Target group reached:
52.800 women and girls, 1.290 survivors of sexualized violence, 4.000 male youths or young men, 5.120 public representatives of police and other authorities, 25 network organisations.

Challenges

Dalit and Adivasi women are disproportionately often victims of sexualised violence and at the same time have the least chance of gaining access to justice. Because the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice, Dalit and Adivasi women are considered “easy targets” for sexualized violence and other crimes. In rural areas, the governmental social and legal services for these women are extremely limited, and public “one-stop crisis centers” are often not functional or not yet available. Dalit and Adivasi women in these areas also rarely receive support from independent organizations. They are also rarely supported by their families, if they can even decide to report a rape.

Project goal

In 32 selected districts, the Maitri partner organizations will be further strengthened in their work. They provide social and legal support for affected women, strengthen self-help structures, and engage in advocacy work and in raising public awareness, thus helping to ensure that women from marginalized groups in India can live free of violence, having equal rights and enjoying legal security.

Main activities

  • Psycho-social and legal support for the victims of sexual violence
  • Sensitization of male youth and young men and training them as multipliers as well as conducting workshops for local leaders and local self-help groups (CBO’s)
  • Training of representatives of public authorities such as one-stop centers, police, courts, public prosecutors and lawyers to deal with traumatized women appropriately
  • Networking and further training for dealing with sexualized violence for the approximately 30 Maitri leaders, 32 fellows of 25 non-profit associations and 100 barefoot lawyers who work for women’s rights

Case studies/impact reports

The case of Shantabai: child bride becomes legal advisor fighting for women’s rights

ShantabaiShantabai – 52 years old – lives in a small village in Maharashtra, India. She is the fifth child and has ten siblings. Her father had originally worked as a bricklayer. She was a child bride and was married to a five-year-old boy at the age of only one year. Shantabai, although she officially went to school, never attended classes because she was teased at school for belonging to an “untouchable” caste. Today, she has painstakingly taught herself the essentials to be able to do her job as a legal advisor.

A severe drought in 1972 forced her family to leave their village in search of food and work. They settled in a slum in the Mukhed district and have lived there ever since. Shantabai’s struggle for justice for the members of her community was long. Starting as a day laborer, she became a union leader who fought for the rights of poor and marginalized people, secured minimum wages and raised her voice against exploitation and discrimination. In 2014 she came into contact with the Sadhana Institute for Social Development, a Maitri partner. Sadhana trains activists in Maharashtra and other places. Now Shantabai works within the Maitri Project and advises women after they have experienced violence.

Shantabai is leading the campaign to raise awareness of violence against women in her district. Belonging to the Maitri network helps Shantabai to expand her competencies. She regularly takes part in meetings and training workshops for “paralegals”, organized by the project. This has enabled her to become familiar with various laws and programs for women and children. Today, she regularly conducts consultations, organizes training sessions, interacts with government officials and trains activists in her community.

Although she was a child bride herself, she now works in her district to abolish child marriages. In the past, like everyone else, she participated in children’s weddings as a matter of course. But now she has realized the negative effects and evils of this practice and she is fighting against it. She takes a courageous stand by refusing to participate in such weddings. Since she has become a well-known activist and thus a person of respect, her words and deeds matter.

Shantabai says: “I have been working with women for 30 years – working with Maitri has helped me to systematically involve difficult groups like government officials. After all, they have to deal with cases of violence against women. We try to support every woman affected. This has led to the fact that the official responsible for intervention in cases of domestic violence now has to deal with 40 % more cases. He has already complained!”

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