Asian Circle: Promoting Violence Free Lives for Women in India
Presented by Santosh Bhanot, Chair, Asian Circle.
I was asked to talk on The Asian Circle – a fledgling network, to be launched shortly, formed by British Professional Asian Women who have voluntarily come together to help support vulnerable women in India and South Asia, working in partnership with the charity, Oxfam.
Why do these women, currently living in Britain want to embark on this project you may ask?
It is because of their strong heritage and roots which pull them back to India.
For myself, born and raised in the UK embracing both East and Western cultures –loving things Indian, the food, the people, the music and a spiritual connection with the motherland which was strengthened by my visit to the KUMBH MELA this year – it is natural for me to want to help in India – and particularly vulnerable women. Something close to my heart.
Having taken a career break, as part of this I went on a 2 month mission to India earlier this year, meeting charity heads and looking at programs running in Education, Health, and Violence against Women. I met the Chairman and also the Director of Save the Children; having already spent time with UNICEF in the UK. I also visited several projects on the ground in different locations with the Oxfam team from India and the UK.
Following my research of the charity sector, I chose to partner with Oxfam, helping to found and develop The Asian Circle – building on an organisation called THE CIRCLE founded in 2008 by Annie Lennox, a highly talented musician and philanthropist . THE CIRCLE is a partnership of highly influential women who are passionate about women’s rights, empowering other women and female leadership. It has already raised over £1 million pounds towards Oxfam projects to date and provides strong support mainly to African Countries. The Asian Circle will work alongside the established Circle, supporting S. Asia.
One of the projects I visited with Oxfam when I was in India was a women’s support centre in Lucknow. It is run by the NGO Humsafar, an organisation Oxfam helped to set-up in 2003.
Violence against women is the most pervasive and least recognised human rights violation. It is one of the most significant mechanisms by which individuals, societies and states retain power over women. Oxfam India’s aim is to break the silence and acceptance around violence against women, especially domestic violence and bring it into the realm of public discussion.
Humsafar has a holistic 3 pronged approach in working with domestic violence
1. Provide direct support to women facing domestic violence, through counselling and legal support.
2. Education in Community & Schools including TRAINING MODULES on gender equality. For instance, one focus in schools is on educating the boy child that violence is wrong and what he may be seeing at home is not appropriate behaviour.
3. Advocacy on implementation of domestic violence law – Humsafar works closely with the authorities to try to ensure that the protection of women from Domestic Violence Act is enforced.
IT IS A FACT – Most women want support, but not to break with their family, so it is necessary to work with the community to ensure that the woman’s situation is improved
In most cases, the goal is to find a way of ensuring that behaviour is modified.
On our visit, we met three brave survivors of domestic violence who told us their harrowing stories. It was apparent after meeting these women that there are no easy answers and that the support they receive from Humsafar is crucial to their well-being.
Moving onto the question of funding
A key challenge for networks like the Asian Circle is getting funding from the UK.
Feedback from potential UK funders is quite CLEAR; requesting :
– Transparency on Money given
– DEMANDING EVIDENCE that SUPPORT reaches grassroots levels
– Requesting a Sustainable exit strategy – at a point where the Women and State becomes self-sufficient and quality support becomes locally available.
That way successful outcomes are demonstrated, and Funders satisfied that THEIR MONEY has been appropriately utilised.
The Way Forward Then is to Develop Success Models in small areas behind minimum resource and then advocate for State Expansion through LOCAL GOVERNANCE.
At a project level, this needs one to:
• Define Relevant Indicators of Change
• Track improvements from baseline/the start of the project REGULARLY over the next 2-5years, with relevant interventions to improve the project outcomes . This would be done for Oxfam Projects by Oxfam and the partnering NGOs
Once the SUCCESS Model is in place clearly demonstrating Positive Changes – the model is ready for Advocacy for STATE AND NATIONAL EXPANSION. Only this way can there be Critical Mass Change in India.
Let me quote some Shocking Facts on Domestic Violence
• 35% women experience physical and sexual violence
• 48% of these are cruelty by husband’s and dowry related – so in the home
• 72% men & 68% women ; I repeat 68% women believe beating is justified
• Reported incidences of violence are rising:
In 2004: around 156, 000 (thousand) In 2009: 205,000
HOW MANY UNREPORTED?
Women do not seek help from police because of lack of knowledge of legal justice system and stigma around domestic violence. Domestic Violence we know is a taboo subject.
Moving onto the Asian Circle
The Asian Circle has agreed to raise funds in the UK for projects in India that help Eliminate Violence against Women and will look to fund an area in one of the 7 key focus states: Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttarkhand, Uttar Pradesh
As a brief overview…..the projects will
1. Set-up Police Station Based Support Centres
2. Establish community based groups to engage in preventing violence
3. Bring Policy level changes through education and dialogue including establishing networks
The Asian Circle is meeting shortly with Oxfam India CEO, Nisha Agarwal and will understand project details better so that we are better informed to address the questions of our potential funders.
Concluding Thoughts then –on this meeting entitled ‘The Future of India – Through the Eyes of The NRI’ –
The Asian Circle believes there is an NRI opportunity to help change lives of women subjected to violence & support by sharing skill sets & providing funding across India HOWEVER, ON THE GROUND, IN INDIA
Use of money needs to be transparent in order to raise continued and sustained funding and support from the UK.
Thank You for giving me this opportunity to speak about the upcoming work of the Asian Circle. My colleagues (some are here today) and I NEED YOUR SUPPORT
Please come and talk to us after the conference where we can give you more information.