Strategic Expansion: Find out why our Warangal team is growing!
If you have been following us on social media over the past year, you would have probably noticed how often we share updates on the work of our wonderful Warangal team. Yet, we don’t share even a quarter of the news on the work that our team does in Telangana’s second largest city! The Warangal Team often educates hundreds of community members and schoolgirls, week after week, through Basti Meetings and the Schools Programme. The team has managed this with only* three PeaceMakers and one Senior Counsellor.
Warangal city is Telangana state’s second largest city, and strategically one of the most important areas of the work of the My Choices Foundation. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have some of the worst statistics in the country for domestic violence (increasing by 10 per cent every year) and trafficking of young girls. The violence at home acts as a propellant for girls, by making home seem unstable and opportunities to leave more attractive. Warangal district, in particular, reports a high number of girls being “exported” for exploitation. There are a few areas where our work to create safe, peaceful families and societies could be as important.
With just over a year of high-impact awareness initiatives, which work to educate communities and schoolgirls on identifying, speaking up, and ending abuse, we were receiving a higher volume of cases than a small team of three PeaceMakers could handle. Expansion of the Warangal team was urgent.
On August 13, we graduated 20 incredible women from PeaceMaker training and they began a two-month internship of in-field testing of their new skills. 15 of these women have now been hired to work as full-fledged PeaceMakers, providing counselling, rights education and support to victims of abuse and their families.
These 15 PeaceMakers are those whose work will be directly funded by the contribution you made to our GlobalGiving campaign! (Haven’t yet? Then do it now!) In the next year, these PeaceMakers will provide direct support to at least 150 families, and reach out to a conservative estimate of 2,000 women and schoolgirls providing education on rights and protections from abuse and exploitation.
The new batch of Warangal PeaceMakers is a particularly capable and passionate group of women, and we cannot wait to see what they achieve. We look forward to introducing each woman to you and letting you get to know how her story has shaped her journey to becoming a PeaceMaker. Throughout the remainder of 2015 and 2016 we will share one PeaceMaker story per month, so you can follow the PeaceMaker journey starting with the impact of training through their experiences as in their first year as PeaceMakers impacting Warangal.
Meet a Warangal Peacemaker : Parveen Banu
Mother of three. Beautician. Trainer. PeaceMaker. Parveen Banu seems like the a woman who has it good in life. However, it was not always like this.
When Parveen was in school, she was stalked by a man for four years. Her stalker would repeatedly propose marriage, only to be turned down every time. In later years, when marriage proposals from other men would reach her family, Parveen’s stalker would invariably find out and scotch the match. He would then harass her by accusing her of being unfaithful to him for even considering the other alliance.
This went for several years, with no marriage alliances working out for Parveen. It led her to reconsider her stance against her stalker. “It is better to marry someone who loves me,” was the thought on her mind, when she finally accepted his proposal.
The relationship went south immediately as her stalker-now-husband turned out to be an alcoholic, who abused her when drunk. Furthermore, he also refused to work. They had three children in quick succession. Parveen says she had no say in the matter, and it was forced on her. She was also at the receiving end from her mother-in-law, who blamed Parveen for her husband’s behaviour. “It is all because of you. You can neither handle a family nor a husband,” she was told.
When her husband moved to the Gulf, Parveen expected a respite. It was not to be. Her husband would call incessantly. He would be outraged if she didn’t answer his call on the first ring, and would insinuate that she was sleeping with someone else.
All of this took a toll on Parveen’s health. She was depressed, and over time, ended up becoming obese.
When Parveen came across a vocational course subsidised by the government to train as a beautician, she grabbed the opportunity. With determination and training, Parveen soon started working in a beauty salon for women. The opportunity to learn a skill, work and support her family financially were all hugely empowering opportunities for Parveen, and it boosted her self-esteem stremendously. Her skillful work was noticed and commended by her clients, who soon started to request her for customised services. She also started teaching in the same government-run programme where she had trained.
Parveen started to believe in herself. “I can do something,” she told herself. It was at this time that Parveen came across the PeaceMaker recruitment drive. To her, it seemed like it would help improve her marital situation. To take it up, she needed her husband’s signature though, and only managed to get it on the sly.
The training to be a PeaceMaker had a strong impact on Parveen. She finally found a group she could share her story with, confide in and relate to. They all wept with her when she recounted her story. Parveen’s confidence and self-esteem rose. She worked to lose weight, and fought her obesity and depression. She felt more in control of her life, and believes she is a better mother to her children.
The changes in Parveen’s self-esteem and confidence didn’t go unnoticed. Her husband became aware of her assertiveness and self-assurance that developed during the the training programme. He started to keep a close watch on her movements, and would keep asking her where she went.
However, none of this deterred Parveen as she didn’t feel helpless anymore. She began to get her husband to talk about why he was angry and what was upsetting him, rather than use his fists. He still doesn’t have a job, but he no longer has control over Parveen.
As a PeaceMaker, Parveen has already helped support eight families to find peace and end domestic violence in their homes. She has led two basti meetings in her community on her own – something most PeaceMakers take months to build up to – in addition to assisting on many more. From an emotionally over-wrought and sensitive personality, she has turned into an enthusiastic and super-confident woman.
Parveen believes her work helps her to do something for women facing abuse. In the eight years of her marriage, she says she could not find a single person to help her. She looked for help, but no one stepped forward. She feels duty-bound to help other abused women now that the PeaceMaker programme has helped her. “I don’t want another woman to go through what I went through,” she says.