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.
Parveen 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.
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