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Sarah Fathima’s story

Sarah Fathima is a PecaeMaker from Hyderabad.

A PeaceMaker who finds joy in empowering women of her community, a warrior fighting for the identity of each woman

Sarah Fathima, is a 38-year-old woman from Baazarghat, Hyderabad where she works as a PeaceMaker for Operation PeaceMaker of My Choices Foundation. She has been a PeaceMaker now  for 4 years and she says that she has never been happier in life. She is married, raising 2 sons, a daughter and is spreading joy in her neighbourhood.

After working with Operation PeaceMaker, Sarah says that her biggest realisation is that she is not just a mother, a daughter, a sister or a wife. She has realised that she is not just a woman, but a person with an aim, ambition, hopes and dreams. She feels very strongly about how the society restricts women to just relationships and not recognise them as individuals, real people. She is now determined to empower other women in her neighbourhood in the way she has been empowered.  Sarah says, “ I remember feeling weak and afraid to go up to someone, talk to them or ask them anything. Now, after this transformation that took years, I feel extremely confident, I feel free and I want all women around me to experience it.”

Sarah feels that women are conditioned to be submissive, and say yes to everything. They need to feel that they are entitled to their rights and know what their rights are. Sarah deals with victims of domestic violence in her role as a PeaceMaker and she points out that most women are not even aware that they are victims of domestic violence. Women are told since childhood that men beat up women, men have to be pleased in order to be a “good wife”, it is just men’s habit to drink and abuse women etc. When women are told about such things from childhood, they are conditioned to normalising the violence around them and in their lives. As a PeaceMaker, Sarah’s job is to make the women around her understand that violence is not acceptable, and there are mechanisms in place to combat domestic violence.

Sarah  feels that the impact of work she does is far felt and is tremendous. According to her, change can be seen from a very minute detail of a woman’s life. She elaborates with an example:  “ Before I could not wear what I liked. I kept thinking that my husband, in laws, or children would dislike and discourage me if I wore something different. I was also very conscious about my age and how I looked. There were too many factors to determine if I could wear a particular piece of clothing, it could even be a Dupatta (scarf). But now, I don’t think like that. I feel like I am free to wear what I want, what I like and how I like. When I think of it, I sometimes wonder how clothes could give me so much happiness and freedom. But it is not clothes, it is the freedom to choose that is giving me the joy. And spreading that joy to many other women is priceless to me.”

It is very important to Sarah that every woman lead a violence free life. That is the reason she is actively involved in Basti (community) and school meetings, which spread awareness about such issues. It is also a very difficult task for her to get the families, especially the men to come to counselling centres and receive their counselling services. It is perceived that matters of home should not be discussed outside. Sarah also feels that men have a misconception that counselling centres are looking to destroy families, corner men and put them in jail. It is only after one one two sessions that they realise that the counsellors are trying to help the family. Sarah says that most couples are on the verge of divorce when they meet her, and it saddens her that families have to go through such pain, hence she pushes them to the counselling centres to give respectful relationships a fair chance. Most families, she says, fail to recognise the underlying cause of misunderstandings and violence as they are only focussing on the act of violence. The counsellors have a bird’s eye view of the problem, hence they are capable of analysing the main issues of the relationships, presenting it to the couple / family and giving a chance for reconciliation.

Sarah has counselled over 40 families in her role of PeaceMaker over 4 years. When she is out on the streets there are grateful eyes looking at her, hands giving her a good handshake, thankful women hugging her for helping them lead a better life, a life free from violence.

Sarah walks tall and proud, she is at her happiest place, she sleeps well at night knowing that she is helping women around her, helping each woman be happy, respected and live her life with dignity.

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