In a patriarchal society, it is always difficult for a woman to stand up for her rights and this becomes even more difficult when her partner turns violent. Family is where you turn to for comfort, but when your family turns hostile, then the world can turn upside down too.
G Lalthanzami, is one woman from Mizoram who has come to the rescue of such women who are victims of violence like herself.
How did the Grassroot Development Network start?
Being a divorcee and a survivor of violence myself, I was keen to do something for women who are victims of violence and abuse.
The Grassroot Development Network, established in 2008, is an organization based in Mizoram, which has a safe house called the Way Ward Home for women who are victims of domestic violence and abuse. We provide a safe place to stay and provide training on life skills and gender issues, etc.
What are the challenges that you face?
Funding is a huge issue; there are a lot of women who live here along with their children, so we have to keep on looking for sources of funding. A negative societal attitude hurts our morale as well; many people think we meddle in the lives of others.
Tell us the main idea or objective behind starting the shelter home?
According to statistics, out of every 100 marriages in Mizoram, 64 end in divorces. Morality is declining among the growing population and socio-economic problems are on the rise. The once self sufficient society is now facing a severe crisis.
Being a male dominated society which still observes tribal customary law, the women are often at the receiving end. As such, they have to be educated and made aware of their rights, both legal and constitutional. In a society where a man easily marries and divorces, and where the ancestral property and children belong to him automatically, it is often the woman who bears the humiliation and loss, physically and psychologically. Therefore, I mainly concern myself with rehabilitating such women and helping them to rebuild their future.
The women in your shelter also work for a living. Tell us a little about that.
We formed a Self Help Group for the women survivors and established a small scale piggery farm for them in 2008. Now, we have opened up a couple more farms. Piggery farms were established considering the fact that pork is a staple food for much of the Mizo population. It is also a profitable venture in the long run.
We have also organized skill development programs like cooking classes, artificial flower making classes, etc for those interested. We also have women from our shelter home who are in the nursing profession now. Others who are not working on the farm take their turn with helping with housekeeping.
Are there any plans for extension in the near future?
Yes, our aim is to create a couple of more shelters in far-flung areas, and raise awareness on basic human rights, including women’s rights. But I hope that women are more empowered, and the violence and abuse faced by them cease. Every woman should feel safe in her own home.