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USHA Silai School Helps Rape Survivors Fight The Stigma And Build A Better Future

USHA Silai School Helps Rape Survivors Fight The Stigma And Build A Better Future
New Delhi: 

In search of livelihood, Maya (name changed) and her husband moved to a city with two small children from their village in Madhya Pradesh about seven years ago. But little did she know that a promise of a job to cook in a household was actually a trap that would lead her to being gangraped and then trafficked. An acquaintance said to her that he would help her find a job and, on that pretext, her took her to a remote farm and left her in a small hut where she was raped repeatedly after which she was sold to another man for Rs. 2 lakh. Maya has not been able to forget the traumatic incident and fights everyday to rebuild her life. With steady steps and a determination to walk towards a better future, Maya, a rape survivor and a victim of trafficking, who was abandoned by her husband and her parents after the crime, has defeated all odds and has become a trainer at USHA Silai School that runs in a remote village. While talking to NDTV she said,

I cannot read or write. I am not educated but I still manage. I am not dependant on anyone anymore. I want the same for other women as well. I teach at the USHA silai school because I don't want anyone to go through what I had to suffer. I want them to grow and do better in life.

Also Read: 36-Year-Old Preeti Triumphed Over Financial Battles And Became An Inspiration To Many, Thanks To USHA Silai School

She told NDTV that because of the stigma of rape, she is struggling to live with dignity and even today, after seven years, her husband's family do not allow her to meet with her children. She said,

They (rapists) ruined my life and my future. I cannot do anything about that now. But I wanted to give my children a good education and make them successful. This incident reduced me to helplessness. My children lost their childhood. I couldn't enjoy motherhood, nor could they get a mother's love. It still hurts me. I miss my children, and it really pains that I can't be with them. They don't even let me talk to my children. They taunt the children and tell them they will become like me. Even my children have stopped talking to me, it really hurts me. I gave birth to them, raised them and this is how they treat me. It is very painful.

Hopeless and abandoned, Maya used to spend many days just sitting at a nearby railway station until one day her journey found a purpose with USHA. Rescued from a life on the platform by the volunteers of Jan Sahas, an NGO that helps women in distress find a living, she joined USHA Silai School that runs a special programme for women like her who have been victims of rape or other atrocities to find a living and stand on their own. She said,

I would spend time just sitting at the railway station. Such was my situation, I spent many days like this. Then a lady asked me why I spent every day sitting at the station. I broke down. I was crying because I didn't know what to do and how long to continue like this. Eventually, I got to know about the USHA Silai School initiative through an NGO called Jan Sahas that encouraged me to do something with all the free time I had. It had been four months since my escape from being trafficked. I was asked to join the USHA training programme, I was told it would last for seven days, and that learning tailoring would help me find work. That changed my life and I have been associated with USHA Silai School since then.

After training with USHA, Maya has now become s teacher who has also become a symbol of hope and courage for others. The income earned from USHA Silai School helps her to live a better life along with helping her with legal fees. Maya shared,

Earlier, I didn't have any support. I felt lonely and weak. That was a bad phase, but now it has passed. Now, everything will be fine. I have courage and purpose now. Every court visit costs money and I pay the advocate's fee as well. My financial situation improved after joining USHA, it made me independent.

Maya, a warrior in life, did not lose hope when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country and a lockdown was imposed across the nation by the government in order to break the chain of the transmission which affected her classes and her business. She then started taking online classes and taught her students about the right technique of making masks after receiving a special one-month long training from USHA. This not only helped her continue earning a livelihood but also helped her learners face the economic crisis caused by the pandemic without much problem.

Also Read: USHA Silai School's Skill Training Has Empowered The Vulnerable Including Women Fight The Economic Crisis During COVID-19 Lockdown

According to Ashif Shaikh, Founder and Director, Jan Sahas Sansthan, Madhya Pradesh, the USHA Silai School model is not just helping in the economic rehabilitation of rape survivors but in their social rehabilitation as well.  He added,

USHA Silai School has helped in increasing the inclusion of women and also provides them with employment opportunities. There is always a stigma attached to rape and trafficking survivors. To challenge the stigma, it is important that the survivor is rehabilitated back into that same society and can work there itself. This will educate people that none of what happened to her was the woman's fault. In India, people always blame and shame the rape victim. We need to shift the shame from the victim to the perpetrator. Such programmes often prove successful in shifting that blame.

In 2014, in a similar incident, Asha (name changed) was coming home from the fields when somebody from her village raped her. While sharing about the incident, Asha said to NDTV,

When I got home from the field, I told my family what had happened. We went to the police station to file a report. They called a doctor, and then wrote the report. They sent me home after some medical tests. My husband's family still mistreats me because of this. 

She further said that as the case followed, the people in her village began to ostracize her family. However, after she received a seven days training at USHA Silai School, and stared earning a livelihood, attitudes began to change and the acceptance slowly started to trickle in. Asha said,

Because I started my own stitching business, women in my village started giving me work. The money I earn from stitching helps with household expenses. I have now won the case and my family also respects my hard work and earnings.

Revati (name changed) is another rape survivor who has changed the course of her destiny and has made a better future for herself through skill development. Even though Revati and her husband are still fighting for justice, they have gained the lost hope and purpose after she received training from USHA Silai School. She said,

My husband was working in the farm as a labourer at night when the owner came to the house where I was asleep with my daughter. He threatened to kill me with a knife if I shouted to help and raped me. I told my family about what happened and the next day we filed a complaint at the police station. But the influential men from the village kept pressurizing us to withdraw the complaint. We stipped getting any work in the village and my family of eight members had no way to feed themselves. But the training I received at USHA Silai School helped me put food at the table and also helped me and my family get the social acceptance that we lost after the incident.

Revati shared that she and her family still face threats from the accused but through stitching, she is able to earn a livelihood while staying at home. 

For rape survivors, fighting the stigma in a closely-knit rural society is perhaps the greatest challenge but they say that earning through USHA Silai School not only gives them an income and an occupation that is practical and easy to follow, but also an outreach into a society that is trying to push them to the margins.

Also Read: USHA Partners With Small Industries Development Bank Of India To Ensure Support To The Silai Entrepreneurs

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Adopt a Silai School

Adopt a Silai School

Do you want to be a part of the huge change that Usha Silai School is bringing about in the lives of millions of rural women? With just a simple click of a button, you can now contribute towards the opening of an Usha Silai School or support various other aspects of the school.

About the Initiative

About the Initiative

Kushalta Ke Kadam, an initiative by NDTV and USHA, aims at empowering women from rural India and encourages them to become entrepreneurs by taking up sewing and training others in their respective communities. Since 2011 Usha Silai Campaign has trained more than 3.95 lakh rural women within five years, with 17,000 Silai schools, spanning over 9272 Indian villages in India.

 

Kushalta Ke Kadam in Season 4 has returned with new goals and vision. The new season will witness the establishment of the new cluster in Kashmir, apart from the existing four clusters setup last year. The women from volatile Kashmir will work with well-known fashion designer Rohit Bal and get an unique opportunity to learn from him and make clothes for him. The work done by the Silai School women will be presented at Lakme Fashion week 2019.

 

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In Pics

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching
Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Rebari girls grow up learning traditional embroidery, which along with their new found sewing skills developed at Usha Silai Schools, is helping them earn a living.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School has empowered many rural women to support their family and send their children to school.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

The Usha Silai School, established in a small nondescript village that goes by the name of Kottai, is helping empower people from varied communities.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

The all-inclusive Usha Silai School Programme covers the entire nation from hamlets tucked between hills to villages cast by the sea.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Vegetables farmers from the Mizoram hills earn very little given the topography of the area. Usha Silai Schools have played an important part in this region by skilling women to financially contribute towards their households.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School learner Lucy has trained seven other women in her community, helping them to become financially independent.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Women like Kaviben from the nomadic Rebari community are finally laying down their roots as they begin to gain financial independence and thereby stability through Usha Silai School.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School, located in the Gujarat's Bhuj village, is enabling rural women to earn as much as Rs. 2,500-4,000 each month.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Usha Silai School, in association with a Gujarat based NGO called Kala Raksha, is trying to bring about a Silai revolution in Bhuj.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

Besides training other women from their community, many Usha Silai School learners have become entrepreneurs in their own right.

Kushalta ke Kadam: Aiming for Independence Through Stitching

With sewing becoming easily accessible and lucrative, the silai schools are also helping revive traditional motifs and designs.

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