In India, extreme gender inequality manifests itself in a high level of violence against women, and domestic violence is commonplace. This project therefore focuses on the prevention of domestic violence and on measures that help victims to build a life free of violence. SWISSAID and its partner organisations on the ground are working together with state bodies to mobilise people and inform women about their rights and opportunities.
“Indian girls should be married early in order to avoid sexual disorder.” According to a study, this is the opinion of 67 percent of Indian men in Marathwada in Central India. And 42 percent believe that a husband is, under certain circumstances, justified in using violence against his wife and that she should put up with it for the good of the family. In India, domestic violence is the order of the day. The victims receive little or no help from their families, communities or the government. This is why SWISSAID, together with local partner organisations, is supporting women in building a life free of violence. We are also introducing preventive measures to sensitise women and men to the issue. Sneha Giridhari of SWISSAID India has already been involved in some of these. It is particularly important to work with young women and men, she says.
What does it mean to be a good husband or a good wife? At this workshop for newly married couples, women and men learn to show each other respect and how to solve conflicts without violence.
Peers as role models
But what is the best way to reach young people? In the Marathwada region, one of the things SWISSAID is trying is appointing so-called “peer Educators” from existing groups of boys and girls in over 100 villages. Some motivated and socially competent young people from each group are trained in gender issues. Afterwards, they make themselves available as a person of trust to answer questions and problems. At the monthly youth group meetings, they propose different matters for discussion. For example: what is manly? What is womanly? What does violence mean for the victim? And for the perpetrator? What are the consequences of child marriage for those affected? Songs, discussions, posters and role-plays are used to explore the topics in a playful way.
“This is the breeding ground in which new ways of thinking can grow”
Besides the monthly meetings, people can also seek advice in one-to-one or couple discussions. Young couples can attend courses to learn how to avoid violence. Sneha Giridhari from SWISSAID India is convinced: “This kind of sensitisation can raise awareness of these issues. And this is the breeding ground in which new ways of thinking can grow.” New ways of thinkings, for example, in which there is no room for child marriage. For as studies show, child marriage and domestic violence are closely related: the younger the women are, the more often they become victims of domestic violence.
Project staff give Year 8 pupils a lighthearted lesson on gender equality.
The goal is change
We need to start with the young – and stop with the old. SWISSAID supports measures which will ideally initiate change right across society. Public initiatives such as rallies, video clips or poster campaigns are intended to spread messages on gender equality as widely as possible.