Sneha Giridhari campaigns against domestic violence

Sneha Giridhari is responsible for programmes against domestic violence in India’s Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh states. The 39-year-old’s fighting spirit has been further intensified by cases in her own personal environment.

What are your current duties?

Domestic violence is easy to cover up. To be able to recognise it, I make our partner organisations more aware and show them how they can best support the victims of violence. A wide network is vital and I carefully cultivate my contacts with lawyers, magistrates and the police. I also work setting up advice centres and support groups in the local communities. Self-help groups are very important: the victims of domestic violence are often so stigmatised and feel so threatened that they no longer see a way out and take their own life. They have no need to hide in self-help groups; everyone has experienced something similar. Here, the women experience light-hearted moments and can also laugh again.

Why do you work for SWISSAID?

SWISSAID not only distributes funding and is active on a charitable basis, but also works closely with people and takes their concerns and needs seriously. We see people’s strengths and promote them. In this case, we always bear in mind the legal framework. That’s convincing for me because this is the only way to really achieve change in the long term. And let’s not forget there is an excellent working environment and good teamwork. I’ve been employed at SWISSAID since September 2010 and I enjoy everything about it.

Which aspects of your work do you like the most? 

Our campaign against domestic violence is going well, we have strong partners who are willing to really get stuck in. That’s vital, as domestic violence is an enormous problem, even in my own personal environment. Cases in one’s own neighbourhood and amongst one’s own relatives give a real jolt. Being affected personally changes your attitude and leads to a more realistic view of the problem.

I make my family more sensitive about noticing domestic violence in society in general. I feel good about being able to commit to this through my work and, added to my contact with women, I also enjoy working with men and young people. Men’s groups involved in educational work in the villages and in supporting the victims have an important function as role models.

Where are the challenges?

It’s going to take a long time to change people’s attitudes: domestic violence is not a trivial offence, but a criminal act! There are no organisations that are familiar with the subject and partner organisations have to be introduced to it first. This is also a protracted process.

I’m also concerned that the government is not fulfilling its duty and offering support aid. For example, advice centres receive no government support. The politicians view domestic violence the same as ever – not as an infringement of human rights. And there’s no network aimed at campaigning against domestic violence. Legal recognition of this form of violence was an important step, although by no means the solution for everything.

How do you balance your professional and family life?

I live with my husband, our ten-year-old daughter and my parents-in-law in Pune. I also grew up here; my mother and aunt live close by. As I work and travel a lot, my family’s support is incredibly important.

I do sport to counterbalance the great work pressures – we live next to a wonderful park that is perfect for a bit of fitness training!