It is a sad truth that at least one in three women have faced abuse in their lifetime, according to a report published by UN Women, the United Nations organisation delivering programmes, policies and standards that uphold women's human rights.

The report based on data collected from 13 countries since the pandemic shows that two out three women reported that they, or a woman they knew, had experienced some form of violence, but only one of every ten women would report such violence.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is meant to spread awareness and also to awaken the notion that such acts can and should be prevented. 

Indian Weekender spoke to two women Tara and Elaine (not their real names) and two organisations, and asked them about their experiences.

The women

Tara is 30 years old and is currently studying a Bachelor’s in Counselling. Elaine is 25 and has spent some of her younger years in Germany. She has had some unpleasant experiences which she shared with us.

Have you ever faced violence or abuse? If yes, could you tell us more about it?

Tara: “Unfortunately, yes. The first incident was with someone I was dating. I ended up with a broken rib, attempted strangulation and extensive bruising. It was the first time I had dealt with such a violent outburst and I didn’t know how to cope with it so I never went to the Police. In hindsight I would absolutely go straight to the Police.”

Elaine: “I was 11, in Germany, and was buying some ice-cream from a vending machine when a man approached me and asked to take pictures of my feet. Being young, I didn’t think anything of this request; I’d never even heard of fetishes. Later my mother came back and was very angry and upset.”

Elaine didn’t realise how toxic it really was until the man vandalised her car, “kicking it and breaking the windscreen wipers off.”

In your opinion, what are some red flags we should all look out for?

Tara: Red flags to look out for I would say, look at their history. Watch how they treat their mum, sisters, friends, and people who serve them.

Elaine: The people you should let into your world are NOT people who make you feel unsafe in the slightest way, no excuses. When "unsafe" enters your mind around this person, they are out.

The organisations

We spoke with Ranjna Patel, Director of Tamaki Health and Chair of the Serenity Foundation and its Gandhi Nivas programme; and Jit Kaur, Founder of the New Zealand Sikh Women's Association or NZSWA.

Gandhi Nivas

Gandhi Nivas came about thanks to a partnership with Total Healthcare PHO and Counties Manukau Police. Back in 2014, out of the entire New Zealand population, Indians consisted of only 3 percent. The police, however, found that 29 percent of the women killed were Indian women. Hence the decision was made to work alongside the community to solve this issue. Over time they extended their services to all family violence incidents.

What they do

Gandhi Nivas takes a unique approach to solving the issue of family violence; they focus on the men in the community, providing early intervention, counselling, and risk assessment in situations of family violence. It gives men counselling services, practical support and care plans designed to keep women and children safe. Men begin to realise how they can do better by being better.

And it works. An evaluation by Massey University between 2014 and 2019 showed that 69 percent of offenders remained non-offending after this novel intervention.

NZSWA

Jit found that many Sikh girls who came to New Zealand after marriage had no social support and unfortunately some even committed suicide. The NZ Sikh Women Association (Inc.) was formed in 2002.

What they do

The NZSWA takes issues of domestic abuse and migrant struggles very seriously. Unfortunately, in the Indian community, family abuse is often considered “normal” and not discussed outside the home. Some of the services they provide include client advocacy (legal, financial, child welfare, etc.), domestic violence prevention training, bi-lingual counselling, and referrals to networking agencies.

So, dear friends, our take home message here is that girls and women do suffer violence and abuse in any society. And increasing awareness, empowering the girl child, and educating the men will go a long way to give all of us a safer environment to live in.