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Providing a safe and happy home for women & girls - Ananda Nilayam

The need to set up a safe home for women and girls arose, when the sangha members shared their problems of violence against women, and forced child marriages of girls aged 10-12 years.

After a series of discussions with the women it was agreed that we would collectively take care of women who faced violence in their homes. Young girls being forced to marry would also be provided an alternative and schooling. They would need a safe and secure home till they found alternatives to rebuild their lives.

The first person to come to us was Shakuntala (13 years old) who was being forced to marry against her wishes. She had run away from home and hidden in a Tamarind Tree the whole night! Since then the shelter has provided space to several hundred girls and women to rebuild their lives. Shakuntala is now completing high school and is an accomplished camerawomen.

This year 2001 we have supported 21 women to resolve problems within their families and are at present housing 40 girls and two women. At the centre, the girls go to school and in addition to literacy gain a variety of skills useful for their future lives.

The adult women facing domestic violence very often negotiate with their husbands (assisted by a Legal Aid Committee of rural women leaders) to live a more dignified life. Sometimes the traditional village Panchayat (male leaders) is encouraged to give gender just decisions. This is accomplished when women leaders participate in the Panchayat decision-making.

In some instances, the women leaders approach the local police station to find justice. The Women Legal Aid Committee strive in all cases to ensure justice is provided to women.

Some typical examples are:

  1. Mariamma from Chinna Hyderabad village was physically abused by her husband. Inspite of advice from the local women's group her husband continued to be violent. The group took the case to the local police. Once the complaint was registered, the husband realized his mistake and has now agreed to behave himself. At present the couple are living in Harmony.
  2. Lakshmi a young woman fell in love with a boy from the same village. After promising to marry her and continuing a sexual relationship for several months, he tried to get away from his commitment. She brought her case to the women's group. The group helped her by filing a police complaint of cheating. The boy subsequently agreed to marry her and the couple is living happily together.
  3. Kavita from Nagwar village was married when she was 13 years old and ill treated by her husband. She ran away from home. In the last fiver years the shelter has provided her a home. Her mother was also persuaded to be supportive. Kavita joined the summer school and was enrolled in regular school. Subsequently she worked with DDS and has learnt a number of skills. Now she is self-sufficient, earns through videography and has married a man of her choice.

In many cases when women have been abandoned by their husbands, income generation activities have been set up. Some women have learned sewing, others raise plant nurseries and some women are rearing goats to help them increase their incomes. A few women have also been supported to build their own house.

Anand Nilayam is a place where women come for support, guidance and hope for the future. Support for the shelter has come from far and wide. The International Women's Movement from Australia to Norway have contributed their time and effort to keep the shelter vibrant. While the Government of India provided support for a while this is now ended. Sushila Dharma U.K. and Germany have made generous contributions in the past.

The Shelter has received support from The Global Sister Hood Network, Australia, The NTL Union at the Work Research Institute, Oslo and many individual friends in India and Abroad. The Directors at DDS have also made personal contributions. Institutional support this year is received from

  • Mama Cash, Netherlands.
  • Christian Aid, U.K
  • EZE, Germany
  • Atam Deep Trust, Bangalore
  • NTL, Work Research Institute, Norway

This year the women sangha leaders have agreed to provide grains from their grain banks to partially support the shelter.


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