Day 12 of #16DaysofActivism
By Shilpa Shinde
Let’s face it, India doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to valuing women! We rank 174th out of 189 on the gender inequality index. As the leader of a small NGO I can tell you, it’s a man’s world and I have to work very hard to make my voice heard! But the issue that has been bothering me most lately is the issue of stigma and particularly how women are affected by it.
Take my close friend Anugrah*. She got pregnant before marriage and was unaware that she had been carrying a child for 3 months. She admits she was very naïve and not aware of much in those days but she was very afraid that her parents and her community would reject her.
After she and her boyfriend discovered that Anugrah was pregnant, he secretly gave her a drug which he had been told would induce an abortion. The effect however was to make her very ill, which raised the suspicion of her family, who eventually found out. Anugrah and her boyfriend’s family then entered discussions and she was put under great pressure, particularly by his family, to abort the baby. Augrah felt compelled to go through with the abortion, with the promise from her boyfriend’s family that they could get married soon afterwards. Sadly, not only did they not keep their promise or help her through the procedure, which made her very ill, but they rejected her. They seemed more concerned for their image in society and the church.
Anugrah was blamed for not ‘not keeping her purity’, while the son was exonerated from any blame, stigma or shame. She has endured rejection and shame from her church and community and even been kicked out of her youth group. Many of her friends rejected her.
Thankfully the story doesn’t end there. Anugrah is now one of our key workers, helping our charity, Seva, serve poor and marginalised indigenous or Adivasi communities in our state. She has amazing empathy, especially with girls and women, who suffer greatly. And they love her… they know she feels their pain.
Seva is a key HCR-partner in India, using a community-centred media approach to bring about holistic transformation among tribal communities (see http://www.h-c-r.org/news/2018/9/12/village-gets-a-new-voice)
*Not her real name