Sexual Abuse, Rape, girl child trafficking, Eve Teasing, Domestic Violence etc are the evils that are very prevalent yet hardly spoken about in the Indian society. It is not only the capital city of Delhi who is suffering from this problem but the conditions in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities is even worse. In order to curb this problem a lot of young women have joined their hands together to raise their voice against this heinous crime. One such young woman is Shweta Goswami who is fighting courageously for the cause of young children and women in the holy city of Vrindavan.
It was during her college days in Miranda House when Shweta built emotional relationships with children, which all started with organizing a literacy drive for the children of labourers at the common wealth games worksite at the university, as a part of her college NSS. She kept on teaching them, making them feel special, with each passing experience and challenging herself to help and empower them in every possible way. It was during third year in College, when she first handedly came across the various forms of violence and challenges that children face each day, while working with a community in Seelampur Basti (an urban slum) in Delhi.
After finishing her Masters from LSR, Shweta worked as research coordinator with Partners in Law and Development (PLD), a legal resource pool that works on social justice. Her project was a one year pilot study on witch hunting in India. The witch-hunting project was the final push for her to return to Vrindavan (my home town), which being an orthodox and religious place had a lot of challenges to be taken up. So began her journey of working with a number of destitute women, children, in their legal battle against rape and sexual abuse.
“I am committed to give all my time in creating a space for children where they can live without any fear or manipulation, to help them discover their self- agency and confidence and be able to understand different forms of violence that they become a victim of, very often and fight against it.”
This commitment gave birth to Nirmal initiative, which is named after the memory of her loving mother who left the world when Shweta had hardly completed school. Like Shweta her mother too was a very kind women and is still remembered by her little community for being all embracing and loving.
Nirmal initiative is a volunteer based organization, working towards the development of a pro-active approach to mitigate violence in the society, with the specific focus on the children and women based on caste, sex, gender, and race. They believe that violence is predictable, preventable, and a public health concern; therefore the work is based on founding principles of Communication and Resilience.
Thematic areas of work by Nirmal Initiative
- Prevention of Child Sexual abuse-
- Promotion of Self-esteem among children
- Abduction prevention
- Elimination of corporal punishment in Schools
- Addressing caste and gender based Violence
- Creating positive learning space in government school
- And forming multi-disciplinary team consisting of government and non-government stakeholders to address the cases of abuse/violence with sensitivity, as well as suitably intervene in policy formation.
Their Campaigns –
- Don’t touch Campaign – Destitute women in vrindavan are making bags with donated silk and cotton sarees, with a label stitched on it, the label has red handprints of children ,and DON’T TOUCH in black color stamped on it. This is a strong statement to address street harassment and unsafe touch. These bags will be available for people from October 2015 onwards.
- Let’s talk about it: A group of children in Rajpur Village, Vrindavan are spreading awareness about the safe and unsafe touch, and personal safety rules by informally talking to the parents and the children in the village. Also the infographics on the same issue are being published in public areas in the city.
Shweta believes that instead of working parallel; the civil society, and the government need to work intersectional manner. She gives out a very inspiring message to the women of the world for the Independence Day :
“It is important that we recognize ourselves, and join hands. Our voice is a feminist voice when we raise it against all forms of oppression, subjugation, and exploitation. Together we are stronger, so we must reclaim our freedom together.”