I had accepted violence as a way of life. Once I undertook training, I gradually realized that this is a crime against women. And there is a way out.”
Survivor of violence in a forced marriage, Sritee, now aged 30, staged a heroic fight to liberate herself from her abusive husband. Azad became a beacon of light in this struggle: “Earlier in marriage or even before I would never have the permission to step out of home. I had accepted violence as a way of life. Once I undertook training, I gradually realized that this is a crime against women. And there is a way out. Looking back to those times, I realize I am two different people. While in the past I suffered extreme abuse helplessly, now I cannot even stand anyone raising their voice when talking to me!”
Sritee started her Women on Wheels training in Delhi, and later after she got divorced she moved in with her parents in Kolkata. With the help from Azad, she was able to put her daughter in a good hostel where she is safe and studying, free from the burdens and tensions of everyday life in the slums of Kolkata. Her relationship with her parents is not very good since they were the ones who had forced her into the violent marriage. But Sritee decided to stay with them till she saves enough to give her and her daughter a better life.
In discussing how life has changed after coming to Azad for Women on Wheels training, Sritee who now works as private chauffeur says with a laugh: ‘I love driving. Somehow it makes me happy! I recently got a proposal for a second marriage. I liked the man. But when I realized that he was not willing to accept my profession, I walked away. This is how much I like driving”.
Sritee’s understanding of violence is nuanced – she talks of pain, self-deprecation and depression apart from the physical injuries. Her personal experiences combined with understanding of women’s and legal rights that she acquired through Women on Wheels training make her an extremely sensitive and responsible campaigner for women and child’s right to a violence free life.
‘When I saw the man beating his wife…it brought back memories and I could not stop myself from going up to him and stopping him. He gave the usual logic that it was his wife and he could do with her whatever he liked. I said to him – does that mean you will hang her and declare you have a right to do so? Don’t you have any respect for her dignity? Is she not a human being? Have you any idea how she is feeling now? The wife was silent because she was afraid to get beaten up more at home if she had spoken.I understand that too. I have passed through that phase myself. But now, I am not afraid to speak out. I gave the man a piece of mind, and many people gathered around us and joined me in criticizing him”.
Sritee also protested against a woman bating her daughter publicly and shouting at her. Sritee told the mother: ”As a mother, do you not have concern for your daughter’s well-being? Is this any way of disciplining? Is public humiliation and violence the gift you give to your daughter? Will she ever be able to believe in herself?”
Sritee featured in TV shows and had interviews published in leading newspapers in Kolkata. She tells us that many people recognize her on the streets now. One day when she was traveling by bus, the conductor gave her back her a ticket for free saying “We know you are a lady driver. We cannot take money from you. You are a guest on our bus!“ After all the pain and hardship she had faced in her life, these experiences have greatly boosted her self-esteem.
Every day we meet many underprivileged women like Sritee, who dream of liberating themselves from poverty, violence and the world of restrictions. Women who want to build a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones. They want to be able to do this themselves, but need your help. Donate now to liberate women.