‘She did what we never could’

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{This is another story that I worked upon at my workplace. It’s just amazing how God uses people…}

 

With National Girl Child Day (India) on January 24, Australian Elca Grobler and her team is a perfect example of brave humanitarians who are empowering the abused fairer sex at the risk of their own safety

 

“It happened some time ago at our Falaknuma (a close knit community located in the heart of Hyderabad, South of India) centre which was started one and a half years back,” says Elca Grobler, founder of My Choices. “Four men came to the premises and threatened us; they wanted us to stop what we were doing. They weren’t happy with the fact that we were encouraging women to come to us to share their personal problems. We usually have a male presence on our centres, so the matter was taken care of. Most of the times, the threats are all air,” she adds.

 

The NGO, My Choices, aims to stop violence against women and children. A team of counselors and psychologists train local women who are employed to work within their community to create a change; currently there are 70 such trained women, or Peace Makers, working through them.

 

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But then there are other times when the threats are serious. “A man walked in for counseling regarding his sister’s case, hiding a packet of chilli powder and a knife. He was aggressive and didn’t want any reconcilitiaion to happen; but by the end of the session he had calmed down,” says Pearl Choragudi, one of the senior counselors at the centre.

 

“Elca started her first centre in Falaknuma, something we wouldn’t have done since it’s such a close knit community and poses more threat. But if she, being a foreigner and having lived in the city for just four years, can do it then why not locals like us?” adds Pearl.

 

Elca shifted to Hyderabad in what she has described in her blog “as a leap of faith”. She moved from Sydney with her husband, an entrepreneur, and three children in 2011. Holding honours in Finance, CFA and MBA postgraduate degree, she wanted to work in areas leading to financial empowerment. “But whatever research I did, I came across more cases of abuse against women. Then there were the alarming statistics about women’s safety in the country. India is one of the worst four countries in the world in terms of frequency and severity of violence against women. The NGO aims to tell women that they have a choice to not continue to suffer abuse. When counseling is ineffective, we provide help through our lawyers.”

 

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In a short span of time, Elca and her nine-member team have worked in 122 areas in Hyderabad besides 13 towns. They have conducted awareness drives in 20 schools and have dealt with more than 700 cases of abuse and are currently providing guidance at counseling centres at Falaknuma, Banjara Hills, Red Hills and Golconda. “We have had cases where women have walked in beaten and bruised, others who were on the verge of committing suicide and young children who were sold into prostitution by their parents. Counseling has helped not just the victims, but also their families,” says Pearl.

Women are given four weeks of intensive counseling training and are also taught about the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. This is followed by a two-month internship period. “Women are also encouraged to go back to the society and counsel other women facing similar situations. They work under us and are also paid for the same. We have also partnered with the ‘Bell Bajao’ campaign where people can get in touch with us if they are facing abuse,” says Elca.

 

In future, the team will be partnering with Mixit, a mobile social platform through which college students can access free and private online counseling services via their phones and will also be collaborating with Project Chaitra to come up with a state wide helpline.

 

To know more about Elca’s work, check out http://www.mychoices.asia/author/elcagrobler/

 

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