Gender based violence in Eastern India

India’s rugged north-east ( which consists of the seven states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram,Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and the Himalayan state of Sikkim) and the eastern parts (Jharkand , Orissa , West Bengal)  of India  has seen a rise in crimes against women over the past decade. In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau reported that six of the north-east states have witnessed an accelerated increase in crimes against women. These crimes ranged from rape and kidnapping through to dowry death and domestic cruelty.

The region is multiethnic with heterogeneous cultural background and is different from mainstream homogeneous culture. Moreover in the last few decades insurgency has been the part and parcel of the life of the people of the region. Heavy militancy in the area, lack of access to economic opportunity and education has left many women vulnerable to becoming severely affected by trafficking, violence or systemic abuse.

The fear of not being believed, being stigmatized, being blamed, dread of revisiting the ordeal during interrogations are some reasons as to why so many incidents of crimes against women go unreported in a patriarchal society. The victim is the one who is left disgraced while the guilty perpetrator is offered impunity. These crimes reflect deep rooted gender inequalities that persist in India.

Studies show the high prevalence of all forms of violence against women across all socio-economic settings in eastern zone of India. Giving property right, access to employment and educational opportunity to women thus might not change the picture. A revolutionary change in the social and cultural values and behavioral pattern is necessary to foster the process of achieving gender equality. As soon as women feel that they have the capability to operate the society at the same term as men then achieving gender equality would not remain as a distant dream.

To combat the rising violence, sustainable solutions are needed to ensure the fight against gender based violence in Eastern India . Hackathon against Gender Based Violence is one such initiative that has brought together technologists and activists to creatively think of solutions.

In India the issues of gender based violence are influenced not only by individuals but have deep cultural issues attached to them. Hence, while building solutions one needs to think through these cultural issues. This event would act as an enabler to think about solutions around the local issues of gender based violence, involving discussions and learning opportunities along with building technology.

The aim of this event would be to create an environment for building sustainable solutions to Gender Based Violence. In doing so we also make sure the following are achieved in the process:

  • To include the best practices of humanitarian technology building in the solutions
  • To encourage creativity and new approaches to solving a persistent problem
  • To encourage more women to participate in the solution building
  • To build sustainable solutions through this event

Click for more details on Hackathon against Gender Based Violence 

References:

This blog post has been written based on data from the sources mentioned below.

The Spirited Women Engineers

Being a women engineer and being a part of various organisations .I get to meet a lot of women in engineering. I also mentor and collaborate with a lot of women in this field. I have met some amazing engineers through my interactions. All said and done most organisations I work with have issues of low diversity ratios and fewer women in active roles. Most of the general technology conferences I attend have a low percentage of women. The debate of why so is yet to reach conclusions and productive solutions. I am not going to talk about the debate today. Instead I wish to celebrate the spirited women engineers from various corners of India.Today I wish to talk about Nidhiya V Raj  , Arshin Bhanu and Ankitha Herurkar three women who are some excellent engineers I have met working from remote corners of India.

Nidhiya V Raj 

Nidhiya is a student and a technology entrepreneur from Alwa, Kerala . She is the only student woman entreprenuer out of Startup Village. One of the few people who I know is as comfortable working with hardware as much as software. Nidhiya comes from a college and place  with little or no exposure to the latest technologies. In a conversation i had with Nidhiya. She told me her very first exposure to entrepreneurship and technology was through startup villages sessions in Cochin. She admits sheepishly she attended her very first session for a t-shirt but soon got attracted when listening to all the speakers talking about innovation.There on she attended her first hackathon called angelhack and won it. This was a major a twist in her life when she started learning about technology and entrepreneurship . She also got involved with Mozilla communities and DIY Hacking communities thanks to her being a part of Startup Village initiatives. Involving in DIY hacking also gave her a mentor in the form of Arvind who encouraged her to learn Open Hardware and Mozilla community gave her to opportunity to learn open mozilla technologies and teach technology to her peers. She is now looking to build a community of tech women in kerala called hackrgirls.

Nidhiya told me in our conversation that it is important for girls to go out and explore .She told me that what helped her in her career was her going out to these places without bothering about the face that she had no women attending these sessions with her. This she attributes as an inspiration to Sudha Murthy  who was also a lone woman engineer in her batch. It helped her to be at the right place at the right time she certainly has come a long way and continues to go further.

Arshin Banu 

I met Arshin in a road trip i was taking with a few friends to meet makers in rajasthan . We visited the workshop of a company in udaipur and there she was among all her colleagues.She was the sole woman in her firm and this did not matter to her the slightest. Arshin is a electronic test engineer at a engineering firm called Walnut Innovations in Udaipur.  One of the few i have found working in the manufacturing industry.

Arshin comes from a very conservative family and is a first generation engineer and comes from a very low income family. She got into electronics diploma with the encouragement from her father. She wished to do her Bachelors degree in electronics but had financial constrains.Due to her determination she managed to get a loan and completed her education. She tells me though she was not initially interested in electronics the 6 years she spent on education made her fall in love with circuits. After her degree she joined pyrotecho electronics firm for an internship. At pyrotech she told me that she learn a wide variety of electronic circuit testing . After her internship she was determined to learn more and contribute to real world problem solving. Being from a small town and a very conservative family she faced constrains of not moving out of the town.After a long search she interviewed at Walnut Innovations where she found innovation in work. Walnut has the only 3d printer in udaipur and works on some interesting innovations. At Walnut Arshin is presently a tester for the electronic circuits they do and is now learning to make electronics circuits and Open hardware through internet and her mentor Deepak. She quotes that learning is the most important aspect of any engineer . She says she is happy to have chosen this job over the jobs her classmates have chosen where there is no learning about electronic circuits. She dreams of someday completing her masters in engineering with her own money and growing in her career.

Ankitha Herurkar 

Ankitha is my colleague at The Bachchao Project and works out of Gulbarga. She is one of the most meticulous testers I have ever met. Ankitha completed her degree in Computer Science from gulbarga and like most engineers in India moved into bangalore for a job. But soon found her skills inadequate for a hire like most engineers who graduate. This is when she was determined to equip herself with all the skills she could , she started learning programming and softskills.  During this period she interview for a job at The Bachchao Project. She initially started out as an intern and soon rose to become an amazing tester. She still holds the record for the engineer who took the lowest time (about 20 days) to ramp up from scratch. This was all thanks to her perseverance and her mentor Jeyapriya ( Who is one of the best professional test engineer I have ever met). Ankita quotes that she had to put her best foot forward because opportunities don’t come often and when they do come one has to embrace it with all they have got .From there on she kept up her growth she learnt programming , automated testing and kept me on the edge with all her bugs . A year later she had to move back to the small town of Gulbarga due to family constraints .At this point I felt that she would stop working in the field of engineering because she took up a banking job.I was not sure she would have the determination to keep working on technology because of time and accessibility constraints . But , a month later she was back freelancing for “The Bachchao Project”.She consistently contributes to it now and has managed to grow in it , leading initiatives and the testing team. She keeps learning every chance she gets,  she even started learning various open automation testing frameworks and creating web applications .She makes it a point attend various hackathons and conferences to further her learning. Now the second community lead at “The Bachchao Project” , she assures me  that her sprint has just begun and hopes to keep working on technology to change the world.

These women embody the true spirit of being an engineer and grown in their careers despite all the odds with their sheer interest and determination. Their determination through those hard struggles are such an inspiration. I am so happy to have had the pleasure of meeting and knowing them.This is the spirit I would like to honour this International Women’s Day

A Dilemma of Abuse

Voicing against Domestic Abuse is always a social taboo. We express our opinions on the social media . But, when it comes to recognising and reporting it we almost always never want to do it.
I am a strong ,independent woman who speaks her mind out and has a sense of self. In spite of which I have been a victim of an abusive relationship.I have struggled to accept the fact of being in one.I have struggled to get out of it as well.
We all want to believe that we will never be victims of abuse. More so if we strong and independent.So when it happened to me for the very first time .I wanted to ignore it and instead believe that it must be ” an accident” .It was hard for me to accept that someone I choose to love can be at fault. So, I chose to ignore no matter how much it scared me.
The sad truth is it never stops with that one instance . By the time I came to realise that, it was past a few times. I did not share about the abuse with anyone for the first few times it happened. I was ashamed to show my weakness , I was ashamed to accept that I had chosen a wrong person to care.I was scared that I would be judged. Even when I did start to share instead of calling a spade a spade, I choose to protect my abuser. Why ? Only because I wanted my friends and family to still think of me as strong and independent.
Abuse be it physical or mental is painful and scarring. Repeated abuse causes you to lose confidence and lowers your self esteem. It shatters you as a person. It leads you to blame yourself for no fault of yours. One always needs support in this phase. It is important to talk and share with people you trust when abused.
Talking about abuse is a huge taboo. I was fortunate to have good support from friends who encouraged me to protest against it. Otherwise,the most common reactions you are met with are to remain silent or to endure the violence. Nobody wants to breakup as we are scared of the society we live in.. Be it for the fear of unknown and for the burden of it ,change is not something most of us want in our lives . This stems from the fact that we are always conditioned to look at relationships to last forever. Though I had the strong support of my friends I found it hard to protest. It took me months to fight back.I took the adjustment path . I was naturally unhappy because I was being less of me .The abuse meanwhile escalated because I fed it with my fears.The courage came back only when I realised that it was necessary to fight to preserve what is left of me , to live my dreams and to be happy

From silence to justice

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Graph: NCRB- National Crime Records Bureau

Recently, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released its annual Crime in India report for 2012. It reported 24,923 police-registered rape cases across India, a slight increase of three per cent compared to last year. Yes, rapes reported to police have increased. But it is wrong to assume that more reported rapes mean actual rapes have increased too.Keeping this in mind, the right  way to look at the higher reported rapes in 2012 : more victims and their families overcame the pressure to keep quiet about sexual abuse. They preferred justice to silence.”- Jonathan Derby

There were 24,915 victims of rape out of 24,923 reported rape cases in the country during the year 2012. 12.5% (3,125) of the total victims of rape were girls under 14 years of age, while 23.9% (5,957 victims) were teenaged girls (14-18 years). 50.2% (12,511 victims) were women in the age-group 18-30 years. However, 12.8% (3,187 victims) victims were in the age-group of 30-50 years while 0.05% (135 victims) was over 50 years of age.

Offenders were known to the victims  in  as  many  as  in  24,470 (98.2%) cases. Close family members were involved in 1.6% (393 out of 24,470 cases) of these cases, neighbors were involved in  34.7% cases (8,484 out of 24,470 cases) and relatives were involved in 6.5% (1,585 out of 24,470 cases) cases.

Higher reported rapes in 2012 indicate that more victims and their family overcame the pressure to keep quiet about sexual abuse.People  have started to realize that the offenders should be ashamed not the victims .

The public support for the recent rape cases is really heartening , this is definitely a setback for the offenders .The media coverage too has put pressure on the Government to frame strict laws to punish the offenders .

The movement from silence to justice has surely begun. Hoping that in the years to come more victims report and put offenders to shame.

Empowering women


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I happened to come across a group of  cheerful  girls playing in the neighborhood, on having a conversation with them I came to know that they  go to a nearby school  .It was heartening to know that they were being educated .

Whether walking city streets, using public transport, going to school, or selling goods at the market, women and girls are subject to the threat of sexual harassment and violence. This limits women’s freedom to get an education  as one common strategy against   against harassment was to simply keep girls and women at home . In a  diagnostic survey by UN in Delhi  ,  One girl explained: “If we tell our parents about boys harassing us, they would blame us only and say that it is our fault … Our parents might even stop us going out of the house.”  Findings like this spur action, since keeping women and girls home is not a solution.

Residents organised community collectives to build awareness, report crimes, and work with authorities to improve public safety and justice.

A total of 2,28,650 incidents of crime against women that  were reported in the country during the year 2011 as compared to 2,13,585 incidences in the year 2010 recording an increase of 7.1% during the year 2011.

  • West Bengal with 7.5% share of  country’s population has accounted for nearly 12.7% of total crime against women by reporting 29,133 cases.
  •   Literacy rate for W.Bengal – 77.1
  • Andhra Pradesh, accounting for nearly 7.0% of the country’s population, has accounted for 12.4% of total crimes against women in the country by reporting 28,246 cases in the year 2011.
  •  Literacy rate for Andhra – 67.7 
  • Tripura has reported the highest rate of  crime against women at 37.0 during the year 2011 as compared to 18.9 crime rate at the National level 
  • Literacy rate in Tripura  –  87.75 percent 
  • Special mention to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Patna have booked more cases under Special & Local Laws among the mega cities.  70.7% (605) cases under Dowry Prohibition Act during the year 2011 was registered in Bengaluru city alone.
  •  Karnataka literacy rate -75.6

There seems to be a direct correlation between the literacy rate and the rate of reporting crimes against women. Literate women have gathered courage to report crimes against them . When they are empowered they no longer depend on men for food ,clothing and shelter . It does take a lot of courage to report  a crime . Hats of  them .

If you educate a boy you educate an individual but when you educate a girl you educate a generation  ” – African proverb

Data collected from Wikipedia  and http://ncrb.gov.in/

Our Origins

Vincent van Gogh  said that  “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together”
The Bachchao project  has a story befitting this quote . The seeds for The Bachchao Project was sown in the Random Hacks of kindness Bangalore Event in June 2012.  A group of hackers got together over a weekend with a determination to solve the problems of the world through code. In the initial discussion of problems.Some one pitched in the need for a tool which act as a witness to crime.He spoke about an incident that occurred to someone he knew   and how the lack of evidence led to non deliverance of justice.

This provoked a group of us to do something about it.Further brainstorming we decide to work on technology which could not only record evidence but also help a person in distress. But ,like all the good ideas that are born out of a hackathon we went into hibernation despite repeated attempts to revive it. The project came to life  thanks to the conviction of the Bangalore RHok team ( read Yogesh Londhe )  that this should be continued and he urged me to pitch at various platforms.We  received a very warm response at the Grace Hopper Conference in Dec 2012  . Where we decided not to let it die this time. With awesome response from the media and friends. We pitched it to Geeks without Bounds and were admitted to its accelerator Program . Now in April 2013 we are in midst of our first product due to launch in early June 2013 .