Listen to Radio Open Source’s podcast of Brinda Adige talking about the Bangalore slums and her innovative method of achieving community responsibility to prevent abuse of women by their husbands and families.
In the slums of Bangalore, justice is beginning to take on a different form. In the Naari Adalit, or Women’s Court, the community gets involved in taking responsibility for its members. In 2009 Global Concerns India opened an office in the slums of Bangalore. But prior to this, the Naari Adalit was held in the narrow streets outside people’s houses, with members of the community sitting on mats on the ground.
Anu, age 23, was the first women to have her problems discussed in the Naari Adalit. Anu has a young daughter, and lives in the slums with her husband and his parents and siblings. She is better educated than her husband, attending an English medium convent school until 12thStandard. Her unemployed husband used to get upset about her going out to work. He would become jealous that other men would see her dressed smartly, and he used to beat her.
GCI Director Brinda Adige was invited into the slums to offer assistance in resolving the issue. Sitting on a mat in the street, the first Women’s Court was held. Members of the community were curious to see what was happening, and gathered to discuss the issue. One by one, they were drawn in to take collective responsibility for the matter. Anu’s husband’s father was assigned responsibility for making sure his son stopped beating his wife. Anu’s husband’s brother agreed to take responsibility for helping him to find a job. Another friend offered to teach him how to drive so that he could find work more easily. All witnesses to the Women’s Court were made to sign to confirm their roles and responsibilities.
Women from the community ‘self-help’ groups were encouraged to take responsibility for ensuring that their friends and neighbours were not being abused by their husbands. The many women’s ‘self-help’ groups in the slums are primarily economic, premised on capitalistic microcredit loans, rather that social empowerment.
Whilst the leader of the group acts to ensure that all the women repay their loans, they do not interfere if a woman in the group is being beaten by their husband.
Global Concerns India saw an opportunity to expand the mandate of the ‘self-help’ groups. They have agreed to discuss other issues, pertinent to the women in the group, such as domestic violence, and how to stand up to it. Young men in the slum have also been keen to get involved, and the Women’s Court is transforming into a ‘People’s Court’. GCI’s involvement is transitory however, and on invitation; ultimately, it is the responsibility of the community to take action themselves.