Torture survivors also suffer from gender-based violence and domestic violence. An IRCT survey in 2020 showed that 19% of the torture survivors we work with have suffered from gender-based violence. During the pandemic many of these have occurred during lockdowns where women and children have been forced to stay indoors with their perpetrators. Many families have suffered from the strain of working in insecure environments, lost income or have experienced death in family. Women are disproportionately affected in domestic violence where Covid-19 has served as a trigger. Families have experienced re-traumatisation in their own home.
Domestic violence survivors and torture survivors play an important role in our rehabilitation work. Therefore, on this day, we are lucky to hear the perspective of a survivor who has dedicated her life to women living in domestic violence.
Dr. Bollineni Keerthi works at our member centre Vasavya Mahila Mandali in India. She has dedicated her life to end violence against women in India and is leading the fight for equality. Dr. Keerthi reflects on the role of women in ending domestic violence in India:
What is your name and profession?
I am Dr Bollineni Keerthi, normally people call me “Keerthi.” I am a social development professional and Change Maker.
Why do you think working in this area is important?
My day starts with a call from a victim… crying, hearing chaotic sounds of beating, smashing utensils, cry of children, loudly scolding. As a female I feel it is very much satisfying giving HOPE for a victim in life when she feels nothing is life. The words ‘I am there for you’ gives her a ray of hope in life, yes, I too can live.
How do you see female leadership as important in working with survivors of torture and domestic violence?
Female leadership is very essential in working with survivors of torture or domestic violence. 1 in 3 women worldwide are facing violence in their life time.
- The strategies designed by women leaders are very practical without having hypothetical. Why? Many have inside knowledge.
- Females are empathetic as they too often face some form of gender discrimination.
- The commitment for the cause of rehabilitation can be given by women as they have natural caregiver instincts
- Women leaders extend opportunity and groom the second line of leadership as one leader will see in their life span to come to that stage how much struggle she has to take. So, she proves that opportunity makes a difference and prove their skills, knowledge and practices.
- Women are good learners and practice it consistently to reach the goal.
How did you become involved in this type of work? What inspired you to continue working for social change?
I am hailing from a family of social reformers and Gandhian. Day in and day out we have seen social action in communities by my grandfather who established the first Atheist Centre. The education is practising theory and rational, and scientific and social outlook. On my father’s side too, they are a social and political family. That environment has made me think of others and serve for the community. So that is why when I graduated in Social work and I did further education in Canada, to gain more professional skills and knowledge. I learnt from my mother to never compromise professionalism without humanism. My father from childhood involved us in community work every weekend. That developed a sense of giving back to the community. All my other family members too have highly motivated me – ‘YES go ahead you can do, yes very good’. That encouragement and motivation made me to continue to be a social change leader. Change maker. Until my last breath I will continue upholding the human rights of women.
What role do you think women can play in the type of work your organization does?
Women can do equally and more than men. In women led NGOs, women can play an effective role in community mobilisation, monitoring, project management, counselling and financial management in addition to manage the organisation. However, women are often neglected the opportunity to enhance their skills. Often they have to balance domestic work and career. In my country India, women still hold the responsibility of cooking, caregiving in addition to the reproductive health. So, stress management techniques to be provided to women so it heals the burn out situation. Skills building sessions are to be conducted including technical skills. In the tech era if women should get acquainted with those skills.
Dr Keerthi and her team are running a campaig and an partition to end violence against women called 'Million Minds: #NoSilenceForViolence". You can visit the campaign site here.