Rweeta Basu, 50, had never been a writer but now she has seven books and a film script to her credit be­sides be­ing a the­atre artiste and a so­cial worker. It all started when the for­mer home­maker at­tended cre­ative writ­ing work­shops or­gan­ised by the Kolkata-based not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion Swayam, ded­i­cated to sup­port­ing women who are sur­vivors of all forms of vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. It also runs a the­atre group, a mu­sic group and an editorial team that pub­lishes the quar­terly mag­a­zine Prayas – all spear­headed by the ‘sur­vivors’ who are now agents of change them­selves. “We build ca­pac­i­ties of sur­vivors to help other women in sim­i­lar si­t­u­a­tions,” says founder Anu­radha Kapoor.

Kapoor started Swayam in 1995 when she re­alised the need for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that could look into all as­pects of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. “Most or­gan­i­sa­tions were pro­vid­ing le­gal ad­vice or coun­selling or shel­ter, but no one had a holis­tic view,” she ob­serves. Ini­tially, the two-mem­ber team de­cided to put to­gether a re­source di­rec­tory list­ing all such or­gan­i­sa­tions and grad­u­ally took a ground-break­ing stand to deal with all forms of vi­o­lence against women. Its cur­rent team of 38 is now hand­hold­ing women to form self-help groups and build­ing ca­pac­ity at the grass roots through train­ing and work­shops so that they can deal with abuse in their com­mu­ni­ties.

The re­sponse was over­whelm­ing from the start. What Swayam work­ers heard from the vic­tims of vi­o­lence was un­nerv­ing at first, but they soon started to train as coun­sel­lors to help the women in need. It also con­ducts train­ing pro­grammes on coun­selling and self-help to en­sure that new or­gan­i­sa­tions can quickly get off the ground. “We can­not be­come huge, but we can help oth­ers for a large-scale im­pact,” says Kapoor.

Swayam is a fem­i­nist rights or­gan­i­sa­tion that sees vi­o­lence against women as a vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights. It played a key role when the Pro­tec­tion of Women from Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act, 2005 (PWDVA) was passed and is cur­rently work­ing with dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers across states and at the Cen­tre. In De­cem­ber 2006, its strat­egy of mo­bil­is­ing re­sources through col­lab­o­ra­tion was turned into a for­mal ini­tia­tive called Aman – Global Voices for Peace in the Home. It is a net­work of or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als in In­dia and abroad work­ing to pre­vent do­mes­tic vi­o­lence against women. Aman now has 180 na­tional and four in­ter­na­tional mem­bers.

Kapoor con­trib­uted to the Chap­ter on Vi­o­lence against Women in the Civil So­ci­ety in the CEDAW Al­ter­na­tive Re­port (2014) and the next year, a 732-page lit­i­ga­tion guide-PWDVA judge­ments com­pi­la­tion was re­leased. She also con­ducted train­ing for High Court and Supreme Court judges in In­dia, Nepal, Pak­istan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as part of the Asia Pa­cific Fo­rum on Ju­di­cial Ed­u­ca­tion on Equal­ity Is­sues.

Three years ago, Swayam started in­clud­ing men and boys in its aware­ness cam­paigns. “Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence has per­vaded our so­ci­ety and men of­ten do not know that hit­ting women is wrong,” says Kapoor. “Chil­dren, too, need help as they are the hid­den vic­tims of abuse.”

WHY SHE MAT T E RS For her stand that vi­o­lence against women is a vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights

Man­ag­ing Trustee and Founder, Swayam ANU­RADHA KAPOOR

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