HOME   ::   CONTACT   ::   SITEMAP

Activities

Vimochana is the activist core of the public forum providing the umbrella for the different aspects of our work, which have taken different yet specific organizational forms over the years. Our interventions include.

  • Reaching out to women in distress through offering emotional and legal support, direct intervention, facilitating negotiated settlements and providing shelter
  • Focused public campaigns on specific issues like dowry harassment and deaths, sex selective abortions, violence against women in prostitution, sexual harassment at work place etc.
  • Morchas, dharnas, sit outs and other forms of creative public action to mobilize public opinion on issues of public concern or to pressure authorities to take action in specific cases of injustice
  • Strengthening community support structures and women’s solidarity groups to prevent violence against women
  • Lobbying and advocacy on issues related to women’s human rights at the local, national and international levels
  • Providing resource and conducting gender training programmes for various educational and research institutions, police and other government functionaries as also other activists groups, apart from facilitating processes of reflections and critical thinking for volunteers and internees from different parts of the state, country and world
  • Using theatre, song, film, art and other creative media to infuse another aesthetic into our political expression
  • Redefining public and political spaces through initiatives like Courts of Women, Truth Commissions, and Nyaya Panchayats that redefine more rooted and relevant forms of justice for women even while making visible the broader context within which this violence is escalating.

^ Top ^

Personal Violence

Angala:

The women’s crisis intervention centre, Angala (meaning The Courtyard), was initiated in 1993 to systematically reach out, respond and offer moral, social and legal support to women who are victims of violence and abuse both within marriage and outside, enabling them to lead a life of dignity free from violence. 

The women who reach out to us for support are from all communities and classes, rural and urban - for domestic violence is an issue that does cut across all barriers. The follow up to each case, apart from the counseling and direct intervention is equally intensive and therefore takes a long time. To get a job for the woman, to find admission for child/children in orphanages where the mother is not able to look after them, visit them in their houses after compromise is done, to provide medical treatment, like involving them in other meetings, awareness / sharing programmes, finding shelter etc.

At any given point of time we are responding to about 400-450 women and families who approach us to help them. The nuances of the violence and harassment each woman goes through in her personal and domestic life are specific to her situation - so there cannot be ready solutions on offer for conflict resolution. Our focus in each case is on helping the woman to heal within, even as her immediate support needs – medical, social or legal are addressed.

Kuteera:

Initiated in 2001 in Vemgal, Kolar, a rural community about 60 kilometers out of Bangalore, Kuteera (meaning The Refuge) is a safe and secure shelter for women victims and survivors of violence. It is a space where women can heal and find the strength to live independent, creative, lives free from violence. Vimochana women at Kuteera also engage in networking with various women’s groups in surrounding villages on issues relating to violence against women and on human rights violations.

Kuteera is a space for women that would understand and be responsive to the specific vulnerabilities of their situation; a space in which the women would grow not only in the physical confines of the shelter but in relation to a larger community in the context of which the shelter is located.

This project was also conceived of as an extension of and connecting with the other areas of work of Vimochana and CIEDS particularly related to our work with rural communities, creating a residential training and conference complex that we would use to either organise our own programmes or offer to other groups and organisations and using the land for organic cultivation.

Kuteera has the capacity to provide shelter to up to 30 women, with their children if necessary.

^ Top ^

Community Work

Urban Communities:

Vimochana’s study on the unnatural deaths of women in Marriage, 1997-1998 (see Campaign to protect the Woman’s Right to Live) led to taking up preventive work in two urban communities in Bangalore, Jagjivan Ram Nagar and Ulsoor, which were had the highest unnatural death rate in the city.

Jagjivan Nagar, (known as JJ Nagar) is a marginalised community comprised mainly of religious minority groups.  Women in JJ Nagar suffer multiple marginalizations due to their caste, class, religion and gender.  Within this community, Vimochana has been holding community meetings and working with men and women to help foster changes from within, and to help create community resistance to violence against women within and outside the home. 

Ulsoor has a high migrant population comprised of many linguistic minority groups and unskilled workers.  Vimochana’s work with this community has led to the creation of local women’s networks who are not only vigilant monitors of domestic violence in their neighborhoods, but also have formed grassroots committees to provide an alternative form of justice for victims of domestic violence.  Upon realizing that the violence has taken place, the victims are immediately cared for by women from this network whether that be for food or shelter, or accompaniment to the police station, and the women work together with the family toward a safe resolution of the dispute. Vimochana’s work in Ulsoor has also been growing geographically to include women and networks from surrounding communities.

In both JJ Nagar and Ulsoor, we have collaborated with Radioactive, a community radio station to produce programme content on issues relating to their lives and livelihoods.  These programmes have resulted in bringing together women from different areas of the communities and in encouraging women to participate more actively in community decision-making processes. 

Rural Communities:

In the rural communities of Bannerghatta, and Kolar that surround Bangalore, Vimochana works to foster community support. 

Hakkipikki Colony, Bannerghatta:
The context for our work in some of the villages around Bannerghatta town in Anekal district is the work we began in the tribal hamlet of Hakki Pikki Colony where we have been working for over the past 18 years.  

For hundreds of years before their domestication, the Hakki Pikkis, a nomadic tribe also known as the Shikaris originally from Gujarat, lived a free existence, hunting and trapping birds in the forests. The Iruligas were a forest dwelling tribe, deriving sustenance from digging roots, tubers and other forest produce. Also known as pujaris and as Irulas / Soligas in other parts of Karnataka, many go to them for traditional medicines and faith healing.

Living and flowing with the community has meant being involved with and responding to the dailiness of their struggles for survival and livelihood; intervening in conflicts within and between families, communities and the genders; debating, arguing and dialoguing on dreams of a better and more fulfilling life and a humane, just society. Through all this one basic focus has remained to help them secure the title over the land. An effort that has involved battling with the forest department, pushing the revenue department, bringing about a consensus and resisting corruption within the community and holding up to the threats and intimidations from those vested interests who wish to seek control over the land.

As a part of the larger concerns of the colony such as establishing legal validity of their claim to the lands that they live and work in, women have been organised to take leadership roles in community matters and in livelihood issues. Vimochana has been working with women in the colony and surrounding villages, addressing issues of violence and livelihood through programmes, Nyaya Panchayats and skill development trainings for women and girls.   

Kolar:
The context for our work in Kolar district, has been the women’s shelter we initiated in Vemgal in 2001. However while the shelter grew out of the very specific need to create a safe space for women, in it’s very conception it was linked to working with the larger socio-political context of the rural community where it would be located; where it would also redefine it’s relevance in terms of the lives and realities of the people around. This would enable not only the women who came to the shelter to come out of their personal crisis by being empowered in a community context, the larger community it was located in, it would also, enter into a dialogue within cultures through the specificity of the women’s issue.

Considered to be a backward district on account of the low rate of industrialisation, agriculture and dairy farming are the backbone of the local economy. Successive droughts have led to repeated crop failure. Even in years when good crops are harvested the farmers do not get their due price in the open markets.

In Kolar District, Vimochana works along with local human rights and women’s rights groups, organizations and networks to create a community that is actively resistant to domestic violence.  In addition, we also conduct arbitrations to resolve family disputes at local level, involving therein, the village and community elders. Vimochana is a part of the founding groups of a coalition, Pragathipara Mahila Okkoota, consisting of several women’s organisations that meets regularly and conducts joint programmes to spread awareness and to support women’s initiatives in the local villages.  In past two years, this work has been drawing attention of organisations in the neighboring district of Chickaballapur who have begun to join in the coalition work.

An Initiative to Strengthen the Voices of Women in Prostitution and Sex Work:

Since 2001, Vimochana has been part of a support group of organisations including lawyers, women’s and human rights activist organisations formed to address the violence that is so deeply intrinsic to the lives of women in prostitution and sex work. Violence against women in prostitution and sex work had largely un-addressed, as they occupy the fringes of a society that does not view them as normal, legitimate, or valuable citizens. Our current focus is to strengthen Sadhana Mahila Gumpu, a collective of women in street prostitution in which members not only a support each other but also raise a strong public voice that will confront the violence of a social order built on double standards of morality and justice.

Three main partners facilitate this initiative:

  • Vimochana that addresses the issues of violence and stigma
  • Alternative Law Forum – a collective of legal activists that extends legal assistance and representation to the women
  • Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a nation-wide civil liberties group that addresses human rights violations against the women. 

Our objectives are:

  • Advocacy for changes in the law on trafficking to decriminalise women who engage in prostitution and sex work.
  • Addressing stigma against women in prostitution.
  • Organizing women for self-help in reduction of violence from the police, families, partners and street gangs.
  • Strengthening the organisation process of Sadhana Mahila Gumpu and building up leadership from within the community of women.
  • Creating awareness amongst women in prostitution and sex work about laws relating to trafficking.
  • Helping women’s access to health services for themselves and for their children, and helping to support their children’s education.
  • Formation of Women's Self-Help Groups and helping them to make savings a habit.
  • Assistance in creating alternate life options for the women who seek to make a living apart from prostitution or sex work.
  • When necessary, placing children of the women in hostels and institutions where the children can study and grow in a secure and supportive atmosphere.

^ Top ^

Campaigns

Campaign to Protect the Right of a Woman to Live:

Initiated in 1997, this campaign grew out of the deeply felt need to study the horrifying reality of increasing violence and deaths (from suicides or murders) of women within the first few months/years of marriage due to harassment for dowry. We took up in the study, 714 cases of unnatural deaths reported in Bangalore in 1997. The deaths were classified as murders (outright knifing or by burning), suicides (burning or hanging) or kitchen accidents such as stove bursts and cooking accidents Of these and according to the police records, 260 were suicides, 24 murders and 430 were accidental deaths. The maximum deaths were by burning and stood at 455, while 119 died by hanging. We tried to follow up each case by meeting them, writing to them and right from investigation up to the stage of prosecution. It was while we were in the process of collating this data that we initiated the campaign that became in fact, the crucial expression of the study.

The two year study, which three stages,

a. Collection of Data: Documenting evidence and all relevant information through personal investigations and interviews with the members of the family of the deceased girl/woman.
b. Campaign for Changes: To identify at the ground level, the cogs that actually hinder the delivery of justice and simultaneously campaign for the necessary changes, both in social institutions and attitudes.
c.  Documentation: Based on the collection of date, analyse the underlying trends and patterns of dowry in the present context, vis-à-vis the increasing violence associated with its practice --towards making a documentary film and bringing out a publication.

The study led to a sustained campaign for changes not only in societal attitudes but also in police investigations and trial procedures.

Our campaign initiatives thus far have resulted in:

  • Formation of a community of parents and other members of families of women victims of bride burning, bride murders or abetted suicides.
  • Setting up a unit at the government run Victoria Hospital where two Vimochana staff monitor the treatment, diet, investigation by the police of each admitted case as well as offer moral support to the families of the woman and follow-up action to support the survivors.
  • Setting up of a Help Line at the office of the Police Commissioner
  • Appointment of two Tahsildars to conduct inquests especially in all cases of unnatural deaths of married women within 10 years, particularly in Bangalore city.
  • Collection of data related to unnatural deaths of women and follow up on the investigation Counselling and Direct Intervention in cases of dowry harassment
  • Follow up of cases in the Courts
  • Working in those communities within the city where there are high incidence of violence against women towards preventing violence through organising neighbourhood committee meetings and forming women’s support groups that respond to individual cases of women with the help of the community
  • Advocacy Actions in the Campaign including public meetings, workshops with students, police personnel, government personnel, NGO staff trainings, court staff, medical professionals etc. 
  • Participating in campaigns and meetings on issues relating to human rights and women’s rights to sharpen our understanding of the context in which violence against women is increasing.

We have partnered with several groups across the state in this Campaign, with joint programmes. Among others, these include:
National Law School of India University - Bangalore
Mahila Samakhya - Gulbarga
Roshni Nilaya, Pragnya - Mangalore
Sadhana - Dharwad
KIDS - Bellary
DEEDS - Mangalore
Mahila Samakhya, Insaf - Bijapur

As a result of our interventions and programmes that have included public hearings and truth commissions organised in various districts of Karnataka, with the bureaucracy, in the state legislature and with the National Women’s Commission; demonstrations in front of the COD offices that is entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the investigations; demonstrations and lobbying with the Health Ministry to draw attention to the criminal neglect and corruption in the only Government Hospital (Victoria Hospital) that responds to the majority of the cases of women being burnt, the following are some of the concrete changes we have been able to affect, particularly in the state institutions:

  • The police reopened and reviewed all the cases registered as unnatural deaths in      1997 beginning with recording fresh statements from the parents.
  • A Helpline was set up in the office of the Police Commissioner, a 24 hour emergency service that would respond to calls for help from women in distress.
  • The police accepted to open up the investigation to the public wherein volunteers from the different localities will be called upon to be part of the investigation.
  • All our recommendations to the State Government during the public hearing we held in the State Assembly were accepted in Toto as directions for investigations and action in cases of deaths of young married women.
  • Two Tahsildars were appointed to conduct mazhars especially in all cases of unnatural deaths of married women within 10 years, particularly in Bangalore city.
  • In the Government Victoria Hospital, formation of a Burns Ward Development Committee which included representatives of the public, bureaucracy and members of Vimochana that will monitor and evaluate the improvements to be affected in the wards.
  • Total reconstruction of the Burns Ward to provide cleaner and more hygienic treatment.
  • A round-the-clock emergency service in the hospital

Other initiatives resulting from the Campaign are:

Training for police and others involved in investigations
Donna Fernandes from Vimochana, is on the faculty of trainers in the UNICEF programme for training police personnel in Karnataka, to provide training aimed at reducing the delays and discrepancies in implementing the rules and laws in legal procedures due to play of patriarchal attitudes towards women or money/influence of the accused or the low status of women in society which puts women’s lives on a lower scale and hence not important enough for serious attention.

Neighbourhood Committees
A fallout of this initiative was work initiated in those areas of the city where our study and investigations revealed the highest incidence of deaths of women in marriage murders. We have deepened and systematised this work through the formation of neighbourhood committees that would be trained and given orientation on the realities of women’s lives and also of the kinds of support services that could be set up for them from the committees -moral support, counselling, talking to the concerned families, intervention with the police etc. Generating awareness of the forms of violence that women face and also support for them from the community the committee would also be prepared to take up public actions where necessary such as lodging public complaints, protest meetings, street theatre protests, poster campaigns, discussions etc.

Victoria Hospital Burns Survivors Group
Apart from intervening in the hospital in terms of monitoring the recording of dying declarations and survivor statements by the police and proper delivery of medical treatment from the nurses and doctors we have formed a Survivors Group to follow up on the support to those women who leave the hospital with scars that are more than physical. Their acceptance and reintegration into their families and society is a long and painful process for many times they face extreme rejection because of their disfigurement and the history of violence. Towards this we work with other agencies such as Sumanahalli Ashram (which now works for rehabilitation and employment of leprosy patients) to initiate trainings in activities that will be suitable for the women survivors and will help them to sustain themselves and their children. We also continue our work of negotiating with the families of the survivors for supporting their growth.

Campaign to Protect the Right of a Girl Child to Life:

Concerned with the dramatic drop of female sex ratios from 976 in 1961 to 945 in 1991 and 927 in 2001, Vimochana initiated this campaign in 2001. Seeking to contextualize our understanding of female infanticide and feticide in relation to the violence of our times, our specific concern is with the misuse of new reproductive technologies.  The misuse of such technologies occurs via the unethical practice of medical professionals who are directly contributing to this genocide. Currently, our campaign is primarily focused in the district of Mandya where towns have some of the most skewed sex ratios in the country. Our interventions have included:

  • Dialogues with existing women’s groups like Self Help Groups, Youth associations, farmers etc.
  • Workshops with the anganawadi workers (pre school teachers), health workers who have access to community, nursing students, doctors, medical students on Sex Selection; an issue of Medical Ethics, Gram panchayat, Taluk and Zilla Panchayats to take initiatives to stop the femicide at a community level.
  • Conducting raids and decoys to catch the doctors who are indulged in unethical and illegal practice of Sex selection.
  • Lobbying for amendments in the Law
  • Organising elocution, essay, poster making competition, street theatre and workshops for college students
  • Demonstrations and protests against doctors / ultra sound scanning centres doing sex determination tests and selective abortion of the female foetus
  • Weekly, ‘Women in Black’ demonstrations are carried out on every saturday in front of nursing homes and diagnostic centres indulging in sex selection in Mandya taluk. Women in Black is a silent protest held to arouse curiosity among the public and is an indirect message directed against these nursing homes as a pressure against such illegal acts.
  • Workshop for the journalists on the role of media in halting sex selection: the Declining Sex Ratios.
  • Coalition meeting with the NGOs from all over Karnataka to create a strong network on the issue of sex selection.

 

Our partners in this campaign are:

  • Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion, Chennai (CASSA)
  • Karnataka State Commission for Women 
  • Vikasana, Mandya
  • Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi
  • Zilla Panchayat, Mandya
  • Department of Women and Child Development

^ Top ^

Training Programmes

Gender Sensitization and Awareness:

Vimochana provides training sessions, workshops and resource persons to increase levels of gender sensitization and awareness on Domestic Violence and Other forms of Violence against Women for Government and Non-Government organizations and institutions.  The syllabus is adapted according to the needs of various groups, and groups who have benefited from these workshops have included the police, NGOs, colleges, health professionals, the media, and judicial groups.

Sexual Harassment at Workplace:

Currently, India has no law specific to sexual harassment in the workplace. In 1997, the Supreme Court has issued a directive to deal with complaints of sexual harassment.  According to the guidelines of this directive, every place of employment is mandated to create a committee to address sexual harassment complaints.  The committee is to be headed by a woman with at least 50% women members, and one outside member who is knowledgeable about sexual harassment.  Vimochana members sit on Sexual harassment Grievance committees of various State, Public Sector and Private sector Organisations including Government Departments, Banks, IT Companies and other business houses, to provide support and expertise in this area.

Student Fieldwork, Internships and Volunteer Placements:

Vimochana accepts students who wish to pursue degree-related fieldwork or internships, from local, national and international institutions and locations.  If you are interested in pursuing such an opportunity, or if you wish to volunteer, please contact us.

^ Top ^

Networks and Associations

Centre for Informal Education and Development Society (CIEDS) :

Vimochana grew from the CIEDS collective, which has, since its beginnings in 1976, been a group that has never hesitated to walk the critical edge of new thinking, whether in politics and the issues we have addressed or in exploring new ways of working and living together. Founded by Corinne Kumar and group of women and men, Free Thinkers, who had come together during the political emergency in 1975 out of a Trotskyite tradition in Left politics, the Collective sought to provide a platform for all who were committed politically to a progressive praxis that lay outside the frameworks of the Right and the Left. The attempt was to envision and evolve patterns of social transformation not through an absolute transfer of state power but more through strengthening the dissenting voices and making visible the world views and life visions of all those marginalized and invisiblized by the powerful mainstream. Central therefore to the transformation of society, was to change not only in material economic terms, but also in terms of the everyday power relations of gender, caste, class, culture and knowledge systems themselves.  Today CIEDS collective includes Vimochana, the AWHRC, Streelekha, the Bangalore Film Society, Deep Focus (a film journal) (Link to Deepfocus website), and The Free Tree Open University.   

Asian Women’s Human Rights Council (AWHRC) :

The insights and experiences gained from the development of Vimochana led to the creation of the Karnataka Commission on Women’s Human Rights in 1985, from where we felt the need to have a larger Asian forum. This idea was put forward in 1988 at a Consultation on Women, War and Militarization organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Bangkok, an idea which has now manifested into the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council. The AWHRC seeks to extend and transform the human rights discourse through the inclusion of perspectives and life visions of residents of the Global South, marginalized groups and women. By challenging the dominant worldview and its discourses and seeking to strengthen women’s knowledges and wisdoms, it invites us to another dialogue, proffering new visions towards a just and peaceful world for women and men. The current focus of the AWHRC is the escalating violence against women in the context of the growing militarization and nuclearisation of the nation states in Asia and the Pacific, including wars, fundamentalism, communal and the ethnic conflicts that are enveloping the region; the development model and the increasing feminization of poverty; the brutalization of patriarchy in the time of modernity and the violence of rape, dowry, burning, trafficking and prostitution, honour crimes, female infanticide and feticide; and wars against women.

Streelekha :

Streelekha grew out of the need to develop an alternative to the mainstream publishing world that serves to marginalize women’s writing.  It serves as both an outlet and a network for the emerging voices of women.  Having operated alongside Vimochana since 1985, Streelekha has carved out a stable niche in the activities of academia.  While Streelekha’s specific focus is on feminist works, whether in the form of poetry, fiction, or theory, they also proffer books, primarily from a “Third World” perspective, on peace, development, ecology, workers, dalits, and peasants, as well as aesthetics, cinema, health, philosophy and politics.

Courts of Women and El Taller International :  

El Taller is an international NGO based in Tunis, Tunisia with over 500 partner organizations in the world. El Taller seeks to be a space for reflection, exchange and networking for a wide spectrum of civil society and social movements. Vimochana has worked alongside El Taller in developing Courts of Women in India, and more broadly throughout Asia and the Pacific.  For information on our most recent Court of Women in Daughters of Fire to be held in Bangalore, 2009, click here. 

Women in Black :

Inspired by the global Women in Black movement initiated by women’s peace groups in different parts of the world in response to wars and violence, Vimochana initiated Women in Black India in the city of Bangalore in 1993.  This group was developed in response to the razing of the mosque in Ayodhya and the consequent communal riots that spread throughout India.  From then on Women in Black-India has stood in protest against myriad wars against women within the home and outside, against nuclearisation of nation states, against cultural nationalism, linguistic chauvinism, and against US wars of occupation.  Over the years we have partnered with various organizations including Women in Black groups in Tokyo, Italy, Belgium, UK, Jerusalem, Australia and US, the Argentinean Association Madres De Plaza de Mayo, Omomo Melan in the Pacific, and Women in Black-Israel, among many others in organising and participating in Women in Black demonstrations.

National Coordination Committee :

The National Coordination Committee of women (NCC) brings together those women and organisations, which are non-government, non-electoral, non-political party, which are not underground groups or are funding agencies. The groups and organisations, formal and informal, which had earlier called themselves ‘autonomous’, form a separate political stream and are united by a broad critique of society, patriarchal institutions and ideologies, of the intersections of caste, gender and class. The NCC plans and organises National Conferences of Women, in response to our need to link up with each other, to share experiences and build friendships, express solidarity with each other’s struggles, strategise and formulate joint action plans for the future. Over the years, the Conferences have evolved as a space for expression of our ideas, politics and struggles - where no one voice is more important than another, but rather, where the spirit of democracy, sisterhood and solidarity seeks to encourage debate and dialogue. The NCC comes together before each Conference to meet several times before a conference actually happens. Since 1980 to 2004, there have been 6 National Conferences of the women’s movements in different parts of the country. VIMOCHANA has been a part of the groups that have planned, organised and participated in the National Conferences since their inception.  

National Network of Autonomous Women’s Groups (NNAWGS) :

NNAWGS is a network that came in to being in 2003, prior to the World Social Forum held at Bombay.  While the NCC is a group that plans and organises the national women’s conferences, NNAWGS has been formed by autonomous women’s groups as a platform to decide collective action and response to issues of national and international significance.  NNAWGS also is the network that participates in Feminist Dialogues that precede each World Social Forum to decide on the input of women’s movement in to the WSF process.

Mahila Okkoota :

Mahila Okkoota is a network of Bangalore-based organizations working in the areas of development, human rights, women’s rights, and women’s issues more broadly.  Mahila Okkoota collaborates toward an event held annually on the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8th) in Bangalore. Vimochana has been a founder member of this network.

^ Top ^