Jan 22 2013

Helping end violence in India by empowering women, girls

Elizabeth-AlexBy Elizabeth Alex, CFCA community outreach and media relations director

The voice of powerless women in India has been heard.

It’s tragic that it took the rape, torture and agonizing death of a promising young physiology student to bring that voice to the world.

“I am heartbroken about the news of this young woman,” said Paul Pearce, CFCA director of global strategy. “She was heroic to hold her head up high and go to school. I hear she had big dreams of building a hospital back in her village.”

CFCA has more than 35,000 sponsored children and aging friends in India. We also support a home for boys from the streets in Delhi, the city where the young woman was attacked.

Our staff and families understand how the simple act of boarding a bus can become a deadly decision; women and the poor are vulnerable and become targets just by reaching for their dreams.

“The heroic journey on the path out of poverty can be a daunting and even lonely task,” Pearce said. “Many in the communities where we work live in a state of isolation.”

We are learning that most of the five young men, who are charged with luring the 23-year-old woman and her friend onto a bus with the promise of a ride, came from a slum neighborhood. They have no jobs, and are unable to hire an attorney to represent them.

CFCA works in India and 21 other countries to end this violent cycle with a model that focuses on the individual and his or her needs while building safe and responsible communities.

We change the sense of isolation by forming and organizing groups of people who have support and encouragement from CFCA sponsors abroad.

“These groups provide mutual support and accountability, and are the base where parents and young people take on the serious problems most directly facing them,” Pearce said. “These groups also form a front line for protection of their members.”

A mothers group meeting in Bhagalapur, India.

A CFCA mothers group meets in Bhagalpur, India.

Within these small, caring groups, goals and opportunities with young people are dreamed and planned. CFCA is an encouraging voice, as our sponsored friends are empowered to pursue solid life choices.

ìWe essentially try to head off, at the pass, young people who may lose sight of the future and responsibility to their community, and who may venture into dangerous, desperate, senseless and hopeless life choices,î Pearce said.

Respect for girls and empowerment of women is central to the sponsorship program.

Sarita Mendanha, coordinator of CFCA’s project in Hyderabad, India, said mothers of children in the CFCA program can turn to each other and the staff for support.

“Our mothers are quite empowered, quite strong because of the group that they belong to,” Mendanha said.

CFCA mothers groups routinely tackle issues of domestic violence and other challenges that women face in a safe, caring environment.

Pearce said women are also empowered to make financial decisions for their household through the CFCA program.

“It’s required to have women at the decision-making table when it comes to finances and family decisions,” Pearce said. “Women can become successful and resourceful business people.

“This raises the level of respect from their husbands and the men around them. We also model and encourage respect for all forms of labor, urban and rural, professional careers and manual labor, formal education and informal training.”

Along with the effort to ensure dignity for women and girls, CFCA values include teaching men and boys to honor and respect women.

Would the men who so viciously murdered the 23-year-old woman on the bus in Delhi taken a different path had they grown up in the CFCA program?

We will never know.

But there are millions more young men and families throughout the world who need the kind of chance CFCA can provide.

We stand ready as a hopeful partner.

One thought on “Helping end violence in India by empowering women, girls”

  1. I began sponsoring a child back in the early 1980’s, almost at the beginning of the program. He was an Ecuadorean boy who I supported until he turned 18 and joined the army. At that time I began to sponsor an Indian boy and that became one of the joyous occasions of my life. When he left the program several years ago, he had become a nurse and works today in an Indian hospital. His letter of thanks upon leavng the program was so heartfelt that I will treasure until my last day. My wife and I now sponsor two Indian boys and recently an 82 year old Dominican Republic man. I know everyone tends to want to support the young, but I am happy to be involved in helping someone at the end of life. We have so much and they so little. How can we say “no”? This is a wonderful program which keeps up in contact with our charges. We highly recommend it.

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