By Major Elgiva Dora Shullai, Global Sister Coordinator, SKUUNEI, India
Seng Kynthei, the Women’s Wing of the North East India Unitarian Union, has started a violence awareness and prevention campaign, supported by IWC through a UU Funding Program grant and plate collections from Transylvanian Unitarian congregations in honor of Mother’s Day.
During the summer, several violence awareness programs took place in Unitarian communities in North East India, under the leadership of Elgiva Shullai, Global Sisters Coordinator for Seng Kynthei. 24 women attended the awareness program on violence against women and girls in Smit (Kharang Circle); 67 women, men, and youth took part in a similar program in Jowai (Jowai Circle); and 27 women participated in a similar program in Kyrdem (Bhoi Circle).
Resource persons (Dr. Rica Lamar, Ms. Karuna Lamar, and representatives of NGOs in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills) spoke on sex and gender, the role of women in the Khasi matrilineal society, gender-based violence, the use and abuse of power, as well as women’s legal rights and the various government laws that are already in place to protect, prevent, and curb violence. They encouraged the participants to be vigilant, and to report crimes and abuses in order to help create a safer and healthier society for all.
Dr. Rica urged the women to think of ways and means to raise Khasi children – both girls and boys – on a gender equality foundation. In addition, she urged participants to live their faith responsibly, both in church life and in the community, and to form a strong community group that can be a source of help and information for women and girls.
An important takeaway of these awareness programs is that India needs institutions that have effective and easily accessible monitoring systems and stringent laws against perpetrators. Perpetrators must be held to account, ensuring timely justice for victims: the safety and protection of victims and their rehabilitation is of utmost significance.
Elgiva, speaking about the program, mentioned that rape cases are starting to be reported: “In Kyrdem, the women presented three cases of rapes happening in their villages. One involved a minor (whose mother was present at the meeting), another a widow, and the third victim a mentally challenged young woman. All these cases had been registered with the health services, the police department, and government schemes for help and rehabilitation have been given to them – their court cases are pending. It was wonderful to realize that women are finally daring to break their silence and take their cases to the authorities! I take this opportunity to thank the participants who have felt the need and responsibility to attend the programs, our resource persons, and our sponsors and guides at all levels to make this program a success.”