Saathi A Friend in Need

Happening Issue 52 Jul, 2010
Text by Ivan Sada

Having realized and iden-tified the need to elimi-nate violence against women, injustice against women and children, and to provide them a secure future, SAATHI was established in 1992 by the initiative of nine women who have dedicated themselves to the empowerment of women and children throughout Nepal. “The objective of the organization, the first of its kind in Nepal, is to make a difference by helping women and children who are in need, who have faced violence and to reintegrate them back into the community through our programs,” says Kamini Chand – Program officer, “and to raise awareness and prevention of violence.” Saathi has been successful in highlighting the issue of domestic violence as a social crime and breaking the silence of victims who hitherto suffered in silence.

Violence Against Women (VAW) and Girls in Nepal is a social problem that has affected all strata of society since time immemorial. Saathi has been organizing the global 16-day campaign on violence against women since 1997. It played an instrumental role in exerting pressure for policy changes on VAW and in raising mass awareness. The campaign comprises of street dramas, talk programs amongst youth, video shows, production of materials and mainstream media mobilization. Domestic violence was an issue talked about behind curtains, and to shed light on the matter and women who were in need, such awareness campaigns are conducted. By sensitizing the media and other stakeholders, people have started to understand that the concerned area indeed needs attention and intervention.

After 1994, Ashreya Shivir or women’s shelters were established in different areas of Nepal with a strong support program for women victims of domestic violence and their children, and has provided refuge to more than 250 women and their children since. These shelters for survivors of violence and those who have come to seek support from Saathi, were provided with an initial three months lodging, food included. As time became a factor for rehabilitation and to integrate them back to society through counseling and income generating programs, the initial time frame was extended to six months for them to recoup from the trauma. Moreover, civil cases were prolonged to more than three years. “Helping women overcome the trauma and to be sustainable does not happen overnight,” says Kamini, “we have to be able to provide a holistic approach to all our programs. Shelters have to be a priority.” Shelters in Banke and Bardiya are doing a commendable job in raising awareness on women’s issues in the local community and to help meet the urgent need for support facilities for victims in rural areas.

Bal Ashreya Shivir or Children shelters are a part of Saathi’s victim support program. It is a refuge for abused children and street children. It currently provides shelter, food, clothing, education and security for 50 children between 4 and 14. Due to various problems like sex abuse, poverty, domestic quarrels and lack of love, children end up living in the streets. Thus, with the objective of providing shelter to all these deprived children, Bal Ashreya Shivir was established at Baluwatar in 2001.

A preliminary investigation revealed that street children residing in Lalitpur district did not have a shelter and that there was an urgent need to provide services through a center of this kind. Saathi established a drop in center “Bishram” 5 years ago with the aim of providing immediate needs like overnight shelter, first aid, meals, shower, rest and more importantly the opportunity of counseling for street children.  It answers the urgent needs of street children, takes a census, and registers as many of them as possible.

Through the above-mentioned programs and numerous others under Saathi’s belt, the empowerment of women and children through the promotion of gender equality and equity-based developments have indeed made a difference in our society.

For details: 5554560