The Transformative Impact of Mahila Panchayat in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh

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Social Pride Welfare Society’s initiative helps thousands of women overcome domestic violence and hardships

Mohammad Alamullah | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Naseema, a native of West Bengal, represents a growing number of those whose lives have been transformed by the Mahila Panchayat in the national capital’s sprawling Shaheen Bagh neighbourhood.

Working as a domestic help to support her two little children, Naseema faced significant challenges due to her husband’s addiction to alcohol and domestic violence. Her story of struggle and eventual relief is a testament to the impact of community-based interventions supported by the Delhi Government.

Naseema’s husband, a rickshaw puller, would squander his earnings on alcohol, returning home in an inebriated condition and always ready to be violent with his wife and children. This persistent domestic abuse left Naseema anxious and desperate for a solution. Her fortunes changed when she met officials from Mahila Panchayat, an organisation operating under the Social Pride Welfare Society. Despite initial resistance, the intervention by the women of the Mahila Panchayat, combined with legal measures, led to a significant improvement in Naseema’s circumstances. Although her husband continues to consume alcohol, the violence has ceased, bringing a semblance of peace to their home.

Empowering Women, One Case at a Time

The Mahila Panchayat, managed by Firdous Begum and supported by Seema, Hina Khan, Yusra Parveen, and Tamna Parveen, has been pivotal in assisting women like Naseema. “Women suffer from various problems, but we have more cases of domestic violence,” says Firdous Begum. “The number of women victims of domestic violence is more than we can imagine. Generally, women suffer such problems silently, but when the problem becomes very serious, they come to us.”

The Mahila Panchayat has counselled over 3,000 people involved in cases of domestic violence. Their approach is primarily to resolve issues through understanding and mediation. However, when these methods fail, they do not hesitate to take a legal route. “Many women victims of domestic violence also need treatment,” adds Dr. Kamal Ahmed, president of the Social Pride Welfare Society. “We try to provide medical help to such women.”

Comprehensive Support and Training

Recognising the need for empowerment through skills, the society has established a training centre in Jaitpur, Badarpur, where women are taught tailoring, cloth cutting, and the art of applying henna. This initiative has trained over 300 women and girls, with hundreds more currently undergoing training. Dr. Ahmed believes that empowering women through skill development is crucial. “The major problem of women can be solved by empowering them,” he says.

In response to the rising crimes against women in Delhi, the society, in collaboration with the Delhi Women’s Commission, has organised self-defence programmes. These sessions not only teach physical defence techniques but also aim to mentally prepare women and girls to protect themselves.

Health and Education Initiatives

Dr. Ahmed highlights the importance of accessible healthcare and education for the underprivileged. “There is a very good arrangement of free treatment in Delhi, but many things are not understood by the common people. A large section of women victims of domestic violence are uneducated and unaware of their rights. If they need treatment, we help them and sometimes refer them to neighbourhood clinics and government hospitals.”

The society has also organised over 200 health camps across Delhi NCR, treating more than 40,000 patients. These camps are crucial for slum residents and other marginalised communities, including Nepalis and Rohingyas. “Our society tries to help them in treatment,” Dr. Ahmed explains.

Addressing educational needs, the society has endeavoured to enroll children from marginalised backgrounds, including those of garbage pickers and Rohingyas, into public schools. Despite limited resources and varying degrees of success, this effort reflects their commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty through education.

Supporting the Needy

Efforts by the Mahila Panchayat extend to basic necessities such as food and clothing. During Ramadan, the society distributes ration kits containing essential items like rice, flour, dal, oil, salt, and tea. Over 4,000 families have benefited from these distributions. During the COVID-19 pandemic and the Yamuna floods, the society provided cooked food and relief to thousands of affected individuals.

Winter relief efforts include distributing blankets and warm clothes to over 6,000 families. “We cannot completely free women from problems, but we can and do try to reduce their problems,” says Firdous Begum. “Efforts are made by the society to arrange food and clothing for the needy families.”

Future Plans

Despite their significant achievements, the Mahila Panchayat and Social Pride Welfare Society face ongoing challenges due to limited resources. Firdous Begum expresses their aspirations: “We want to do a lot but our resources are limited. We get support from well-wishers which keeps the work going, but still, we are trying to expand our reach and help more people, especially women and children. We want to build a shelter for women victims of domestic violence and destitute elderly women where they can get all the facilities and live their lives better.”

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