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Gender issues in Bhubaneswar, India

The TOS, Mahabharat in the state of Odisha in India is attracting international attention for its work in combatting violence against women.  Attention, all of our TOS groups who have sent support!  The group’s president, Dr Deepa Padhi, has sent us a most interesting report on the work accomplished for the period September to December 2013.  Deepa returned home from the international TOS Conference held in the USA in July 2013 with the wind in her sails…

Dr Padhi writes:

The team first organised a workshop for counsellors in the city of Bhubaneswar on the topic, Learning the art of empowering the victims of domestic violence.  Ms Anindita Paul, an experienced and respected counsellor from Delhi, came to conduct the workshop. Thirty counsellors from all over Odisha attended, along with researchers from the Department of Psychology at Utkal University.  The participants found the workshop extremely helpful.

On October 26 and 27, the TOS held its biggest event of the year graced by the presence of the Royal King of Puri, Odisha, Sri Dibyasingha Dev.  Guest of Honour, TOS National Director, Sri Birendra L. Bhattacharyya, inaugurated a billboard erected near a premier Autonomous College.  Sponsored by the TOS in Australia, it carries the slogan From womb to tomb, woman is being abused.  Empower women, empower humanity

On the same day, a needy senior citizen at our day care centre and a multiply disabled boy, Kanha, were given wheelchairs.  The Besant Selfless Service Award for 2013 was presented to Mr Sushant Sahu for his work reuniting 300 missing persons with their families.

A wheel chair for a needy senior citizen

Mr Sushant Sahu receiving the Besant Selfless Service Award

The whole programme was covered by 18 newspapers and three TV channels.  A commemorative magazine – called ‘seva’(meaning service) in India – was released to mark the event.  It contains a photo of the signatures of all those attending the July 2013 international TOS conference who participated in the signature drive to show solidarity towards the victims of the violence in India.  The souvenir includes articles by TOS workers Dorothy Bell (Australia), Renee Sell (New Zealand), Rosella Milano Fanzio (Italy) and Ananya Rajan (USA).

In the photo, right, the ladies in white saris are the victims of violence.

Thanks to the wide media coverage of the TOS’s activities on gender issues, I was invited by the State Women’s Commission to participate in a workshop making policies for the protection of women in Odisha.  The commission praised the installation of the TOS billboards for their impact.  The commission also gave us permission to add its helpline number to the billboards, which is of immense practical help to women and female children.

We received 146 teddies from the knitting team of the TOS in Italy, as part of its participation in the Teddies for Tragedy project.  On Children’s Day in India – November 14 – we distributed 25 teddies and snacks to the needy children of the Besant Play School in Bhubaneswar.  Seventy-five teddies were later distributed at Adruta Children’s Home, a residence for abandoned and orphan girls.  Instead of celebrating my granddaughter’s birthday within our own family walls, we decided to hold the party at the Children’s Home, cutting a big cake, playing games, painting faces and giving gifts to the children.  Another 26 teddies were given to the children of a missionary home.  Some knitted bells received as a gift during the international TOS conference were donated to the home as a decoration for the children’s Christmas tree.  The remaining 20 teddies were given to the orphans of Mission Ashra – a home for destitute women and children.

In November, Mahabharat Group organised two large fundraising sales. The money gathered will go toward the cost of artificial limbs, a wheel chair and a disabled allowance for a man, aged 35, who lost his two legs and two hands in a train accident.

On November 29, the TOS’s third billboard was installed, this one sponsored by the TOS in Italy. The slogan this time was From womb to tomb, woman is being abused.  Women’s rights are human rights. End abuse. This billboard was unveiled by the Chairperson of the State Women’s Commission.

A large number of impoverished women fall victim to violence when their husbands become addicted to drugs or alcohol.  Members of the Mahabharat TOS Group have decided to help reform these addicts by sending them to a de-addiction centre where they are treated for a period of three months. The cost is Rs. 6000/- [US$100] per month.  One person is currently being treated there financed by our Group.  In this way crimes of domestic violence can be reduced.

On December 19, the Mahabharat TOS Group organised a workshop on gender equality in a leading public school in Bhubaneswar. Thirty-six students participated in group discussion at six tables with six students in each group. They produced brilliant ideas for combatting gender discrimination which they presented before a large gathering of students, teachers and members of the TOS and TS. They also illustrated the theme through painting and theatre scripts.  The paintings are so educative that the members decided to bring out calendars with them.  This workshop was sponsored by TOS, Italy.

Below, we bring you photographs from this student workshop.

 We would all like to express our heartfelt thanks to overseas TOS members for their donations supporting some of these activities.  Above all, we are grateful to you for caring so much about gender discrimination and violence toward women.  Your moral support is precious to us.

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