Shillong, Nov 28: Despite Meghalaya being a matrilineal society, the state has recorded 58 per cent cases involving sexual offences. Police statistics show that the crime against women in on the rise, and most of those cases are related to sexual assault.
Notably, the period from 2007 to 2022 recorded the highest instances of cases falling under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
This revelation came at the launch of the “NEYI CHETNA 2.0” National Gender Campaign at the state level on Monday, organised by Meghalaya State Rural Livelihoods Society (MSRLS) at state central Library, Shillong.
Meghalaya Health Minister, Dr. Ampareen Lyngdoh, participated in the event virtually. In her speech, she underscored that gender-based violence, specifically violence against women and girls, is a global pandemic. According to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1 in 3 women worldwide has encountered either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
Dr. Ampareen remarked that this day holds special significance for women’s emancipation. She noted that this generation is marked by active participation, and in states like Meghalaya, significant progress has been made after years of testing NRLM programs. Highlighting the state’s advancement in forming community-driven organizations within the livelihood mission, she acknowledged the challenges that come with such mission-mode activities.
Furthermore, Dr. Ampareen stated, “In the ongoing NRLM program, we anticipate facing challenges. Currently, the program is directed towards recognizing women in their natural settings. This poses a substantial challenge, not only for the women themselves but also for those around them.”
As part of its comprehensive efforts, Meghalaya has successfully promoted 45,000 Self-Help Groups (SHGs), engaging almost 4.5 lakh women as active members across the state.
Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills District, R.M Kurbah, in her address, explained that the greatest role in bringing in change is that of the community. Community based solutions are the only way to tackle ingrained societal problems.
“As we commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, it’s essential for each of us to reflect on our contributions. The notion that women bear the brunt of responsibilities is a common perception, and today prompts us to assess our actions. We must question whether anyone, regardless of gender, deserves to face violence, be it at home or school, especially children,” she said.
Emphasising that gender violence isn’t exclusive to females, she said it’s disheartening to acknowledge that even our young boys are not safe nowadays.
Sampath Kumar, Principal Secretary & Development Commissioner, on the other hand, emphasised the significance of the SHGs program not only in the state but across the entire country, considering it a crucial building block for the nation. He acknowledged SHGs as a systematic platform, where millions of women actively contribute to problem-solving. He further highlighted the significance of the community cadre in gender initiatives, stating, “This is a very important initiative that is also required. We really need to bring the knowledge of SHGs to urban areas.”
Kumar also shed light on the impactful work happening within SHGs, addressing issues such as maternal mortality, resulting in a notable 40% reduction within a three-year period.
Data from NFHS – 5 shows that more than 77% women still do not report or talk about their experience of violence. Such findings, as well as experiences of violence of women SHG members across the country is what encouraged this initiative. The Nayi Chetna Campaign aims to advance the rights of women and gender-diverse individuals, for a life without fear, and gender-based discrimination and violence. The campaign was launched on November 25, 2023 and will be observed across 34 Indian states and UTs till December 23. The annual campaign will be led by DAY-NRLM’s self-help groups network of over 9.8 crore rural women members with the spirit of a Jan Andolan or people’s movement.
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