One Woman’s Determination Is Helping Many Affected by Violence in India
Published on January 20, 2023
By Arpit Sinha, Stat Project Manager – Madhya Pradesh with contributions by Dr. Ajay Khera, India Country Representative, EngenderHealth
“A female has to face several challenges at every step of her life,” Vanchna says quietly. She was born into an educated family in the village Atraura, Satna, Madhya Pradesh where her father served in the police. Still, the most common question she encountered in the family was about being alone outside of the home. As an example, she cited her father’s concern about her staying in a school dormitory alone or unaccompanied or unchaperoned.
However, with her father’s support, Vanchna earned two postgraduate degrees and her PhD from a prestigious university, Awadhesh Pratap Singh University, Rewa (Madhya Pradesh,) in India. She has long planned to set up a school for girls in her home district to advance the status of women through high-quality education.
She qualified for the State Administrative Services and got the opportunity to become a One-Stop-Center Charge. One Stop Centers (OSCs) are intended to support women affected by violence in private and public spaces, within the family, community, and at the workplace.
She finds the role of OSC administrator fulfilling.
Vanchna was instrumental in making the Center functional. Currently, the OSC provides services such as counseling, legal aid, police assistance, medical assistance, and temporary shelter to 230 girls and women each month. When she joined the Center in March 2017, only two to three women came in each month by choice. This was likely because most women were unaware of the Center. The court referred the majority of the women and girls who sought help.
The OSC’s challenge was to proactively inform girls and women about the OSC’s existing services for those affected by gender-based violence (GBV). Vanchna came up with the innovative idea of involving journalists from a local newspaper to write stories about the Center to build awareness. Thanks to efforts such as these, she noted “the Center has served over 6,500 girls and women in the last five years.”
Recently, the MOMENTUM Safe Surgery in Family Planning and Obstetrics Project, under its Gender-Integrated Response to COVID-19, collaborated with the OSC to strengthen its services. As part of its interventions, an assessment found existing gaps in the OSC, and identified a need for female police guards, convergence with police, and reduced staffing gaps. While MOMENTUM prioritizes and works on these findings, they have trained 148 OSC staff across six states in 10 months. This has been accomplished through its comprehensive approach of involving and sensitizing all the associated stakeholders including Women and Child Development department staff, OSC staff, the Health Department, community health workers, community leaders, police, youth, and other community members. The project is working to increase the efficacy of GBV referral and response mechanisms in selected communities.
Describing the collaboration, Vanchna said, “MOMENTUM trained all our staff on GBV and extended supportive supervision to the Center” as well as frontline health workers to strengthen GBV referral pathways. “With this support, we hope to reach out to many more girls and women who need support.”