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Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India

by Foundation for Social Transformation - enabling north east india
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Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Home for 20 domestic abuse survivors- Aizawl,India
Lalthanzami
Lalthanzami

The perfect way to describe Lalthanzami is a woman bubbling with energy and compassion. When she’s not running the Safe Home for Women survivors of domestic and gender violence, she‘s an active member of Mizoram Child Welfare Council. She also works with Eagle Enterprises that sell homemade floor sanitizers and insect repellants and also as a Field Manager for Datamation who conduct tourism surveys. She’s a one woman army.

The Safe Home was started to provide domestic and sexual violence survivors in Mizoram a safe shelter, support to avail their rights & entitlements, and have improved social, psychological and economical conditions, while creating positive change within their families and communities around them. The month of July saw the Safe Home with 4 clients.

Two years ago, Lalthanzami had a stroke and hasn’t been in the best of health. She also experiences throbbing headaches and has severe pain in her knee joint but none of these keep her in her bed. She limps around and does any work she is responsible for and she’s always there for her Safe Home clients.

One such story is of Lina*. On the 27th of June last year, she became was a victim of gang rape in the premises of her home, in a village where they worked at a farm as laborers. After receiving calls for help from Lina, Lalthanzami helped her get admission in the hospital and that was the just the beginning.

The same night, Lina and her husband were threatened by the rape culprits to move away from the village. For the next six months, Lalthanzami didn’t know where Lina was nor was she able to contact her anyhow. She had gone into hideout.

In search of her, she headed to the Government Institutions to go through the court register to find a copy of her charge sheet. She was surprised to find out that even after 6 months with all evidence; the Police hadn’t filed one. On the 12th of Dec, Lalthanzami visited the Superintendent of Police to register a complaint but was assured by the SP that the charge sheet wasn’t filed because of an oversight after which a charge sheet was created on the same day. 

About 4 months later on the 21st of March, Lalthanzami visited the court again and went through the register just to find the charge sheet missing again. Following this, she visited the Home Minister to file a complaint stating that even after 9 months of the incident; the police had no intention of filing a charge sheet. The next month, the Home Minister gave direct orders to the District Special Branch and District Executive Force to conduct an investigation and to file a charge sheet dated 6 months prior - January 16th. Neither did Lalthanzami have any idea where Lina was nor was the Police able to provide a proper address and contact details to the court, thus the court could not summon Lina; but on the 24th of June, 2015, Lina reached to Lalthanzami for help again. Lina arrived in the Safe Home in July and the court was given the address of the Safe Home for the summons, following which, she waits to appear in court to give her first judiciary statement. This is just one of the many stories in which Lalthanzami has played a part in bringing peace and happiness in the life of a survivor.

The survivors at the Safe Home have also made a kitchen garden to grow homegrown organic food and to curb expenses. And recently, on the 6th of July, Lalthanzami spoke on MHIP (Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl) Day to local women leaders about her Safe Home. In the coming months, she intends to keep in touch with more grassroot women and women leaders and touch more lives with the Safe Home.

In the meanwhile, through our organization (Foundation for Social Transformation, FST) Lalthanzami got an opportunity to attend a training on Women’s Peace and Security by a another organization called CREA in Kathmandu. She has returned for this week long training just a few days back and is now planning how she can use the new knowledge and skills within her work in Mizoram. FST is working with her to make a plan for engaging more people in her project and mobilize local support. We will be posting a new project to support her new plan soon. This is the final report for this project as the objective of restarting th Safe Home has been met. Now the challenge is to sustain it, increase its reach and engage the local community in further discussions around gender violence, safety and security of women and strangthening justice system for those who face such violence.

We thank all our GlobalGivng supporters for the support they have extended. This support has really helped us start a very important project which we hope to keep on going in a much better way in future.

The safe home team and supporters
The safe home team and supporters
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Lalthanzami at the award ceremony
Lalthanzami at the award ceremony

This is the kind of progress that lift our spirits high and gives us reason to work harder and support our fellows so that they to reach their goal with gusto.

Women, often viewed as feeble and born to be suppressed, undergo brutalities in the hands of those who have so called power. But in contrast to this, there are women like Lalthanzami, who have been fearlessly fighting and providing shelter to the victims of domestic violence and abuse. Lalthanzami, also known more as the lady who runs the ‘The Safe Home', has received the Women Achievers award felicitated by FICCI-flo North East. The award was given by Mr. Tarun Gogoi (Chief Minister- Assam), who was also the chief guest at the award ceremony. Besides this, in the month of February, Lalthanzami was also appointed as the advisor for the Mizoram Labour Union, Zo Metriotic Front, and member of State Council for Child Welfare. These organisations are run by former beaurocrates, CBOs leaders and academicians. Lalthanzami feels that being part of these platforms, she will be in a stronger position to lobby and advocate for the victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Some of the developments in the recent months reflects her determination and fury of achieving what she believes in. A gang rape survivor was brought to ‘Safe Home’ in a state of complete shock and distress. One of the accused is the Church Pastor’s son who has a very influential network and connection with the higher authorities. The accused tried to influence the case for withdrawal, but their effort went wasted when with Lalthanzami's support the rape survivor refused to do so. While the case is taking its legal course, this woman concerned went through series of counseling at the ‘Safe Home’. In one of the interactions, she shared that being at the ‘Safe Home’ she felt secured and most importantly felt peace and calm in her mind. She was no longer frightened to walk alone. However, once she returned back home after staying in the 'Safe Home’ for a little while, one day Lalthanzami got a call from her during which she mentioned that someone broke into her house and threatened her. She was seeking help. But when the ‘Safe Home’ team arrived at her home for rescue, she was missing. There was no news of her for many weeks. Only in April, police was able to track her in another district. She was hiding there with her husband and had lost faith in the legal system and justice. This once again points out the danger faced by survivors of violence who decide to speak up.

Another case that kept Lalthanzami and her team busy was that of a well education 28 year old woman who finally decided to move out of an abusive relationship. In 2008 , after she completed her graduation from Delhi University, she married and started living in Shillong along with her husband. As young entrepreneurs, they both opened a hostel for young students in Shillong. In the year 2009, she conceived her first child. One fine day, her husband came drunk and ordered her to undress and show her private parts to all the boys living in the hostel. When she refused to fulfil his order, her husband abused her physically and declared that the child in her womb was definitely not his. This started a series of abuse which aggravated along with his addiction to alcohol. In 2011, their house owner asked them to vacate their house and shift the hostel as well. As they were not able to find a decent shelter to move in and also host 80-100 students, they decided to shut the hostel and move to Mizoram, their home state. The husband continued to drink and abuse her every night. He now also started using drugs (heroin). Now she has 3 children and finds it extremely difficult to manage home expenses. She cannot even work leaving her children at home.  With no money in hand and more responsibilities, problems have increased between the couple.  On the 13th of April, the husband came back home drunk and head straight to hit her. In order to save herself, she ran into the bedroom and locked herself along with her children. Since they were very noisy, their neighbour, who is also their church elder, came to their house. As the husband went to open the door, she called her sister and Lalthanzami for help and rescue.  On her consent, an FIR (First Information Report) against the husband was filed that very day at the Bawngkawn police station. In the meanwhile she has moved to her brother’s house with her 3 kids. 

A couple of outreach activities in the form of awareness camps were organized at the Canan Street, Mid Town, Vaivakawn Street and Government Complex in Aizwal. As part of legal and advocacy outreach, Lalthanzami visited the ministry and police for updates on the progress made in other reported cases. She was informed that charge sheet for two of her reported cases have been filed. During this month, the Mizoram Labour Association has come forward to provide their support for all labour related issues which emerge out of the violence and abuse cases. Lathanzami has welcomed their support and has requested the association to give equal pay for unskilled labors (both women and men) in Mizoram.

As of now there are 8 women and 5 of their children are living in the safe home. All the 5 children have received education sponsorship from local NGOs and individuals. The women and children have started a small kitchen garden in the coumpund. This is not just a nice way to destress, but the produce has also reduced the expenses of the kitchen. Another happy addition to the family was a television set, which was donated by a friend of the ‘Safe Home. With the new entertaining addition to the family, evenings now seem to be chirpy and buzzing.

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At Safe Home we choose to stay busy and Occupied
At Safe Home we choose to stay busy and Occupied

Lalthanzami’s Safe Home which was successfully reopened in the month of December, with the support received from FSTs participation in the Global Giving September Challenge, provided shelter and support to four victims of domestic violence. These victims are from the nearby villages. One of these victims is a gang rape survivor. She has currently been provided shelter at the Safe Home. Lalthanzami and her team is directing their efforts in pressurising the legal system and punish her convict. The other three sheltered at the home have been abused by their husband and later abandoned. They are currently undergoing counseling and soon will be united with those who love and care for them.

Lalthanzami says while a high percentage of domestic violence perpetrated by husbands against wives are physical, however all categories of domestic violence - economic, emotional, sexual and others are inter-related. With information from outreach workers and fellow women in the community, Lalthanzami visited the homes of these victims and spoke with them and counseled them to raise their voice against the very act of violence that they have faced and if they felt the need, they were suggested to move in to the safe Home for an abuse free shelter. Besides rescue and shelter provided, under the safe home banner, in the month of January 2015, friends and well wishers organized one community meeting and discussion around the issues and concerns of Domestic Violence against Women (DVAW). In the coming month they plan to conduct a meeting and awareness campaign with the Church Women around (DVAW).

One of the major learning with issues related to (DVAW) has been the rigid and conservative patriarchal society which forces many incidents and cases of domestic violence to go unreported. Many women just do not report cases of physical abuse by their husbands for not being aware of the existence of a law against domestic violence. Hence awareness generation and dissemination of information is crucial for a way out.

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Inside the Safe Home in Aizawl, Mizoram
Inside the Safe Home in Aizawl, Mizoram

FST participated in the Global Giving September Challenge to raise $5000 for Lalthanzami, who is trying to restart a Safe Home for women surviving domestic abuse, begun by her in Mizoram. The Safe Home had been non-functional due to lack of resources since 2012. FST successfully raised $5977 from 46 donors and completed the Challenge successfully. FST received $5,270.95 from Global Giving during the first week of November 2014. Lalthanzami was informed by FST as soon as the funds for the Safe Home were successfully raised. Gayatri Buragohain, Executive Director of FST also visited the Safe Home during the first week of November. Lalthanzami was very relieved and expressed her heartfelt gratitude to every donor who helped through generous contributions. Even before the funds were transferred, Lalthanzami had began looking for a new house to rent for the Safe Home. She found the perfect premises in Aizawl town. She chose this location strategically, keeping in mind the security of the women who would be staying in the Home. The Home is now right next to an Army Campus and in a populated area. Lalthanzami explained to Gayatri that often women who sought shelter in the Home were followed and harassed by the person abusing them (mostly husbands). With the new location, Lalthanzami is hopeful that it will provide greater security to the women residing in the Safe Home as the offenders would be less inclined to create a ruckus in such a populated area and right beside an army campus. Lalthanzami herself is staying in the Home for added security. Lalthanzami has already furnished the Safe Home with the furniture from the old house. She will soon be equipping the House with all basic necessities needed for the women staying there. Although the Home is not fully functional yet, a woman who was facing abuse had begun staying there. An enthusiastic young Mizo women is now assisting Lalthanzami in daily work of the safe Home. It is indeed a big respite for Lalthanzami who is still recovering from a stroke that left her partially paralysed last year. Furthermore, the women who had earlier received assistance from Lalthanzami have come forward in support of the Safe Home. The Home will become fully operational from December 1, 2014 onwards. The Funds will be transferred to Lalthanzami through equal amounts of monthly disbursements for a period of 12 months. FST will be closely monitoring the work and progress of the Safe Home every month.

Lalthanzami in the Safe Home
Lalthanzami in the Safe Home
Friends and supporters help prepare food
Friends and supporters help prepare food
View from the Safe Home in Aizawl, Mizoram
View from the Safe Home in Aizawl, Mizoram
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Organization Information

Foundation for Social Transformation - enabling north east india

Location: Guwahati, Assam - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FSTnortheast
Project Leader:
FST Northeast
GUWAHATI, Assam India

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