Over thirty years, Action India, based in New Delhi, has worked with women to build safe spaces of connectivity that break the silences wrought by oppressive patriarchal systems. Founded in 1976, our work has centered on Delhi’s urban poor, who live in squalid, overcrowded conditions on the periphery of the city. Women in these slums are disproportionately vulnerable to crime and gender-based violence.
Community organization is an essential component of Action India’s multi-pronged approach to stop violence against women. We provide direct support to women experiencing abuse and injustice through our Women, Law and Social Change program, which has trained sixty-four paralegal workers from the community to take on case work; counsel women in need; and provide referrals to the police, lawyers, or the formal judicial system when necessary. Our program includes the following components:
· Organizes Mahila Panchayats at the grassroots level.
· Oversees the investigation, case registration, arbitration, judgment, and follow-up of domestic violence cases.
· Conducts legal literacy workshops for educating grassroots women.
· Builds the capacity of community based paralegal caseworkers.
· Provides legal aid and counseling to women in crisis situations.
The Mahila Panchayats provide an opportunity for women and men to speak openly and fearlessly when seeking interventions and arbitrations to resolve disputes. The panchayats do not replace the judicial system. Instead, they present a cost-effective, intermediary solution that is women-led, gender-sensitive, and in touch with the needs of the community.
Our goals for the coming year include enlisting the support of our panchayat networks toward the implementation of the recently passed Domestic Violence Act. We envision that the panchayats could serve as an intermediary link in the referral of domestic violence cases to ‘protection officers’ -- officials designated by the act for the protection of women.