The momentum that the #MeToo struggle has gathered is a positive indicator for women’s emancipation. The story takes into account the lived realities of ordinary women and tells of the significance of the movement.
Shehnaz currently working with Bachpan Banao NGO in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.
The incident which I am going to share happened around 4 years ago but it still makes me sad. Whenever I count my failures during the entire duration of my work in social sector this is one among many. Since a few days I have been reading many stories of sexual abuse as part of the ongoing #MeToo struggle.
These stories are somehow giving all of us the strength that whoever is facing sexual abuse is not alone. There are many people who have faced the same kind of abuse. I wish I could have conveyed the same to that girl who left her schooling after Eighth standard.
It all happened when I was working with a government school located in rural area of Rajasthan. While working in school I used to meet the community people and many of them used to share their concerns with me assuming that I am an educated person and I might have a better solution to their problems.
One day a young boy came to me and told me that his sister doesn’t want to continue her studies after eighth standard. He also told me that he wants his sister to study. I went to his house and tried to talk to the girl. The girl’s name was Haseena. I asked her why she is not interested in continuing her studies. She and her mother told me that since the school was located far away from the village, Haseena had to travel by bus to reach the school. She took admission in school and went to school for a few days. During her bus journey she experienced that people used to fall over her and touch her inappropriately. She doesn’t know how to react and hence she decided not to go to school.
That time I tried hard to persuade her for not leaving studies but she was not at all ready to listen to me. Whenever girls start travelling to a far place for their education they do experience such abuses. And when someone faces abuse of any kind for the first time it makes them confused not just about their bodies but also about why it happening with them.
Most of the people never share these instances. Similar incident of abuse happened with my younger sister as well. She completed her 12th standard in a school which was just walking distance from our house. Also the kind of community we used to live in was consisting of all known people. So both of us never faced such abuse in our locality or by our known people. But when we started to move out of our locality we also faced these kinds of abuses.
My sister used to take tuition classes when she was in her twelfth standard. One day my sister came back home crying and she said that she doesn’t want to attend tuition class because on her way to tuition class she encounters many young guys. They just stand on the way and pass comments, whistle at the girls who pass that way.
Another incident was told by my professor who used to teach me Sociology when I was pursuing my BA. She told us about a girl whom an old person used to abuse while she was on her way to college. My professor told us that the girl’s father is very old and she has six sisters. If she would have a brother may be the brother must have protected her from such abuse.
That time I thought why she doesn’t herself handle this situation, why is she acting so weak? I really don’t know if that girl learnt to handle that man or not. But in case of my sister she learnt to deal with these kinds of abuses over a period of time.
Interestingly the way many girls learn to deal with such instances is to ignore the abuser or just get used to them. For example in my case also I couldn’t gather the strength to shout, seek public attention and humiliate the person who was making our life troubled.
Many times I just remained silent. Many times you just can’t figure out who groped you so there are no chances to shout since you don’t know who is touching you.
Through the above real life examples I wanted to show that the impact of any kind of abuse on the person’s life is something we can’t measure in numbers. And yes one never forgets these experiences. I am happy that the #MeToo struggle is enabling people to reveal these stories of abuse. Off course any movement has its possibilities and its limitations but we just can’t negate the entire movement just because of some fake and false cases. This movement is breaking the culture of silence towards sexual abuse.
I wish Haseena could have gathered the strength to face the abusers and not discontinue her education. I wish all other Haseenas living in different parts of the world gather their strength and speak up.