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Lessons learned early empower girls to be safe

By Opportunity International Australia

Content warning: This story discusses gender-based violence and trafficking, which some readers may find challenging.

As part of our Women’s Safety program in India – supporting women and girls to live a life free from violence and trafficking – Opportunity International Australia’s local partner runs a mentorship program for adolescent girls called Super Smart Shakti Network.

Shakti means ‘feminine strength and power’, and the initiative empowers girls with knowledge and resources and connects them with peer networks to make choices that keep them safe and secure.

Shakti circle
Girls participating in the Super Smart Shakti Program in India

Rosy's story

Rosy* is a bright and ambitious high school student in Hyderabad, India. She was in a long-term relationship with a boy and had become emotionally dependent on him. Her parents had separated due to her father’s illness, and she lived with her mother and elder brother.

She attended Shakti Circle sessions on various topics related to gender and patriarchy, healthy relationships, boundaries, domestic violence, self-love, and safety. She was an active participant in the classroom and shared openly about her relationship.

As she attended more sessions, she began to see the relationship with her boyfriend in a new light. She recognised the difference between love and control and identified red flags, and subsequently decided to end the relationship.

She shared her story and what she learned with her mother. Rosy’s mother tried to convince the boyfriend to leave the relationship, but he verbally abused her.

She reached out to our local partner, who empowered Rosy and her mother to act. A team member connected them with the SHE Team - an initiative of Telangana Police focused on enhancing the safety of women. Rosy and her mother filed a complaint with the SHE Team office, and the abuser was given a caution. He agreed not to disturb her anymore, but later he threatened Rosy, saying he wanted to be in the relationship until she married someone else. Rosy, armed with an awareness of her rights, stood her ground and threatened to report him again if he didn’t respect her wishes.

Rosy is grateful for the knowledge she gained through the Shakti Circle sessions, which helped her realise that being in a relationship is not a mistake, but choosing a healthy relationship is everyone’s choice to make. Rosy is now empowered to live a life free of abuse.

*name changed for privacy

This program is supported by the Australian Government through the NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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