Data to December 2021
Opportunity International Australia works to empower women at the individual, household, and societal level, and to address gender-based violence including domestic violence and sex trafficking.
In the second half of 2021, we completed the first impact evaluation of our work, which indicated that while our PeaceMakers and counsellors provided much-needed support, domestic violence is still a pervasive public health issue and human rights violation.
The effects of the pandemic continued to worsen the circumstances for vulnerable women and girls throughout 2021, creating a so called ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence against women. Widespread school closures, lockdowns and the economic impacts of the pandemic also increased the risks of human trafficking including child marriage.
In India, our Women’s Safety program provides education, connection to various healthcare resources and psychological counselling for women and families, with the pandemic challenging us to find new ways to reach out to those in need of support.
We continue to work on the integration of economic empowerment and gender-based violence prevention, addressing persistent social barriers and mitigating a relapse of abusive behaviours to protect the most vulnerable women.
PeaceMakers Give Courage to Break Free from Violence
When Sarita* was married at 21, she didn’t know that her husband was an alcoholic. Eleven years passed with sleepless nights, broken bones and dried tears caused by extreme violence, harassment and abuse. When she was pregnant, she was badly beaten by her husband and her in-laws. Her mobile phone and money were taken away and she was kicked out of her home in the middle of the night. With no money and nowhere to go, she stayed outside by the door all night.
Hearing about the situation from neighbours, her parents came and took her home. After she had the baby, the two families met and counselled Sarita’s husband. He assured both families that he wouldn’t be violent anymore. But that promise didn’t last.
As Sarita’s situation worsened, she attempted suicide. Thankfully, she received emergency care in hospital before moving back home with her parents. As she recovered, Sarita found work in a supermarket and approached a lawyer to help her deal with her the harassment from her husband. The lawyer took her money and disappeared.
That’s when she met one of our PeaceMakers who organised for her to speak to a counsellor. After days of counselling, she understood the negative impacts of domestic violence – it was a journey of discovery and a ray of hope.
Sarita gathered courage and felt empowered enough to put an end to the relationship. She has taken steps to settle the matter amicably and is now living a new life free from violence, abuse and exploitation. She inspires women in her community to speak up against violence and shows that women can lead a peaceful life once they stand up for themselves.
Realising the Opportunity
Our Safe Village program in India provides grassroot training in high-risk villages about warning signs of human trafficking, empowering ‘guardian girls’ and ‘informed mothers’ to become agents of change, and encouraging ‘good fathers’ and ‘smart boys’ to protect women and girls in their community. A comic book was used in schools, and during COVID lockdown, short videos were developed for digital training.
As we work towards ending violence against women and girls in all forms, including domestic violence and sex trafficking, Opportunity is working to embed our Women’s Safety initiatives in the operations of our existing microfinance partners across Asia, to further support women living in poverty to improve their lives. We know that generating an income, running a business and participating in the local economy affords women greater independence, respect and voice, helping protect them from exploitation and abuse.
This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
* Name changed
Your support is empowering millions of women and children to live in safety, and training community members to take better care of the vulnerable. These are some of their stories.
For their safety, names have often been changed and locations generalised.
Elca Grobler, founder of My Choices Foundation, shared with us how the work of My Choices is helping make communities safer for women and children.
Gender-based violence - "the shadow pandemic"
For every three months of lockdown due to COVID-19, an estimated 15 million people—mostly women and girls—have suffered from gender-based violence, globally.
When a woman from their community came to Saidul with a marriage proposal for his 16-year-old daughter, Saidul thought it sounded like a good opportunity. Marriage preparations were well underway when Operation Red Alert’s Safe Village Program came to Saidul’s village.
"I discovered strength, independence and peace during my training."
– Maheshwari, India
Maheshwari runs awareness workshops throughout her local community and provides support to women who are experiencing domestic violence.