Archive for the India Category

Domestic Violence in India Part 3

Posted in Documentary | Photography, India, Recent Projects, Uncategorized, violence against women on May 21, 2013 by tuschman

RANI

Rani had the misfortune to marry Mukesh, who turned out to be an alcoholic. He has beaten her many times, going so far as to slash her arm deeply with a blade. She was the sole earner in the family and in order to escape the misery of living with her husband, she demanded a divorce.

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Her mother in-law, incensed at Rani’s decision, kept threatening physical harm and Rani, under great stress, attempted suicide by gulping massive amounts of sleeping pills. She was found, taken to a hospital, where her life was saved. This incident was registered as a criminal case and she was asked not to give any testimony against her mother in-law. She agreed and decided to leave the past behind and live with her husband and her in-laws peacefully. Of course, this rarely works out and this was no exception.

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Rani and Mukesh tried having another child unsuccessfully. Rani became the victim of constant sarcasm and verbal abuse. He insisted that she have tests to see if she was still fertile—they had two children previously – but all the results were normal. With great prodding, Mukesh agreed to be tested and he indeed suffered from a very low sperm count. After finding out, Mukesh got more aggressive and began battering Rani daily. He completely denied his infertility problem and dared Rani to prove her fertility by marrying someone else and get pregnant. Helpless, she again attempted suicide but was fortunately saved one more time at the hospital.

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Afterwards, she approached the Mahila Panayat ( womens support group) and she was advised to get a divorce and get financial support for her two children, a process which she has started. She is also taking a course become a beautician. She is still tormented by her past experiences.

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UGATI

For eleven years, Ugati has been physically abused by her husband. He is a butcher and if Ugati happens to visit him at his shop, he greets her by a beating and even attempted to choke her to death.

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Ugati then decided to leave her husband for a year with both their daughters and move into her parents home, hopefully teaching her husband a lesson. After returning home, he became even more aggressive and “ he beat me naked so I could not escape”. Her husband even spit into her food and cut her hand with a blade.

During her visit to the women’s support group ( Mahila Panchayat), she felt that her life “ was ruined. I feel pain all over my body’”. She said that she firmly wants a divorce and have her husband pay for the expenses of her children. Fortunately, she has a supportive mother.

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Ugati’s mother is very concerned about the welfare of her daughter.

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Ugati and her mother

VANDANA

During the course of her marriage there has been not even a single day that her husband has not physically assaulted her.

 

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When Vandana married at age 26 she imagined a life full of love and happiness but it was not to be; the brutality of her husband her in-laws hit her very hard. Since the very first day of her marriage, her husband doubted her loyalty and treated her cruelly. He claimed that the marriage was arranged by his aunt, who despised him.

To add further abuse, her mother in-law referred to her as a retard, claimed she was lazy even though she did all the household chores and even deprived Vandana of basic necessities like food and clothing. Combined with the daily doses of emotional and verbal abuse, her mental state deteriorated badly. Living with overwhelming amount of stress and depression, she had fantasies of trying to reconcile with her husband but the women’s support group encouraged her to proceed with a divorce.

Domestic Violence in India Part 2

Posted in Documentary | Photography, India, violence against women on May 7, 2013 by tuschman

Meera

 A neighbor noticed a emotionally distraught Meera sobbing outside her urban slum home and immediately called HUMSAFAR. Meera told the caseworkers a harrowing story: her mother was a sex worker who practiced secretly, her brother was a petty thief and they were physically and mentally torturing her, pressuring her to follow her mother’s line of work and join the sex trade. On her refusal she was brutally beaten.

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She had even approached the local police, hoping they would talk some sense into her mother. The police had summoned Meera’s mother, warned her and asked her to take Meera back. When her mother persisted in her ways Meera telephoned the police station. To her great dismay,  the policeman bluntly told her that her mother was right and she should obey her. The policeman even offered to become her loyal client! Shocked and depressed by the police response, Meera  did not submit to her mother and brother’s proposal. After another thrashing, she overheard her mother telling her brother to “bump her off”. After this Meera ran away at the first opportunity and arrived at the house of neighborhood watch committee member to beg for help.

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Meera, doing her homework, is now back at school.

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Meera, shown here with her aunt, is very appreciative of their efforts in providing her a safe home environment.

HUMSAFAR did some intense counseling with Meera and restored her self-confidence. They arranged for Meera to live with her maternal aunt and uncle, and she is now back at school and earning some income from household work. Her uncle clearly told her mother to respect Meera’s wishes.

Geeta

Anil’s sister in-law (his elder brother’s wife) acted as a matchmaker for Anil and Geeta. They were married in 1995. The marriage was a ruse to perpetuate the affair between Anil and his sister in-law.

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Anil and her sister in-law started beating Geeta a few months after marriage; he told Geeta that he was not interested in any sexual relationship with her as she was not a beautiful, good looking wife . Of course, he was having his relationship with his sister in-law and gave her all the money that he earned, leaving Geeta fairly penniless. She was only able to survive by doing some sporadic household work. She is living on her own, living on only $1 per day.

Roopa

After being thrashed and abandoned by her husband, Roopa now lives as a squatter in a temporary tent in a vacant plot in a slum in Lucknow.

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Roopa contacted Humsfar in April 2009. She had been married off to Rakesh in 2000; the dowry was 80,000 rupees ( about $400). But dowry blackmail continued; her in-laws were now demanding more cash and a motorcycle for their son.

After 4 months of marriage she was sent back to her own family but received no support from them. Upon returning to her husband’s home, Roopa found that he had got a position as a bureaucrat in a government office. His new found status worsened the situation for Roopa; Rakesh resorted to physical violence without any provocation complaining that her family had not given him adequate dowry as he deemed himself to be a highly respected government employee.

Roopa suffered in silence, hoping matters would improve. But matters deteriorated from bad to worse as now her husband and in laws regularly indulged in physical violence and one day threw her out of the house.

A harassed Roopa approached the Mahila Thana ( a police station predominantly staffed by women) in November 2005. They summoned both the parties, worked out a compromise and Roopa returned to her marital home. For sometime things worked but then Rakesh returned to his old ways. In April 2006 when Roopa was five months pregnant Rakesh mercilessly thrashed her and threw her out of the house.

Roopa gave birth to a baby boy at her parent’s home. Her husband abandoned her and her own family hardly supported her. She lives in a makeshift jhuggi (a temporary tent in slum) put up by her in a vacant plot and supports herself by working as a domestic servant in various households. She seems to be suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder and is still under the illusion that her husband would return to her and they could have a happy marriage.

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Smita

After 6 months of marriage her in-laws started harassing her. After delivering her first child , a female, the harassment worsened; her father in-law started to sexually abuse her, while her husband, who turned out to be an alcoholic, decided to live separately.

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Smita, living under a great deal of stress, turned to a HUMSAFAR neighborhood watch committee who convinced her husband to move back home. After Smita delivered their second child, another female, her husband alcoholism had gotten out of hand and he committed suicide. Smita was shocked. Her father in-law, claiming that Smita was responsible for his son’s death, threatened her. He wanted Smita to become his second wife. When Smita refused, he registered a false report to the police and now they were harassing her as well. Smita, living under unbearable stress, turned to HUMSAFAR once more and they got both the police and her father in-law to stop the abuse.

At present she is living peacefully with her daughters at rented house and working as cleaner in a hospital. Her daughters are studying in school, supported by donations from HUMSAFAR’s educational fund.

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Soni

 Neighbors witnessed the beating of Soni by her husband but were unable to stop him. They informed the local police but they did not respond.

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Soni’s condition was critical and the neighbors called HUMSAFAR who in turn , called the police and accompanied them to the site of the crime. Soni needed medical attention but the police were non responsive, placing the responsibility on the case-workers for not having the appropriate medications. After a lot of heated discussion, HUMSAFAR got the police to take Soni to a hospital where she was treated.

HUMSAFAR filed a criminal case against Soni’s husband and convinced him to allow Soni to work as a domestic worker, preparing food and taking care of children. HUMSAFAR was in constant contact with her husband and he eventually changed his ways and started helping other women. He died in 2008 and Soni now lives peacefully with her eldest daughter and her family.

Somlata

In March 2007, Somalata’s husband had beaten her badly and sent her away to her parents home without her children. She went to a police station to report her case of domestic violence and was ignored. She then turned to HUMSAFAR who registered her case in court and made sure her husband gave her equal rights to her home.

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Her husband is now providing her money for household maintenance and her children are enrolled in school. With the support of HUMSAFAR, Somlata has learned to stand up to Rajneesh and he knows he is being monitored. Now Somlata refers cases of domestic violence to HUMSAFAR.

 

 

Domestic Violence in India- Part 1

Posted in Documentary | Photography, India, violence against women on April 30, 2013 by tuschman

In December of 2012 the brutal gang rape and murder of a young college student by six young men in Delhi, India made international headlines. In January of 2012 I had traveled to Delhi to document cases of dowry abuse. As I followed the news and read more about the extent of the physical abuse of women in India, I learned that it was so pervasive, that it was as common as eating a meal. With large demonstrations of men and women protesting to stop the rapes that occur all too often in India (in Delhi, it is estimated that four rapes occur every day), I was motivated to go back and report on other women who have been abused. Although this one case in Delhi received worldwide attention, I knew there were millions of women whose have suffered in silence for many years without their story being told. I hoped by doing this documentary work  momentum would be added to the efforts being made to curb physical violence against women.

Sometime in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, I am haunted by the images and stories of the physically abused women that I have photographed in India. Although my impressions and comments here are about the subjects I photographed there, the problem of physical and sexual abuse of women is pervasive throughout the world. In Mexico, when I attempted to do similar documentary work, I had no success. Women were too ashamed, perhaps because of stigma, to tell their stories even though physical abuse was extremely common.

It takes tremendous courage for these women to risk speaking out, to tell their stories and to be photographed.

It was difficult to hear the narratives of these women, imagining the beatings, physical abuse, the desperation and the suffering they survived, often in silence. With little societal help, the NGO’s offered life-lines to support these women through free legal counsel, support groups and counselors to give them the psychological strength to reaffirm their basic human rights and self-worth. It is life-saving work, yet the psychological and physical damage from trauma can never be entirely undone.

There were certain basic themes that came out of these stories, the foremost being lack of law enforcement.  A woman who has the courage to report her case to the police, risks ridicule or even further harassment. There was a story of a young woman, who I did not have the opportunity to photograph, who after having been raped, went to the police, where a police officer sexually abused her. And, some of the stories, which were the most difficult for the NGO’s to resolve, involve women who have been abused by their husbands who were members of the police force. And if cases do get filed in the judicial system, they languish in limbo for years and years as if time or justice were of no importance.

Unfortunately, sometimes women are also complicit in perpetrating violence towards other women.  Many of these stories have mother in-laws either condoning or actively participating in the violence. Another sad theme that pervades these testimonials is that so many  women, who have been brutally victimized time and time again by their husbands, still hope for a reconciliation and live with fantasies that everything would be fine if they could only move back one more time. Without the peer support of the womens groups in these NGO’s, I fear many of these women would no longer be alive to tell their stories.

When I think of women, not only in India, but throughout the world, who
are vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse daily, I cannot help but think their condition is a contemporary form of slavery. They live in fear, shame and isolation and have no legal recourse to defend their basic human rights. I find it intolerable and applaud all the efforts of the NGO¹s in India, in particular Action India and HUMSAFAR and the Global Fund for Women, that
provide grants that enable their work. These organizations provide vital psychological and legal support. They are doing difficult, commendable work, often going against accepted cultural norms, and I am grateful that they allowed me to document the stories of some of the women they have helped. Just as there was a moral imperative to end slavery, it is now critical to create an enforceable legal framework where physical abuse of women is totally unacceptable.

SANGEETA

Sangeeta, wandering the streets in a state of shock, had been badly beaten up by her husband. To make matters worse, her husband was a constable at the police headquarters which gave Sangeeta little recourse to deal with her husband’s abuse.

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She complained that he frequently beat her black and blue and threw her out of the house and dared her to do any harm to him. I have heard many stories that when women go to the police to report cases of abuse and rape, they are ignored or even open themselves to further abuse; as Sangeeta’s husband was a police officer she had no hope of ending her torment. She had no way to support herself and had to survive on the meager amounts of food  sent by her parents from their family farm.

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Sangeeta with some of her children. Some live with their father.

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Sangeeta with her youngest walking home. She lives in one of the slums in Lucknow.

Sangeeta’s case was brought to the attention of HUMSAFAR, an NGO working in Lucknow India, that deals exclusively with cases of domestic physical abuse. Their caseworkers had intensive counseling sessions with both Sangeeta and her husband. It did not work; after a brief respite, the physical and mental torture continued, and her husband’s use of abusive language and violence became worse.

Sangeeta’s husband finally requested a divorce; he threatened their children with violence if they dared to appear as witnesses in support of their mother. Legal cases take years and years to appear before a justice, and women have to wait  interminably in limbo for any justice. In Sangeeta’s case, things were further complicated by the fact that the police wanted to protect one of their own rather than his wife who was the real victim.

Nevertheless, HUMSAFAR’s intervention enabled Sangeeta’s  husband to be transferred out of the city. Free legal aid and counseling was given to Sangeeta. She now has her own bank account and is able to live in her home with her children; she receives a monthly stipend of 300 rupees each for her 5 children ( a total of $30 per month), hardly a sustainable living wage. Sangeeta had to send one son to her husband, and attempting to improve her  economic condition; at least, she can live without the fear of being beaten and tormented but her psychological scars are very much with her.

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Sangeeta, doing some of her daily chores, can now live without fear from the abusive behavior of her husband.

NAHIDA

On the very next day after Nahida was married, she found out that her husband was having an affair with his aunt. When she inquired about the affair, the beating started. Her first pregnancy ended in a still birth which she believes was caused by the abusive behavior of her husband.

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Nahida was forced to undergo four abortions by her husband as he was having an extra-marital affair and did not want to have children with Nahida. Eventually, she did have several children  but his violent behavior continued.

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Nahida with her youngest son.

Although she filed two separate cases for financial support from her husband, the first one in 2005, she is still waiting for any semblance of justice. Under section 125 of the code of Criminal Procedure, Nahida received a maintenance order of 1000 rupees per month by the family court. Even today, in 2013, she has never received a single rupee from her husband, as he refuses to appear in court reducing the maintenance order to a useless piece of paper. She filed another in 2007 under another law, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence, with the same lack of results. In this case, she never even got an order from the court as her husband refused to appear.

HUMSAFAR is still trying to help Nahida receive justice through the court system, a daunting task. Meanwhile, Humsafar has facilitated her training as a professional cab driver where she can earn some minimal amount to pay for necessities and keep two of her children in school.

SUDHA

Sudha married out of her caste. She fell in love and was married to Mahesh in 2001, to the great disapproval of his parents. Her father-in law, a head constable of a police department in Lucknow, came to their home when Sudha was five months pregnant and beat both of them, threatening  he would go so far as to kill them both unless the marriage was annulled.

After registering a formal complaint against her father-in-law, he became more incensed, increasing the harassment and attempted to rape her.

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Another women’s organization helped protect Sudha by arranging for her to move into a women’s shelter in another district. After her son was born, Sudha hoped for a reconciliation and moved back with her husband, but her father in-law was not placated and continued his violent behavior. Sudha’s husband also started harassing her and finally abandoned her. Again she had to move back to a shelter.

Humsafar had to fight a long and difficult battle to get a case registered against Sudha’s husband and father in-law.  Unfortunately, the courts in India work on geologic time and the case against her father in-law is lost in a vast ineffective maze of beauracracy. Her son is now 9 years old and she receives 400 rupees a month ($8 per month). Sudha works with HUMSAFAR now to help empower women and make them aware of their basic human rights so as not to be victims of daily abuse and violence.

MANJARI

Manjari was a child bride; at the age of 14, she was married to Ramesh, a man 11 years her senior. Her harassment started after 3 years of marriage when she could not have a child.

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Manjari was sent to her family home by her in-laws, but after some family mediation, she returned a year later to attempt once more to live with her husband. Manjari had 3 still birth deliveries and all the midwives that attended to her births felt is was due to her husband having forceful, violent sex with her during her last trimester. She was told not to allow her husband to do this. The next time Manjari became pregnant, she returned early to her family home where she successfully delivered a male baby. Whenever she became pregnant, she  returned to her parent’s home,  and had 2 additional babies. Having children did not change her husband’s violent behavior towards her. During sex, her husband beat her and bit here in many parts of her body including her breast, genitals, and thighs. Whenever she complained about this to her mother and mother-in-law they used to say that he is your husband and he can do anything with you that he wishes.

She approached HUMSAFAR and showed them her  wounds. She did not want to register her case with the police but HUMSAFAR intervened and counseled her husband that his behavior was criminal. At present Manjari is living peacefully, her husband no longer sexually assaults her, but she suffers from pain in her thighs and legs.

 

RACHNA

 Rachna, after being beaten by her husband and father in-law, was forced to abandon her baby.

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Neha, Rachna’s younger sister, was married and unable to have any children. Neha convinced Rachna to marry Vikram, the brother of her husband. Rachna became pregnant but had a difficult pregnancy and even though her in-laws refused to provider her with any pre-natal care,  she did manage to have her baby in a government hospital. She became critically ill after the birth and was unconscious for the next 48 hours.  When Rachna  finally returned home and tried to be with her baby, Neha claimed the baby as her own; Rachna’s husband even told her that it wasn’t her baby- it was Neha’s child. Her father in-law attempted to throw her from the balcony and after fighting him off, she was locked in a room and beaten for five days. She was forced to leave her baby and go live with her parents. HUMSAFAR is helping her file a case for custody of her child. HUMSAFAR has also facilitated her training as a professional to polish furniture and Rachna is currently working in a furniture factory in Lucknow.

Empowering Tribal Women in Gujarat India

Posted in Gujarat, India, women's empowerment on December 12, 2012 by tuschman

Read this article on my new blog.

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Educating Child Brides in Rajasthan India

Posted in child brides, Documentary | Photography, Girls Education, India, Non Profit, poverty, womens reproductive healthcare on April 6, 2012 by tuschman


This past January, I had another opportunity to work with EducateGirls India, an NGO that works in Rajasthan, where gender inequality is especially high. EducateGirls has intensive programs to educate as many girls as possible. Their goal is to encourage them to pursue education beyond the 6th grade. In Rajasthan, 68 percent of girls are child brides, out of which 15 percent are married below the age of ten. Educate Girls works in the Pali and Jalore districts, where a lack of education for girls is a serious problem. Both districts have alarmingly high rates of child marriage, out-of-school children, and some of the lowest literacy rates in Rajasthan.

First, a bit of background information on the issue of child brides.

 

Child Brides

“Every year, an estimated 10 million girls worldwide are married before they turn 18, usually with no say in when or whom they marry. That’s more than 25,000 girls every day, or 19 every minute. In the developing world, one in seven girls is married before her 15th birthday and some child brides are as young as eight or nine.

Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, these girls are at far greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, becoming infected with HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.”

from www.girlsnotbrides.org a global partnership to end child marriage

Causes of Early and Child Marriage

“Parents who cannot provide for the basic needs of their children may give a young daughter in marriage so they have one less mouth to feed and to ensure she is supported.

In parts of India, culture dictates that the bride’s family pay the groom’s family a dowry, the value of which is lower when the girl is young. This custom reinforces the idea that it’s best to hand over a girl child early, before she becomes a greater economic burden. In these circumstances, poor parents consider it a waste to invest in daughters, who are expected to leave at marriage and serve in another’s home whereas sons are expected to look after aging parents.

Illiteracy and lack of education mean many girls and their families see few alternatives for the future.

Uneducated parents are most likely to be ignorant of laws prohibiting child marriage and of the serious health risks that early sexual debut and pregnancy pose for girls. They are also more likely to see the education of females as wasteful rather than a sound investment.

Without educated females to serve as role models in a community, the multiple, proven benefits of educating girls aren’t readily apparent.”

From the World Vision report “Before she’s ready:Fifteen places girls marry by 15”.

Educate Girls in Rajasthan India

Education has proven to be an effective tool in delaying the transition of young girls into married life. Empowering and educating girls yields positive returns to individuals, families, and societies both now and for generations to come.

These four young girls are all attending school. Only Kala, on the right side, is a child bride. They are preparing for a dance performance for their mothers, whom they still live with until they reach an age determined by their families, when they have to leave and reside in their husbands’ home.

This is Devika, who is 12 years old and in the 6th grade.

Practicing for her dance performance:

Manju 13 years old and also in the 6th grade:

Manju practicing for the dance performance:

This is Kala, who is13 years old and in the 7th grade. She was married when she was three months old.

Kala preparing for the dance:

We visited Kala at home. Her parents are both manual laborers and not at home when we visited.

Here are photos of her cleaning, studying and another portrait. She had a certain elegance and brightness, and I could not help but feel saddened by the fact that her destiny was determined at three months.

This is Munni, Kala’s neighbor. She never enrolled in school. She is 16 years old and became a widow eight months ago. Now she is considered a widow for life.

This is Poonam, also 13 years old and in the 6th grade.

This is Meena, a 15 year old child bride, who dropped out in the 6th grade.

This is Chumki, 17 years old child bride who dropped out after the 6th grade.

Chaddi, who is 16 years old, with her mother Vimla.  Chaddi is pursuing her education. She is in the 10th grade,  studying at home in a long distance education program.

Vimla, who is 32 years old, is also in the same program in the 12th grade.

Mohini, a child bride is 17 years old and  is shown here with her mother. She dropped out after the 8th grade.

Pooja, a child bride with her mother. Pooja is 12 years old and in the 6th grade.

Chaddi a 14 years old child bride is in the 7th grade. She is  reading to her mother, who never had an opportunity for any education.

Sobha, in the turquoise sweater, is 21 years old and has completed her B.A. She is part of Educate Girls  “Team Balika” , girls who have had the good fortune to get an education and are employed to tutor young girls in school. EducateGirls is building a cadre of village based youth leaders to work as champions for girls’ education and catalysts for school reform. Six Hundred Twenty “Team Balika” members have been trained and are actively working to support all the programs of EducateGirls.

Payal is 13 years old and  is in the 6th grade.She is not a child bride.

Sunita is 7 years old and in the 2nd grade. Her eagerness to learn is quite clearly evident by the intensity of her concentration.

A class of 2nd graders in the village of Chitariya.

A second grader learning to read:

A seventh grader  learning intently.

A village elder looks into the classroom, perhaps wondering what it would have been like to have received more schooling:

The above examples clearly show that there is a great deal of variation in the extent that girls are getting educated. Many of the child brides will not continue school past the 6th grade. The fortunate girls who have graduated from high school and perhaps even gone on to college (i.e., the members of “Team Balika”) will provide positive role models for the community. Many School Management Committees have been formed with parents sitting on their local school boards, encouraging girls to stay in school. It is hard work to change traditions and culture, but hopefully the elders of the communities will appreciate the value of educating their girls.

Below are photos from a “Team Balika” training session. Nooreen Dossa, on the right from EducateGirls is leading a session with some of the high school graduates.

For more information about about Educate Girls programs in India, please visit:

                                                                     http://www.educategirls.in    

Dowry Abuse in India- Action India Women’s Support Group

Posted in Global Health, India, Non Profit, Recent Projects, Uncategorized, womens reproductive healthcare on March 15, 2012 by tuschman

This January, I documented the work of Action India, a grantee of the Global Fund for Women. Action India is involved in many aspects of women’s empowerment; one aspect of their work in particular, however, moved me the most: supporting women who have been victims of dowry abuse.
The Global Fund’s Anasuya Sengupta gave me the following overview:
“Dowry-related violence and death are simply one form of domestic violence that happens in India and around the world. Yet dowry abuse is a particularly pernicious form of violence, because it is closely linked to culture and religion. When they marry, women in many Indian communities take into their marital home ‘stree dhana’, or ‘women’s wealth’, which often consists of jewelry or clothes from her family. The value of the dowry has actually increased over the last few decades (in parallel with India’s economic liberalization) as a means of rapid economic gain. And the custom has even spread into communities that did not traditionally practice any form of dowry. For example, the dowry can now be found in some Muslim and indigenous (adivasi) communities, where the groom’s family traditionally paid a mehr or a bride-price. These trends have occurred despite the fact that the giving and receiving of dowry is technically illegal in India, although rarely enforced.”

The stories that I documented in India include horrific cases in which husbands and their family burnt women alive for not paying an ‘adequate’ dowry. One victim of dowry abuse whom I met was Nazia. She told her story to a women’s support group. We are in a tiny room no larger than 10 feet wall to wall. Women fill almost every inch of floor space. Most of them appear to have suffered physical abuse, and they have now gathered to support Nazia. It is hard for Nazia to speak; she is on the verge of tears, as if she has already used up all of her courage simply to come here. The support group is very important and encouraging, yet it’s hard not to feel disturbed by all the stories of mistreatment and violence.
Many perpetrators are literally getting away with murder. I asked an Indian woman who was traveling with me how this can be possible. She explained that people just make up excuses to make it seem as if the abuse and murders are all self-inflicted. For example, the family that hung their daughter-in-law could claim that the victim had felt suicidal and hung herself. Or if they badly burnt a daughter-in-law, people could claim that her sari caught fire.


Nazia is 21 years old. She has been married for two years. Her husband’s family demanded a motorcycle as part of the dowry, for which her parents gave 50,000 rupees(US$10,000) for the motorcycle. But this wasn’t enough, so the husband demanded a car. But the cost of a car was far beyond what Nazia’s parents could afford.  One day when Nazia was riding with her displeased husband on the new motorcycle, he pushed her off. His intent was clearly to kill her and cover up the murder as a traffic accident. She was seven months pregnant at the time.

After Nazia survived the “accident,” her husband tricked her into taking some medicine to help her recover. Instead of feeling better, she felt ill and went to the hospital, where she delivered a stillborn child. After Nazia was discharged from the hospital (which required her husband to sign some papers, apparently) he left without her. Nazia has been living with her mother for the past five months. She wants a divorce and the return of her dowry. She broke into tears shortly after I photographed her.


Shanthi had only one daughter named Kavita. When Shanthi marrid, her in-laws demanded 5,000 rupees. But she could only afford 3,000. For lack of 2,000 rupees (US$40) Shanti’s in-laws hanged and murdered her daughter, Kavita.


Kamalesh is a woman with a very abusive husband (note the scar underneath her eye). He is a drunkard and regularly beats her. She still lives with her husband but on a different floor of the house. The husband does not take care of her or her children, and Kamalesh has nowhere else to go.


A mother and daughter in a rural village, 70 km outside of Delhi. I believe the mother’s name is Indu and her daughters is Tinko. Tinko had suffered through five years of abuse. She is living with her mother now, who is very supportive.
Here is a recent article by a very well-known Indian journalist, Kalpana Sharma, which gives a strong analysis and overview of dowry-related violence and homicide in India:
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Kalpana_Sharma/article2856945.ece

To quote from the article:
“The official figures of dowry deaths are obviously just the tip of the iceberg. A truer picture would emerge if we added the cases of young married women registered as having committed suicide.
Dowry has not disappeared. It has morphed. Seema Sirohi, in her interesting and relevant book Sita’s Curse, Stories of Dowry Victims (HarperCollins, 2003), gives this humorous yet apt description of dowry as it has come to be today: Dowry has become a bribe paid to a husband to keep the bride’s body and soul together. A woman is a mere conduit to a ‘good’ dowry – the
definition of ‘good’ being flexible and expandable. The boys are on sale and
there are few discounts in the marriage market. There is no ‘buy one, get
one free’ here. It is a transaction weighted against the woman. In fact, it is a sale where even after the price is paid, satisfaction is not guaranteed. And ironically, the sale is never complete with marriage – the buyer is expected to keep paying in cash and in kind during festivals, to celebrate childbirth, and to mark ritualistic occasions. Any excuse is good enough to keep the one-way street laden and moving with gifts.
The fact that women are still being burned for dowry in modern-day India should enrage us. Why are we accepting of this outrage, this insult to the sensibilities of all women? We should be burning dowry, not women.”

Girls Education- Educate Girls Globally in Rajasthan, India

Posted in Documentary | Photography, Girls Education, India, Non Profit, Recent Projects on July 27, 2011 by tuschman

This past January I documented a girl’s education project in Pali, Rajasthan, India. Educate Girls Globally (EGG), founded by Lawrence Chickering, is focusing on Muslim communities, where “the education of girls and empowerment of women have lagged badly.”

Here are some statistics:

India is home to one of the largest illiterate populations in the world. In Rajasthan, 44% of females are literate, as compared to 76% of males. For every 100 rural girls, only one reaches 12th grade. Out of 26 districts with the highest gender gap, 9 are in Rajasthan. Educate Girls works in Pali, where the gender gap is particularly high.

One of they key features that attracted me to EGG is that the program is designed to be scaled up. In fact, EGG has plans to educate 5 million girls by working closely with communities and local governments. In 2010, Educate Girls has scaled up from 500 schools to 2,342 schools in the entire Pali district, which covers 1,067 villages.

Our first stop was to a very small community where I had a chance to meet and photograph two young women. One young girl was not able to attend school — instead she had to watch her younger sister and tend to the family goats.

The other young woman, pictured here with her mother, receives her mother’s support and encouragement to do well in her studies. Her mother, who had a chance to travel outside of her local community when she was younger, realized that her lack of education was a major limitation to her quality of life. Due to this realization, the mother intended to ensure that her daughter finished her schooling. Evidently, the mother was very proud of her daughter’s persistence in pursuing her education.

We next visited a girls boarding school system. This system of schools was initiated by M. K. Gandhi’s wife to provide for educationally disadvantaged girls – many of whom have disabled parents, are orphans, or live too far away from schooling facilities. It was evident from my short visit and from the photos below that these girls were also being educated to be empowered; they had a great deal of self-confidence and were very supportive of each other.

We then had an opportunity to visit Pipla, a small rural tribal community. It is geographically isolated and consequently cut-off from many state resources. Here, Educate Girls has been the only organization attempting to educate these children to a level where they can commence mainstream schooling. The Non-Residential Bridging Camp (NRBC) program here has been very effective. The number of tribal girls participating in the program is quite high, particularly when taken as a percentage of the total number of girls living in the area. There is a local school nearby (~1km from where we visited) where students who successfully complete the NRBC can continue their education.

I would like to thank Matt Withers,  a volunteer with EGG, who accompanied me on this trip and provided me with much of the background information.