Victim Of Child Marriage And Domestic Abuse, Rehana Adeeb Is Now Helping Other Women Fight Against Injustices.
31 May 2017
Being raped as a child, forcibly married at an early age, mother to five daughters in succession, Rehana Adeeb today has not only learnt to raise her own voice but is also helping other women fight against injustices like rape, domestic violence and honour killing.
Belonging to a Muslim family, where she was forced to marry at an age of 15 to a middle-aged man in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, Rehana had to live in purdah. She never got a chance to go against the odds happening to her. After the marriage, she started facing domestic violence, wherein she faced beatings and ostracization by the community and so gradually she started hating her life.
She wanted to end all the violence but didn’t know how as she has seen the same things happening to other women in the family. At that time, there were not many NGOs like the ones’ which we have today. Accidently, she came across Disha-a local NGO that worked on issues related to women’s right.
Rehana never stepped out of her house independently. But, she had to take a step to stop the violence and so she decided to work with Disha.
She began her journey as an activist, undertaking training at Disha, taking on several responsibilities and participating in activities to help women. Soon when she learnt everything, she decided to set up her own NGO Astitva in 2005. She took this decision because she felt the lack of an organisation working on women’s right in an area that was rife with honour killings and violence against women in the Jat and Muslim communities.
She started organising rallies, putting on posters and raising awareness among people to make her voice heard. During all her initial struggles, everyone from her family was against her. Even her husband was not in her support. It was Rehana’s father who gave her strength and support to continue the work she is doing.
Her credibility in her community went up when she was invited to Beijing as a Chief Guest at an International Conference.
Even after the recognition, things were not so easy for Rehana, especially if it means opposing the writ of the khap and caste panchayats. The khap panchayat leaders represent a moneyed and landed class with large-scale ownership of sugarcane fields. With family members in political parties, their authority is difficult to contest.
According to The Wire she said, “Khap panchayat leaders have warned that if anyone attempts to break their authority, they will not be spared. Even if NGOs are operational, their work revolves around the distribution of medicines and working with children and older people. Nobody can challenge the khap panchayats.”
Rehana and her NGO Astitva cannot afford to confront the khaps and have to skirt around them; they do speak up when women are wronged. She had faced many challenges so she is very well aware of what women, especially Muslim women go through. Her main focus was on educating the girls. She also wanted to liberate women from their alcoholic and abusive husbands and give them a chance to live a better life.
The challenges and struggles don’t seem to end. Whether it is opposition from Khap panchayat or lack of funds to run the NGO or caste based ignorance or threatening calls, Rehana has to deal with all this. She, with a confident outlook, overcomes every challenge with a spirit to achieve her aspiration of making a violence free society.
Rehana is a Woman of Courage because she is bold, confident and ready to take up any challenge even if it seems difficult. She has fought for the women rights, helped women, has been arrested, and also has faced lathi charges. However, nothing has killed her spirit and that makes her a courageous woman.
Photo Credit: The Wire|Siddharth Adelkar
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