Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Beyond BACAS: Familiar Faces:: Shiamala Baby

If you've read our Chennai post, you'd know that our students got to meet Shiamala Baby, a long time friend of the program staff. Our students got to hear from this amazing woman who has started her own organization to empower and train women. 
Shiamala Auntie 
Shiamala Auntie received the group with open arms and a willing heart. She welcomed us into her office, excited that we were there and eager to share about the organization and its efforts. As mentioned in the previous post, she shared with the group a lot about herself, including past pains and struggles.

For over 10 years, she was abused by her husband. She lived in fear about coming out because of the challenges women receive without a husband. But finally, she knew that she had had enough. She received help and got out of the cycle of abuse. It was then that she knew that other women needed to be educated about their rights and given skills to improve their lives. She started FORWARD, the Forum for Women’s Rights and Development. Shiamala Auntie believes that “education can transform lives” and that belief is seen within some of the major objectives of this organization. Several aims of FORWARD include teaching victimized women about the laws that exist for their protection, educating the public about women’s rights, and training the children and future generations.
(Unrelated Photo)
Out of her own struggles, healing comes about for other women. Through FORWARD, Shiamala Baby has been able to empower women and educate them about their government-endowed rights. She also educated our ISPers about some of the laws that are currently in effect to help protect women from domestic violence. FORWARD is also doing women’s empowerment work among several villages in and around Chennai. And our ISPers had the opportunity to visit some of those villages, which you can read about in our post, as mentioned at the beginning of the post (yes, that was another shameless plug).  
Just some of the women Shiamala Baby serves. 
We learned about the struggles that the villagers face in their efforts to better themselves and their economic situation. In one village, the most educated person was a young girl in the 10th standard (10th grade). We learned about the hopes that the people have for their children and future generations. It is difficult to send children to school but with Shiamala Auntie’s help, more children are able to attend school and obtain an education.
They were adorable! Village children who are able to go to school because of Shiamala Auntie's work. 
We were incredibly blessed to hear from Shiamala Auntie and lean about all that she's doing for others. She inspired our students and encouraged through her story.

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