Shahjahan apa, passed away on 28 September 2013 in an accident while on her way to the mahila panchayat (an innovative collective approach for community participation in dispute redressal).
“My daughter was killed by my in-laws. I could not get justice. Yet I had faith in Allah’s rehmat (mercy), and began working for the society, so that such horrors will never again be repeated.”
Shahjahan Apa (born 1945) has channeled the trauma over the murder of her daughter to ensure that no other woman should suffer the same fate: dowry death. She set up Shaktishalini to fight dowry and violence against women. The organization offers temporary shelter to affected women, provides them with legal information and counseling, and, most importantly, listens to them, helping them unburden themselves and providing them with an objective viewpoint and legal advice.
Shahjahan Apa’s daughter was murdered by Shahjahan’s in-laws for dowry. While the trauma of losing her child cut deep, it also ensured that Shahjahan’s life has had only one aim since: “I could not get justice. Yet I had faith in Allah’s rehmat (mercy), and began working for the society, so that such horrors will never again be repeated.” Shahjahan set up Shaktishalini to fight against dowry and violence against women. She runs three service centers in Delhi’s slum areas of Nangloi, Shakur ki Dandy, and Jahangirpuri. She is also involved in disseminating information on dowry, and organizes workshops, street theater, and sustained media campaigns. Furthermore, Shaktishalini runs a temporary shelter for dowry victims, where women are given support, legal information, and counseling. The focus is on encouraging women to be self-reliant. She also conducts workshops for women in slums as well as in schools and colleges-not hesitating to involve men who wish to pitch in-and organizes streetplays to convey the message effectively in areas where literacy levels are low. Shahjahan’s arduous struggle has led the authorities and political parties to look at objectively and strengthen the existing antidowry laws and policies. Shahjahan feels that it is imperative to listen to women and girls in distress. This not only brings understanding, it is also cathartic for them. Her network of listeners takes care of about 400 such cases every year, providing objective viewpoints as well as legal advice. Once women are confident, Shahjahan believes, they can fight their own battles.
South Asia | India
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