The National Crime Records Bureau 2019 reported 62.4 percent of crimes per lakh women against 58.8 percent in 2018.
The UN Women stats and facts report that 72 percent of the women (including girls) are child trafficking victims. The report also added that now with COVID-19 restrictions, the partner violence calls to helpline numbers have increased by five times.
These numbers reflect the precarious conditions of women in our country.
All these assaults and abusive violence on women can be reduced to an extent only when they know how to fight back. And it requires some moves and kicks of self-defence. To make that happen, 40-year-old Aparna Rajawat, founder of “Pink Belt Mission” has started a project to teach women self-defence techniques.
Pink Belt Mission
Born and brought up in Agra, Aparna is a martial arts sportswoman, 14 times national champion, and also an international martial arts medalist. She started Pink Belt Mission 4 years ago (2016) with a motto to make women stronger. In the beginning, she started it with motivational and inspirational speeches and slowly incorporated self-defence training as well by considering her background.
The Pink Belt Mission solely focuses on women's safety, covering every aspect and dimension which women need for their life. The self-defence training covers five dimensions - emotional strength, mental strength, legal rights awareness education, digital safety (threats, cyberbullying, online crimes on social media), and physical strength. They also teach mensural hygiene, and financial strength through vocational training. All the aforementioned techniques are taught to aid women to combat any sort of violence and become self-reliant.
Aparna’s team started this mission with shoe labourers. Now, they are skilled labourers who are working in the export business living their life independently and financially better than before. To date, 30 women are empowered financially by the Pink Belt mission.
For the last 2 years, the team has collaborated with the big organisations like UP Police, WPL, UNICEF and trained 1.5 lakh women across Lucknow, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Jaipur, Kotak, Noida, and several other cities. They have done online training in different cities too. Now, Pink Belt Mission has reached 15 states.
“Age is no bar for self-defence training. It needs purely some technique to learn. All my sessions start from the age of 4 up to 75 years. Also, the timing of the practice is a different concept, as it’s not a regular training,” she added.
How do these sessions happen?
“We book one auditorium to conduct the session. In that, we try to bring maximum women of that city, mostly college girls or professional girls. Not from schools, because school girls won’t have that freedom” professes Aparna.
It’s a 3-4 hours powerful session conducted in each city by Aparna. The session is crowded with around 2000-2500 women. In that session, she covers all the five dimensions, i.e., emotional, mental strength, legal rights awareness education, digital safety, and an active self-defence session for 40-50 minutes.
“The whole motive is to make these women turn into master trainers. We train them for 3-4 days and make them master trainers of pink belt mission in their respective city. We try to involve authority only to get access letters” claims Aparna.
After running for four years, the organisation is still facing challenges. “Even after approaching the government, there’s no response from their side to work this project on a real basis. To take this mission forward, the authorities and officials should support us,” states Aparna.
A couple of months back, they started the Mission Shakti campaign, but it lacked government support. After sending so many letters to the administration and authorities, including the CM, there was no proper reply from their end.
“They need to understand that some people work for the betterment of society, and not for name or fame. The duty of living a meaningful life is to give back to society without wanting anything in return. Women's safety is not taken very seriously in this country. Well, the papers are talking but in the ground reality, it’s not going anywhere,” says Aparna.
“Most of the trainers were bullied, stalked, and blackmailed by their male friends or relatives in their past. But today, because of our training, they became very strong and empowered. They could fight back and give them a real answer. Earlier, they were timid, but now they are courageous and remarkable,” expresses Aparna.
They also had many acid attacks and domestic violence victims who would suffer for their daily bread and butter.
Yet, Aparna’s business partner, Mansi Chandra, who runs the shoe export unit said that these women have become skilled labor and got full salary during the pandemic period. All those women are trained vocationally under the Pink Belt Mission.
“Once the pink belt mission reached that city, the whole city started changing a lot. We also saw some of the cities – I cannot say 100 percent with surety. But I spoke to higher officers of several cities. They said that women are becoming so educated, aware, even the crime rate and eve-teasing have started to reduce. So, this is very good to hear when the city started changing.”
Aparna’s works are impeccable and she’s committed to bringing that change to society. She has also received several awards for her works, namely, Iconic Woman 2018 by Hindustan Times for the best social work, and Guinness World Record for the largest self-defence class learned by 7400 women.
A documentary is also made by Hollywood director John McCrite, which has gone to 30 film festivals around the world. It includes stories of acid attack victims, domestic violence, shoe labourers and others.
“We want to take this to every city, and the state of India. It’s doable and possible. We want to train every woman. Plus, we are looking for collaborations with the government and companies for real work.”
Aparna also plans to open a helpline for women. For that, they are trying to collaborate with the respective departments as well. “But the govt should take this seriously,” she concludes.
If everything goes as planned, especially due to the pandemic, the Pink Belt Mission will reach up to 2 million women by 2022, thanks to this one woman’s efforts.
All the images are sourced with permission from Aparna Rajawat.