Addressing the tragedies of rape and suicide among young girls in West Bengal, India
In the past twelve years, Yoga Gives Back has shared numerous uplifting stories of transformation. Thanks to our growing global yoga community’s support, Yoga Gives Back has helped to empower more than 1,300 underserved women and children with micro-loan programs and education funds.
Yet a disturbing reality continues to create a cloud over India, a cloud so dark it can sometimes create a shadow of helplessness. Since April, I’ve been receiving regular emails about horrendous cases of rape and suicide from Mina Das, Director of Nishtha, our NGO Partner in West Bengal whose mission is to empower women to advocate for equal rights and opportunities.
On April 13, Mina wrote, “Dear Kayoko, We have become deeply depressed to know that one of the teen-aged daughters of Nishtha has brutally been raped; and after the rape, was severely injured by a sharpened blade wielded by a young adult.” As soon as this news went around the village her girlfriends captured the 27-year-old neighbor man at home, tied him to a tree, and waited until the local police arrived. These young girls acted bravely and swiftly due to the power of Nishtha’s social justice workshops in their villages—learning about human rights and how to act to protect them. YGB’s scholarship program supports these workshops, which are just as important as academic classes.
“She is our daughter and we will fight for her justice until the end of the case, keeping our life at stake (against political and social pressure). We have all hope that you all will be by our side until we get proper justice.” Legal service they can afford is always very slow and disappointing, Mina wrote, “How long will we have to tolerate all this beastly atrocity?”
Women Rising up to Raise Awareness
Within a few days of this violent crime, two thousand local village women marched seeking justice for the girl and raising awareness to prevent future incidents. Their actions were covered in the local news.
This is not an isolated incident but one that happens far too often. On April 10, a 15-year-old girl sought shelter at Nishtha after she was almost raped by a wage laborer she worked with on a farm. On April 16, a 15-year-old member of Nishtha was taken to another village by her parents for an arranged marriage. With the help of the police, she was rescued on April 18, the day of the proposed marriage. On April 23, a Nishtha Day Care Centre girl committed suicide at home. These are only a few of the stories that demonstrate the importance of this work to empower girls, youth, and women.
Yoga Gives Back Supports Educational Initiatives to Empower Women
As we receive the tremendous gift of yoga in our daily lives that empowers us physically and spiritually, it becomes our duty to take action as we become aware of such injustice. At Nishtha, Mina fights against the trauma these crimes and tragedies cause among adolescent girls, families, and even the social workers. Part of my mission at Yoga Gives Back is to continue to support educational initiatives that focus on social justice and equality, social empowerment and the collective reduction of violence. After over one decade, I feel our work has just begun.
Support Yoga Gives Back
Support the work of Yoga Gives Back and gather in community. at the organization’s annual fundraising Gala event, Sunday, September 29 at 5pm at Glo. Learn more and register at: yogagivesback.org/annual-gala-fundraiser.
Kayoko Mitsumatsu is a documentary filmmaker and avid yoga practitioner. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Yoga Gives Back: yogagivesback.org.