Self Help Groups offer counselling on gender issues, with good success

Varalakshmi, a young housewife from Chagallu in West Godavari district could save her married life from the brink of a breakdown with ‘self-help’.

Resorting to ‘Mouna Poratam’, a silent protest in Telugu, in a filmy style, Varalakshma, a class X dropout brought her ‘erring’ husband, Neelakantham, a local sugar factory worker, to his knees with the help of the fellow Self Help Group members. Her success story, unfolded by Ch. Pedamanga, president of the Chagallu Mandal Samakhya, at a meeting of the Zilla Samakhya, won appreciation from local MP Kavuri Sambhasiva Rao and Collector G. Vanimohan.

Varalakshmi realised that marriage was no bed of roses for her soon after she stepped into her in-laws’ house at Chagallu. Her parents with poor economic background gave the in-laws Rs. 2 lakh as dowry at the time of marriage. Another Rs. 1 lakh was paid to them as a second instalment by disposing of their house at Kapavaram. In the meantime, Varalakshmi was taken to their maternal house three months after the marriage to keep her away from spouse during the ‘ashadha masam’, as is the custom. She was disallowed into her in-laws house after the inauspicious ashadha masam. Varalakshmi placed the issue before the village level Social Action Committee (SAC), comprising SHG women and the victim resorted to a week-long silent protest at the house of her in-laws. Around 100 fellow-SHG women of different villages from the three neighbouring mandals of Chagallu, Kovvuru and Tallapudi joined the protest in her support. The protest finally paid off with Neelakantham agreed to accept her back into his life.

Not successful

The end-result in the case of another woman, victim of beating by her drunkard husband in Bhimavaram area, was not the same. According to Valli Pushpalatha, president of the Bhimavaram Mandal Samakhya, the SHG women failed to bring about a truce in this particular case. Vexed with beating and harassment by her husband under the influence of alcohol, the victim deserted him and went to her maternal house after the counselling, involving him, by police and SHG leaders went in vain.

M. Jeevamani, president of the Zilla Samakhya, said conflict resolution in the case of drunkard husbands was proved near impossible as it became difficult to wean them away from the addiction.

Over 50 per cent of the gender grievances received by the ZS were relating to liquor-induced harassment, Ms. Jeevamani said.

  • Vexed with harassment by her alcoholic husband a woman left him

  • ‘Over 50 p.c. of gender grievances relate to problems caused by liquor'