The panchayats are training them in self-defence to combat violence.

The Mararikulam region in Alappuzha district is setting a model for the State by making women and girls capable of self-defence.

The Mararikulam South and North panchayats were among the first to launch self-defence programmes for women about three years ago. Now, the Kudumbasree’s State leadership has appreciated the programme and it will be introduced in panchayats across the State soon.

Kudumbasree Executive Director K.B. Valsalakumari told The Hindu that the proposal was to include Kalaripayattu or Karate in the programme, which was in the final stages of preparation.

In the Mararikulam South panchayat, where the programme is being implemented in a more extensive way, 2,600 girls from five schools from the upper primary to Plus Two levels have been trained in taekwondo. And they are not just been physically empowered. Weekly counselling sessions are held for the girls by doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, and from the next academic year, there will be yoga sessions.

While the panchayat authorities feel that the results of these initiatives are yet to be assessed, they say the efforts will only be intensified from the next financial year. The empowerment drive is going out of the walls of schools, aiming at helping the women in the panchayat, with more impact.

The nodal agency for these programmes, the Kudumbasree, apart from helping the women with their self-sufficiency programmes, has submitted a Rs.85 lakh-project for women’s resource centres in all 23 wards of the panchayat. And even before the funds have come, the preparations are nearing completion. Libraries and Anganwadis are being equipped with exercise machines, while four counsellors have been interviewed for appointment. A yoga trainer has been roped in and the library’s bookshelves now have more women-oriented literature and reading stuff. Efforts are being made to get a retired judge to offer legal advice on various matters to the women every week or month.

“Our efforts in the schools show that the counselling, apart from the taekwondo classes, is quite popular. The girls are being taught to handle the world on their own,” Mararikulam South panchayat president N.P. Snehajan says.

The panchayat, again joining hands with Kudumbasree, is in the process of setting up a sanitary-napkin-manufacturing unit in the panchayat, from where the product will be distributed free of cost to schools. Ten women belonging to the Scheduled Castes have been trained for the manufacturing unit. An incinerator for disposal of the napkins is being installed. The unit and napkin-distribution programme is expected to be functional from the coming academic year.

The Mararikulam North grama panchayat has trained 320 girls in the seventh and eighth standards of three schools in the panachayat as part of its project of training girls in martial arts to combat the increasing violence against women.

Panchayat president Prabha Madhu says 10 women members of the panchayat will be next in line for training, along with Kudumbasree members, as part of its project titled “Kaithirivettom.” “Their training will begin in 2013-14. Along with them, girls students of fifth and sixth standards will be given training. The idea is to have at least 50 women trained in martial arts as part of the project,” she said.

The trained 320 students belong to St. Augustine High School, Mararikulam; GMMS Girls High School, SL Puram, and Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Kanichukulangara. The package consists of 12-hour training in yoga and taekwondo. The panchayat has plans to start awareness class for boys on how to behave with women in Kanichukulangara.

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