SHE Scholarship students develop innovative Protection Circle to curb rape and violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

In recent article in BBC by, Geeta Pandey outlines a series of horrific rape cases since 2012 that illustrate the entrenched rape culture in India that normalizes sexual violence against women and continues to silence and shame the victims, especially when the accused are men with political power or money.  According to Pandey.  “Rape and sexual crimes have been in the spotlight in India since December 2012 when a 23-year-old woman was gang-raped by six men on a bus in Delhi. She died a few days later from her injuries. The incident led to global outrage and forced India to introduce tough new laws to deal with crimes of sexual nature. Five men were given the death penalty and four of them were executed last year. But despite the increased scrutiny, there has been no let up in the number of sexual crimes against women. In 2018, police recorded 33,977 cases of rape in India – that’s an average of a rape every 15 minutes. Campaigners say the actual numbers are much higher as many are not even reported.”

For the communities we serve in India, the stress put on the families from the lockdowns has increased violence against women and girls in the home and made them more vulnerable to fake marriage proposals and job offers that are merely bait for sex-trafficking or a lifetime of abuse.  The economic realities and the decreased opportunities for work have made it very difficult for girls to continue their education.  Many are forced to drop out and help with the household needs or get married to relieve some of the economic burden. 

In addition to advocating to continue their education, the SHE (Scholarship for Higher Education) students that Yoga Gives Back supports have stepped up to combat the increase in sexual abuse by organizing community education meetings and forming Protection Circles to prevent sexual abuse, trafficking, and child marriage.  These protection circles serve as an “alarm system” in which women in distress will call out, and the other women in the circle will echo her call for help until the authorities arrive.  Thanks to this innovative work, violence against girls and women decreased in the local area.  According to a report from our NGO Partner NISHTHA, nearly 88 child marriages have been prevented and 3 girls were rescued from being trafficked under the guise of fake marriage.

SHE (Scholarship for Higher Education), is one of the programs YGB funds with NGO Partners NISHTHA in West Bengal and Deenabandhu in Karnataka, providing 300 youth in the rural villages with a five year scholarship to obtain a college degree. 

We are inspired to witness many students already graduating with Bachelor’s Degrees, making history in their families and communities.  Students have obtained employment in the healthcare, medical and tech industries – transforming the lives of their families and paying it forward by inspiring and mentoring the next generation.  Many of the SHE students, both those still in school and those that have graduated, have become community leaders, stepping up during the pandemic to address social issues of violence, lack of access to education, and hunger.

Watch this documentary – Mauna’s Story – to see how your donation changes lives.  With a donation of $250, you can support one girl with higher education for a year … and empower her for a lifetime.  Donate Here.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela