It’s about 9 pm. With hardly any people on the street and the street lights flickering, I quicken my pace. Home is just a few metres away, and I hope to reach there as soon as possible. The thoughts running in my mind can be understood by any other girl or woman.
Anyone except the women of the Kangazha village in Kerala.
These girls and women have a confident gait and know for a fact that if an offender were to come close to them, they can defend themselves, all thanks to an initiative by the Kerala Police.
In April 2017, the Gram Panchayat of the village partnered with the police department and started an initiative under the Nirbhaya scheme where the female population was trained in self-defense.
Speaking to The Hindu, B Pradeep, the president of the Panchayat, said,
“The training was imparted initially through a core team of five master trainers from the Kerala police, who then reached out to the Kudumbasree units.
Classes were held on weekends, and soon, the attendance outgrew the space.”
The police department selected one civil officer from each of the sub-divisions in Kottayam to begin the training in schools, colleges, madrasas, churches and any other place where women could be gathered and trained together. Girls and women between the ages of 5 and 60 trained under this initiative.
“We selected this panchayat because they were thrilled about the initiative,” Vinod Pillai, DySP of Vaikom sub-division told The Better India. He added, “The panchayat president and members of Kudumbasree, schools and colleges came together in this initiative, helping us execute it successfully.”
“The training was for a total of 21 hours, divided into convenient periods depending on where the classes were held–schools, offices, church groups etc.,” Usha Devi, a Kudumbashree official, told The Times of India.
Kudumbashree is an initiative by the government of Kerala that works towards poverty eradication and women empowerment.
When the first batch was trained, one “leader” from each of the groups was selected to train the next batch of trainees. And the number of women who completed the course is simply amazing.
Ammini Alex, the Kudumbasree chairperson of Kanghaza division, told Manorama, “The trainees were asked to impart their knowledge to schools, colleges etc. Out of 10,308 women in Kangazha panchayat, 7,350 have been given proper training. We have now started our follow-up survey, through which we will identify those who are yet to take part in these classes. We have also decided to give training at homes to suit their timings.”
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Elaborating how the training could be completed in 21 man-hours, Jayasree Binu, a trainer, said, “It is not about learning a form of martial art. These sessions train the women in 41 techniques to handle situations like an acid attack, rape in a locked room, ATM attack, elevator attack, kidnap attempts and harassment on buses. For each of these situations, there are quite a few techniques to deal with the attackers, depending on the modus operandi.”
As horrific as it sounds, that women have to be cautious in almost every public place; the times are such that self-defense has become a basic necessity for women.
As for the Kangazhi women, the training has brought a visible change in their lives.
“Now, I have the confidence to face a stranger, at any time of the day. The feeling that we are strong enough to face any situation has helped us shed the usual reaction of cowering — people are now calling us the tigresses of Kangazha,” 41-year-old trainer, Jayasree said.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)