VOLUNTEERISM AND ETHICS
Shelters for Abused and Homeless Women
What to do? The issue of abused and homeless women is one that has recently been brought to the forefront of social issues in Pakistan. Abuse, most often begins after marriage. According to local traditions, once a girls baraat (wedding procession) enters the husbands house, only her janaza (funeral pyre) should leave. Loyalty and devotion to the husband and his family come above every thing else. When family support is pulled away, the girl is then at the mercy of her husband. This total control of the girls life sometimes leads to her death. Often times it leads to abuse. The girl cannot return to her fathers house for fear of dishonoring him and so continues to suffer. In some cases she may chose to run away therefore igniting her husbands anger that then is left with no choice put to pursue and kill her to redeem his honor.
There are very few shelters, which will take in runaway women. These shelters besides being few in number are also run on a small scale often equipped to handle visitors for short periods of time. No real constructive assistance is given to the battered women.
With USD 1 million, I would open a large hostel for women in need of protection. Inside the compound there will be a polytechnic/ educational institute to provide them an education, guidance and counseling for their emotional health, law firm to handle legal matters and a nursery primary school for their children.
Putting the $$$$ to use: Opening a shelter in a major city is like putting a bandage on a large wound. Most women housed in shelters are semi-literate if at all and with little or no skills. In order to make them into productive citizens a polytechnic/ womens school/college should be opened inside the compound for security reasons and to avoid transport issues. This building should also contain guidance and counseling service to look after their emotional health.
A nursery and primary school should be available for women who were accompanied by young children.
A law firm, which does not have to be located inside the compound, be available to take care of their legal matters.
Why would I do it and how do I justify it? Living in a mans world is difficult enough for women in Europe and America. Women in Pakistan face even more discrimination. Women rejected by society are pushed to the very bottom of the food chain.
With an able body and an active mind, they can contribute to society and become productive members. Providing a shelter will meet their basic needs of food, clothing and a roof over their head. Giving them an education will enable them to become independent and chalk out a future for themselves.Seeing to their emotional needs will go a long way in making them into whole people again. If accompanied by a child, looking after the child will provide them the support they would have received at home. And to make legal assistance available to them will give them a better sense of security.
Once a women decides it is time for her to leave the shelter, ready to go out to make a life, all aspects should be in proper order to ensure a successful second chance.