ProjectDebi offers counselling to victims and provides them with a platform to share their stories to raise awareness. Their slogan is “Turning girls with hopes into goddesses with power”
He was her music teacher, quite a senior one. He would come to her house early in the morning when her parents would be out on their morning walk.
Asha (pseudonym) was too young to understand what he was doing to her, but she did feel ashamed and embarrassed, even scared to tell her parents about it.
"I felt that I was not safe within my own space, even at my own house I was not protected. I remained quiet for a year, I became withdrawn from everything that I loved. Then I got involved with ProjectDebi, and shared my story with them. I began to read more about issues like feminism and gender equality, and I began to meet new people through ProjectDebi," she told The Business Standard.
After Asha shared her story with others, she got to know that she was not his only victim. There were many other young female students.
She said, "Slowly I gained the strength to confront my abuser and complain about him to the institution where he worked. He has a young daughter, just like me. And I did not want her to be scared like me."
18-year-old Asha will soon join university and she is grateful for ProjectDebi's presence in her life.
It is a youth organisation which works on educating young people about gender sensitivity, women's rights, anatomy and contributions, organises exhibitions and raises funds for social causes.
At the same time, ProjectDebi offers counselling to victims and provides them with a platform to share their stories to raise awareness. Their slogan is "Turning girls with hopes into goddesses with power".
The inspiration behind the project
Its founder and CEO Quazi Mohammad Abrar believes that with rape or domestic violence, people tend to focus on the victims and not the problems, which makes things worse.
He feels that it is not women's fault that they are raped or harassed, it is the men's fault but their role in gender violence is completely ignored.
He wants to change this and ensure that female victims find support and encouragement to share their stories instead of being victim blamed.
A student of behavioural neuroscience at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, Abrar grew up under the influence of two strong, independent women - his mother and his sister.
"My father is a Marine Engineer and in his absence, my mother played the role of both parents. I also got wonderful support from my older sister. In my family I saw these two incredible women, but outside I saw a different picture. From a very young age, the word rape would fill me with rage every time I saw it," said Abrar.
One time a friend had her period in school. Abrar saw how instead of helping her, students - both male and female - made fun of the situation. Even the teachers were not helpful.
They termed the incident a horrifying one, and called the student's mother to take her home. Abrar recalled, "That day at school, for the first time in my life, I realised that women and men are treated differently."
Empowering women: One-step at a time
In the last two years, ProjectDebi held quite a few exhibitions and social campaigns. In October 2019, they conducted a mass awareness campaign called "Pinktober" where they engaged women living on the streets to raise awareness about breast cancer.
Last year, they held a photography and poetry exhibition titled "Revolutioনারী" at EMK Centre. The event was focused on spreading the power and beauty of womanhood in the society.
It is not very common to see teenagers like Abrar becoming vocal about sexism and patriarchy.
His stern beliefs have made him lose many friends, but he is not bothered by it at all. "I make sure no one gets to make jokes about rape or other sensitive issues around me. Sometimes it is tough to make people understand that these things simply cannot be made fun of!"
Although not very regularly, ProjectDebi offers counselling to victims. Abrar shared one such story with us. "She was younger than me. Her boyfriend would regularly blackmail and abuse her. She went to his family to ask for help but his mother behaved appallingly and threatened the girl with further abuse. She blamed the girl for everything. She came to us and we helped the victim get over the trauma and gradually that boy left her alone."
By 2021, he hopes that they will be able to include legal and medical professionals in the ProjectDebi team and turn it into a full-fledged service centre.
"We know it would not be an easy journey for us, we know we would not get a lot of support. But we hope for better things in future. Hope is all we have."
Asha is now a working member of the ProjectDebi team. Her parents are supportive of her work and encourage her to do more. She is no longer that timid young girl. Now, she is vocal about her rights as a woman and a human being.
"When my mother hears that I have to go somewhere with my team, she does not ask twice because she knows and believes in my work," said Asha.