How Sanoyara empowered herself and confronted the perpetrator

Shanwara Final

While  the Action for Equality programme specifically targets adolescent boys, 15 year old Sanoyara  is an exception. As this fierce girl’s story unfolds, you realize we need more such exceptions.

Sanoyara Darjee, is a 15 years old girl, from a small village called Manirtot 5 in South 24 Parganas in West Bengal under the Hummingbird Raise programme. She has been a participant in the Action for Equality programme for the last one year. As a pilot initiative, our partner – Rupantaran Foundation adapted Action for Equality, and merged it with their programme, ‘Moner Janla’ which includes not only boys, but also girls, with a hope for more intensive community action towards gender equality.  

For Sanoyara, Moner Janla is a space to exhilarate her fear and curiosity, without inhibitions. In her town, women’s mobility in public spaces is strictly policed and severely curtailed by patriarchal norms. And so was hers. Till she spoke up against it.

Shanwara with friends

Sanoyara with fellow participants of the Action for Equality programme

Sanoyara believes that the intention behind ‘eve-teasing’ is to attract women’s negative attention. More frustratingly, this harassment is an early manifestation of patriarchal masculinity. Gender segregation and a `boys will be boys’ attitude furthers this behaviour. However, if things are left alone, they would certainly worsen.

Everyday, on her way to school she faced a group of boys who passed lewd comments as she walked by. She and her friends felt traumatised by the unpleasant and abusive behaviour. She feared if she revealed about it to anybody she might be the next victim of forced marriage or a school drop-out. So, she resorted to helpless silence.

Sanoyara said  the courage of retaliating on the spot and not accepting it as an unfortunate truth of her life has been one of her recent achievements. Two sessions into the programme, she made up her mind to confront the harassers. She remembers being unnerved by her own decision. So that day, she, along with her friends, marched up to the boys, looked them squarely in the eye and spoke about her rights. She talked about how her access to public spaces was lost, her right to education might be snatched away because of their entitled behaviour.  

On hearing this, the boys were in a fury but Sanoyara and her friends didn’t step back. As this confrontation had caught some attention, passersby got involved, which made the girls more confident.

At home, she hesitatingly talked about it her father about her day. To her pleasant surprise, her father was proud of her actions. Sanoyara says “ While I was narrating the story to my father, I had a fear in my mind of being stopped from going to school or attending AFE classes but also knew I could change his mind.” As she walks to school without inhibitions today, Sanoyara feels this has been one of cherishable experiences so far and would continue her protest against street sexual harassment along with her peer group.

To know more about the Hummingbird Raise programme, click here