We are surrounded with news of injustice and exploitation of the poor, downtrodden and women everyday. It is heartening then to see people dedicating their lives to making our society – just, free and equitable. More-so when men decide to take up the cause of women and give them voice when they seem to have lost one!
Shakti Vahini, co-founded by the Kant Brothers in 2001, works towards combating human trafficking and violence against women and children in India. Headed by Ravi Kant, its president, Shakti Vahini is strongly supported by Nishi Kant, its executive director, and Rishi Kant, a social activist.
The Kant brothers have been doing this inspiring work for more than 10 years now. From getting the plight of abused women acknowledged to lending a strong voice on policy and legal changes, to combating violence against women and children in India, the Kant brothers have done exemplary work in the field.
“We all hear horrendous stories of crimes against women – rapes, forced labor etc. These stories affect us all and we all must take responsibility to make our society just and safe. We all need to contribute,” says Nishi.
Ravi points out that challenges are even bigger in the large hinterlands of the country where awareness and media outreach is even less. To ensure fair implementation of the law, Shakti Vahini has been proposing legislation, demanding that laws be enforced, improving access to services and empowering victims to take action. Ravi says, “law enforcement agencies like the police need to be sensitized to deal with crimes against women as they are a part of the first-response agencies.”
Shakti Vahini has been involved in training of more than 6,000 policemen across India, and has developed specialized training units and intervention teams to work closely with the police.
Shakti Vahini has prepared a report on honor killings for the National Commission for Women, and Ravi has been a member of the Central Advisory Committee to combat trafficking. In 2011 he was appointed by the Supreme Court of India to a panel that rehabilitated victims of sex trafficking in India. He is also an advocate at the Supreme Court of India and has worked on public and pro bono litigation cases.
Shakti Vahini is supported by a strong professional team, best known for its work on rescues and interventions to repatriate victims who have been trafficked so they can get back to their lives. They find inspiration in helping oppressed people get their life back on track.
“When we rescue a girl-child and can see her desire for a happy life, it motivates us to do more,” says Rishi.“Every girl we rescue has a story, how they were exploited — personally, sexually, physically, mentally. A trafficked girl has no ability to express her emotions. We have to stand with her. Our responsibility is to give voice to the voice-less.”
The brothers put together form an admirable mix of skills and outlooks. Shakti Vahini’s strength lies in building partnerships, engaging with other groups — government, police, judges, prosecutors — all the while trying to change the way our country works.
“When I talk to people in law-enforcement, administrative officials, the state government, the law makers, they all have the same patriarchal views,” he says. “We have to fight the mindset of our society.”
They are completely aware of the magnitude of the work they have taken up as well as the force of opposition – organised groups with the best of lawyers to defend them. They have been threatened and attacked physically, legally in the past but it doesn’t deter them from their purpose.
“We know we’re on the right path and we have to keep going,” says Ravi. The brothers feel that the best response to these attacks by organized crime is persistence and transparency.Breaking stereotypes and a slumbered state of apathy towards issues related to women and children, Kant brothers re-kindle hope for justice that is accessible and available to everyone as a basic human right, just the way it should be!