Lead in Heels: A Network of Empowered Women Helps Victims of Domestic Violence and Sex Trafficking in India
- The California-based non-profit organization helps economically and socially backward women become self reliant.
For the last eight years, Lead in Heels, a California-based non-profit has been working to empower women and girls globally, and aiming to bring about support, social awareness, activism, change and justice. Established in 2015, it is currently led by radio and television host and community activist, Papiha Nandy.
“With its network of empowered women who ‘Lead in Heels,’ the nonprofit engages in local and international efforts via partnerships with organizations both in the U.S. and India,” Nandy, the chairperson of Lead in Heels told American Kahani. Those partnerships “primarily focus on social advancements for women through building a support system for victims of domestic and sexual violence, for NGOs dedicated to work for the betterment of women and children, for activists committed to bringing about social justice, and for women and girls to have access to means for financial independence, education and health.”
Nandy said the nonprofit was started to support women who are vulnerable and oppressed. “As women we have to stand up for other women,” she said. We come from a culture where women are asked to be quiet, and not talk, even when they are abused.” So, the aim is “to educate these women and help them stand on their own feet,” she added. “Armed with all the resources and information, these women feel mentally supported, stable and needed.”
Nandy talked about a few of the projects in India the nonprofit is involved in funding. Together with the Rescue Foundation, which fights human trafficking, Lead in Heels helps the victims by focusing on their health, wellness, and development. “When the girls come to the shelter, they have trauma, and many have ailments as well,” she explained. “Once they come to the shelter, we provide them with a box of toiletries, and also help with their boarding and operations.” They fund projects to make them self-reliant as well, providing them with computers and sewing machines so they can make bags, bed spreads, and comforters. The Rescue Foundations currently operates four branches in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and in Gujarat.
The organization works with the Goranbose Gram Bikash Kendra or GGBK in Kolkata. The not-for-profit focuses on developing outstanding leaders among women, youth and children and differently abled citizens. We believe in the power of the deprived sections of the society and we want to support them with enough means to lead a life of dignity and self-respect. “We provide microfinance seed money to all these survivors to do small biz from their home,” Nandy said, detailing some of the projects they fund.
One of them is to provide two goats per woman for a period of six months. The goats are purchased at a nominal rate and the women can see their milk and earn money. Once the six month period has passed, the women can sell the goats and keep the profit. Another project, especially meant for “women who desperately need to stand on their own, and have no resources,” provides each family with six chickens each. They can then sell the eggs, and could also sell the chicken if required. They have also given seed money to five girls to open a stationary and snack store, to sell books, newspapers, tea and snacks. “The girls are first trained by the organization to run the place effectively and efficiently, and are also provided a mentor to guide them. Once they are cleared to run the place, they have to return the seed money after six months.
Lead in Heels funds projects for women in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh as well, partnering with Maa Bamleshwari Janhit Kare Samiti run by Phoolbasan Bai Yadav, “which aims to make economically and socially backward women self-reliant through micro initiatives,” according to its website.
The group has also partnered with the Agra-based Chhanv Foundation, which runs Sheroes Hangout, a cafe and community run by survivors of acid attacks. Nandy said her NGO funds projects to take care of surgeries and help the women learn how they can work at the cafe, which boosts their confidence, so once they are healed, they can go look for regular jobs.” Similar work is done with Prajwala in Hyderabad, which is an anti-trafficking organization working on the issue of sex trafficking and sex crime.
Lead is Heels in looking to expand its work in the U.S., and is currently looking for counselors and therapists who are trained to deal with survivors of domestic abuse and violence, as well as volunteers “who can empower women and help them in different situations.” Nandy is hoping to see more and more of the community involved in their mission, and is also urging for financial support. “Hundred percent of the donations are used to fund our various projects.”