‘Safe haven for women and children’: Kottayam set to open its first gender park soon
After Kozhikode, Kottayam now plans to set up a ‘gender park’, exclusively for women and children, in Thiruvarppu, Ettumanoor block.
The park will be set up on half an acre of land lent by the Ettumanoor block panchayat in Thiruvarppu.
The project, for which, the panchayat has already set aside Rs 80 lakhs for the initial phase, will offer several facilities for women and children, and is expected to be completed in 2-3 years.
“We plan to provide a safe haven for women and children. So for this, we will offer a range of facilities such as temporary stay options for women who come from afar, round-the-clock She Taxi services from the park, a 24-hour canteen, counselling, skill development courses and self-employment training facilities for women. Perhaps, most importantly, we will also have rehabilitation centres for victims of sexual abuse, both women and children,” said Zacharias Kuthiravelil, District Panchayat President.
The panchayat plans to make the park a convergence point of sorts, for women-friendly activities. Besides, it will also try to improve existing facilities for women in the district.
Every three months, mandatory training programmes for counsellors under the Psychosocial Service Project of the Social Justice Department in the district will be held in the park
“The counsellors will be given special training and monitored consistently. They go to schools, orphanages and other places in the district to offer their services. However, we don’t know how good they are or if they are even doing their job right. To address this, we plan to organise a mandatory 2-day orientation programme once every 3 months for them. They will be asked to submit reports of their work and will even get an opportunity to hone their skills,” he added.
Apart from this, the project also aims to integrate the Jagrata Samitis, or vigilante squads, in the 71 panchayats in Kottayam with the district squad.
“The block Jagrata Samitis are currently in a pitiable state. The officials there deny that there are any atrocities happening against women in their block. To address this, we will be training these squads and equipping them with the skill to resolve minor issues pertaining to women in the block. We will also teach them to relay information to the district authorities such as the panchayat or women’s protection cells if the problem is of a more serious nature,” said Mary Sebastian, District Panchayat Vice-President.
She is hopeful that they will be able to organise several awareness programs on projects undertaken by the Social Justice and Welfare Departments of the State.
“There are so many atrocities happening against women and children, which simply don’t come out. Women facing domestic abuse and other forms of violence barely open up about it. And atrocities against children are not spoken about fearing for the future of the child. We would like to build a space for these people to breathe freely and heal themselves for a better life,” she added.
The park has been the panchayat’s dream for many years now.
“We have had this in mind since the ruling party came to power. However, it is only now that we have been able to work towards it. We have done a soil test, sent out plans for the building designs and now have floated the tender for the park. These are exciting times for us,” Zacharias added.
Gender parks, promoted by the Department of Social Justice in the state, aim to fight inequality between the sexes in Kerala.
The first park was established in Vellimadukunnu in Kozhikode district. The Kottayam park is the second such establishment to come up in the state.