What an incredible (exciting, adventurous, overwhelming, amazing) opportunity I’ve been given! I discovered just two short weeks ago that I was accepted as a Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project working with Vikalp Women’s Group in Gujarat, India.
Is this real?
In those two weeks I had to prepare (leave my job, move out of my apartment, say goodbye to family and friends) and fly to Washington D.C. for weeklong training. Although short timing, it couldn’t have possibly been better. During training I was fortunate to meet Indira and Maya, co-directors of Vikalp, in New York. They both greeted me with a huge hug. Their incredibly warm, gentle, peaceful presence instantly eased any worry I had. I was able to share a cup of tea with them and discuss what we will be working on this summer.
Vikalp helps marginalized women from the Tribal and Dalit communities who have enormous difficulty accessing the legal system. In addition, Vikalp assists transgender people, particularly female to males, facing harassment, prejudice, and even violence from their own families.
This year Vikalp aims to open three shelters in urban areas providing refuge to women experiencing domestic violence and harassment based on gender. These shelters will help women understand their rights, find employment, and will refer them to skills training. Women would be accommodated sanctuary in the shelters for approximately three months.
My biggest goal for this summer is working alongside Indira and Maya in making Vikalp’s visions a reality. I will be visiting beneficiaries; securing locations for courts and shelters; developing proposals; and seeking funds to support these projects. In addition, I look forward to working with tribal women artists to create pieces for an advocacy quilt that will be displayed by AP and others to promote the work of Vikalp.
Being accepted as a Peace Fellow meant picking up everything and making some major changes in my life – changes I am both excited and ready for. I certainly have my work cut out for me and although I am leaving training with a clear plan of what I’ll be working on… I’ve been advised by previous fellows to be prepared for plans to change at any moment and to be as flexible and adaptable as possible! I am eager to head off to Gujarat in a few weeks (fingers crossed for the arrival of my visa!).
Posted By Gisele Bolton
Posted May 31st, 2014