From just 15 member team in 2011, the Red Brigade – a group of young women fighting against rape culture and help victims of sexual abuse – is now a force of 8,500 around the country.
The group was started by Usha Vishwakarma in Lucknow, who was a survivor of attempted rape at the age of 18.
The Red Bridage became official in 2013 and is a group revered in the capital city of Uttar Pradesh.
Since its inception, Red Brigade has saved hundreds of girls from rape attempts, counselled rape survivors, sensitised street harassers, and trained women in martial arts.
“When I faced the attack, I was angry more than scared. I wanted to do something so that such guys do not think of doing anything like that with anyone else in the future. Unless we take action, how will the situation get better?” asks Usha.
The group offers a special self-defence training to women, so that they can escape rape in any situation.
“We did not teach them karate because that requires space between people. During rape it is just the opposite, there is no space between the two people and the victim can’t even properly move her body to successfully use karate. So we teach the women to fight in a way that targets the weaknesses of the attacker,” Usha says.
At present, Red Brigade has trained over 17,000 women in self-defence and focuses to reach out to one million in the next few years. With their initiative ‘Good Touch Bad Touch’, they educate adolescent girls aged between 6 and 11 on how to respond to such ugly and unfortunate situations.
They also organize counseling sessions for the eve-teasing survivors to help them regain the lost confidence.
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“A lot of women just lose interest in life — they are scared and are often left without any support. We make sure that they regain their confidence and live a better life,” Usha says.
After talking to the harassed women, the team go to the culprits’ homes and complain about them. According to Usha, this often works as the family can keep a tab on attacker’s actions.
The group has also filed police complaints and brought the perpetrators in public.
After the horrifying Delhi gang rape incident in 2012, the group started holding protest marches on the 29th of every month to support rape victims and survivors.
Usha also faced criticism when she decided to form “Red Brigade”. Her parents were against her but she wasn’t ready to give up so easily. She continued to stand for her beliefs.
Usha wants to extend his team and reach out to more people with their awareness programmes but their biggest obstacle is the lack of financial resources.
“People appreciate our work, we have received a lot of recognition, but we still have to struggle to meet our basic financial needs. I am not able to teach more girls because we don’t have money to hire instructors,” she says.
To help them, you can donate and spread the word and visit their organisation for moral support. You can also volunteer with them. Check out their website for more information.