The meeting was convened at the personal request of The Duke who wanted an opportunity to hear directly from women working to support other women and girls. He also wanted to get a sense of work being done to help young women to achieve their full potential and for men to become more supportive of the women and girls in their lives.
Their Royal Highnesses met acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal and heard about her inspirational campaign ‘Stop Acid Attacks’. Laxmi was attacked at 15 by a 32 year old man after she rejected his marriage proposal. She explained her decision to stop covering her face in order to encourage other victims not to hide and also spoke of her successful fight for tougher legal restrictions on the sale of acid. The Duke thanked her for her bravery. Laxmi is now a TV host, and director of the Chhanve Foundation, a NGO dedicated to help survivors of acid attacks in India.
The Duke and Duchess also met with Sunita Jaiswal, a survivor of domestic abuse, who thanks to the support of the Azad foundation, has turned her life around and has now provided a stable future for her daughters. Through the foundation Sunita was able to train as a driver, giving her independence and an income which allowed her to send her children to school. She told The Duke and Duchess that the confidence she gained through training allowed her remaining fear ‘to flow out of her’ and she now faces the future with optimism. She and The Duchess discussed the importance of mothers helping their daughters to develop strategies to become independent women.
They also met journalist Soumya Menon who spoke about the role of media in these issues. She explained that the media can help women to tell their own stories and shine a light on the unique circumstances faced by individual women. She discussed her strong belief in continuing support and empowerment for women who are brave enough to speak up, so they are not abandoned and ignored after they have told their stories and the media have moved on.
TRH also hear about a range of support and initiatives provided for women and girls through organisations such as Save the Children as well as Indian Government supported programmes.
The discussion noted the positive developments that social silence on these issues has now been well and truly broken and that the Government of India is treating this as a priority.
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