The injustices women suffer in the other half of the world are mind-boggling and heart breaking.
Girls are uneducated, women are marginalized and they are the victims of both poverty and culture. Most of us are unsure how we can change these women’s lives, but Katy Drucker did just that when she spent a year post-college volunteering in Africa and Asia. For several months, she lived at Antardristi, an organization dedicated to rescuing girls who are survivors of sexual assault.
“It’s violent; it’s toward young girls,” says Drucker describing why she chose this project in Nepal. “It’s so common. Rape on the other side of the world; it’s a method of war, it’s power, it’s so frequent it’s terrifying, and little girls have to worry about this.”
Founded by Vinita Adhikari, Antardristi provides safe houses, counseling, education and works with prosecutors to bring the perpetrators to justice. While Drucker was there, the girls ranged in age from 3 to 22.
“I just wanted to help them because these girls meant so much to me,” says Drucker as we talk about her time in Nepal and how it changed her and the girls with whom she lived. “It was a heavy project, but even though I couldn’t do all that much, I felt like I was helping them. I showed them maps, we talked in English. It was great to see them smile and get excited about something.”
Antardristi is the only program of its kind in the country, and Drucker says that Adhikari is barely scraping by, trying to keep the home open. “She’s the first one to bring attention to her country and com- munity,” says Drucker. “She’s trying to re-educate the community that this is not the girls’ fault and they need to be supported in this.”
When asked why anyone would consider the victim to be at fault, Drucker explains that it’s not a religious issue in Nepal, but one of culture. “Women in their culture are so below the men that if the men say it’s their fault, then it’s their fault.” It’s a cultural thing, she says. “Women do everything over there. We do a lot here, but they do everything over there.”
Drucker also saw some of the same attitudes toward women when she traveled through Africa living and volunteering at a refugee camp. Everywhere she went, she asked girls if they liked being a girl, and none of them did. “They wished they were boys, or girls in America or even a cat in America,” she remembers with a laugh. “It was a very eye-opening year. I would go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
Drucker continues to work to raise awareness and support for Antardristi. She has held exhibits of her photographs from her year, and hopes to figure out a way to return soon.
To contribute to Antardristi, donors can use firstgiving.com and search for Antardristi Nepal. It’s a secure site that takes a minimal fee for processing donor’s credit card donations. As Drucker notes, $100 goes very far in Nepal.