Sabrina Puddoo – Mauritius

Sabrina Puddoo – Mauritius

Date: August 17, 2015
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At the heart of resilience: I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become

A woman who was able to disclose, for the first time in her life, in front of fourteen women victims of gender based violence, that she was a victim of sexual abuse at the age of 8 years old, and the powerful support and hope generated in this group. This is the most memorable experience that I have lived through with Gender Links (GL). It was amazing, as a clinical psychologist, to create a safe and respectful environment for the women, and to observe that through training in entrepreneurship, the participants were able to release their sufferings in order to allow themselves to move on and build a new life based on self-respect, independence and achievement.

For the past ten years I have worked in the social field at various levels: clinical psychologist, manager of NGO and board member of NGOs. I am in contact with different groups: men, women and children, people living with HIV and AIDS, those suffering from mental illnesses, drugs users, and those in poverty. Through these experiences, I have been confronted with the reality of discrimination, prejudice, suffering and anger at all levels. At the same time, through therapies, empowerment programmes, advocacy actions and communication actions, a great solidarity has emerged between men and women, therapists and patients, professionals, beneficiaries, NGOs and volunteers. In my journey, I met Media Watch Organisation in 2004 and became a volunteer and a board member of the NGO until 2007. I participated in the promotion of gender equality through advocacy, implementation of training programmes for women and children who were living in situations of vulnerability and awareness campaigns. In the same period I was a volunteer with various actions, especially for the prevention of HIV and AIDS among female sex workers. My work and responsibilities evolved, but I always collaborated with GL members in awareness actions in Mauritius. Through the years, GL contributed actively to reinforce my convictions about gender equality, especially gender based violence.

I always was conscious of the position of women in society and the importance of empowering women to become independent in life. I lived my life following this vision of being independent. There were many ups and downs, and despite traditions and cultural models, I always had an inner feeling that it was right to be what I wanted to be whatever society and family thought. Gender Links, through Loga Virasawmy, came into my life as an institution that approved and shared my vision of a society offering gender equality, where men and women were able to express their full potential without any discrimination. Where I had an inner feeling and conviction of gender equality, GL added the structure, the legal base and the methodology to implement gender policies in my work and life, and the advocacy tools to do it. Loga Virasawmy has been a role model, as a woman from my mother’s generation, who was able to manage her personal life and professional life, being true to herself and her convictions.

Through my professional and personal experience, with the direct or indirect influence of many people and organisations, I live my convictions in relation to my close ones. When I face an issue, I remember what others women are facing, and this simple thought gives me strength to go forward. The fight of a woman is the fight of all women. I use this quote in my daily life, as much as I can.

During the GL entrepreneurship training that I facilitated from August 2014 to December 2014, I met nearly 90 women, all victims of gender based violence, all sharing a common suffering and a common hope, but in their own way. The training was divided into three phases, starting with a growing agency phase and ending with the implementation of a business. Through those five months, based on the exercises proposed and the content of the course, I observed significant changes in the participant. They took care of their appearance, making an effort to dress nicely, to do their make-up and their hair, they smiled and gradually they started to express themselves freely, to be more assertive and to take concrete actions in their homes, with their partners. They started to dare to ask questions, to go out, to take part in activities, dress following their own taste, take their documents from home, and defend themselves. There were so many changes, often at a very basic level, but so important to make them feel alive and in control of their own lives.

During the GL entrepreneurship training programme, a forum was organised to help the participants to make contacts with stakeholders. This event was a real success and achieved its objective to connect new women entrepreneurs with appropriate stakeholders in the district councils, entrepreneurship organisations and funders.
The plenary sessions took place and helped the participants voice their difficulties at a personal level, because of the violence, but also at a business level, especially with obtaining permits from local governments. The representatives of the district councils realised the complexity of the procedures for these women and the contradictions in a system where women who have no income must find money to pay for a permit in order to be able to work. During the forum, the representatives committed to providing their full support to the participants, giving their contact numbers and setting up appointments for case management.

During this learning journey with GL, especially in the facilitation of the GL entrepreneurship training programme, it was difficult for the participants to speak out and it needed a lot of encouragement from me and constant reinforcement of the feeling of security and of being respected. Many participants brought their anger, suffering and despair to the training and that could have negatively influenced the others. It was not always easy to maintain the level of motivation of the group. But by reminding them of their capacity and their status as survivors, which means that they have survived great violence because of their inner strength, the participants were able to overcome their negativity. Furthermore, the emergence of potential leaders among the participants helped and supported the group to go forward with their plans.

There is still a lot of work to do with survivors of gender-based violence to help them maintain their motivation despite the difficulties of life. The implementation of appropriate structures, the development of support groups among survivors and efficient assistance are a few actions that can be taken in the long term. It needs coordination between the different stakeholders and reinforcement of the advocacy actions at all levels.


One thought on “Sabrina Puddoo – Mauritius”

Nazlee says:

Bonjour Sabrina
Je suis la maman de Tarik et Wakeel vivant à pontault combault, j’espère que tu ne m’as pas oubliée. Je me rappelle toujours des bon moments que l’on a passé ensemble ´ Bhimsen Roja et Sweety

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