Usha Vishwakarma , then aged 18, was working in a school as a teacher. She was sexually assaulted and a victim of an attempted rape by a colleague. . “He grabbed me and put his hands round me and tried to open my belt and trousers,” says Usha, “But I was saved by my jeans because they were too tight for him to open, and that gave me a chance to fight, so I kicked him in the sensitive place and pushed him down and ran out of the door.” which left her distraught, abandoned and traumatized for two years.
In 2009 she set up her own small school for local girls in an outbuilding next to her family home. Yet all around her, she says, she saw more and more young women suffering the same abuse she had faced. And it was threatening to wreck the chances of her young female students. She said that the incident, coupled with the rape of an 11-year-old girl she tutored, was the breaking point and hence the birth of The Red Brigade.
“Parents were telling girls to stay in their homes so there would be no incidents. They said, ‘if you go to school, boys will be troubling you, so stay home and there will be no sexual violence’,” says Vishwakarma. “But we said no, and we decided to form a group to fight for ourselves. We decided we would not just complain; we would take a lead and fight for ourselves.” They bought red kameez (shirts) and black salwar (trousers) and began to plan the fightback.
Usha and the partners figured that, when there is street violence, parents keep their daughters from going to school, avoiding the need for them to go unto the streets. Usha, herself a teacher and founder of a small informal school (called Balmanch), tries to help young girls to nonetheless reach their schools, so as to ensure that they at least get some education.
Colour : Their uniform is black and red salwar kameez. Red symbolize danger, black for protest – ready to confront and humiliate men who tease, touch and commit other acts of sexual harassment and assault. Their leader, Usha, wears white with red jacket.
Skills : Women with skills in martial arts like wu-shu, karate from Dragon Academy Dojo, in Lucknow. Later on, Debi Steven, a london karate teacher and founder of Premier Self Défence Limited, along with several other teachers from abroad came to help the group.
Recognition : The group has had press coverage in Arabic, Bosnian, Chinese, Danish, English, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Farsi, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Taiwan, Czech and Turkish.
Usha is involved in the education of children. Living in Madiyav, a poor neighbourhood area in Lucknow, she is a professor and leads an informal school called Balmanch. She shares family home with her parents. Her father was a carpenter. Usha is committed towards empowering every women.
Lets us join Usha and her red brigade and raise our voice against sexual violence.