Chayn is Pakistan's first global volunteer-led crowdsourced website that informs and supports women facing domestic violence. Eighty percent of women in Pakistan face domestic violence in their lives (We Can Report, 2011). Yet, cultural attitudes and the legal and economic status of women prevent them from taking action to protect themselves or, worse, lead them to believe that acts of domestic violence are acceptable, or even their own fault. Chayn is the beginning of a global, volunteer-led digital network to combat domestic violence in Pakistan, one informed woman at a time. Within three months, the project has grown into a global movement with over 30 volunteers contributing to the online and offline initiatives. All volunteers for Chayn are anonymous.
As I was growing up in Lahore, it became clear to me that most women were in fact, not happy in their marriage. They were either forced or 'pressurized' into marrying someone they did not know or like, or lived a life at the beck and call of their in-laws and an abusive husband. It was even harder to stomach that abusive in-laws and husbands were so normalized in the Pakistani society that a girl was brought up to expect it, internalize it, hide it from their parents and are constantly told 'it's your fault' or 'it's your fate'. I didn't share this belief. In fact, it revolted me. It is never the fault of the victim. Women do not call for abuse. The responsibility of the abuse lies with the abuser – always.. It just doesn't happen. The fault has to lie with the abuser. The fire and passion has remained with me from witnessing violent relationships in college to helping family and friends escape abusive marriages. I spent the 8 months helping two women close to me get out of abusive relationships.
Following those 8 months of living and breathing just how to help them get out of domestic violence, I decided to found Chayn with the help of 30 passionate volunteers from around the world. I started Chayn because I felt I could use my background in technology, digital marketing, social enterprises and startups to create an information and support portal for educated women. Since women from rural areas need help that requires a large scale operation, we decided to focus on educated women that have some access to resources. These women will be able to make use of the website and get some 'Chayn' (meaning peace and tranquility) from domestic violence. Chayn volunteers range from psychologists to entrepreneurs coming from Argentina to Greece, India to US, and London to Pakistan.
Chayn is an answer to those questions; a support network for the women who feel alone; the movement to get people thinking about how we need to change our attitudes towards domestic violence in Pakistan. While every member of the Chayn team would have loved to come up with a solution that helped all women going through domestic violence - unfortunately, we were limited by our capacities. We chose to focus our efforts on women who were educated because we felt they had access to some resources and could make of a website like Chayn. We do hope to partner with organisations doing ground work with women in rural communities.
I hope you like the Chayn initiative and we value your feedback! Do say hello and let us know what you think.
Start of a #Movement
Chayn started from one laptop in London and within a month had grown to a global movement with more than 30 global volunteers. Passionate, driven and empathetic, the founding team pulled together from information on specific laws and mental health, to ideas for escaping abuse. We speak up against abuse from Pakistan to Greece, London to USA and Germany to Argentina. We collaborated online, sometimes over Google Hangouts, and through Facebook to create Pakistan's first dedicated digital solution to domestic violence. We all believe in the equal rights of women to live happy, fulfilling lives within and outwith the bonds of a marriage. Marriage should be a relationship of choice and love; not torment and abuse. We have all been touched by women facing domestic violence in one way or the other. Whether it is slaving the whole day for abusive in-laws with no signs of escape, being forced to reconcile with an abusive husband by parents, hearing the denials of abuse from our sisters hiding bruises, watching a friend cry over emotional blackmail from a controlling boyfriend when dining out, or growing up in a house where our mothers suffered abuse for the sake of their children – all of our lives have been affected by domestic abuse. If you feel passionate about helping women facing domestic violence, then join the movement!