Living for others – The story of Audrika Eshna Purbasha

Written by Ilham Sharif

September 1, 2020

Audrika is a fearless social worker and Human rights activist, who has dedicated the last 12years of her life in humanitarian work. She was threatening for taking stands; acid attacks were attempted on her and even received threats to be gang-raped. Yet she continued to take stand her ground and by the side of the less fortunate.

Many people have the idea that people who work for others are living the best of lives. But it’s not true. We believe and endure our pains and struggles so that others can have a better experience.

So, You have been involved in humanitarian works since you were 16. What made you take this path?
Many factors motivated me in this direction. From my childhood, I had observed the hardship underprivileged people have to go through. Living a better life had made me responsible for them.
Again, I was bullied and harassed from a very young age. I even saw a lot of people close to me getting affected by them. Finally, I stood up to all these. And I believe my activities change at least a small portion of it.

You mentioned standing up to bullying and harassment. Any incident that you would like to share with us.
There are many that I can recall. But once when I was returning home, a guy from the crowd jostled me. I was so shocked that he dared to do something like this amidst so many people. Being a martial artist, it was relatively easy for me to knock down the guy. It’s essential to take a stand and protest instead of staying quiet.

And thus, for the last few years, I can see you have focused on anti-sexual harassment campaigns and projects. Can you tell us more about them?
Well, at the beginning of the year 2018, there was much news concerning rape, and thus I started protesting and got involved in various campaigns. We had also opened a Facebook group called ” Rage against rape” to collect and share stories related to rape and harassment.
Also, being one of the founders of ‘Gender Justice’ I worked for teaching young minds about gender equality,anti-sexual harassment, and against bullying, mainly focusing on Madrashas. It was quite challenging to convince the Madrashas to let us impart our training to such a conservative environment. Though we had to stop our campaigns due to the pandemic, we continued to work by providing legal support to the victims of Cyber Bullying through the organizations.

It’s upsetting to see many of your projects stopped due today the pandemic. Have you been working on new ones lately?
Being in our houses quarantined for so long and seeing so many sad news lately, many people have been devastated mentally. And through our organization ‘Shantir Thikana’ we take sessions about mental health and help people get in contact with psychologists. I have been taking classes on things like basic English, Menstrual Cycle, and Moral Education, both individually and under an organization.
And while I was working on a project for our front line heroes, called project ‘Upohar’ I affected with corona. Nevertheless, I still worked for the greater good.

What are your plans for the “post-pandemic world”?
Many people are getting unemployed, and we plan on providing them with training and necessary skills to get better jobs and even start income-oriented activities which would benefit both the organization and the people.

Okay, you have been working in this field for the last decade. Please share with us some of the obstacles that you faced.
Being a woman as well as a social worker in our country have been very tough. I was shamed, mocked, bullied, and accused of so many things from the beginning. Even my stepping stones to success was accused of dishonesty. I remember when working in remote lands if I faced any harassment, I couldn’t take any actions against them as I had people waiting for our aids. I had to do in different regions. Although it was unsafe and inconvenient, I still had to as there was no choice. During fundraising campaigns, I was many times offered to spend a night with the sponsors. It wasn’t easy to handle such situations too.

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