A story I want to share with you all….

734339_452536081468722_1174637167_nEvery day I recieve a number of stories from girls, women and families.

Every day I recieve reports from India.

All to do with women who have been abused, raped or assaulted….but recently I met someone who told me his story which not only bought tears to my eyes, but made me realise more that I can make a difference, and I am making a difference.

I might not be able to change the laws in India, I might not be able to change the mentality of rapists but what I can do is be a voice for so many women and all the stories that go unheard or untold.

Here is a story I want to share with you all….

At the request of this person I cannot say his name, but he has given me permission to tell this story.

Few weeks back I was out with my sister and a few friends at a bar and this young guy who I’ve never met before asked if I would go outside and speak to him. At first I thought he was drunk and being sleazy so I said no, but he said it was important and to do with ‘Damini’, and that he wanted to tell me something. I agreed and went outside, and asked one of my friends to keep an eye on me just in case….

He started off by praising my work and said he was so proud of what I was doing. He then said I owe you a big ‘Thank You’.

Thank you? Thank you for what?”, I said….

This was his reply, “When I was a kid I lost my sister,” (at this point I thought he meant she had passed away)

“Something bad happened to her, which was beyond her control. No one’s ever told me what exactly. They just kept telling me she had gone away. I’d heard through family and people gossiping what had happened to her though, so I know. My parents disowned her for something that wasn’t even her fault…”

“I’ve heard your name ‘Reena Combo’ many times and I’ve seen you out and about loads, but then I heard what you were doing for your Damini campaign. I wanted to come to the vigil you held in January but couldn’t bring myself to be there. I then watched you on all the news channels, read about you on the internet, followed you on Twitter…and think what you’re doing is amazing.

“I saw you on BBC Breakfast back in January and recorded it, and then saw you again on there a few weeks ago, and again307657_10152365488020314_239955674_n recorded it. I sat my mum down and made her watch it. I translated everything you were saying in Punjabi so she would understand, and said ‘Look mum, look what this girl is doing for a young girl and so many other women across the other side of the world who she doesnt even know! She’s not related to these girls, she’s never even met them, yet she’s fighting for them! You couldn’t even support your own daughter. You couldn’t fight for my sister’

“Today, 15 years later my mum is now in contact with her daughter, I have re-connected with my sister and it’s all thanks to you….Thank you Reena.”

As he spoke to me he had tears running down his face, and so did I…..to know I had helped him, his mum and his sister unite again filled me with not only pride but more motivation.

He went on to tell me he promised himself that if he ever saw me he would say thank you to me personally and that his mum said that if you ever meet this girl you tell her from me to keep doing what she is doing, because without realising it she is making a difference.

I was reluctant to share this story as I didn’t want people to feel I was blowing my own trumpet, but his story is one that I think of everyday and it brings tears to my eyes every time, but it also make me realise that if we speak out and raise awareness we can make a difference.

I hope to continue what I’m doing, and grow my campaign more. My life has a new meaning….that is the fight for every Damini out there x

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No justice will ever be enough for ‘Damini’….or for India!

As it was announced that the four men who raped, tortured & killed ‘Damini’ had been sentenced to the death penalty my heart literally sank….for two reasons. One was relief as I was so glad finally there had been a verdict, and the other that this still wasn’t enough for what they did…nothing would ever be enough. I had tears in my eyes as I kept flicking through the news channels to make sure the news was correct. I had tears in my eyes for ‘Damini’, a girl I never met yet feel so strongly about.

ImageNo type of punishment is enough for these horrible men. One already took the easy route out and took his own life, and the one who was 17-years-old at the time of raping her went through a juvenile court and only sentenced to 3 years in prison, 9 months of which he has already served! He may have only been 17 at the time, however his actions at the time of raping & torturing her were not juvenile at all…they were barbaric & disgusting! I still believe the sentencing he got was unacceptable!

The death penalty sentence for these 4 men will now be confirmed by the High Court and they can all still appeal the sentence. However I pray that these men too feel the immense pain, fear, the feeling of being helpless & powerless as their lives are taken without their choice!

‘Damini’ was helpless as they attacked her, stripped her naked & raped her turn by turn. She too was powerless when they tortured her. She too had no control over her life when she sadly passed away, so no punishment will ever be enough for what these men did.

On one hand I wanted these men to get life in prison so they would be tortured, taunted & abused for the rest of their lives but I’m glad India has chosen this form of judgement as we need immediate action in India for other men who think they can get away with raping women and young girls can see how wrong they are! The Delhi gang rape case has gone on for too long…and we needed something quick and instant for people to see India is taking rape cases seriously.

We all know rape has been going on for centuries in India…and it has still continued to happen since ‘Damini’s’ case…and it won’t stop…That’s the honesty of it all. However, what has changed since the Delhi gang rape is that women are stronger to speak out and so are the parents of such women.

What ‘Damini’s father did I commend. It takes a lot of an Asian father, in fact any father, to speak out and say openly “My Imagedaughter has been raped”. Not only has his daughter made a change in society there, but he has too. Years ago parents would cover up stop stories or act ignorant towards such issues because of the shame it would the family. There is no shame in speaking out, and I’m so glad women and young girls in India are not being silenced anymore!

This sentencing won’t change things in India in an instance. Rape will still continue to happen and women will still be objects of abuse and violence…but this is a start.

Men will continue to rape, women will continue to be silenced by them and their families. It’s going to be a long and tough struggle for things to change in India. Society needs to change its thinking, education needs to change, people need to change and that change can only happen by the government and authorities taking serious action…which is what I think they’ve tried to do today.

We can lie to ourselves as much as we want in believing women are regarded as goddesses…yes they should be and that is what we like to believe, but when you look at all the struggleImages a woman has to face – she will always be dominated by the opposite sex, especially in countries like India.

The new generation, and generations to come will make that change…slowly but surely!

When I set out to launch the campaign #JusticeForDamini I never wanted anything personally from it for myself. All I want is to help other women and be the voice ‘Damini’ couldn’t be.

‘Damini’ for me isn’t just Jyoti Singh Pandey…it’s every women or girl who has been raped, abused, tortured, assaulted, gone through domestic violence and made to feel less inferior to a man.

I wish I had more hours in the day so I could do more for #JusticeForDamini, but I’m going to continue doing what I can. I’m very lucky to be in the position I am in in Asian media, I get to go to nice plush events, meet big celebs and mingle with the stars – but none of it means as much to me as keeping #JusticeForDamini going and making sure my voice is heard. ‘Damini’s’ legacy will live on and I won’t let her name go in vain. I will continue to do what I can for her and females like her.

RIP sweet angel x

Follow me on Twitter @ReenaCombo #JusticeForDamini