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Sonal Shukla, Noted Women’s Rights Activist, Dead At 80

Popularly known as Sonal Ben, Shukla was the co-founder of the group Forum Against Rape, now known as the Forum Against Oppression of Women.

File photograph of women's rights activist Sonal Shukla (Photo Credit: Twitter/@tulibanerjee_)

Mumbai: Noted women’s rights activist Sonal Shukla died after cardiac arrest in Mumbai on Thursday, a colleague said. Shukla (80) was the founder and managing trustee of the Vacha Charitable Trust and worked with adolescent girls and women over the last four decades.

Popularly known as Sonal Ben, Shukla was the co-founder of the group Forum Against Rape, now known as the Forum Against Oppression of Women. Vacha started in 1987 as a library and women’s resource centre.

It was the first only women’s book library with a collection of over 3,000 books. In 1991, it produced two music albums and two documentaries on women in the Independence movement.

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As a college teacher, she was in charge of projects involving sanitation workers and fisherfolk, Mumbai’s indigenous inhabitants. She turned her own home into a support centre for battered women for two years.

Shukla had trained in Mahatma Gandhi’s educational methods and had worked with the most deprived sections. Vacha gave space to poor girls to escape from family and community strangleholds through a programme of life skills and community work.

“She taught us so many things, helped us improve our English and general knowledge and conducted so many activities for girls,” said Dr Varsha Gupta, who runs a clinic in suburban Santacruz.

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Gupta told PTI that she was not in touch with Shukla for a very long time. “I was eight years old when I first met her. Vacha staff taught us an hour or two before classes in the municipal school I was in began.

This continued till I was 12 or 13 years old,” Gupta said.

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