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COVID-19 has affected the world and its inhabitants on all possible facets, daily household routine to office cultures; everything has seen their share of modifications post the pandemic and it is uncertain as to how long will the impact last. The National Commission for Women, staying true to its objective of being there for women irrespective of any adverse situation, launched new initiatives and revamped several of the existing ones to make it accessible and approachable for victims during the pandemic.
When the country was put under lockdown to fight the pandemic, NCW was quick to rise to the occasion with a slew of measures to address the new challenges faced by women during the period. Witnessing a surge in cases of domestic violence across the country, the Commission decided to launch an emergency WhatsApp response number 72177135372 which could address cases of domestic abuse round the clock. Understanding the difficulties posed at victims of domestic violence, the Commission modified its traditional ways of registering and redressing complaints and made the helpline number a text-only service considering the near impossibility of survivors being able to place phone calls before their abusers. The helpline number proved to be a life-saver for several women as the Commission received 1,477 cases of domestic violence from March 25 to May 31 including both its emergency service and other existing channels.
NCW has always ensured that no call for help made to the Commission ever goes unanswered even if it means going out of our way in serving people. Taking note of the several messages the Commission received by people worried about their old parents unfortunately stuck at home alone during the lockdown, the Commission constituted a special task force on April 4 to help them in medical emergencies and for procuring essential needs such as groceries and medicines. The initiative came to an end on June 8 after successfully serving its purpose and providing assistance in 150 cases across India.
The response received for both the new NCW initiatives, WhatsApp helpline number and taskforce for helping elderly was overwhelming. The initiatives were appreciated and supported by famous film and public personalities who posted and encouraged people to make optimum use of the initiatives.
The pandemic has redefined a few ‘normal’ of which the most prominent is correct and proper communication being crucial, especially in times of a crisis. The Commission, too, did its part in creating awareness among women of the various helpline numbers and legal provisions available for their protection through its campaigns. On March 25, NCW released advertisements on the theme of ‘Domestic Violence against Women’ and ‘Sexual Harassment at the Workplace’ which was telecasted across national and private TV channels in both official and vernacular mediums during popular serials such as Mahabharata and Ramayana. The campaigns were also advertised across All India Radio and private FM stations during the Mann Ki Baat program.
COVID has definitely changed NCW’s style of working but the Commission can undoubtedly vouch for it being a positive one. During this pandemic, NCW has dedicatedly worked towards its mission to serve and uplift women and will continue to do so.