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Hard-fought battles won with a little help

Survivors speak of help received from crisis support centres set up by Parichiti

Debraj Mitra | Published 26.02.23, 05:13 AM
Shri Shikshayatan School

Shri Shikshayatan School

The in-laws of a schoolteacher would give her work just when she was about to leave for work. Refusal would mean taunts. 

A domestic help accused of theft by her employers faced public shaming. But after the missing item was found at the apartment, the employers offered a private apology.


Inside an auditorium at Shri Shikshayatan School on Saturday, several women shared how they faced torture inside and outside their homes before seeking help. 

 The survivors on stage and many more in the audience have found help in the form of a support centre launched by a women’s collective in 2021.  

A woman in her 40s, from Belgharia, called the helpline in the middle of last year. She used to be a schoolteacher. But her in-laws were against her going out for work. 

She was forced to get up at 3am and finish all the domestic chores.

But even then, just before she would leave, the in-laws and her husband would give her some work. She would often get late.

Protests would sometimes allegedly earn her a beating. She had been thrown out of her in-laws’ home in the dead of the night more than once.

Fed up, she contacted the support centre. Now, she lives in a rented house. She gives tuition to children to eke out a living. She has filed for divorce.

“The psychological counselling really helped me. Earlier, I would cry. Now, I am willing to fight,” the woman told the programme on Saturday.

The programme was organised by Shri Shikshayatan School and Parichiti, an NGO which works to empower marginalised women and ensure better working conditions for women.

A unit of the Delhi-headquartered Centre for Health and Social Justice, Parichiti provides legal and psychosocial support to the survivors of violence through crisis support centres.

The centres promise one-stop assistance for victims of domestic abuse, sexual, workplace and any other form of harassment. They started in Calcutta and its southern fringes in 2021. Now, the centres are also functional in North 24-Parganas, Howrah and Birbhum. 

“The crisis support centres have been getting several phone calls every day. Apart from the 24 X 7 helpline of 9830768761, we have local teams, comprising both male and female volunteers, reaching out to those looking for help,” said an official of the organisation.

A teenager, flashed at more than once by an elderly person, was one of the recent callers. A woman complaining about curbs on free movement in her neighbourhood because of drinking and gambling dens also called.

Parichiti started by working for the rights of domestic workers. There is still a long way to go in that journey, said more than one volunteer.

Many of the women who seek help are domestic workers harassed by employers. Some seven months ago, a domestic help was accused of stealing a necklace by her employer, the residents of an upscale highrise off Bypass. 

She was allegedly heckled, first by the employers and then by police. 

“Her picture was circulated among the residents’ association, branding her a thief. But after a few days, the necklace was found at the home. The family then asked the woman to come back to work. But she refused and demanded an apology. The apology came, but behind closed doors,” said a representative of Parichiti. 

In her inaugural address, Bratati Bhattacharyya, secretary-general and CEO of Shikshayatan Foundation, stressed the need for education for gender equity.

 A panel discussion that followed focussed on the current challenges faced by women in and outside their homes.

Koyel Ghosh, managing trustee, Sappho for Equality, Nandini Ghosh, who teaches at the Institute of Developmental Studies, Kolkata, women’s rights activists Priyanka Das and Anindita Majumdar, Aparajita Sanyal, assistant professor at Calcutta Business School and advocate Nilanjana Sarkar, were part of the panel. 

Last updated on 26.02.23, 05:13 AM

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