Mumbai NGO's postcard campaign stirs Time's Up in slums

Updated: Feb 02, 2018, 17:17 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

Two months after distributing 4,000 blank postcards requesting women to write in, NGO receives 461 accounts of abuse and violence

NGO staff at work in a community centreNGO staff at work in a community centre

With hundreds of cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence going unreported in the city every day, a one-of-a-kind initiative by NGO CORO is helping women speak up. Two months ago, the non-profit distributed 4,000 pre-addressed blank postcards across various slums and colonies of Mumbai, asking female residents to write back to them if they were facing abuse. To date, the outfit has received 461 letters speaking of incidents of oppression and violence.

Postcards carrying stories of abusePostcards carrying stories of abuse

Many more continue to trickle in every day. "My husband was already previously married. He married me for the money and then abandoned me. What happened to me was wrong and I need your help," one postcard read. "I want to study, but since I am a girl, my parents aren't allowing me to," wrote another young girl.

CORO, which has been working at the grass roots-level to address violence against women and girls, launched the initiative, Sandesh Abhiyan, in December. "Through our work, we've noticed that women hesitate to talk freely about harassment and abuse they face. Hence, this campaign. We distributed the pre-addressed blank postcards across slums, including in Shivajinagar, Lokhande Marg, Baiganwadi and Suman Nagar, where cases of abuse against women are high. We also left behind our phone numbers, so that people could call us directly in case of an emergency," said Sujata Lawhande, women empowerment programme coordinator for CORO.

Sujata Lawhande
Sujata Lawhande

Through this initiative, Lawhande said CORO hopes to reach 8,000 households. The NGO has also set up 32 community-based case-registration centres across the slums. These have been holding awareness campaigns to encourage women to discuss their grievances. While most of the letters received are anonymous, the address and numbers on the postcards help the staff locate the writer. Counselling or legal assistance is offered to each of the women. So far, they have met all 461 respondents. "We act on a complaint within 24 hours of the postcard reaching us," Lawhande said. "If there is any proven case of violence, we inform the nearby police station and also provide legal assistance to the survivor," she added.

Interestingly, men have also reached out, and most of them are seeking help to rid themselves of addiction. "Most of them want to quit alcohol. In such cases, we guide them to rehabilitation centres," she said.

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