'I can take care of myself, thank you'

'I can take care of myself, thank you'

 In these uncertain and crime-infested times, women have begun taking care of themselves.

India’s BPO industry continues to grow from strength to strength. In 2009, the industry contributed nearly 2.5 per cent to the GDP. At present, women workers constitute about one-third of the total call centre and BPO workforce in India. Despite such a major economic contribution of women to the industry, several challenges faced by them still remain to be addressed. Rather than complain about problems like sexual assault, women have gone one step ahead and taken responsibility for their security.

“It’s just not possible to trust anybody in today's time.  I keep a hockey stick with me. I don’t know anything about martial arts or taekwondo but I am strong enough to beat the hell out of guys who mess around with me,” says Shriya, a call centre employee. “Once our cab dropped me at my place around 2.30am. Suddenly, these guys on a bike rushed towards me, scare me by coming really close and drive off ! They used to take one round and when I froze in shock, they would leave. This happened for two days. On the third day, I bought a hockey stick. That night, they came again and I was well prepared! As soon as they came close, I smashed my hockey stick into the spokes of the wheels and they fell off. They got injured badly while I had a sound sleep. No one bothers me since then,” giggles Shriya.

Where hockey sticks are playing a significant role in scaring men, pepper sprays aren’t far behind. “My father got me one and I have used it 2-3 times till now. Once on my way home, the cab driver pretended to lose his way while dropping me back. When he tried to misbehave, I used the spray and opened the cab door and ran away. Had it not been for the spray, God knows what would have happened. Now, I carry it with me always” shares Advaita Suman, a BPO employee.

However, inspired by women and following several incidents of crimes against women employees, some companies have tightened their safety policies. Apart from the pick and drop facility, many company rules stipulate that women must travel in the presence of another male employee. Internal hotlines and SMS services have been introduced to monitor the well-being of commuting employees.

Background checks on designated cab drivers are made by employers now. Though it still does not make employees feel 100 per cent safe, especially in night shifts, these measures have improved the situation considerably. Another BPO employee, Mansi feels that the girls should not discuss their personal problems in cabs. It makes them appear vulnerable and weak. “I make sure I never discuss my issues with anyone except close friends and certainly not in the office cab. There is not much people will say except call me hard-hearted. Well, guess what? I am okay with that comment. I am safe.”

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