Men also gain from women helpline

Men also gain from women helpline

Men are also gaining from the Delhi government’s women helpline number 181, says Khadija Faruqui, the force behind the 24X7 service.

The one-stop women helpline, which has received over six lakh phone calls over the last year and a half, is also acting as a “agony aunt” for hundreds of depressed men who chose to vent their anger or feelings on any issue.

“We keep getting such calls be we do not disconnect the line. This is our way of allowing the caller to express himself, even if he uses unacceptable language,” says the helpline head Faruqui, 43.

This is her team’s strategy to assist even depressed men.

“There was a middle-aged man who used to call up drunk, recite prayers and slam politicians. We took police help to stop him from calling,” she says.

“But our most satisfying moment came when the same man, who was forced not to call, rang up to seek help for his newly wed daughter in a domestic violence case,” says Faruqui.

“He apologised at the start of the call but said today, he needed genuine help for his daughter,” she says.

She says even the calls of men who make indecent remarks and try to abuse the helpline attendants are not disconnected.

Attendants driven to tears

“Some of our young call attendants are driven to tears by indecent callers. We tell them not to hang up as this will give the sadistic pleasure to the caller,” says Faruqui, who has worked with NGOs for women empowerment before being assigned the crucial task of the helpline.

The women rights activist says the helpline not only helps women in distress but also offers psychological support to many of the mentally disturbed women.

Since the inception of the helpline on December 31, 2012, over 250 women facing mental problems have contacted 181, she says.

The helpline is connected to all the police stations in the city and has also been involved in past-midnight raids to save victims.

Rescued girl

“We once helped rescue an east Delhi girl who was repeatedly raped by her father. The Deputy Commissioner of Police and his team decided to raid the house well past midnight after the victim called up,” she recalls.

The helpline receives around 1,800-2,000 calls daily – a bulk of these come in after 5 pm.
“Some calls cannot be attended as the caller finds our lines busy. This is what worries us - a women in real crisis may not be able to reach us due to the system’s limitations,” she says.

Interestingly, the helpline used to get 10,000 calls a day in the first month of operation after the gang-rape of a physiotherapy intern in a moving bus in Munirka.

“Many people call just to check if the number works. Some make a few blank calls before opening up with the call centre attendants,” says Faruqui.

This is the reason the helpline has not blocked blank calls which number almost half of the total calls received at the centre.