Published: 07th March 2020
Everyday Sheroes: Here's how helpline worker Nandini from Bengaluru made the right call
In our run-up to International Women's Day, we have curated this series of stories of women who aren't extraordinary — but our world may just stop going around if they decided to call it a day
When you open up your phone's keypad and find the strength to type in a number that could connect you to safety, it is natural to expect a voice of concern at the other end. It’s this much that Nandini knows for sure, having worked with the NGO ActionAid India for the past 15 years. Having been at the beck and call of communities and sections of people under threat, answering a call for help has become second nature to women like her. Currently, a Regional Manager at the organisation, she paints a picture of what it's like to work at a place where people turn to to ask for help.
ActionAid forms a part of a global federation that has established its roots in more than 40 countries around the world. Since its establishment in 1972, they have worked for the welfare of the poor and the excluded. In India, the organisation found its first base in 2006, with a similar mission to eradicate the crimes that occur due to poverty, patriarchy and injustice. They answered primarily to the poor, women and children, the LBGTQIA+ community and other underprivileged communities.
There are multilayered challenges within the profession. Those institutions that need to fulfil the needs of the people have to step up. Their actions need to be quick and remedial. We have personally seen that people in need have to struggle in order to get some help or even a response from these channels. This is what we are trying to change
Nandini, Regional Manager, ActionAid India
Nandini comes from a small village called Palya in Karnataka’s Hassan district. Having joined the organisation as a programme officer to reach out to the relevant communities, she has established a close relationship with people reaching out to ActionAid. She says, “We work with communities that deserve support, especially women and children. Basically, our commitment is towards different marginalised communities. We work in the field to identify people who may need economic or social support. Once they reach out to us, our job is to bring them to safety and away from the dangerous atmosphere that they are in.”
How do women like Nandini, who are at the answering end of this industry, manage to offer the right answers and solutions to the people who approach them on a day-to-day basis? According to her, they facilitate the process of listening to the issue raised and offer the individual a solution or take them to a place of safety. Nandini explains,”We communicate with the women themselves or whichever community is in need and try to understand their issues and help them through strategic planning. For example, if they are victims of addiction, they are connected to a rehabilitation centre.” ActionAid handles issues such as gender discrimination, the right to education, malnutrition, housing and basic facilities in slums and villages. They receive information from people in need and support them through carefully planned policies that makes sense according to each case.
Nandini believes that every citizen has some basic rights that have been guaranteed by the Constitution and that it is the duty of the institutions that have been put in place to guarantee this. She explain with examples, “If a child is going to a school without proper bathroom facilities, they reach out to educational authorities who may not respond. Women who are victims of violence also go without being heard when they report the crime. We have been seeing this happening. And we understand that it's not just a social issue. It is also a legal right that women have over their own bodies and these people need to be more responsible. We are a redressal system and we condemn such actions and see to it that we are answerable to these women and hold public bodies responsible.”
Women like Nandini are the answer when the system refuses to acknowledge the questions of the marginalised.
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