NGO Swayam – Helpline For Women In Kolkata

By RimTim NGO Staff Writer

October 20, 2016
Swayam NGO for Women Rights

To all the women in Kolkata who are in distress, who have been facing violence at home, who needs help with legal networking, counselling, help to make up her mind, help to prevent violence- Swayam (NGO in Kolkata), a grass root organization have been working and providing free services to women across all socio-economic background for the last 22 years.

NGO Swayam have two teams:

  • Initiative for Social Action and Change (ISAAC team) works on prevention of violence
  • Direct Support Service (DSS) team works on response to violence

They work with survivors of violence who have approached them and work towards transforming them into agents of change. They have three cultural committees: theater (running for the past 21 years), music (past 10 years) and poetry writing (20 years). They connect women to these groups, take them and a group of 30-40 women out for outstation workshops and forms group who can then be a part of their ongoing campaigns and also prevent further violence both for them and in the community. Apart from that they also organize parenting workshop, anger management workshop, Adda sessions.

NGO Swayam have their own crisis centre. They have 2 in-house lawyers:

  • Therapist
  • Career Counsellors

They have mapped all the available services for women and published the first handbook on resources for women in Kolkata. The crisis centre therefore provides linkages to shelter homes, psychiatrist and accompanies women to other service providers like police, POs, court, State Women Commission.

NGO Swayam runs three models :

One in the urban area inside the Swayam office, one in the suburb marginalized area called Diamond Harbour (mostly populated by Muslim households) and one in the rural area of Metiabruz.

  • Diamond Harbour model : They work with already existing government formed Self-help groups (SHGs) in this area. They provide training to the groups because intervening in social issues is an SHG mandate under National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM). Their training helps to understand violence and develop an attitude of zero tolerance. They then empower the groups on the existing laws and these groups then acts like community watch dogs who refer cases of violence to the Swayam centre for professional counselling. There are 200 groups of women in Diamond Harbour.
  • Metiabruz model : They formed new women’s collective here and brought them together to raise awareness on rights, entitlements and to intervene in violence. They also provide economic empowerment to this group like training on tailoring, help develop business models. They use eco empowerment as a strategy to keep the group together and interested (because that is what women comes out for) and then once the group develops their understanding of rights and entitlements they add IPV to their agenda. The group then provides information to the community on all the services available (free legal aid, DV law, linkage to the police) and also helps in campaigns. There are 42 groups of women in Metiabruz.
  • Urban crisis centre : They have spaces for survivors to come and meet and participate in the three societies that helps develop confidence and come over the mental trauma. They also provide professional services like career counselling, legal counselling in the urban crisis centers.

NGO Swayam : role in social concerns

Over the years, Swayam (NGO in Kolkata), has also realized the importance to work with men; they have recently (in the past one year) started forming groups of men to address social concerns. In the long run, their vision is to make the men and the women groups work support of each other.

They also realize the importance to connect with existing government provisions. They have 1 Protection Officer (PO) per district in West Bengal. However, POs are not capacitated or linked up well. They receive very poor training and therefore they provide inappropriate responses. They are under paid and do not even have a proper place to sit. In some districts they sit in the DM office, some in court and other government offices.

It was also informed that POs are not employees of the government and therefore they are not treated well in the government offices. Although it is not legally mandated, courts find an excuse to delay the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act(PWDVA) cases in the pre text of demanding a report from the Protection Officer. They also follow up on PWDVA cases and point that there are a lot of implementation challenges. They talked about how cases that had to be resolved in 60 days goes up to 3-4 months. Therefore, it is very important to design a strategy that advocates with the official systems at the state, national and international level. They work on advocacy thorough their AMAN network

They believed that POs are just another layer added to the already existing justice delivery system. The amount should be instead spent in training courts and police officers.

Crime against Women

NGO Swayam: role in panchayat

Swayam also work with the Panchayat as a local governance institution. They have been working with Panchayat since 2007 and they believe that engagement with Panchayat is very important because they should be the formal linkages to services. They should ensure that women rights are protected. It was also mentioned that there is a particular committee under PRIs which is mandated to ensure that women’s rights are not violated They initially started working with Elected Women Representatives but Elected Women Representatives did not have the position to take up issues on gender and therefore Swayam realized that they needed to work with Panchayat as a mixed group.

They have a separate module for Panchayat and provide the training on violence as a part of training the Panchayat on their roles and responsibilities. They start by talking about schemes and entitlements and then talk about gender rights. The trainings are generally for 2-3 days for 5-6 hours.

  • They develop an Action Plan for the next 2-3 months and then follow up with the Panchayat on their Action Plan.
  • The Panchayat is supposed to meet every 2nd and 4th Saturday. The Swayam community groups push for the meetings and attend these meetings as entry point into the discussions and they also raise gender concerns.
  • The community groups also provide the women awareness on the rights and entitlement (schemes, opportunities) held by the Panchayat.
  • The community groups also demand the village plan and the gram sabha meetings (which otherwise does not happen) of the Panchayat.

NGO Swayam described the three kinds of women who come:

  • Those who have already decided that they want to part: They provide them with all the information and helps link them with the systems.
  • Those who want to stay in the relationship but wants violence to somehow reduce: They provide counselling services, family counselling services, and works with the children, natal families.
  • Those who are confused- They provide counselling, conducts a risk analysis and constantly works with them till they are in a position to decide on what they want.

NGO Swayam : AMAN network

For national and international advocacy of their work they work through AMAN Network and advocacy. This is a self-funded international network of organizations on addressing violence against women. The idea behind this network was to share good practices, conduct joint advocacy and be connected with other organizations working in the same area. They have 90+ organizations spread across US, UK, Australia, India. The organizations in India convene at the state and the national level and then they also have the international level meetings. Swayam is the secretariat of this network.

It was overall a very good experience to learn that any women in distress in Kolkata and around West Bengal have an NGO for Women rights like Swayam to fall back on!

Stop Violence against Women

Rimtimmers recommend few NGOs in Kolkata:

  1. Kasba Dweep Welfare Society

    Address: 24, Prantik Pally, Kasba, Bosepukur, Kolkata – 700042
    Phone No: +91-9804074768
  2. Women’s Interlink Foundation

    Address: 2A, Anil Maitra Road, Ballygunge Place East, Ballygunge Place, Ballygunge, Kolkata – 700019
    Phone No: +91-9830542196
  3. Noble Mission of South Calcutta

    Address: Krishak Pally, Mukundapur, Kolkata – 700099
    Phone No: +91-33-24264060
  4. Forum for Human Rights Protection

    Address: 33D, Tollygunge Road, Charu Avenue, Tollygunge, Kolkata – 700033
    Phone No: +91-33-65416549
  5. Iswar Sankalpa

    Address: 138, S P Mukherjee Road, Kolkata – 700026
    Phone No: +91-33-24197451
  6. Oxfam India

    Address: 30/S B, Block B, Diamond Harbour Road, Kolkata – 700053
    Phone No: +91-33-24456650
  7. Kripa Foundation in Kolkata

    Address: 139/B, Rash Behari Avenue, Kalighat, Kolkata – 700029
    Phone No: +91-33-24643836
  8. Prantakatha

    Address: 8B, Ballygunge Station Road, Kolkata – 700019
    Phone No: +91-9830263955
  9. Bharatendu Andh Ashram

    Address: Bharatendu Andh Ashram EC- 50, Sector I, Salt lake City, Kolkata – 700064
    Phone No: +91-33-23216431
    More Details : Bharatendu Andh Ashram In Salt lake city
  10. Bibek Bikash Samaj Kalyan Kendra

    Address: 248/17, Bagmari Road, Kankurgachi, Kolkata – 700054
    Phone No: +91-33-23602886

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