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News : How Delhi's 181 Helpline for Women Lifeline for Callers
Oct 16, 2014 -- The ‘181’ Helpline number launched by the Delhi government in December 2012 for women in distress has turned into a virtual lifeline for females in the Capital.
Apart from nearly 1,800 daily ‘SOS’ calls the centre attends to, the round-the-clock operation receives queries pertaining to what to wear during a family function or on a particular occasion like Karwa Chauth, or even how to secure a nursery seat for their ward.
There are 35,000 frequent callers who discuss their domestic issues, children and relationship with the call centre’s executive. Significantly, these attendants give a patient hearing and interact with the callers at length.
It has almost become like a social site for these women, some of them bearing the stigma of sexual abuse or a crime against them.
The popular helpline service was launched by former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit following the December 16 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in the Capital in 2012.
Khadijah Faruqui, a lawyer and an activist who heads the helpline service, told Mail Today: "Several callers have developed a rapport and they call us frequently, seeking guidance on different issues. Many of the distressed callers have now overcome their past and are doing well in their life. Six such callers even cleared their preliminary civil service exam and they called us to share their happiness."
She added: "A woman in distress needs a friend rather than a counsellor. She needs a person whom she can trust and rely on. We are trying to do the same here. We have been giving advice to our callers on a range of familial issues. There are 35,000 women who call us often. Their queries are trivial and simple, and one such woman caller sought our help recently on what to wear on Karva Chauth."
However, Faruqui said, irrespective of the nature of the grievances, all callers are required to be dealt with care and sensitivity. Since its inception, the office has received 11 lakh calls from women so far.
"We cannot under the state of mind of the caller and we need to handle them carefully even if their complaints are not serious in nature. They call us to know which school is best or in which bank one should open an account," she added.
Besides managing serious complaints like sexual harassment, attempt to rape, stalking, obscene calls, domestic violence or kidnapping, they educate women about their rights and laws.
"On an average, our office attends around 1,800 calls every day. Besides serious complaints, there are women, even young girls, who call us to know about their rights according to law. It is a clear indication that women today have become more vocal about violence or crimes against them; they are really concerned about their rights. In a way, we are also creating awareness about women’s safety laws," she said.
The team led by Faruqui comprises 16 members, including four IT experts, also gets calls from women outside the national Capital.
Recently, a team from Delhi visited Hyderabad on the invitation of the state government.
Faruqui told Mail Today that her team would act as consultants for the Telangana government.
"The helpline service will be exactly like Delhi. We have given them a presentation on the operation and logistics. Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao has formed a seven-member women safety committee which studied the Delhi model. Bihar and Orissa governments also want to have their own 181 service. Even Nepal has expressed a desire to initiate the helpline for women in need on similar lines," she added.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, October 22, 2014