The National Women Commission in Nepal has established a 24-hour toll free helpline to provide support to survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). If anyone faces GBV, or even witnesses such an incident, they can simply call the number 1145 to receive support for shelter, psycho-social support, child support and legal aid.
The figures are out for us to see: according to the Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2016, nearly one third of all married women in Nepal have experienced violence perpetrated by their partners, the most common violence being physical and emotional. Thirty four percent of such women have sustained injuries due to the violence.
However, in a country with such alarmingly high numbers of gender-based violence (GBV), the number of women coming forward to report it is quite low. The Survey notes that 66 percent of women who have experienced sexual violence have never even told anyone or sought help to resist and stop the violent. This is not surprising, as legal and psycho-social remedies for GBV survivors is limited, not confidential enough, and even the process of reporting incidents can get cumbersome. The survivors often face social stigma and familial pressures.
But the National Women Commission (NWC) of Nepal is about to change that – by establishing a 24-hour toll-free helpline ‘Khabar Garaun 1145’ (Inform Us) for GBV survivors. Starting from December 10, 2017, anyone can call in and anonymously report their own incident, or even an incident they have witnessed, to receive coordinated and sustained support. The helpline allows GBV supporters to register their complaints, and also connects them to the service providers, including the Nepal Police, One-Stop Crisis Management Center, and civil society organizations (CSOs) that provide shelter, healthcare, legal aid and psycho-social counselling.
This integrated helpline will also introduce an online Case Management System (CMS) that uses technology to register, manage, and track cases referred to service providers. By storing the details of the incident, the CMS will eliminate the need for the survivor to recount the incident on every visit, reducing the risk of re-victimization of the survivor.
A first of its kind in Nepal, the helpline began with a simple idea in 2013. At a World Bank organized Violence Against Women Hackathon, innovators got together to find IT-based innovative solutions to address GBV in Nepal. The three winning applications were combined to create the FightVAW online platform, designed to improve the coordination among GBV service providers in the Kathmandu district. This captured the attention of Mohna Ansari, former spokesperson of the NWC, who saw the platform’s potential to improve GBV response services in Nepal.
Four years later, with support from the World Bank’s Integrated Platform for Gender Based Violence Prevention and Response project, the Commission is ready to launch the helpline. For Ansari, the launch of the helpline marks the culminations of years of hard work. “This is a way forward for Nepali women and GBV victims in general,” she said, “It will help them live a life without fear.”
This principle of addressing gender outcomes strategically and with practical results is also the principle of the South Asia Regional Gender Action Plan. The plan identifies prevention and response interventions against GBV, and offers support to innovative pilots that focus on raising awareness and strengthening response efforts to GBV. As one of its pilot projects, the helpline aims to position itself as a lifeline to transmit hope and practical assistance for GBV survivors.
While remedial services need to be strengthened and upgraded to ensure best possible care for GBV survivors, an efficient and supportive mechanism to address their pressing concerns is definitely a positive step forward.