The toll-free helpline for women in distress (1800-425-2908) handles domestic violence, marital problems and harassment from in-laws and functions between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.

The popular helpline number for women in distress (1800-425-2908), run by the Bhumika Women’s Collective in Hyderabad, has now become a part of the Class 9 Social Studies textbook of the State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT).

The helpline number was included in the section titled Women Protection Acts.

‘Seek assistance in case of any harassment and domestic violence using the toll-free Bhumika helpline 1800-425-2908 and stop child marriages’, reads the text in the book.

Introduced in 2006, the helpline has so far received 25,000 distress calls from women and has handled a variety of issues including domestic violence, dowry harassment, marital problems and even harassment from in-laws.

“The helpline number will now be ingrained in the minds of girls and boys. Whenever there is some distress, they will not hesitate to call the number. Over the years, the helpline number has become institutionalised and is synonymous with reaching out to women who need immediate help from domestic violence and any kind of harassment,” says an elated Kondaveeti Satyavati, secretary of the Bhumika Women’s Collective.

Consistent efforts

The mention of the helpline number in the textbooks did not happen overnight.

It fructified after consistent advocacy by members of Bhumika and officials at Oxfam, India, which is providing the financial support for the functioning of the helpline.

“It’s a step ahead to make the helpline useful to school girls facing distress and domestic violence. Along with Bhumika, we were in dialogue with the government to institutionalise the helpline,” says Regional Manager, Oxfam India (South), Akshaya Kumar Biswal.

Trained counsellors

The helpline is operated from the office of Bhumika in Baghlingampally, where three professionally-trained counsellors monitor the phone lines between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.

“We have close to 200 volunteers who are ready to visit and rescue the distressed women immediately. There are close to 50 advocates associated with us to provide free legal help. We started the helpline to protect women from domestic abuse, but now women with all kinds of problems call us and we respond to their calls,” Ms. Satyavati says.

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