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HE developing world does

not enjoy a reputation for

being particularly pro-wom-

en. Very often the reasons

for culturally ingrained mi-

sogyny are deeply engrained in traditional,

religious or societal environments with the

realities rarely palatable to observers in the


A recent study by the Institute of

Applied Manpower Research that focused

on low female employment in a period of

high growth drew insights from both Uttar

Pradesh (UP) and Gujarat and discovered

that the most pressing problems facing

females were related to conditions of work,

including low wages, long work hours,

physical exhaustion and health hazards as

well as that of physical infrastructure like

roads and method of conveyance.

The study found that household

members were not averse to the idea of

women participating in the workforce even

though this willingness in most cases was

distress-driven. Revealingly, the study

found that the most fundamental problem

that persisted was the mentality of male

supremacy at the workplace, with females

being treated as inferior in every way.

The study also concluded that one

practical and visible solution lay in

facilitating skills training programmes

for women substantiated with follow up

actions that were meaningful rather than

simply going through the motions. Absence

of skills training programmes, particularly

for women, remains a major concern not

only in UP but throughout the country.

So how does UP fare on the scale of

female empowerment? Steps are being

taken by the Chief Minister (CM) Akhilesh

Yadav to ensure that the empowerment,

safety and security of women are one of the

top priorities for the state. “As a father of

two young girls the security and safety of

all girls and women is important to me. Our

Government wants all the girls in the state to

be safe, and secure and have opportunities

for education and empowerment. Only then

will our state succeed,” says Yadav.

At the end of December 2014 the Uttar

Pradesh cabinet made a significant decision

to form a ‘State Women Empowerment

Mission’ under the chairmanship of the

Chief Minister himself. The task of the

mission will be to ensure coordination with

respective departments for implementation

of various welfare schemes for the

empowerment of women. The mission

will monitor the implementation of such

schemes and projects while the committee

will oversee its functioning.

Elsewhere in conjunction with the

World Bank the UPGovernment is working

on a pro-poor tourism development project

with part of it promoting endogenous job

opportunities for the poor population

living in and/or close to selected tourist

destinations, with an emphasis on

increasing income generation opportunities

for women.

DimpleYadav, aMember of Parliament

for the constituency of Kannauj and wife of

the Chief Minister (


), is living proof

that gender equality is slowly but surely

coming to the fore in UP. If fact her rise

within the Samajwadi Party (SP) is being

regarded as a boost to the party’s stand on

women’s empowerment, as the SP makes

efforts to move away from a traditional

patriarchal mindset. Just because attitudes

to women are starting to change in UP it

doesn’t translate to it being easy for women

to strike out a career in politics. “It is very

difficult for a woman to stand in politics,”

says Dimple. “At a grassroots level, there

are a lot of crowds that they have to deal

with and you can be manhandled in such

crowds. Politics is difficult as a career for

a woman.”

With 16 elected women representatives

in the UP assembly, Dimple in the Lok

Sabha, and two parliamentarians, Jaya

Bachchan and Kanak Lata Singh, in the

Rajya Sabha, the party is starting to focus

its energies on pushing forward with the

issue of greater female representation in


National president of SP women’s

wing, Ranjana Bajpai, said, “Mulayam

Singh Yadav [SP leader] has always

pitched for women’s empowerment

through education and employment. Now

the party is also discussing the need to

raise the pitch for female representation, a

subject that was never addressed seriously

by the Congress or the BJP.”

For some like Dr. Roshan Jacob, the

District Magistrate for the Kanpur district,

working in UP as a women has been a

positive experience. “I have not faced

any problems that I could attribute to my

gender. If anything it has been quite a

positive experience. UP

is a very inclusive place, they

assume that you are a good person

and it is a very welcoming state

because of that,” says Dr Jacob.

For many of the woman in the

street, empowerment goes hand in hand

with security. “This is a national problem.

UP is not the only state that has cases of

violence against women, it is all over

India and it has to be taken very seriously.

UP has been doing a lot to secure the

safety of women. We have come up with

the 1090 help line, which has solved the

cases of thousands of women. We have

also launched a 1090 App,” says Dimple

Yadav. The important thing, as far as she

is concerned is about more accountability.

“A lot has to be done for women. We have

to make people not only answerable but be


This is only likely to happen with

senior women in a wide range of roles

throughout the state, like the police force,

for instance. The most senior woman

officer in the Indian Police Service in UP,

a veteran with 30 years service is Sutapa

Sanyal, Additional Director of Police and

Economic Offences and Women Issues



). According to Sanyal “We have

certain stereotypes that lead to certain

attitudes toward women. When you have

these stereotypes, of gender inequality,

they have been embedded for aeons in

our society and this is reflected in thought

processes and what we say. That is the

cause of so many instances of gender

violence that happen in the state.”

Since the much publicised bus rape

incident in India that made the headlines

across the globe, there have been a num-

ber of changes in laws both in India and

in UP to ensure safety of women and the

stern, strict and immediate action against

criminals. “The first thing we need to do is

spread awareness of these new laws,” says

Sanyal. “So I go to schools, colleges and

others venues and tell them about the new

laws. I put up stands in malls and educate

people about the new laws. Secondly, I try

to connect to civil society so that people

feel free to come and tell the police. Be-

cause we have a culture of

silence here where people are told from

childhood, don’t say anything, ignore it,

everything will be OK. But the reality is

that everything is not OK and it doesn’t get

better. You need to make things OK. You

need to put laws in place. Spread aware-

ness. Connect with civil society.”

Changing the negative image that is

portrayed of UP when it comes to women’s

issues poses a major challenge. The CM

however appears to be determined to

create a safe and secure environment

where women who have been victimised

or require assistance are comfortable in

coming forward and reporting the crime

and are provided with all of the necessary

resources and support services. In addition

the CM has been working to change

the patriarchal mindset rampant within

the state and implement tough on crime

measures. “There also has to be a shift away

from the patriarchal society to a situation

where women are gender equal,” says


Sanyal added: “Over the past year

there has been a lot of attention paid in

the state to the security of women. These

include the control rooms that have been

upgraded and the 1090 initiative. We

have introduced a website where women

can feed their complaints through to the

concerned district.” The introduction

of women-friendly police stations with

dedicated areas for women go hand in

hand with a recruitment drive at all levels

to encourage more women to join the force

is also a positive step in the right direction.

Overall it appears that the situation for

women in Uttar Pradesh is finally starting

to turn a corner. After years of being held

in an abysmally low position within society

it would seem that a return to the nobility

of women once seen in the Vedic times

is close. And it is within the will of the

current progressive CM’s leadership that

maybe, just maybe, UP will once again

believe, “where women are honoured, gods

reside there”.


Women Power Line (WPL)

1090 is a unique and progressive

initiative of the Uttar Pradesh (UP)

state Government that aims to

provide quick help to women who

have been victims of harassment.

A specially trained force comprised

entirely of women officers was

formed in 2012 to attend to calls

from distressed women and ensure

timely help to victims.

The Facebook page of the WPL

already has over half a million Likes,

a sign of its popularity with the

masses. Deputy Inspector General of

Police of Lucknow, Navneet Sikera



), is a major contributor

and the man behind the success

of this women’s empowerment

initiative of the state. As the person

in charge of the WPL, which began

as a pilot project of the UP Police,

Sikera is passionate about 1090, its

functioning and its results.

“We started 1090 in November

2012 and since then we have learned

a great deal about women’s security,

safety and empowerment,” says

Sikera. “More than 1 million women

have already spoken to us about

what kind of problems there are and

what could be the possible solutions

to overcome them. We could have

one of the largest depositories

of information on such things

anywhere today.”

The core issues stem from a

truly societal base: “In the past,

women’s security had a very low

priority with the police,” says Sikera.

“It was not seen as a very serious

issue and there were many reasons

why this was so. Victims would

not come forward and most of the

time we heard about it through

referrers, mostly through journalists.

We would then try to solve the

issue informally because there was

no formal system in place to deal

with it.”

In India, girls are taught from the

age of five to ‘ignore’ and ‘tolerate’

the irresponsible behaviour of boys.

Experience has shown that minor

bullying and hair pulling in the

sandpit can lead to far more serious

behaviour later on. The statistics

are sobering indeed: “92 per cent of

heinous offences in India happen in

the home perpetrated by a relative

or someone who is very close to the

girl,” says Sikera. “There is fear of

rebuke. The police might complete

their investigation in three or four

months but the judiciary will take

seven or eight years. This is a fact. If

a girl starts a complaint when she is

18 she might be 26 and married and

expecting a kid by the time it comes

to court. So for her, it is a lose-lose


What the system needed was

a means of stopping these offences

happening in the first place rather

than waiting until it was too late.

“That is why we introduced Power

Line,” says Sikera. “We don’t call it

a helpline because there is a bias in

that word. It is not there to help the


“It is there to empower them.

Across the country, other helplines

use the face of a traumatised woman

in their advertising, a woman who

needs help, who has been harassed.

We did not want that. We wanted a

smiling face, a confident face.”

There are five elements to the

1090 initiative geared towards

making women more comfortable:

their identity will not be disclosed;

they will only talk to women police

officers; they will never be called

to a police station; the police will

remain in touch with the woman

until the problem is completely

resolved; the police will also remain

in touch with them for three months

after the complaint to make sure

there is no repeat offence.

According to Sikera the success

of the service lies in regular follow-


While the women counsellors get in

touch with the victim on a regular

basis, male members of our team

simultaneously counsel the accused.

“Our boys tell the accused that if

he doesn’t stop indulging in such

activities, he should know that all

his details are with the police and a

case will be registered against him

and he will not be able to obtain

a passport, driving license or any

such certificate for which police

verification is mandatory. Thus, 99%

problems are resolved then and there.

Such a warning proves to be very

effective and helpful in resolving the

problem. We also tell them that they

won’t be able to escape even if they

change their sim-card because they

will be under our surveillance and it

will be better for them to mend their

ways,” say Sikera.

The more stubborn of the ac-

cused will be subjected to the

“Friends, Family and Relatives

method”, wherein the WPL person-

nel use call detail records (CDR) to

contact and counsel the social circle

of the accused. In time, the accused

finds themselves in the middle of

disappointed parents, jibing friends

and condescending relatives. The

exceptionally problematic accused is

even featured on the Facebook page

of the WPL, inviting scorn from the

7,000 subscribers to the page.

The sad fact is that 50 per

cent of women in UP are illiterate

and many have had a lifetime of

harassment and domestic violence.

Perhaps 1090 could be just what

they have been waiting for. In the

two years since the initiative was

launched over 1 million calls have

been received, cataloguing 288,000

serious complaints and the team has

solved 282,000 of them with the

balance of 6,000 still in the process

of being addressed.

“Whether shamed, scared or

tactical, 14,790 of reported harassers

have in fact, abandoned not only

their unholy pursuits but also their

SIM cards after receiving calls from

the WPL. “The phone numbers have

simply gone out of service. The

accused may switch to another SIM

card, but they will surely think twice

before committing the act again,”

says Sikera.

For all its detractors that may

reject the service as a gimmick,

the numbers speak for themselves.

WPL has done much to change

societal views on harassment and

also with the way the public sees

the police, and indeed how the

police see themselves. Efficiency,

infrastructural superiority, work-

life-balance, and job satisfaction are

not terms to be heard in discourses

pertaining to the Indian police, but

all that is changing. The staff of

WPL only work in six-hour shifts,

and are not required to wear a

uniform. Women constables receive

a pick and drop facility, and tasks

like getting the CDR of the accused

take only half an hour.

Sikera says the next two phases

of the service will have both social

media harassment and physical

stalking brought under its ambit.

“The WPL started as a project, but

boosted by the success, it is now a



‘power’ line


not a help line

rise of



Addressing the issue of gender equality in India isn’t an easy task, as women’s economic

empowerment requires sound public policies, a holistic approach, in addition to a long-

term commitment. To address the issue of women’s rights, the Government of Uttar

Pradesh is helping to tear down barriers for its female population, as they understand that

to help women is to help society.

Georgia Hunter investigates


Deputy Inspector General of Police of Lucknow, Navneet Sikera

addressing pupils of Isabella Thoburn College for girls in UP and

Sikera with a group of specially trained officers from the Women

Power Line initiative

Sutapa Sanyal, Additional

Director of Police and Economic

Offences and Women Issues

I try to connect

to civil society so

that people feel free

to come and tell the


UP has

been doing a

lot to secure

the safety of


Dimple Yadav, a Member

of Parliament for the

constituency of Kannauj

and wife of the

Chief Minister