This is the blog posting by Shobhaa De on her blog: http://shobhaade.blogspot.com/
Mumbai is lucky to have a woman as Sheriff. Dr. Indu Shahani probably has a fan club that is as big as any movie star's - but her 'performance' is of an entirely different kind. As Sheriff and Principal of a leading commerce college where her father was the founder - principal, here's one woman who plays several critical roles with enormous aplomb.... and efficiency. As Sheriff of India's premier city, she has made the most of her ceremonial, non-executive position, by really pushing for change in areas where it is most needed - like women's issues. I was invited by her as chief guest at a workshop on " Orientation on sexual violence against women ". This was the third in an on- going series that sees over 7o NGOs participating and working together for a common cause - a rare enough feat. Last year, Indu started "1298 Women's Helpline'' with the assisstance of these NGOs and also launched Ambulance Access For All, which provides a 24x7 service. 1298 has received over 8000 calls from women in distress. There is also a directory for women launched by Sachin Tendulkar some time ago.
I was there to listen and learn. My take - away is that all these initiatives are excellent in themselves, but would be far more effective if they were to work still more closely together and harness their energies collectively. Shweta Mangal, along with 5 others has succeeded in replicating the ambulance model in 3 cities and now runs 91 such, well- equipped units that can reach a person in trouble within 15 minutes. She sagely says that since people don't always value a free service, her company charges fees depending on the person's financial capacity to pay.
Our Mumbai police have done a fairly good job with their 103 Helpline for Women. I was happy to note the presence of three women cops who were attending the workshop.
As in most such non-profit ventures driven by idealism and little else, funding remains the number one priority. There are enough charged up young volunteers offering time and expertise. But additional money would definitely help.
For all those of you who are interested in contributing time\effort\money, here are the relevant contact details - dial 1298 for the ambulance service. And the Sheriff can be accessed on email : email@example.com. There's also a website: www.sheriffofmumbai.com.
Like I said in my short speech, women need to know they aren't alone. That is key.Everything follows from the reassurance that help is but a phone call away.