HUMSAFAR, a Support Centre for Women in Crisis was set up in Lucknow in November 2003 to ensure a holistic response to women’s gender and human rights violations and to work towards gender equality. Registered as a Trust in Lucknow 2008, it has been collectively managed by a group of Trustees, full time trained and experienced staff, and a large number of vigilant volunteers in communities, educational establishment and professionals.
HUMSAFAR has a multi-pronged approach to address gender-based violence. A rigorous curative side – the casework unit, provides a wide variety of support services to women survivors. This includes support like paralegal, legal, medical, social mediation, counseling, rescue, shelter and rehabilitation. During the last ten years HUMSAFAR has intervened in more than 7000 cases.
HUMSAFAR strongly believes that a survivors’ fight to access justice requires wider community support at various stages – to break the conspiracy of silence around violence, access services, wage a long legal battle, rehabilitate herself and her children emotionally and financially and reintegrate in society as an aware citizen aware of her rights and responsibilities.
To create this supportive social environment for the women who choose to speak out and seek help against violence HUMSAFAR has a dynamic outreach programme in communities which works in urban bastis (settlements) and among adolescent and youth in educational institutions, stakeholders and network groups.
At present HUMSAFAR is working in 53 neighborhoods with women and in 42 schools and colleges with youth of Lucknow division in districts Lucknow, Hardoi, Unnao and Sitapur.
HUMSAFAR also works with the department of Women and Child welfare of Uttar Pradesh to train aganwadi workers under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) on gender rights and violence.
HUMSAFAR strongly believes that civil society needs to be roped in for zero violence and hence HUMSAFAR works with many professionals such as lawyers, doctors, businessmen, home-makers, teachers, school principals, retired judge and are known as ‘Friends of HUMSAFAR’. ‘Yuva Tarang’ on the other hand comprises of youth from neighborhood committees and schools and colleges.
Taking a holistic view of her situation HUMSAFAR found that a woman delays the decision to come out of an abusive relationship due to her being ill-equipped to rebuild her life. In many cases survivors decide to withdraw their court case and return to face violence due to her precarious financial situation. It is in this context that HUMSAFAR has taken on the task to equip VAW survivors rebuild their lives by helping them reclaim their right to live with dignity and now survivors are trained for livelihood skills like driving and wood polishing. These skills were chosen as they are so far regarded as male bastions. The effort was to equip women to gain financial independence and at the same time challenge the myth that these works cannot be performed by women. Around 137 women survivors have been trained and supported so far through this initiative.
At present HUMSAFAR is training 7 women drivers with help of Maruti Suzuki under their Corporate Social Responsibility and plans to introduce a all-women ‘Green and Safe’ transport service run by violence survivors for women.
HUMSAFAR has also undertaken evidence based research and strongly believes in taking legal measures to open up spaces for Violence against Women (VAW) survivors. In this context two Uttar Pradesh-level studies have been undertaken. HUMSAFAR’s research ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: Study on maintenance under Section 125Cr PC; enabling or hindering access to entitlement’ was attached as evidence in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) jointly filed by HUMSAFAR and Vanangana, another well known women’s rights organizations from Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. On this Chief Justice of Uttar Pradesh High Court has passed an administrative order for the strict implementation of Section 125 in all courts of Uttar Pradesh and cited our study to highlight implementation and policy issues.
In another PIL jointly filed by HUMSAFAR and Vanangana Uttar Pradesh High Court passed orders questioning the state government as to why it has not appointed independent protection officers as stipulated under the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDV Act). It has also directed the state government to immediately appoint such protection officers for the effective implementation of the PWDV Act.
HUMSAFAR is the only recognized NGO representative on the Committee against Sexual Harassment (CASH) at workplace in the office of Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police which has a state-wide jurisdiction. HUMSAFAR is also a member of the CASH committees of Uttar Pradesh’s Anti Corruption Bureau, Government Railway Police Force (GRP) and A. P Sen Degree College. HUMSAFAR is also member of committee constituted by Lucknow police to provide long term intensive counseling to child sexual abuse survivors.
HUMSAFAR is guided by an approach to change societal patterns of violence by building supportive networks with different sections of society to raise community responsiveness as well as address deep-rooted societal attitude towards women.