The world’s first ever countrywide, government-initiated helpline and call centre for women is soon to begin in India.
“I want a facility where women from any part of India can call up on a toll-free number at any time of day or night and have their questions answered on contraception, pregnancy, menstrual hygiene and just any gynae or obstetric issue answered by doctors,” says executive director of the Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (National Population Stabilisation Fund), Shailaja Chandra, who is behind the concept of the call centre.
Chandra, former Delhi chief secretary, has very clear ideas on how she wants the call centre to function. While the toll-free number and the launch date are yet to be finalised, she is in talks with the Maulana Azad Medical College to develop a data base for the call centre.
“I don’t want people giving random common sense advice. I want a data base with all sorts of possible questions that people could ask, and trained personnel who can type in the query, search words as the question is asked, pull out the relevant answers from the data base prepared by doctors, and then counsel the person asking the question.”
In the rare instance that an answer is not available in the database, the call centre personnel will contact doctors who are part of the programme and get back to the person asking the question, with an appropriate answer.
Chandra wants a call centre exclusively for women in India because she said, “No matter how unlikely we think it is, there are still people who need answers to very basic issues”. In addition to questions like “Can I get pregnant with kissing?” or “Can a condom be reused,” Chandra hopes that the call centre, when fully functional, would also be able to provide support to women in remote areas. “For instance if a pregnant woman in a rural area discovers a problem like spotting, in the middle of the night when she has no access to medical help, the call centre is a place where she could call for advice,” she told the Hindustan Times.
Doctors at the government hospitals also said they thought the idea would be helpful as there is no dearth of women who are unable to seek help for such issues.