‘For The Longest Time, I Saw Delhi Commission For Women As An Oppressor’

Posted on October 25, 2016 in India Fellow, Politics, Society, Women Empowerment

By Sonali Sapna:

The day started with a scream from within me as I was getting late for field work. Talking about work, let me brief you a little about what I do before I write about my experiences on the field. I joined India Fellow, a social leadership program in July this year. Young Indians with a compassion to understand social challenges are selected, nurtured and placed within grassroot organisations working across the country. I work in the capital city with an NGO called Child Survival India (CSI). My work has to do with helping out disadvantaged communities

Around 10 am, I reached the Gender Resource Centre (GRC) in Narela. This is where my office is located. I found a van inside the campus on which Delhi Women for Commission was written in the Hindi language. I was thrilled as I have always heard about the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) in the news, but for the first time, I was going to work with them. I met the DCW counsellor Savita in GRC and she told me that they were getting calls and would leave soon to solve those issues.

Member of DCW at work.

After a quick lunch, we made a call to one of our complainant, Meera Devi from Sector-1 in Rithala and asked her to come to a police station. She insisted on meeting at her shop where she sold beedis and cigarettes. She was having problems as a person who sold chowmein was harassing her so he could use the area where her shop is located to set up his own stall. His drunk friends would join him and abuse her in public. She also said that she had filed a complaint at a police station. Savita told her that if she had already filed a complaint, we needed to go to the police station for a follow up. But she declined. She said that she could not close her shop or leave it to someone, not even for an hour. Our efforts went in vain as the lady requested us to visit her in the evening. Employees at DCW work different shifts. After every shift, one team gets replaced by another. It’s a project which runs for 24 hours a day. Then we conveyed the message to the next team and decided to follow the case whenever we got the opportunity.

Daya basti in Bawana was next on the list, as we got a complaint from a lady named Mukesh that a neighboring family had burned her belongings. Her livelihood was dependent on the ferri business. We took her in our van along with her son to a police station. Four male police officers were sitting at the women’s desk. They asked Mukesh about the case but when Savita tried to address the issue, one of them spoke rudely. When she informed him that we were from the DCW, he refused to hear her out and said that this was not a woman related matter. Another officer asked why the DCW was getting involved when no one had ‘misbehaved’ with the woman? But Savita did not lose hope and called the sub-inspector who was handling the case and made sure that he noted the issue.

Some statements of those police officers continue to disturb me. They commented that in many cases, people call the women’s desk with fake cases of women being involved. After reaching the location, they find cases of two brothers fighting, etc.

For a very long time, I have seen the public as the victim and authorities like the DCW as the oppressors. It is only when one begins to enter the system, one realises how it is not as black and white. There are grays – and so many shades of them that truth begins to fade. I look forward to more such opportunities to deepen my understanding of urban governance.


Image provided by author.

Sonali Sapna is an India Fellow of the 2016 cohort currently working with Child Survival India, a grassroots  organisation which focuses on urban development issues out of Delhi. 


The application for the 2018 cohort of India Fellow is open till 28th February 2018. Join a commune of changemakers and discover your social leadership potential. Apply today at www.indiafellow.org!