There has been a significant rise in the cases of domestic abuse during the lockdown, but many women haven’t been able to ask for help. The restraint, in most instances, could arguably be due to a lack of courage or legal knowledge. Moreover, legal proceedings are not only financially but also psychologically taxing.
In order to provide free legal and mental health aid to those in need, Hyderabad-based transactional lawyer Manasi Chaudhari, and Mumbai-based entrepreneur and women’s rights advocate Navya Naveli Nanda launched ‘Project Nyay’ri’ on August 26, which also happens to be the Women’s Rights’ Equality Day.
The project deals with various issues pertaining to women including domestic violence, gender inequality, sexual harassment, mental health, among others. Through this initiative, they aim to not only equip women with the appropriate legal knowledge but also help them process their psychological trauma and other mental health issues.
Nanda, who met Chaudhari at a panel discussion about a year and a half ago, expressed her curiosity towards Chaudhari’s initiative ‘Pink Legal’ that aims to provide legal knowledge to women across the country. Being the co-founder of ‘Aara Health’ – a women’s health platform that aims to build awareness and services around feminine health in India – Nanda wanted to bring together her experience in mental health services and Chaudhari’s legal knowledge to create a platform that empowers women.
“While having a discussion, we [Nanda and Chaudhari] realised that financial inadequacy is the major reason why women hesitate to come forward and raise their voice. So, with my passion to do something in the field of women empowerment and Manasi’s experience in law, we realised that combining the two would create something really unique and helpful,” said Nanda.
Chaudhari further added, “When we were planning to come up with a helpline that could help women to know more about their legal rights, we understood that most women hesitate to take any action as they come with a lot of trauma or they feel too psychologically drained to even take an action. Thus, through Nyay’ri, we decided that a way to holistically enable women and empower them to stand up to their abuser is to provide them with mental health support along with legal awareness.”
How does it work?
The founders began by setting up a team of experienced and empathetic legal as well as mental health experts along with identifying the legal issues that women face on a daily basis. Being a digital programme, Nyay’ri’s services are not only available to all women across India but also to those living abroad. To that end, they have an entire three-fold intervention programme that includes legal awareness, mental health support and peer-to-peer groups.
To avail these services, women are required to sign up on their website and fill up a form that collects basic information in terms of the kind of sessions they want. After doing so, one of the team members gets in touch with them and based on their requirements the team members schedule appropriate sessions for them. The sessions are either only legal or mental-health related, or a combination of both.
How has been the response?
According to Nanda, one of the major challenges that they faced was to open up conversations around legal rights and to be able to make women understand their rights.
“Educational awareness is one of the foundation pillars to making any change and the major challenge was to be able to communicate such complicated law and legal rights in a very simplified manner to make them understand,” Nanda added.
However, while keeping in mind the fact that they would have to face several other challenges along the way, they have been persistent and passionate about the initiative, and over the span of around three weeks, they have been able to help almost 100 women so far, according to Chaudhari. They have received overwhelmingly positive feedback on both the legal as well as the mental health sessions that they have conducted.
“Mostly what happens is that even if a woman has filed a case in the court, she doesn’t have any idea as to how to go about it or what’s going on in the court, and that’s when we come into the picture – we explain and guide them along with providing therapy that makes them feel at peace,” said Chaudhari.
Moreover, as opposed to a popular assumption that only those belonging to economically weaker sections of society face such issues, Nanda adds that they have been contacted by women from diverse social statuses and financial backgrounds. To that end, they hope to penetrate into all the strata of society and all the cities and reach women even at the grassroots level.
While they wish to empower women to be able to stand up for their legal rights and to provide them with mental health support, as per Chaudhari, “it is essential that our government fast-tracks our legal system to enable women to seek justice as justice delayed is justice denied”.
You can find them on Instagram at @nyayri.
All images are provided by Schbang For Good/Lamya Karachiwala.