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Toll-free Hotline and Text Services Helps Balkh Women Speak up Against Domestic Violence

Mazar-e-Sharif, 06 February : A toll-free domestic violence hotline and text services is helping women in the Balkh province speak up about their everyday experiences of domestic violence. The initiative, part of the Government of Afghanistan-UNDP gender Equality Project, is implemented by GANDEERAY, an Afghan organization working in the area of social change communication. The hotline addresses questions relating to different forms of domestic violence, including physical, psychological, sexual and financial abuse that take place within family relationships and form a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior.

The project is based on the mobile platform, which has allowed women easy access crucial to them, as well as accurate, standardized, objective and actionable information. The project is using new technology to reach victims and to provide a safer, more reliable, way of reporting, recording, and responding to reports of domestic violence. A large number of Afghan women are living in isolation which is a fertile ground for domestic abuse. Immediate access to information, advice, consoling and support is one of the most essential responses to women experiencing violence and lack of it affects their ability to access locally based protection services.

The call center which is being managed by female operators became fully operational towards the end of December 2011; So far, the center has directly supported over 180 contacts that have reported cases of Gender-based Violence (GBV)., Free legal consultations have been provided to callers that has helped them take the next steps towards negotiating their family affairs. Regular updates about the number of calls, verification of GBV cases, district names and status of each case can be viewed at the webpage of the project (http://www.family-violence.net/home.aspx). Four free phone numbers have been introduced which are tested and evaluated regularly.

The recent number of calls have been an eye opener for determining future targets and objectives. The project has handled different legal cases, some of which require continuous support while others were dealt with on the spot. With an average of 9 calls per day to be handled, the domestic violence staff and volunteers are striving to meet the demand by engaging more volunteers from Mazar and other districts of Balkh province including Dehdadi and Balkh where GEP has established its Legal Help Centers (LHC). The LHCs hold the promise of expanding the outreach support to vulnerable women in the remote district of the Balkh province.

The initiative seeks to empower women by exposing them to techniques of legal rights advocacy and provides access to legal justice through the provision of advice and counseling to victims of domestic violence.

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