Even as discussions continue on #MeToo campaign, SHe-box, a year-old initiative by the Ministry of Women and Child Development that gives an avenue for women to present their complaints on a platform is grossly underutilised in Tamil Nadu.
In Tamil Nadu, just about 11 complaints have been reported so far. The complaints have been disposed accordingly after probe within the organisation. The SHe-box has been advertised widely by the Social Welfare Department, through posters and campaigns at public places like the Metro Stations and the district Collectorates to reach out to women from across sections. However, the response has been a few and far between. A senior official at the department said that the reason for low rate of reporting was due to the normalisation of the issue. “There is also a great deal of embarrassment associated with such episodes,” the official added.
However, those working in the field of diversity and inclusion, cite the lack of awareness, especially in the stratum where it is needed the most. Saundarya Rajesh, founder- president, AVTAR Group, pointed out that when compared to the 15 to 18 per cent of women working in corporates in urban sector, where there is an Internal Complaints Committee, there is a higher percentage of about 22-23 per cent in small and medium enterprises. “Tamil Nadu is one of the states with higher than average women workforce participation. Given this situation, is the concerned Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Department publicising the SHe-box? In the absence of awareness, how will there be complaints?” she asked. She also insisted that only when there is large scale publicity across forums, will there be at least response from at least 2 per cent of them.
However, the Social Welfare Department also said that unless companies comply with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 to set up internal complaints committee at the workplace, the initiative is going to suffer a setback. To ensure safety and security of women at all workplaces, the ministry has also empanelled institutions and organisations willing to conduct awareness raising exercises around the provisions of the Sexual Harassment Act. In Tamil Nadu, Bharathiar University is an empanelled institution.