It all started with identifying a problem – the state of women in Telangana.
Telangana has the lowest SDG-5 index score according to the Sustainable Development Goals(SDG) India Index report by the United Nations in 2019. Recognizing the urgency with which action had to be taken for women's welfare, a group of activists in Telangana led by Spurthi Kolipaka appealed to the CM to make the website of State Commission for Women fully functional.
"Even trees and sheep have digital presence under Telangana schemes! It is therefore shocking to see that we have no website for our State Commission for Women," laments Spurthi Kolipaka, Campaign Strategist for #WomComMatters.
Soon, the movement evolved into a demand for a fully functional women's commission which had been defunct for over 2 years without a chairperson.
Proactive Action: The Women's Commission Matters Website
In August 2019, the WomComMatters team developed a website that acted as a portal for women across the state and the country to take part in the movement. The website also serves as a portal for women to access resources such as national and state-specific helplines for a variety of issues from reporting domestic abuse to seeking help for mental wellbeing. Created by a young team of designers and developers, the bi-lingual website is intuitive and inclusive for women of all ages.
The team worked across 3 time zones to put together a website that is not only visually appealing but practical and functional as well. Running use-cases across ages, there was an open and transparent feedback loop. We identified the need for an inclusive user experience that led us to incorporate vernacular translations of helplines which are categorized by state and are free to download in a PDF format making these helplines accessible even when there is no internet connection.
It is worthwhile to note that the website, by equipping women of Telangana with information and giving access to participate in the process of development, is empowering women everywhere. The visuals convey that message too. On Women's Day last year, volunteers of WomComMatters organised an awareness drive that resulted in brilliant renderings of feminist vision on walls across Warangal. Alongside these paintings, the website also displays the works of Delhi-based queer artist Aindriya Barua whose powerful imagery captures WomComMatter's larger vision of encouraging dialogue on gendered experiences which are set to break stereotypes and create spaces of learning and unlearning, slowly but surely. The WomComMatters website has therefore been built to reinvent and reimagine local activism with empowering, inclusive representation, accessible resources, and collective civic action.
Website Launch Followed by Appointment of Chairperson
Shortly after the WomComMatters team rolled out their website, the Government of Telangana launched the official website for the state's Women's Commission in November 2020. A month later, in January 2021, Sunitha Lakshma Reddy was appointed as the Chairperson of Telangana State Women's Commission. While this called for celebration as relentless campaigning that spanned over 2 years bore fruit, Spurthi commented that the commission has to stay active and committed to women's welfare.
Portal Defunct Within 3 Months
The website became defunct in February 2021. On a Twitter thread, Chairperson, Ms. Reddy had responded saying, "TSWC website will be working within a few days". A simple Google search today for the TSCW website leads you to the National Commission for Women website. The complaint portal for the state is not only dysfunctional but has disappeared altogether.
Owing to the intricate power structures put in place by patriarchy, women find it hard to muster up the courage to register complaints to begin with (98% of crimes against women in India go unreported). To that, an uncaring government and lack of active institutional response makes one question if the state of Telangana even prioritizes women and our issues.
Call for Action
Over a month has passed since the Chairperson of TSCW said that the website will be up and running soon. As time stretches, women continue to face abuse, TSCW must show commitment toward the welfare of Telangana's women. The least the Commission can do is bringing back the website that was promised to us.