Swati Jagtap, Assistant Police Inspector of the Vinoba Bhave police station, has another designation to her name. She is also a ‘Police Didi’. A police didi is a figure who is not just an authority in uniform, but also someone young girls can think of as their caretaker in times of need. Jagtap is one of 93 police didis across the city.
The ‘Police Didi’ initiative, a brainchild of the Mumbai Commissioner of Police Dattatray Padsalgikar, was started six months ago with police personnel visiting all the schools in their respective zones.
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The objective is to work towards reducing cases of sexual harassment of children by creating awareness about concepts like ‘bad touch’ and changing the perception of the police, especially the women personnel, as unapproachable and intimidating. “It is necessary to make children aware of concepts such as bad touch, and what to do to avoid and escape an untoward situation. There are a number of women who say they would have probably not been harassed had they been more aware,” said Jagtap.
Currently, Jagtap, along with a few of her colleagues, is making rounds of schools in their zone and conducting lectures on sexual harassment.
In one such visit to Michael High School Friday, Jagtap spoke to the students of Std IX about the issue and the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ they should follow if they find themselves in such a situation. The information was complemented by several video and audio clips.
“Schools always talk to their students about being aware of their bodies, but it makes a difference when it’s a woman police officer who tells them about it. They take it more seriously,” said Jean Gomes, principal of the school.
The students, though giggling and enjoying the times they had to practice screaming as a part of the ‘Scream. Run. Report’ instruction, were listening closely to what inspector Jagtap had to tell them. “We talk to students of Std III to Std X. We emphasise that such an assault can come from anyone, even a close relative,” Jagtap added.
As a woman working for the welfare of children, especially female children, Jagtap is appreciative of such an initiative. “Talking to students, we feel attached to them. It becomes more personal. We think it would really help if girls know that they can approach us without fear,” said Jagtap.