Rema Rajeshwari IPS Is Using Social Innovation Methods To Revolutionise Policing In Telangana

“We are leaders and change makers. Value the opportunity to serve and make it count,” says Rema Rajeswari, the female IPS officer making great strides in creating a sensitive, proactive police force.

We are leaders and change makers. Value the opportunity to serve and make it count,” says Rema Rajeswari, the female IPS officer making great strides in creating a sensitive, proactive police force.

Rema Rajeshwari grew up with her grandmother among the ethereal mountains and tea estates of Munnar. She was fascinated as a child by the stories of British civil servants during the Raj and had decided at that young age that she wanted to be in the civil services too.

As is the case with many women in India, even today, her family was not very supportive. “When I decided that I wanted to be an IPS officer, the response that I got was absolutely negative. My own parents didn’t believe in me. I quit my job as a software engineer and lived in Delhi as a copyeditor to support my education. My parents were ashamed to introduce me. But ultimately, I just went ahead and got through the exams,” she narrates.

However, becoming an IPS officer was not the end game for this intrepid young woman. Through various creative initiatives that encourage the police to collaborate with civilians, she has created a better model for what policing can me.

Some of her initiatives include:

  1. Sensitivity training under the ‘Gender Peace program’ in which she took the help of gender trainers from a civil society organization, which encouraged both practical changes in how police officers dealt with survivors of gender violence, as also attitudinal and behavioural shifts.
  2. With the help of local villagers and an NGO, Rema’s team transformed a dilapidated primary school
  3. Rema collaborated with the Jan Sikshan Santhan to recuse and rehabilitate Joginis
  4. In a two-phase programme, Rema and her team stopped child marriages and saved child brides. The first phase, in association with Childline officials and NGOs, helped answer over 3647 distress calls and stop over 1200 child marriages in 2016-2017. Phase Two consisted of awareness campaigns with temple priests, pastors and qazis, who pledged to join hands with the police to stop child marriages.
  5. In an effort to promote safe driving, traffic violators (especially minors) were made to plant trees with the idea of doing good instead of evil. They were also given a counselling session at the district Police Headquarters.
  6. She set up ‘She Teams’ in Hyderabad to contain eve-teasers and other rouge elements harassing women.
  7. She also works tirelessly for Child Safety, via her community outreach program Balyaniki Raksha,by educating the children in villages to break the silence around Child Sexual Abuse (CSA).

Her initiative to fight against fake news earned her great recognition last year. She creatively used folk singers and drummers to educate villagers about the dangers of spreading WhatsApp messages without verification, as this video shows.

She also writes for leading publications, and advocates for having more women in the police force.

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Rema Rajeshwari has been awarded the prestigious Devi National Award, which is given to women who have contributed to society in an innovative manner. She was also part of Yale University’s 2017 World Fellows global leadership programme.

Policing in India is fraught with problems ranging from lack of resources to politicization. The result is an environment of deep distrust between the police and the public. While larger initiatives are in the hands of the Government, Rema Rajeshwari has shown that within their own sphere of influence, police officers can make some great changes.

The theme of International Women’s Day, 2019, which falls on March 8th, is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”. #IWD2019

With women still a minority in science, technology & related innovation, it’s time to shine a spotlight on female innovation champions! Enjoy our Women Innovators Around The World series, where we profile 19 inspiring women innovators, from 19 countries, whose work has a big social impact.

Want to know what other innovations women around the world have pioneered? Read about Brenda Katwesigye here.

Image source: YouTube

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