British High Commissioner's speech at national roundtable for women burn survivors

Sir Dominic Asquith inaugurated National Roundtable on Building Holistic Support for Women Survivors of Burn Violence in New Delhi.

Burns Delhi roundtable

Welcome and thank you to all dignitaries – for that is what you all are, whether you are speaking or in the audience.

This initiative led by PCVC – is not just ambitious, but also a first of its kind.

I’m delighted that the British High Commission across India is supporting it.

Since PCVC are based in Chennai and evolved their model of holistic support there, our colleagues in Chennai have been working with them to achieve national impact.

But over the last few months our offices in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi have supported the workshops and roundtables in the four target states, so practitioners can share knowledge and develop policy.

Today brings together learning and dialogue.

You’ve already heard what the initiative is about, its ambition and intent. What I’d like to spend my few minutes doing is to draw attention to emerging outcomes that we believe can help transform lives of women who have survived burn violence.

The handbook being launched today, with our support, offers unprecedented guidance. It will increase the knowledge and sensitivity with which practitioners and policy makers approach burn-care in future. It draws not just on PCVC’s experience over several years but also on a range of insights from across India gathered over the last few months. It is a new tool to help those who want to ensure that burn-care for women survivors is holistic. We hope that the Government of India’s Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Women & Child Development and other central and state government agencies will support further printing, dissemination and translation into vernacular. We hope that they will host the digital version of the handbook on their websites to ensure wider access not just for women survivors but also for care-giver families and professionals.

The National Burn Support Line being launched today with our support offers, as I’ve aid, a first-of-its-kind unified communication platform. Trained support staff will be on hand to offer sign-posting and guidance to people calling about burn injuries. It will add value to the existing corpus of knowledge by recording and reporting the incidence of burns, providing medical treatment - and more than that; it will provide psycho-social support to improve primary and tertiary support services. We hope public and private sector institutions across India will work with PCVC to strengthen and expand this tele-support service in coming years.

I am encouraged that Public Hospitals such as KEM in Mumbai, AIIMs in Delhi, RML Hospital in Delhi and Gandhi Medical College Hospital in Telangana have shown interest in offering their premises to start a survivor network and support activities such as art therapy. This would open the way to burn survivors from surrounding hospitals being referred to these points as evolving centres of excellence in psycho-social support.

It is heartening to see some sections of the private sector already playing a role in complementing the public health response. A few months ago, our Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai inaugurated Baby Memorial Hospital’s new Burns ICU in Kerala. This sort of exclusive facility makes a huge difference to survivor outcomes – reducing pain, quickly checking and reducing chances of further infection, reducing the need for further surgeries, speeding up recovery and ensuring a more supportive, more caring environment for burn survivors.

Another private hospital is Coimbatore’s Ganga Hospital which, following engagement during this project, now supports free surgeries for women survivors referred by PCVC. We hope that other private healthcare providers in India will draw on these inspiring examples.

Existing good psycho-social burn-care initiatives such as KARMA’s and SNEHA’s in KEM Hospital Mumbai have welcomed PCVC’s input to make their models more holistic especially in building social and economic resilience. Existing psycho-social initiatives supporting domestic violence survivors such as Doctors Without Borders have welcomed the idea of integrating burn-care support within their models. Now, a brief but grim reminder of why we’re here.

In August 2016, you will have read a media report about a 23-year old woman who was set on fire by three men in north-west Delhi, allegedly for turning down a marriage proposal from one of them. Following an attack on the girl’s family, one of the men poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze.

This is just one of several incidents across India. The British High Commission in India has a long and expanding tradition of helping prevent and tackle any violence against women by working with those determined to inculcate respect for gender equality.

Our experience with this project has shown that progress is possible no matter how challenging the scale or complexity. That gives us real hope.

We are pleased that this collaboration with PCVC on its unique initiative is making a difference in one of the most neglected areas of violence.

Women who are affected mustn’t remain only victims – rather, they must move from being survivors to thrivers.

Thank you all once again.

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Published 23 March 2017