RECLAIMING THE CITY
Cities all over the world are growing at a phenomenon rate due to rapid urbanisation. It is estimated that more than half of India’s population will be living in urban areas by 2030. The metropolitan populace in India has grown 31 per cent between 1991 and 2001. Estimations show that over half of India’s population will be living in urban areas by 2030.
India’s rapid urbanization makes cities the locus of growth, livelihoods and cultural activities as well as generates a host of problems and inequalities. Women – like all city dwellers – should have rights over their city. But what does the “right to the city” mean?
It means that every person should have the freedom of movement, need based infrastructure, satisfaction of basic human needs, safe and affordable transportation, participation in decision making, law and order, opportunities for education, health and culture, equality and diversity. One of the main factors that mitigate against the realization of these rights for women is safety and the fear of violence.
The starting premise of Akshara’s Project “Reclaiming the City, Ensuring Safety for Women and Girls” is that women have a fundamental right to live in their city, free from violence and the fear of violence, so as to realize opportunities of livelihood, mobility, political and cultural participation.
Our Strategy is:Mobilising Communities of Youth through grassroots work with youth and women to undertake Safety Audits and social actions, which brings attention to the issue as well as creates public awareness. Every year we train 36 youth from college NSS and 20 young women from bastis to take up Safety Walks in different parts of the city. Through this, we are able to build up evidence of unsafe areas where local women fear violence and sexual harassment. In the past 5 years, about 250 youth and women have ‘audited’ the majority of Western and Central Line railway stations, open spaces or parks and maidans and streets in Mumbai through some 79 total safety walks. On the basis of this people based evidence, we have taken up advocacy with the authorities. For example, we have worked with BEST officials for safety within buses; with the Central Railways for sexual harassment in compartments; with the Police and the Govt.
Training Para-Counsellors for Prevention of Violence:
Every year, Akshara sponsors about 20-30 women to take para-counselling courses accredited by TISS, so that they can support women facing sexual harassment and violence.
Involving College Teachers:
Every year we organise an online gender course for college teachers and students to understand sexual harassment and learn how to intervene in cases with the University of Mumbai and SNDT University.
Working with the State:
– Trained over 1,500 bus conductors in gender awareness and handling sexual harassment cases
– Put over 1000 stickers stamped with the 103 helpline number in Autos in 2014
– Trained Railway personnel to ensure Ladies Only compartments and prevention of sexual harassment
– Trained approximately 550 Women Police Constables who work with the 103 helpline in Mumbai
– Presented a Comprehensive Plan for the Safety of Women in Mumbai to ex CM Chauhan in 2013
– Interventions in the Development Plan for Mumbai on gender issues
Through the youth and women oriented programs, Akshara takes up public campaigns:
– In public events like Equal Streets
– On the streets
– Through the use of Internet related websites
– For survivors of violence to understand and decide what action to take