Modern Women in India Yearn for Safer Cities

Cities should be spaces for opportunity and personal growth. But women across the world consider cities as sites of exclusion, harassment and assault nowadays. There is a growing demand by the modern women today for cities to be haven for opportunities as well as the demand for public safety. However, cities place vulnerable women in peril of abuse and discrimination.

Two organizations in Jagori were organized to address this menacing problem. It is headquartered in Delhi and Women In Cities International (WICI) which work in five continents. They have decided on the theme of building inclusive cities as the central focus for an international conference they are organizing in Delhi later this month. The idea is to get participants from diverse countries and backgrounds to view women’s safety and inclusion against the present background of rapid urban growth.

The Delhi conference will be the third international conference of its kind. The first conference was held in Montreal, Canada eight years ago. Women around the world agreed on the need for the involvement of different organizations including men. A second international conference took place in Bogota, Columbia, in 2004.It specifically encouraged various agencies ranging from national governments, universities, police force and media to get actively involved in preventing violence against women and young girls.

When WICI initiated a Gender Inclusive Cities Programme in partnership with four organisations ,they found out one of the most significant and consistent findings that emerged was that women living in the cities felt that it was their gender that made them susceptible to crimes.

A successful part of the campaign has been the use of safety audits to highlight problem areas in a city and build greater public involvement in creating a safer local environment. In Dar es Salaam, for instance, the city used the audit process to upgrade settlements within its precincts.

According Kathryn Travers, Senior Analyst and Project Officer of WICI, she explained that poor women and children are more vulnerable to unsafe public environments because poverty robs them of the resources that they could use to avoid unsafe environments.

Policy makers have generally not paid sufficient attention to these aspects. What transpired in Ottawa is commendable. The Canadian city developed in partnership with a community based organisation, the City for All Women Initiative, an “equity and inclusion lens”. The lens is essentially a teaching tool for women to acquaint themselves with 11 marginalized groups within the city.

Many women and girls face multiple discriminations and are systematically excluded from decision-making. This exclusion means that city spaces are not shaped with their needs in mind. We are hoping our work will force state authorities and society in general to realize this and take action.