By Amrita Paul
What makes a city, a locality safe or unsafe? As stakeholders, members of the community how do we ensure that the area we live in does not account for crimes against women? Safecity, a non-governmental organization founded by former aviation professional ElsaMarie D’Silva, works as a platform for people to share their personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. This data, which can be reported anonymously, helps in creating hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level.
Elsa says, “The idea is to make this data available for individuals, communities and the local administration to be able to probe and bring about social and systemic change in our cities.”
Since, some people are reticent to open up and recount their experiences (anonymously as well) on their own on the website, a lot of the data made available was gathered by the SafeCity team by organizing workshops and campaigns on sexual harassments within communities for people to join, interact and open up about their own experiences as well.
And documentation is the first step towards bringing about tangible change.
“For e.g. in Bandra, we were able to alter the patrol timings, in the absence of which harassments cases were on the rise. In Delhi, in an area called Lal Kuan, a lot of women were molested when they were in the bushes to release themselves. There were, in fact, toilets for women in the area but the authorities didn’t want to maintain them and kept them under lock and key. But at our insistence, with concrete data in our hands, this was changed,” she informs.
The website, currently made available in Mumbai, Delhi and Pune, aspires to bring about an attitudinal and behavioral shift among stakeholders, when it comes to discussing issues pertaining to sexual violence which are relevant for their neighborhood.
Elsa says, “There is an inherent fear of being judged and in order to change that we make our Twitter handle available a single person to be in charge for a week. This way, we have had urban planners, environmentalists, students; homemakers share their stories through the social media.”
Instead of providing justice to a single person, SafeCity is working towards challenging larger trends. If there are repeated instances of sexual abuse in colleges, they take it up. Recently, they got in touch with the multiplex chain, PVR Cinemas, as someone had informed them of being molested at one of their premises.
“Instead of treating it as negative publicity, the concerned authorities at PVR took it up seriously and made the necessary enquiries. When a popular brand is willing to go that distance, it speaks volumes about the change that is underway when it comes to dealing with such crimes,” adds Elsa.
Within the next month SafeCity is planning to launch its mobile application and also create an real-time account with Twitter India, through which any act of sexual violence can be reported directly to the police, via the handle.
Picture Credit: CNN