Kalpana Viswanath and Ashish Basu co-founded safety-audit Indian app SafetiPin has won the Asia Foundation’s Lotus Leadership Award. The Foundation will recognize SafetiPin, a social enterprise harnessing the power of data and technology to make Asian cities safer for women and will present the award to them on Wednesday, April 3 at the Mandarin Oriental, New York. The Lotus Circle has contributed funds to SafetiPin.

The Idea

In the aftermath of the infamous rape and death of “Nirbhaya” in December 2012 in Delhi, Viswanath and Basu co-founded SafetiPin as a call to action. The free apps, My SafetiPin and SafetiPin Nite, crowdsource safety data about public spaces, and collect and analyze photographs of cities at night to measure gender sensitive parameters. The data is available to users and shared with city governments around the world to make concrete changes to improve women’s safety and mobility. Now present in more than 44 cities in over 10 countries, SafetiPin continues to expand with support from the Lotus Circle.

In the aftermath of the infamous rape and death of “Nirbhaya” in December 2012 in Delhi, Viswanath and Basu co-founded SafetiPin as a call to action.

Talking to SheThePeople.TV, Vishwanath expressed her joy after winning the award and said, “We are delighted with this recognition at a global level over the past few years and hopefully this will open up more opportunities to work with more countries. I am also excited to be winning this alongside Christiane Amanpour.”

Learnings So Far

Vishwanath elaborated on her learnings since starting Safetipin and said that it is a tool which can be used by different stakeholders in different ways. “All our work happens in partnership with other organizations, governments etc. If it is with a government, then we provide them with data, if it is a university partnership like the one we did with Kings College, London and created the AanaJaana exhibition then it was a creative way of using technology with other innovative ways of getting girls to map their own experience of a city. We also worked with Jagori at a grass-root level to empower young women by giving them access to technology etc.”

So I realized most that we don’t own Safetipin as it can be taken by anyone to work in the way they want and we are happy to let it shape according to the need to that particular community, partner, city, issue, nature of violence etc,” she said.

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Vishwanath has been working on the subject of safety for over 15 years now with Jagori and globally with UN, etc. Her co-founder has a great interest in technology and they both discussed over how to take safety-audit beyond the realm of NGOs because then it becomes a very specific knowledge and the general public doesn’t get to know about it. “I wanted to make a tool that any woman anywhere in the world could use to access public spaces and at that time apps were a big thing so we made the app,” Vishwanath said.

“Safetipin is a very small organization with no marketing budget so to get eyeballs in a world where there are hundreds of apps being released a day is very difficult and that has been our challenge.”

Challenges with public-engagement

Talking about its challenges with public-engagement, Vishwanath said, “Safetipin is a very small organization with no marketing budget so to get eyeballs in a world where there are hundreds of apps being released a day is very difficult and that has been our challenge. Though we have over one lakh downloads, we should be having a million downloads but it is very challenging to get there without money.

Having said that, our biggest success is working with the government and they are owning that data. We are not an NGO but we sort of function like a non-profit because we haven’t yet come up with a business model and this is our challenge as we move forward.”

Apart from Safetipin, journalist Christiane Amanpour will also be honoured with the Lotus Leadership Award, for her extraordinary leadership in raising the voices and stories of women worldwide. The Asia Foundation is a non-profit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, their work across the region addresses five overarching goals —strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

Picture Credit-  Kalpana Viswanath

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