Diya Nag is a Senior Program Officer with The Asia Foundation’s country office in New Delhi. She is a development professional and lawyer. She has studied Human Rights and Sociology, has a Juris Doctor with a specialization in Global Law and Practice and is a member of the New York bar, First Appellate Division. She has accomplished so much with her work and I’m thrilled that we got the opportunity to speak with her. Keep reading to know more about her views on gender stereotypes and the progress for women in the last year! Q. What does #BalanceForBetter mean to you? For me, #BalanceforBetter means there needs to be more equality, not just between the various genders, but between the mainstream and the marginalized. #BalanceforBetter means everyone gets an equal chance to work, live, play, learn, thrive, and enjoy life. Q. Do you see a gender disparity within your work circle or friends' groups? If yes, how do you tackle it? If no, what is your view on it?  I am 36, which means many of my friends are new parents. If one spouse has to take a backseat from their career and focus more on childcare, it is usually the mother. I’ve tried to change this by calling attention to this gendered decision, privately. Sometimes it works, sometimes people just shrug and move on. Q. How do you think women participation in public spaces has improved in the last few years?  It has increased, but that is inevitable. The women’s movement has never regressed, only progressed. We need to make sure more women are participating in the workforce, though. Women’s unpaid work is still unaccounted for. Q. What progress have you seen for women in the last year?  The #MeToo movement brought attention to the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace like never before. Women have been experiencing this for decades but in 2018 we all stood up together, and said enough is enough! Q. If you could give out a message to all the young women out there just entering the work field, what would it be?  Stand up for yourself as a woman in these three ways:  1) Argue for raises and promotions when you feel you deserve them;  2) Demand flexibility from your employer to accommodate for child and elder care responsibilities and/or pregnancy; and  3) Fearlessly call out sexism / gender bias when you see or experience it

Wed, 06 Mar, 2019
By Shreya Basu

Maliha Abidi is a 23-year-old artist and writer. She is from Karachi, currently studying Neuroscience at the University of Sussex while also continuing her passion for art and spirit for women empowerment through various projects, one of them being her upcoming book “Pakistan for Women”.  Q2. What does #BalanceForBetter mean to you? I think as a woman, I have a ton of responsibilities- I am a daughter, a wife and an artist. It’s really important for me to have good relationships with both my father and husband as I value them the most but my priority is my mental space. I want to support my family and have them do the same but I can’t do that if I’m not thinking clearly. It’s important to have a healthy mind, healthy lifestyle and healthy communication to handle everything right. Q3. Do you see a gender disparity within your work circle or friends' groups? If yes, how do you tackle it? If no, what is your view on it? I myself, have not seen it a lot, but that does not mean it doesn’t exist. It is very prevalent in my country, I know that. I’ve been fortunate in life and I come from a privileged household but that doesn’t mean that I deny or don’t believe the stories of others. I think that’s a fundamental problem with the movements like #MeToo that have come up in the last year- just because people don’t see it, they think it’s a lie. I think we need to create a community and society where people feel comfortable and safe enough to share their lives.  Q4. Do you use public transport frequently? How do you think women participation in public spaces has improved in the last few years?  I have lived in San Francisco, UK and Pakistan and have used some public transport in all these places. In UK, especially to travel for university, I face problems with delayed trains but no harassment as such. In Pakistan, I have taken rickshaws for short distances and personally, have not faced any problem. It might have to do with the fact that I don’t travel alone much, I always have my cousins or friends with me. There are a few stares here and there but luckily I have never faced any aggression or problems. I think this also stems from my statement previously about how I do come from a privileged household. Q5. As a person in your line of work, do you feel that there are stereotypes and types of things that you're expected to do? How do you feel about the same? How do you overcome it? I definitely feel that there are stereotypes and expectations and they’re different for me as an artist and me as a woman. As an artist, I feel a lot of people think that it’s easy and a quick process to create art which is not true. It takes time and effort especially because I do all my work with hand and don’t use any software. I don’t do much commercial work, instead I work on projects and platforms. I have worked with UN Women, which was a great opportunity. As a woman, I feel like the fact that I got married young draws a lot of negative attention to me. My marriage was my choice and I’m happy but a lot of people pity me for it and question me for it which I don’t appreciate. I also feel like my hijab adds to it. People automatically think that I’m oppressed because I’m from Pakistan. I think I derived some inspiration for my book from here. I want to show that not all South Asian women have the same problems and struggles. I’ve written about women who are trying to come up with solutions to their individual problems and in turn are helping many others.  Q6. Anything else you would like to add about the last year and the progress for women? Have you seen more women on the forefront or has it remained the same? The last year for me has been a lot about my book. I’ve been fortunate enough to speak with many of the women featured in the book, one of the big names being Malala. I think it’s important to understand that no matter what platform you have, be it Facebook or Instagram, try to be the voice for those who don’t have one. I’m proud to say that my book is the first of its kind in Pakistan because there are so many inspiring women who don’t always get the apt recognition for their work. I’m happy to say that I have played a small part in doing that!

Mon, 04 Mar, 2019
By Shreya Basu

Pranita is a 26-year-old independent artist based out of Mumbai. She is an illustrator and type designer. She’s done some amazing work, my personal favorite being the #ShutUpAndStopStereotyping calendar which I keep on my desk. Check out her work/products at We asked her a bunch of questions and here are her responses for you to see! Q. What does #BalanceForBetter mean to you?  Balance is always tricky, for anything to balance - there needs to be a sense of equality. Be it balancing your work & social life, or balancing gender norms. #BalanceForBetter to me would be practicing the idea of equality in every aspect of life. Q. Do you see a gender disparity within your work circle or friends' groups? If yes, how do you tackle it? If no, what is your view on it? Fortunately, I haven't particularly come across gender disparity. Although, I am very aware of the amount of disparity in society, especially in work spaces & salary structures. Although, we're living in a time where feminists are rising, equality is being taught amongst children & hopefully, there should be a fairer work environment for the coming generations. Q. Do you use public transport frequently? How do you think women participation in public spaces has improved in the last few years?  There is an entire local Mumbai train dedicated only towards women travellers around the peak evening hours. This definitely shows encouragement towards working women. A decade ago, it was unsafe for a woman to climb into the men's compartment. That isn't the case today, times are definitely changing! Q. As an artist, do you feel that there are stereotypes and lines of artwork that you're expected to do? How do you feel about the same? How do you overcome it? YES! I have worked with a few clients who ask for the illustration to be "lesser plump" "fairer skin" "remove the curls, make her hair straight" - I have always tried to reason with these clients. My response to such changes is always along the lines of - "If you're brand is more inclusive; it will reach out to a larger audience" - This almost always helps.  At first, such situations would often make me a bit angry. Although now I realise that a little bit of educating these people is all it takes to change their mind-set. A lot of people are conditioned to be a certain way & don't realise it when they're stereotyping. I have an entire calendar dedicated to gender stereotyping!  Q. Anything else you would like to add about the last year and the progress for women? Have you seen more women on the forefront or has it remained the same? There has been a rise in feminists (both male & female) globally. There have been movements (like #MeToo) that are helping give a voice to men & women. Locally, there are artists (illustrators, musicians, poets, etc.) who have been communicating via their art about feminism and equality. I believe when the youth starts talking about gender equality, their voices will be heard sooner or later. Education & knowledge is the key to progress. There has been a massive change in how women are perceived in the last few years, and I feel truly lucky to be alive in a time of change!

Fri, 01 Mar, 2019
By Shreya Basu

Kuala Lumpur is a Malay phrase for “muddy confluence” which is hardly a glowing description. Actually, there was little to be excited about in the early years at the meeting of two murky rivers when a handful of mining community settled there. Yet, despite its unpromising origin, Kuala Lumpur has grown up full of confidence and has asserted its presence at the global stage hosting the Malaysian Grand Prix, Commonwealth Games and recently the World Urban Forum (7-13 Feb), a premier international UN-Habitat conference on pressing urban issues of today, namely, rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies. At the heart of KL’s central business district and within the precinct of the Petronas Towers, KL’s instant icon (two slender tapering steeples linked by a delicate skyway half way up), lay the arena for the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum with a theme “Cities 2030, Cities for All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda”. It was the first major conference following the 2016 adoption of the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador. The Forum’s focus was on the New Urban Agenda as a tool and accelerator for achieving Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. 22000 participants from 165 countries, among them more than 100 Ministers and Deputy Ministers, debated concrete implementation steps and how to work together building the Cities 2030, Cities for All. The NUA aligns with SDG 11 on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Gender Equality (SDG 5) is among its various other aims. Safetipin’s participation as an organisation which works towards making cities safe and inclusive was primarily to engage in this global open discussion, to raise awareness, share lessons learnt, exchange ideas, develop best practices and to contribute to the collective knowledge of sustainable urban development. Safetipin was invited to various events to share its experience and lessons. During the forum, it was very reassuring to learn about Safetipin’s presence at the global scene as an innovative technological solution to address urban safety. Safetipin an effective tool to gather geo tagged data impacting safety, popped up in many discussions. And in many, it was seen as a powerful driver of change. At an ITDP networking event - What does Transit Oriented Development mean to you? - Safetipin stressed on the difference in the mobility patterns of women and men and why such patterns must be addressed in TOD from a gender equality perspective. At another side event on Sustainable Transport by Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI) at the German Pavilion placed inside the fantastic WUF 9 exhibition space, found Safetipin’s solution to be unique to address urban mobility and safety among other strategies adopted to make cities inclusive. The event Using Apps to Address Gender Based Violence saw the presentation of three apps that address violence and was followed by a productive discussion on how to ensure that apps can be more widely used and useful for women in situations of distress. The benefits as well as limitations of technology were discussed. Huaiwei in partnership with UN Habitat organized a session on Measurement of Safe City Approaches which had presentations form many countries including South Korea and Safetipin from India. The aim of the session was to assess different ways of measuring indicators of how to make cities safer using technology, big data and other kinds of data that will enable deeper understanding. At yet another side event on Asia’s Solution to Asia’s Urban Challenges: Delivering the New Urban Agenda through South-South Cooperation by The Asia Foundation – looked at various challenges and strategies undertaken by various approaches in the global south to address its own urban issues. Safetipin was seen as such a solution which was developed in the south and is being used extensively in the south. Safetipin’s own side event – Using data and technology to build inclusive public spaces in cities – presented experiences of collaboratively collecting data by partnering with Safetipin in order to build inclusive public spaces. Stories from low income settlements to cooperation from enthusiastic youths were shared while collecting data in India and other countries. Safetipin’s co-founder Dr. Kalpana Viswanath represented Safetipin at the above sessions along with Rwitee Mandal, an urban designer working with Safetipin. Kalpana also moderated a high profile UN-Habitat event – Urban Planning and Design for Local Implementation which focused and debated on policy recommendations in the implementation of the NUA. Kuala Lumpur successfully hosted the weeklong WUF 9 and would be remembered by all the participants world over to have attended a brilliantly organized and managed event at the state of the art Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in sunny and drizzly KL. Kuala Lumpur Declaration was announced at the closing ceremony which said – “Led by a strong spirit of collaboration, creativity and innovation, we share our aspirations for the future of Cities 2030 as the Cities for all where no-one and no place is left behind.”

Wed, 07 Mar, 2018

Who designed your latest mobile phone app? Probably a bunch of 20-somethings. Apps, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other digital advancements are designed by young people mostly for young people. Imagine if we could channel their youthful energy and ingenuity to produce useful development outcomes. It can happen. At the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, young delegates used virtual reality to design spaces for displaced young people, and built a mobile app for fundraising. But the potential is tremendous for youth to use such technologies for much greater development impact. Young people are nearly twice as networked than the global population as a whole. In most of the world’s least developed countries, they are nearly three times more likely to be using the internet than the rest of general public. Information and communications technology (ICT) has helped youth to mobilize, collaborate, socialize, and have a voice. Asia and the Pacific, home to 60% of the world’s youth, should lead the world in using technology to make a difference in developing countries. One key area where ICT can make a difference is on social accountability, by putting information from the citizen's perspective directly into the hands of the government officials who have the capacity to make change happen. Its potential was highlighted during a recent pilot initiative by ADB using Safetipin. This map-based mobile application collects safety- and transport-related information from audits conducted by users to generate safety scores that can then be used to improve the security of cities for pedestrians. Is Manila safe for pedestrians? The Youth for Asia team from ADB’s NGO and Civil Society Center collected 1,946 audits over 3 months in Manila, the Philippines’ capital city. The pilot mobilized 144 young people on the ground and raised awareness among over 400 youth on issues like pedestrian safety. Awareness was raised primarily among Filipino university students through capacity building workshops, but the team also reached out to youth across the ASEAN region through events. The broader incentive was to explore ways in which youth can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal No. 11 on safe cities for all. The data provides us with an analysis of how people feel about their safety in Manila across various parameters. For instance, at 25% of the locations surveyed there was poor lighting, and 39% lacked access to transport within 400 meters. Half of the locations did not have any security, 21% had either no or substandard foot paths, and 45% had low visibility. The overall feeling of safety was rated as average, with a score of 3.2 out of 5. Further data analysis can provide urban planners with feedback on what infrastructure upgrades are most needed.   An interesting feature of the pilot study is that the team conducted intensive capacity building sessions prior to the audit walks. We ran training sessions at local universities to explain how to use Safetipin and its parameters, as well as to highlight the value of ICT-based social accountability tools. This exercise greatly improved the quality of the data. Students made good use of the comment box in the application to provide qualitative information on the areas they were auditing, and did not limit themselves to only rating the different predefined parameters. Youth should be partners in development A few takeaways from our experience are: Youth genuinely care and will go that extra mile to contribute to a cause that affects society at large. Even during heavy downpours in Manila, the youth were spirited and continued to audit the roads. Youth have the ability to take risk and deal with uncertainty with the hope that this will lead to larger good. Auditors from the Girl Scouts of the Philippines overcame parental apprehension and secured consent to join the team to conduct audits. Youth have a certain kind of resilience and optimism that creates an atmosphere conducive to positive change. There were some technical glitches and connection problems, but participants did not give up and agreed to repeat the exercise when the data was not stored properly the first time. We have the data and numbers that prove why youth should be partners in development. By using Safetipin, we were able to mobilize youth to gather information needed to improve the quality of life in their city. The next question is: how can we scale up these small stand-alone initiatives and integrate them into larger projects both within and outside ADB? Mobilizing youth to generate data for social good can create the momentum for change. It’s just a matter of thinking big and putting together smart plans, so youth aren’t just beneficiaries of development – we can actually make it happen.  

Fri, 10 Feb, 2017

The safety of women is an important concern in cities around the world. Data shows that women are at risk of sexual harassment and violence in many, if not all cities, especially after dark. This prevents many women and girls from participating in city life. The United Nations has identified the need for safe and inclusive public city spaces as one of its Sustainable Development Goals. The co-founders of Safetipin — one an expert on women’s safety and the other on technology and apps — combined their skills to make a mobile app that addressed this problem. Safetipin is an app that seeks to use technology and data to make cities more inclusive, safe and violence-free for women and others. At the core of the app is the Safety Audit — a methodology of assessing public spaces that have been used in more than 40 cities around the world, according to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme. It consists of the following parameters, which all contribute to the perception of safety: LightingOpennessVisibilityCrowdWalk pathAvailability of public transportSecurityGender diversityFeeling Safetipin took this methodology and used it to make a mobile app that collects user data for each of these parameters. The app is free to download and can be used in any city around the world. Any user can perform safety audits of an area, and the app collects and shares the information for others to view, creating an interactive platform for people to share data about safety.   So far, Safetipin has collected data in more than 30 cities in India and beyond. This information can help users make safer decisions about where they travel. The data is also shared with city stakeholders to help them improve the safety of the cities by pointing out deficiencies and problems in public spaces that make them unsafe. The app lets users access safety data immediately, letting them see how safe neighborhoods are and contribute their own findings. Furthermore, Safetipin has a tracking feature through which women can request to be tracked by a friend or family member if they find themselves in a vulnerable situation. Safetipin has been designed to help women make safer decisions and to provide data to urban stakeholders to improve safety. The aim is to work toward preventing violence against women so they will be able to safely enjoy public spaces in cities all around the world. By deciding to make a mobile app that addressed this important issue, Safetipin’s founders are helping to build safer cities through mobile technology.   Download MySafetipin App Download Women Safety App

Mon, 19 Dec, 2016

The Secretariat of Women of Bogota (SDMUJER), in the representation of Metropolis Women, made the presentation "Building Safe Cities for Women with Safetipin", as part of the learning forum on mobility which took place at 5th UCLG Congress. Carlota Alméciga Romero, director of knowledge management at SDMUJER, and César Pinzón-Medina, professionally specialized in the SDMUJER, in collaboration with Kalpana Viswanath, director-founder of Safetipin – a mobile application that allows citizens to share information on security in public spaces –, were responsible for including the gender perspective in the session. They focused their presentation on the state and the perception of security of women during their travels around the city, and how to build a safer Bogotá for all, with the participation of  its citizens. The project, led by SDMUJER and articulated with several institutions and international enterprises, initiated in the framework of the International Seminar of Safe Cities held in 2013 in Bogota, which involved other cities that integrate the network: Medellín, Mexico City, Montréal and New Delhi. Since then, two phases of the project have been carried out: in the first phase, 4,000 km of streets were mapped; in the second phase, more than 300 km of the network of bicycle lanes in the Colombian capital were traveled. In this framework, SDMUJER is now collecting three levels of information very useful for decision-making: points identified as unsafe by Safetipin points that women of different neighborhoods have identified as unsafe locations points where there has been at least one act of violence   Download My Safetipin App  

Thu, 24 Nov, 2016

Police Commissioner Sandeep Khirwar said on Saturday that the Gurgaon Police will soon launch a new app for the safety of women in Gurgaon. The senior police officer was addressing a workshop titled "Making Women Safe in Public and Work Places", organized by citizen group 'Gurgaon First'. Khirwar pointed out that adequate street lights and city bus service are the need of the hour. He also talked about the plan to install more CCTVs in malls and residential colonies. Talking about the safety audit of the city, Kalpana Viswanath, Co-founder of My Safetipin App, said that Gurgaon has an overall score of 2.4 out of 5 in women safety. According to Viswanath, safety parameters include lighting, transport, footpath, visibility, openness, gender diversity and security. "Gurgaon particularly scores poorly on lighting, visibility, security and public transport. According to her, places with more "eyes" on the road, such as Sadar Bazar and MG Road, are more safe than other posh localities of Gurgaon, including Golf Course Road and Golf Course Extension Road.   Women Safety App Personal Safety App Family Tracking App

Tue, 04 Oct, 2016

Four months before Karuna, 22, was stabbed to death by her stalker in north Delhi on Tuesday, her family had settled for a compromise with her stalker Surender Singh’s family. Karuna’s case is similar to Laxmi’s, 28, who was also stabbed by her stalker in southwest Delhi’s Inderpuri on Sunday. Last year, Laxmi’s family had also approached the police with a complaint against her stalker Sanjay, but the matter was settled when Sanjay’s family gave the police a written statement that he would not trouble Laxmi. Stalking, an offence under Section 354 D of the India Penal Code, is bailable. Senior Delhi Police officers say stalking is more of a social than a law and order issue. An officer who handles cases of crime against women said, “If somebody is stalking a woman without any physical contact, we can only register an FIR. We have to grant bail at the police station.”   Gender expert Kalpana Viswanath, co-founder of SafetiPin, a women safety app, told HT that most men who stalk women need psychological help. “Men cannot handle rejection due to which such cases are reported. Stalking must be taken seriously both by the family of the victim and the police. When a parent decides to report it, the police feel it is not a serious case and the person is let off after a warning.” Former Delhi Police commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma said there is no legally ready-made solution to tackle stalking. “A girl’s family happens to be the weaker side in such cases. After a compromise is reached, in some cases most stalkers feel undeterred and continue their acts which at times take unfortunate turns. This issue can be handled only when the police, the stalker’s family and the society come together.” Sharma also said that fear of punishment must be instilled in the minds of the stalkers. Another gender expert, Madhu Vij, said mostly, the two families reach a compromise because of the fear of the consequences of the police coming to question and the uncertainty over justice. “The reputation of a girl, her family also plays an important role when two individuals decide to compromise,” she said. Sociologist Patricia Uberoi said that people agreeing to compromise are very common in India even in rape cases. “One of the main reasons is the time-consuming judicial system. Even if someone decides to take them to court, it takes a lot of time for justice to be delivered. At other times, it is the cultural context which is in operation which leads to the compromise,” she said.   Women Safety App Personal Safety App Family Tracking App

Thu, 22 Sep, 2016

There's now an app that can measure how safe an area is, based on crowdsourced data. Kalpana Vishwanath and Ashish Basu are the cofounders of Safetipin, an app they created with the intention of making public spaces safer for women. First created and launched in India, the idea took its origin from the fear that women and girls experience before traveling to or through certain areas which were known to be unsafe. In India, the debate on sexual violence and how to curb it rages on. Recent years have seen governments pass stricter, more stringent laws and increase security forces, and even pass a law making it compulsory for public buses to install a panic button. Safetipin crowdsources information based on nine factors in order to measure how safe the area in question is. These factors are lighting, openness, visibility, people density, security, walk path, transportation in the area, gender, and feeling. While the first eight of these are independent variables, the last one, feeling, is a dependent variable and its data is observed in conjunction with the previous ones. For example, if a user feels apprehensive about walking through a certain area, it could be because of fewer people, dim lighting, and the absence of other commuters. A "safety score" is accumulated after a certain number of entries are submitted per area. These scores range from one to ten and are represented respectively by green, amber, or red pins. There are also forums where users can post about things that could affect safety, like malfunctioning traffic lights, broken lampposts or bad roads. The app also provides information about the location of the nearest ATMs and pharmacies, and their hours of operation. What"s more, it can also act as a GPS tracker, allowing the users' loved ones to track their location. It is available in English, Hindi, Spanish, Mandarin, and Bahasa, and is currently operational in 10 Indian cities, including Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai. It’s also expanding its international presence, already operating in Jakarta, Nairobi, Bogota, and Manila, as well as collecting data in eight other cities, including Rio de Janeiro (just in time for the Olympics), Kuala Lumpur, and Johannesburg. While the app now has more than 100,000 contributions from its users about the safety of different areas, initially, it was difficult to motivate them to contribute beyond the first couple of times. Safetipin then enlisted the help of volunteers, and once users saw more information being added to the app, they started contributing more.   In September 2015, Safetipin partnered with Uber, the car sharing service. After an Uber driver in Delhi had recently been accused by a passenger of raping her, the Indian government had temporarily banned Uber taxis for not having adequate checks in place before hiring drivers. Uber has since installed outward-facing cameras on the dashboards of cars, so that it can photograph different parts of the cities, along with factors like how well areas are lit and how densely populated they are. The data is then sent to Safetipin and used to collate safety scores. In partnership with Uber, Safetipin is planning to expand to 50 cities across Africa, Asia, and South America. These safety scores are useful to the police and other law enforcement agencies in determining whether security in the locality needs to be upped. They can help the police make unsafe areas safer, fix broken amenities, and repair roads. The scores also have the potential of determining the real estate value of the area, as well as increasing or decreasing the business of hotels and restaurants. The co-founders of the app aim to empower its users with knowledge that can enable them to make informed decisions and get from A to B safely.   Download My Safetipin App Women Safety App Personal Safety App Family Tracking App

Wed, 21 Sep, 2016