Crowd-Sourced Data and a Mobile Phone Application Are Making Cities Safer for Women

When Shiba Kurian alighted from Chennai’s city train, the evening office-returning crowd was thick and jostling. Having booked a ride-hail cab she walked out to the entrance. Instead of the cab for which she had to wait an hour, ribald comments and derisive laughter came her way from a group of roadside Romeos. Kurian a journalist did not take it lying down. She went the next day to the train station and pinned it an unsafe place in her GPS-enabled mobile application called Safetipin. Henceforth every time women using this smartphone application are around this station it would ping them an alert. “Safety is a social issue. A city becomes safe not so much by policing and closed-circuit television (CCTV), but by people especially women being able to use all public places without fear, which then empowers them by facilitating access to social and economic opportunities,” Kalpana Viswanath who co-founded the Safetipin application told IPS at the ninth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9, February 7 -13) that ended last week in Kuala Lumpur.   On the theme ‘Cities 2030-Cities For All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda,’ WUF9 was organized by UN Habitat and attended by 22,000 participants from 165 countries. The global community committed to localize and scale up implementation with the Kuala Lumpur Declaration which calls for urban centres where no-one and no place is left behind. This was the first Forum to convene since the New Urban Agenda (NUA) was adopted at the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, in 2016. The NUA aligns with SDG 11 on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Gender equality (SDG 5) is among its various other aims.   Cities face unprecedented demographic, environmental, economic, social and spatial challenges, with six out of every ten people in the world expected to reside in urban areas by 2030. According to UN-Habitat, more than 90% of this growth will take place in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. For the first time in history, more than half the world’s population now lives in cities. Given this growth, urban areas are central to economic opportunities and growth and women cannot be left out of it.   But today women and girls across many countries find it challenging to move out safely in cities and realize their potential.   Unsafe streets and public transport stunt women’s economic growth A participatory study by global NGO Plan International for its programme ‘Because I am a Girl’ involving over 1,000 adolescent girls from 5 cities across the world reveals that fear of sexual violence is creating ‘no-go areas’ for girls. Only 3.3% of girls in Delhi reported always feeling safe when using public transport while 45% of girls in Kampala faced with sexual harassment in public transport. In Lima, a miniscule 2.2% of girls reported always feeling safe when walking in public spaces, this earlier study finds.   Easy to use, it has a set of nine parameters that represent how safe a person feels after dark and helps users audit public spaces like Kurian did. Parameters include how lighted or not a place is and how open or hemmed in and are objects and people clearly visible. The fourth parameter is a check on people being around or is it deserted; are other women using the space and if a security guard or police is around. The next parameters checks if public transport is readily available. But the most important of all is how the user feels about the place. The application also directs users to the safest route evaluated on the basis of users’ crowd-sourced data. It displays colour-coded alternate routes and once a route is chosen a Google maps opens up. Pick-a-pic is another feature showing two images side by side for users to decide which to go with. If the users are in a new or unsafe place, an alert notification pops up on the screen. Viswanath said she invariably activates Safetipin’s geo-tagged ‘Stay with me’ feature to her husband’s phone when returning late from the airport in her hometown Delhi, who can then monitor real-time her cab’s movement.   Young working women in the 25- 40 age group are the largest users of the application. It’s when they start living independently that safety becomes a huge concern for women, according to Viswanath. When in a new city, these women check out safety of hotels and paying-guest accommodation neighborhoods.   “Interestingly, while younger women of 18 to 20 years old as long as they are living with their parents are not too concerned about their own safety, their parents download the application to monitor their safety,” she added.   Besides the crowd-sourced data from users, Safetipin integrates a second application that captures night photographs of a city, mounted on a vehicle. These real-time photographs, crowd-sourced data and Google’s big data analysed together, present robust, confirmative technical data that is helping city governments to take remedial action for unsafe spots.   In Delhi, the data and photographs indentified 7800 dark public places that the government had to take note of and fix street lights. In Bogota, Safetipin in partnership with the municipality mapped the 230 kilometres of bicycle road. Based on the findings, CCTV cameras, bicycle docks and lights were fixed on the track to improve women bikers’ safety.   Adolescent girls are making cities safer for themselves “Each month, 5 million people move to cities in developing countries. By 2030 nearly 1.5 billion adolescent girls will live in cities, but too often they are under-represented in urban safety policies,” according to Plan International. “Girls in cities contend with both increased risks and increased opportunities. They face sexual harassment, exploitation and insecurity, yet they are also more likely to be educated, politically active and less likely to be married at an early age,” Alana Livesey, Plan’s global manager for its ‘Safe Cities for Girls’ programme told IPS at the WUF9.   Using innovative and participatory tools, Plan’s programme has been able to increase girls’ safety and inclusion in cities.   In Hanoi, a third of adolescent girls in the Plan International survey said they could not access emergency service, notably the police. Lan and Linh (last names not mentioned for protective reasons) two of the young leaders from Hanoi attending the Kuala Lumpur Forum said they undertook group walks at night in dark areas to map risks and raise community awareness about girls’ right to safe public spaces.   “Nearly 10,000 girls use public buses everyday in Hanoi,” 13-year-old Lin told IPS. They have distributed leaflets and comic books to over 8000 public transport drivers and ticketing staff to drive home the message that safety of girls is their responsibility too. The girls’ campaign has succeeded in getting the government to fix cameras in buses and issue official guidelines against over-crowding.   While there is momentum in addressing women’s safety in public transport in India (and other developing countries), ‘urban transport investments are largely gender blind, with a limited understanding of the interrelationships between gender and transport inequities,’ a policy brief by the New-York based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) said.   ‘Sustainable urban development will remain elusive without integrating women and girls’ safety, comfort, convenience and affordability in urban transport,’ it cautions.  Article  

Kalpana Viswanath’s SafetiPin is using big data to make cities safer for women

The creation of a unique mobile app to make cities safer for women in India was the result of an “unlikely meeting of the minds,” says SafetiPin co-founder and prominent gender rights researcher, Kalpana Viswanath. As head of the advocacy NGO Jagori, meaning ‘awaken, women’ in Hindi, Kalpana has spent more than a decade working on gender and urban safety in India and several years with the United Nations (U.N.) and local governments helping to design safe city programs in other parts of the world.   In 2013, Kalpana teamed up with her tech-savvy husband, Ashish Basu, a digital education entrepreneur, to launch SafetiPin, a social enterprise providing several technology solutions to make cities safer for women. Having used safety audit methods in her local advocacy work to make public spaces safer for women, Kalpana felt those tools should be more widely accessible to the public. The cornerstone of SafetiPin is a smartphone safety audit app that “everybody can access, and anybody can contribute information to.” Initial funding support from UK Aid (DFID) and free advertising in a local newspaper helped them get SafetiPin off the ground before its full-scale launch in Delhi later that year.   SafetiPin’s safety audit assesses public spaces based on nine parameters which include street lighting, security, gender diversity, and how safe a person feels in a space.“ We wanted to take a qualitative tool and make it more quantitative so that we could begin to measure safety,” Kalpana says. “And we felt that by measuring safety, we would be able to push stakeholders to try to improve their safety score.”   Within a year, SafetiPin had expanded to eight additional cities in India, through partnerships with NGOs and data collecting support from its users and a network of volunteers. Municipal governments in Bogota and Jakarta liked the app well enough that SafetiPin introduced versions in Spanish and Bahasa. The company then augmented its crowdsourced data with a second app called SafetiPin Nite, which uses smartphones mounted on car windshields to photograph spaces and upload them for backend analysis together with Google Maps and other big data. This allowed SafetiPin to steadily increase the number of audits from about 12,000 to 45,000. Its recent partnership with Uber has enabled SafetiPin to grow even further. In 2016, they introduced My SafetiPin, an upgraded version of the app, and it has now been downloaded more than 80,000 times in more than 20 cities in India and globally. “Now we are able to go to city governments with much more robust data and they’re willing to listen to us.”   SafetiPin has no ambition “to become a huge multinational organization” and it doesn’t plan to charge its users. At the same time, “the app space is very crowded, and people aren’t usually very interested in apps which have a social dimension.” But Kalpana hopes that collaborating with more cities and forging more partnerships will enable it to expand its data collection activities and at least begin to generate enough revenue to reduce its reliance on grant funding. The municipal governments in Delhi and Bogota have already contracted SafetiPin to conduct additional rounds of mapping while international organizations such as the U.N. have expressed interest in incorporating the app into their broader public infrastructure improvement programs. The company is also working with universities to develop algorithms and machine learning techniques that can measure safety scores without the data having to be collected and analyzed manually.   Kalpana is confident that SafetiPin can continue to grow and engage more stakeholders and more citizens on the streets to contribute data collectively to make cities safer and more inclusive for women and men alike.  Article Source.........crowd360

Safety pins for Neighbourhoods

Recently, an initiative by The Hindu Downtown seeking to establish a connection with gated communities on the southern fringes of Chennai, took me to Padur. On the way back, I could travel with other Downtown team members up to the Taramani MRTS station and beyond that, I had to be on my own. After a long day, the last thing I wanted was getting stuck in traffic during the evening rush hour. So, I went in for the MRTS option, and my travel plan included a train ride to Chintadripet station, where I would take an auto or a cab to my home in Chetpet. Minutes before the train pulled into the Chintadripet MRTS station, I booked a cab on my mobile. Detraining, I headed to the entrance of the station and waited for the cab to arrive. As streams of commuters were flowing into and out of the station and the facility was located on a busy road, I chose to wait for my cab at the entrance, instead of the foyer. I thought this would be safer. Before long, I was proved wrong. There were catcalls and ribald comments from a few hangers-on near the station. As this section lacked sufficient illumination, these men felt emboldened to do what they did. And then, the realisation that the cab would not arrive as soon as expected, and an error in the cab-hailing app had given me a false hope, made me extremely uncomfortable, and I sensed a knot forming in the pit of my stomach. After almost 45 minutes of the ordeal, I hopped into my cab. On the road, I felt disgust at what I had been subjected to and wanted to do something about it. The least I could do was warn other women of it. A few days later, I returned to the station, this time, to pin the unsafe needle on certain sections of it on the Safetipin mobile app. For as long as the app runs in the smartphone of a passenger, she will receive an alert when she enters an unsafe location. Available on Android and iOS platforms, Safetipin allows a person to mark a location safe or unsafe, and also to find the safest route to a destination based on safety scores of the areas on that route. It also enables friends and family to keep track her/ his journey. The Safetipin app was created and launched by Kalpana Viswanath and Ashish Basu in 2013. The safety score of a location is calculated based on many parameters, which include light (streetlights or other lights), open (blind corners and no clear sightline), visibility (no windows and entrances or shops or houses overlook this point); crowd (no one in sight); security (no guards or police visible in the surrounding areas), path (no walking path available), transport (no Metro station or bus stop or autorickshaw stand within a 10 minutes’ walk), space (no one in sight or only men) and feeling (will never return without sufficient escort). I, subsequently, went on to use the app to check the other features in it. When I entered an unsafe stretch on Chennai Bypass road (near Porur), my app sent an alert message. However, when I tried inviting my father to track my journey using the ‘Stay With Me’ option, the alert failed to reach him. I later learnt that the family member must download the app, though I was asked to key in the email address and phone number. While on another trip, I availed of this option; but my friend, who was assigned to track me, did not receive the alert from the app. Article Source........The Hindu

According To A Survey, 44 Per Cent Areas In The City Are Unsafe For Women

Mumbai city which is considered safe for women has come under scrutiny as NGOs Akshara and Safetipin (application) conducted a survey and the results were not very pleasing. According to the survey, Mumbai is 56 percent safe which makes the remaining 44 percent of areas unsafe. The survey also states that only 22 percent of Mumbai's streets are safe and walkable while 31 percent are adequately lit. The survey was done on the basis of feedback from people and volunteers who used the app and mostly from G/South and M/Eastward. It was done in a fixed time period from sunset to 10:00 PM every day. On Friday, Akshara and Safetipin released the Women Safety Audit Report of Mumbai which was conducted under Mobile based Safety Audits to collect data on Women Safety of UN Women. Vijaya Rahatkar, the chairperson of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women was present at the launch of the report. She promised to ask the police and municipal commissioner of Mumbai and corporators to act on the suggestions. The report recommended these suggestions - Brightly lit streets - Smoother pavements - No hawkers and encroachments - CCTV cameras - Police or private security personnel - Safer public transport for women Anju Pandey, programme specialist, Ending Violence Against Women, UN Women told to Hindustan Times Women experience the city differently from men, and the fear of sexual violence in public space has far-reaching effects on their quality of life. Nandita Shah, co-director of Akshara believes that this app will help government officials and policemen to help citizens based on the feedback given on Safetipin application.

Only 22% streets in Mumbai are walkable for women, states survey

Despite the constant awareness and various measures, Mumbai remains unsafe for women, according to a recent survey.  According to the survey by NGOs Akshara and Safetipin (which runs the app), Mumbai’s overall safety rating is 56%, which means 44% of areas in the city are unsafe. It states that only 22% of Mumbai’s streets are walkable, while only 31% are adequately lit. Akshara and Safetipin released the Women’s Safety Audit Report of Mumbai conducted under ‘Mobile based Safety Audits to collect data on Women Safety’ of UN Women, on Friday. At the launch of the report, chief guest Vijaya Rahatkar, the chairperson of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women, promised to direct the police and municipal commissioner of Mumbai and corporators to act on the suggestions. The report recommends getting brightly lit streets, smoother pavements with improved visibility, fewer hurdles such as hawkers, and encroachments, more security with CCTV cameras, police or private security personnel, and safer public transport for women. The report recommends getting brightly lit streets, smoother pavements with improved visibility, fewer hurdles such as hawkers, and encroachments, more security with CCTV cameras, police or private security personnel, and safer public transport for women. The audit rated the places on nine parameters – lighting, openness, visibility, crowd, security, walkpath, availability of public transport, gender diversity and feeling (of safety - which is the only subjective parameter). The survey was conducted during a fixed time between sunset and 10 pm everyday. Rahatkar said, “Women should not only get a feeling of safety while accessing public places, but also of dignity and entitlement”. Anju Pandey, programme specialist, Ending Violence Against Women, UN Women, said, “Women experience the city differently from men, and the fear of sexual violence in public space has far-reaching effects on their quality of life.” Nandita Shah, co-director of Akshara, urged Mumbaiites to download My Safetipin, and contribute to the survey, thus increasing its sample, authenticating conclusions. Shah said, “My Safetipin is a free mobile application that anyone can download, and register on. Then any individual can survey the area he or she visits, based on the nine given parameters.” Even government officials and policemen can create an account in the mobile app, and view all citizens’ surveys, making it an intensely participatory interface. Article Source...........Hindustan Times

#WomenOnTheMove: Women and Transport in Indian Cities

Ultimately, transportation is the fulcrum that allows women to participate in the workforce; a societal shift to transform the entire world economy.” – Sonal Shah, Senior Manager, ITDP India Programme    Centred around this idea, ITDP and Safetipin have released a policy brief on Women and Transport in Indian Cities. The draft was released on 13 June 2017 at a roundtable discussion on Gender and Transit, organized by ITDP, Safetipin and UN Women with participation from 30 women’s groups, international organizations, professionals and academic institutions. A roundtable discussion on Gender and Transit was organized by ITDP, Safetipin and UN Women with participation from 30 women’s groups, international organizations, professionals and academic institutions The coming decade will be a defining moment for India as its urban areas are estimated to constitute around 40 per cent or 600 million of its total population by 2030. According to the High Powered Executive Committee (HPEC), around INR 23 lakh crores is required over 2015–2030 for India’s urban transport infrastructure. The national government has initiated missions and schemes to invest in urban transport and infrastructure; and created indicators and service level benchmarks to establish a city’s baseline and goal for improvement. The recently announced Green Urban Mobility Scheme (GUMS) expects to invest around INR 70,000 crores over 2018–2023 on sustainable transport. “The defining characteristic of violence against women is its normalization and ordinary and continuous nature.” – Kalpana Viswanath, Co-founder & CEO, Safetipin   While there is momentum by different levels of government in addressing women’s safety in public transport, urban transport investments are largely gender blind with a limited understanding of the interrelationships between gender and transport. Sustainable urban development will remain elusive without integrating women and girls in urban transport. Women and girls are close to 50 per cent of our urban population. They comprise only 19 per cent of “other workers”, 84 per cent of their trips are by public, intermediate public and non-motorized modes of transport (Census 2011)[2]. While 73 per cent of trips by “other workers” in urban areas are by sustainable modes of transport, women and girls’ share is only 14 per cent. Ultimately transportation will help women access economic and social opportunities. In the next few years, cities will need to make a concerted effort to improve women and girls’ experience of sustainable modes of transport to achieve a target of 40 per cent of all trips. The policy brief fills this gap by providing a framework to integrate technical and social, quantitative and qualitative approaches for enabling this transition. In Section 1, the brief underscores the need for a policy brief focusing on women and transport in Indian cities. Section 2 describes the scope of the brief. The gendered dimensions of urban transport are covered in Section 3, with a focus on trip chaining and purpose, modal shares, trip distances, time poverty, sexual harassment and employment in the transport sector.  Section 4 proposes urban transport indicators and service level benchmarks for comprehensive mobility plans. Recommendations to improve women’s modal shares and experiences of walking, cycling, public and intermediate public transport, and engendering public transport authorities, are highlighted in Section 5.  Since urban transport is not the responsibility of one ministry or department, gender inclusion will require interventions at multiple scales and coordination with a number of ministries and departments. Section 6 identifies such ministries and departments and their potential role in mainstreaming gender. Women’s access and use of urban transportation will play a key role in achieving India’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) and ensure women’s right to the city and its public spaces. To quote Shreya Gadepalli, who leads the ITDP India Programme, “When we create cities – their public spaces and transport systems – that are responsive to the needs of women, children and the elderly, they become great cities for all!”    Download the policy brief here. List of organisations that participated in the roundtable: Akshara Centre, Asian Development Bank, Azad Foundation, Breakthrough, Centre for Urban Equity (CUE), Confederate of Indian Industry (CII), Columbia Global Centre, Cornell University, CORO, Centre for Policy Research (CPR), Centre for Road Research Institute in India (CRRI), Centre for Women and Development Studies (CWDS), Delhi University, DIMTS, Hindustan Times, iTrans, Jagori, Janki Devi Memorial College (JDMC), KfW, Manas Foundation, Oak foundation, Oasis Design, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Plan India, Sushant School of Art and Architecture, Ansal University, Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS), Toji Communication Consultancy, TRIPP-IIT Delhi, UBER, UITP, UNDP, UNICEF, World Bank, World Resources Institute (WRI) This data is likely to under represent women and girls’ mobility as their care trips are not measured.

Harassment fears: Why Delhi women pick lower-ranked colleges than ones they’re eligible for

Sexual harassment on the streets costs women in many ways. A study has found that it compels women in Delhi, for one, to compromise on the quality of college they choose, makes travel more expensive and ultimately affects their economic mobility. Male students, of course, are far less driven by safety concerns. For her 2017 paper, Safety First: Perceived Risk of Street Harassment and Educational Choices of Women, Brown University PhD scholar Girija Borker studied the choices made by 4,000 students attending Delhi University colleges. Her paper explores how women applicants weighed the quality of the college against the perceived safety of the route to that college and chose to trade quality for safety. Sexual harassment on the streets costs women in many ways. A study has found that it compels women in Delhi, for one, to compromise on the quality of college they choose, makes travel more expensive and ultimately affects their economic mobility. Male students, of course, are far less driven by safety concerns. For her 2017 paper, Safety First: Perceived Risk of Street Harassment and Educational Choices of Women, Brown University PhD scholar Girija Borker studied the choices made by 4,000 students attending Delhi University colleges. Her paper explores how women applicants weighed the quality of the college against the perceived safety of the route to that college and chose to trade quality for safety. Constrained choices Quantifying both quality of the institution and safety, Borker found that “women are willing to attend a college that is 13.04 percentage points lower in quality” than the institution they are eligible for if they feel the journey will be safer by a single unit. “This is equivalent to choosing a college that is 8.5 ranks lower,” wrote Borker. “Men on the other hand are willing to attend a college that is only 1.37 percentage points (or 0.9 ranks) lower in quality for an additional SD [standard deviation or, for the study, a single unit] of safety.” Women are willing to travel longer and spend more too with regard to safety, according to the study. They are willing to spend Rs 20,000 more per year for one unit of safety while men will spend just Rs 1,200 more. “The difference of Rs 18,000 is…almost double the average annual tuition in [Delhi University],” Borker pointed out. And where women are willing to travel as much as 40 minutes more for a safer journey, men will increase their travel time by just four minutes for the same amount of safety. Women feel most insecure in buses. “Street harassment imposes an external constraint on women’s behaviour that could potentially lead to sub-optimal choices,” writes Borker. “Choosing a worse ranked college is likely to have long-term consequences since college quality affects a student’s academic training…,network of peers…,access to labour opportunities, and lifetime earnings. In fact, such misallocation of students to colleges, where high achieving females sort to low quality colleges, may not only affect women’s long-term outcomes but could also have important aggregate productivity effects.” Quantifying safety Four thousand students from eight Delhi colleges participated in a detailed survey conducted by Borker in spring, 2016. The eight included two women’s colleges and one evening college. From these 4,000, Borker worked with a sample of 2,695 students (1,757 female) who live in Delhi with their parents and travel to college every day. Another 887 students from 32 colleges took shorter surveys and data from 669 of them was used for analysis. For the study, both the quality of the college and safety were quantified. Borker used the minimum marks required for admission to a college, or cut-off as it is called, as a marker of its quality – higher the cut-off, better the quality – and ranked colleges accordingly. For every student included in the survey, their “choice set” – the set of colleges they had the marks for – was considered and ranked. Quantifying the relative safety of travel routes was more complicated. To chart actual routes taken and potential routes and modes of transport – private car, public transport and walking – Borker used Google Maps. To assign a “safety score” to each travel route, she used data from two mobile applications – SafetiPin and Safecity. SafetiPin furnishes data gathered through safety audits of Delhi’s localities. The audits involve scoring an area out of three on each of nine parameters – availability of light, openness (whether you can see ahead and the area around), visibility (whether there are windows and street vendors), presence of others, of security guards or the police, availability of a path to walk or run on, availability of public transport, whether all genders can be seen in the area and general feeling. Borker used data from 26,500 audits conducted between November 2013 to January 2016. SafeCity includes testimonies from those who have been harassed in public spaces, and the mode of transport is mentioned. Borker used 5,500 such crowd-sourced reports. The application data was used to score each route for safety and then those scores were used to compute a “unit of safety” for every “choice set”. To put that unit into perspective, Borker uses district-level data on rape from the National Crime Records Bureau. The paper says each unit of travel safety while walking “is equivalent to a 3.1 percent decrease in the rapes reported annually”. Buses unsafe The Delhi Metro, predictably, is considered the safest mode of travel by women students although about 16% of the harassment incidents were on the metro. 86% of the women who use it travel in the women’s compartment. Unsurprisingly, buses are considered the least secure and according to the study, 40% of the harassment incidents “mention…a bus or the people in it”. Still, 38% students – 33% of them women – cover some portion of the distance to college by public or private buses but men are more likely to use them than women. A large number, 68%, walk for some distance. But here too, more men (71%) walk than women (66%). Article Source....Scroll


Kalpana Viswanath, Co-founder, and CEO of Safetipin, a social enterprise using data and technology to support cities in their endeavor to become safer, more inclusive and smarter Safety of women and gender inclusion in cities has become an important concern around the world. Data shows that women are at risk of sexual harassment and violence in many, if not all, cities around the world, especially after dark. This prevents women and girls from participating in city life without fear and threat of violence. A study by Hollaback and Cornell University in 2014 interviewed over 16,000 women and reported that over 50% of the women in Europe and 75% of the women in the United States had faced their first incident of harassment before the age of 17. Over 81% of the women interviewed had experienced some form of sexual harassment. Other studies conducted in Delhi, Dar es Salaam and Rosario revealed that women had experienced some form of sexual violence in a city setting. In 2003, more than half of the world’s inhabitants became city dwellers. The Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations formulated in 2016 now have a stand-alone goal on inclusive urbanization and human settlements, with a specific target on gender inclusion: “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, particularly for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities”. It is now being increasingly recognized that cities are spaces where people should have the right to access public spaces and that public spaces are a public good. This is supported by the targets of SDG5 which focuses on the elimination of “all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.” The New Urban Agenda adopted at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016 provides key principles for inclusive urbanisation, with an emphasis on gender inclusion. Using technology, tools can provide quick access, privacy as well as trigger responses. Over the years, there have been many initiatives aimed at making women feel safer and making cities and public spaces in particular more inclusive.Today, technology and the digital space is an important one, both in terms of finding solutions as well as reaching out to and connecting larger numbers of people, especially the young. Some interesting initiatives include online mapping of sexual harassment and unsafe spaces such as HarassMap in Egypt. Others are apps that seek to map the safety of public spaces. Safetipin, developed in India, is one example of an app which has converted the safety audit tool into a digital platform. It is interesting that many of these innovations have arisen in developing countries, and that they are now being used in many parts of the world. As we know, gender-based violence is not only a concern for developing countries. Mobile applications could be part of the solution. As mobile apps allow women to instantly access to the most current data, it is thus a tool that helps women to determine the safety of the area they are in. Using technology, tools can provide quick access, privacy as well as trigger responses. For example, after some incidents of violence in taxicabs, some countries have ordered the drivers to install panic buttons inside the vehicles for women to use. There are also many apps that include panic buttons and allow women to reach out to people or the police in a dangerous situation. Governments need to ensure that ICT policies aim to increase access for disadvantaged groups. But we know that the digital gender gap is still there, reaching 12% in 2016. This gender divide is higher in rural areas and also has an age dimension: among 15-24- year-olds, the gender gap is 2.9% in low- and middle-income countries. It grows among the 25-74-year-olds across all countries, but is higher for low- and middle-income countries (7.7%) compared to high-income countries (3.5%). When looking at the 75+ age group, the gender gap becomes significantly larger, with an average gap of 45.8% across all countries. It is obvious that there are several factors that play a role in the gender divide, and we need to have policies that can address these in a proactive manner. In an ever-increasingly connected world, the digital divide will affect people’s ability to access information and opportunities. Governments need to ensure that ICT policies aim to increase access for disadvantaged groups. The private sector, a major player in the digital revolution, also needs to formulate policies and practices that address this divide and find ways to reach the more underserved populations. We need to continuously collect gender-disaggregated data to understand the problem in order to find solutions. More technology has to be directed towards addressing problems that women face, both online and offline. The gender digital gap is at its lowest among the youth. Therefore, technology is a very effective way to reach young women as well as young men in the effort of building gender inclusive cities and boosting women’s empowerment. Equitable access has to be part of the agenda, not only for governments but also for the private sector, as it largely owns and determines the agendas of the tech world.

Safetipin participated in UN WOMEN National Consultation on Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces

On 24th October 2017, UN WOMEN held a one day National Consultation on ‘Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces’. The organization invited NGOs from across the country working on the topic of Safe Cities. In tandem with the government initiative of making 100 cities smart in India; the stakeholders through their program interventions are auditing the capacities of cities to transform itself within the government’s timeline and as per its expectations. Centre for Social Research (CSR) was one of the invitees to the Consultation. The agenda of the UN WOMEN hosted National Consultation was to brainstorm on certain aspects that define the extent smartness and safety. These parameters considered urban planning / public space designs, public infrastructure, public transport, law enforcement, access to education, civic awareness and participation. Apart from CSR, participants represented other esteemed civil society organizations of Breakthrough, Pravah, Safetipin, She Says, Gaon Connection etc. Along with the team of UN WOMEN India, Ms. Sanya Seth, Ms. Anju Dubey Pandey and Ms. Krati Singh; Ms. Pam Rajput presided over the Consultation for the day. UN WOMEN identifies the issue of Safe Cities as critical one considering the increasing crimes against women that happen in the public place domain. “Women and girls experience multiple and different forms of violence and harassment in public spaces; staring and leering to stalking and sexual assault are common phenomenon of their everyday life. Studies show that almost 60 percent women reported feeling unsafe in public spaces. The lack of safety has far reaching consequences for women and girls. Evidence indicates that harassment of girls in their neighborhoods, or while they are on their way to school, results in their dropping out of school. Experiences of violence in everyday settings lead to feelings of despair and fear. It is not only the actual experience of violence, but also the fear of it that impede women’s and girls’ equal ‘right to the city’. Women and girls often take ‘precautionary’ steps in their daily lives to protect themselves from violence; avoiding dark areas, keeping away from places, or dressing conservatively – these underline the reality that curtails their mobility.” In line with the aforementioned statement of purpose, CSR participated in the Consultation as Expert on Police Training for Safe Cities. On the topic of law enforcement, CSR with other representative organizations suggested that there is a requirement for data on crimes against women that can influence gender budgeting for public infrastructure to make cities safer. Other feedback points that were given to UN WOMEN included increased female police officials, boosting reaction time of the police to reported crimes, holistic crisis centres for victims, establishment of womens’ courts, implementation of laws for women and their monitoring mechanism and fine-tuning National Policy for Women. Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) in the 6th year of its association with Centre for Social Research (CSR) has partnered on projects related to Water Conservation and Gender Mainstreaming projects, Safe Cities Project and Gender Sensitization of multiple stakeholders. As part of the Safe Cities Project last year, we undertook trainings of the Police Officials in the states of Karnataka and Jammu Kashmir. This year (2017), CSR completed police trainings in the state of Manipur and Pondicherry.   Aericle Source....Gender Matters

#MeToo throws Light on Cities' Unsafe Spaces

With the #MeToo campaign on social media leading to strong calls for action against sexual harassment by sharing their own experiences, data collected through the "Safetipin" application shows 37% of unsafe locations reported by women in Delhi have poor visibility at night. Real-time data collected by Safetipin, which allows women to report unsafe spaces, points to a major problem with public spaces with poor visibility adding to the prospects of abuse and harassment. In contrast in Mumbai and Bengaluru, 40% and 35% of the city's locations reported by women have been positively rated in terms of visibility. However, in Bengaluru out of 1,881 bus stops audited, 25% scored poorly in terms of safety. The reports seem to tally with the tweets and posts on social media that show that besides incestuous abuse and harassment by colleagues, public spaces and transport are a major challenge as far as harassment goes. While the ministry of women and child development has no recent government study to bank on to assess the magnitude of the problem, it is planning to commission one on sexual harassment to establish concerns and look at measures to tackle it. For now what is available are some past studies and safety audit reports that reflect the magnitude of the problem as reflected by the #MeToo. Real-time data collected through the Safetipin application which allows women to report unsafe spaces how they feel about certain spaces shows that in the national capital, 37% of locations reported by women on the application does not offer any visibility at night.   Safetipin co-founder and women's rights activist Kalpana Viswanath told TOI that there are an estimated 80,000 users and their responses are audited and assessed from time to time to understand problems on the ground. The parameters involved include visibility, lighting, openness, the presence of security, walk path, availability of transport, the presence of people and women and how one feels in a space. Studies by voluntary organisation Jagori and UN Women on a sample of 5,010 respondents in 2010 reflected that 95% reported to have faced some form of sexual harassment in public spaces. The most common spaces were the street (69%), public transport (51%), waiting for public transport (41%) and markets (49%). Article Source....Times of India