03 Oct What is a safety audit?
As you know by now, SafetiPin is a safety mobile app that aims to crowdsource information about safety and the lack of it in public spaces. Anyone can pin places where they feel safe or unsafe, report hazards or harassment, and conduct safety audits of public spaces. This data, we hope, will be used by municipal governments and other community stakeholders to identify which areas are unsafe, why, and how they can be made safer.
Safety audits have had a long history of use around the world. The Safety Audit tool was first developed in Canada in 1989 by the Metropolitan Toronto Action Committee?on Violence against Women and Children (METRAC). Building on the policy processes, developed by other organizations using different kinds of audits, METRAC created the Women’s Safety Audit as a gender-specific response to growing concern about violence against women and women’s feelings of insecurity. Since 1989 the women’s safety audit has been used widely both nationally and internationally. It has been adapted by groups of women all over the globe. Today, this?tool exists in many different formats and is used in a range of environments. No longer is a singular creation of one organization, this women’s safety audit is now a dynamic participatory concept that exists in a constant state of modification and improvement.
In India, specifically in Delhi, the women’s NGO Jagori has been conducting safety audits in different cities since 2005. Kalpana Viswanath, who is an Advisor to the Jagori’s Safe Delhi Programme led the initiative for many years. Over the ten years of working on this, it became clear that the safety audit is a simple tool which can be used by anyone to better understand their environment. And thus came about the idea of SafetiPin, a safety app that would allow anyone – men, women, and other genders – to conduct a safety audit of public spaces in which they live, work and travel through everyday.
Put simply, safety audits are tools that people can use to evaluate the degree of safety (or lack thereof) of a public space. The audit takes several factors into account in order to determine why the space might be deemed unsafe. With the help of an international board of advisors, we identified eight main factors. These include lighting, the ability to walk with ease, how crowded or deserted a space is, the diversity of genders, how open or enclosed it is, how visible one is to either inhabitants or shopkeepers, whether or not security or police are nearby. Finally it is important to gauge how a person feels in a space. Thus the safety audit rubric has eight dependent variables which we feel contribute to safety and a ninth independent variable, which is the feeling.
In this way, a safety audit assesses both the physical, almost objective, experience of a place, as well as the highly subjective emotional experience of different kinds of people. What is particularly noteworthy is that the audit encourages communities to work together and determine how to create safer spaces and neighborhoods. In this way it goes beyond only physical environmental changes, and actually engages.