Safecity and Womenability joined hands to organise a safety walk in the streets of Khar on 5th August, 2016 from 2 to 6 pm along with 30 enthusiasts willing to take the first step in auditing their neighbourhoods in an attempt to make spaces safer and equally accessible to all, especially women and girls.
Womenability has been conducting a survey about how safe women feel in public spaces and their ability to access available facilities without discrimination. After visiting 11 cities around the world, they eagerly joined hands with Safecity, which has been conducting safety sprawls in different areas of Mumbai and Delhi for the past three years. Audrey Bec, Co-Founder of Womenability admitted happily that this was the biggest group of participants they’ve ever had on a safety walk which majorly included college-goers and youngsters all with a passion to make a change and create a more equitable society.
The event began with an introduction and briefing at the Twitter office where everyone was handed their itinerary for the walk. Since we were a large number, we divided ourselves into three groups and marched around three different routes, actively taking note of all the ditches, broken pavements, overflowing garbage bins, signposts, mobility, transport, shops, roads and the people around. Everyone realised the need and importance of being situationally aware at all times.
The questionnaire brought to light the disparities in different cultures and how we’ve become complacent with our present situation without yearning to create a better society. We were all asked to describe our city while enumerating the things we liked about it and those that we wished to change. We audited the region with all five senses and also rated Mumbai in terms of its hospitability to family life and child care which received a ‘thumbs down’ from almost every one. The questionnaire brought to light that nearly every person on the walk had experienced sexual harassment in some form. Statistics showed a high percent of oral harassment while physical harassment and violence while lesser in numbers was still prevalent. Many showed their hesitation to report to the police citing reasons of discomfort, corruption and lack of cooperation. A separate section in the questionnaire for the men who attended the walk encouraged them to voice their opinions on whether it had been useful in creating an awareness and change in mind set and behaviour.
On returning from the walk, gathered in Twitter’s office, each group transformed all the issues and problems they had observed into potential solutions of making the city better and safer through agents of change like women, men, NGOs and public authorities. It was interesting to see the diverse issues and solutions that emerged from each group because of the routes taken. The BMC helpline number 1916 was provided and each one was encouraged to call up and make a complaint about the visible issues in the area.
A wish that the walk had been longer with more time for discussions was unanimous. Everyone left with a sense of responsibility, purpose and the will to spread awareness about creating safer, cleaner and equally accessible areas for all.