When I go out, I have to figure out in advance when I’m going to be back and how — it really cramps my style,” says Priya Gangwani, 27, an IT professional who lives in Delhi. And while travelling is definitely easier in Mumbai, it’s definitely still a concern for most women.
“Getting from Point A to Point B in one piece is something you learn never to take for granted,” says writer Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, 28, a Delhiite now living in Mumbai.
A new project, started by the organisation Jagori in Delhi, aims to catalogue just this relationship women have with the cities they live in, through photographs, illustrations, posters or collages. Women across the country, including organisations and professional artists and photographers, have been invited to send in their contributions by October 1. The aim is to delve deeper into the issues women face as they negotiate the city, says curator Gauri Gill.
Suruchi Dumpawar, 25, is part of Lucida, a photographers’ collective in Delhi. Lucida conducted a workshop among girls who live in the Madanpur Khadar resettlement colony, giving them cameras and showing them how to use them. “We wanted them to talk about the security issues they face through photographs,” she says.
The works will be shown at an exhibition titled Transportraits — Women and Mobility in the City in Delhi on November 22-24, during an international conference on women’s safety. Later, it will travel to other parts, including Mumbai.
The conference focuses on the subject of women’s lack of safety while commuting as it is a serious obstacle to achieving gender equality, says Kalpana Vishwanath, project director with Women in Cities International. “Young women in Delhi University told us that though libraries and laboratories are open till late in the evening, they don’t feel safe going there. This demonstrates just how the lack of safety compromises women’s rights,” she says. One of the contributors includes photographer Uzma Mohsin, who is documenting the lives of young women from the North-East in Delhi, who face a “two-fold dilemma of gender inequality and racial discrimination”. “The work is based on stories these young women have shared with me, about their constant fear of being targetted as the ‘other’,” says Mohsin.
Gill has already received several entries. “People across spectrums have contributed, including men,” she says. “A young man from Jamia Nagar sent a photo of clusters of men getting into the women’s compartment at Nizamuddin station; a theatreperson from Bangalore sent an image of an auto which says ‘A host of women who wear thin clothes and dress improperly in this world will be naked on the day of judgement’.