With cases of molestation taking place on school buses, classrooms, hotels and on the roads it is generally believed that no place is safe for women. Some places, however, can be more unsafe than others.
It is to map these potentially dangerous sites that the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) has roped in youth ambassadors, aged between 15-25 years, for ‘safety walks’ at 21 slums in Indore.
The walks are organised as part of the 'Safe City' initiative by the funding agency, UK-based Department for International Development (DfID), and IMC to curb violence against women.
"Areas with non-functioning streetlights are, of course, risky for women. Colonies without toilets also leave women vulnerable as they offer assailants a chance to assault or molest those who head for the fields to answer nature's call, usually after dark,” said IMC consultant Waseem Iqbal.
The youth ambassadors tour the slums with residents to determine potential hotspots. "Once the sites are identified a memorandum is submitted to the department concerned seeking corrective action. For instance, if there are no streetlight poles then a letter is sent to the power company,” he added.
The walks are held between 4pm to 7pm so that dangers posed in broad daylight as well as after dark can be studied.
Depending on the location and socio-economic conditions, several measures have been tried in a bid to quell violence against women.
“Women’s empowerment, curbing alcoholism and educating the male population are among the various steps taken to stop women from being subjected to violence. But no foolproof method has been found yet anywhere in the world,” said Iqbal.
Keeping this in mind, the IMC has hived off the slums into three separate, although not exclusive, categories. The volunteer strategy will be tested at one cluster of slums while strengthening of self-help groups and educating both sexes on violence against women will be tried at other slums.
“The aim is to discover which of the strategies is most effective in reducing violence against women,” said nodal officer and deputy municipal commissioner Devendra Singh Chauhan.
Once ready, the report will be submitted to DfID which has sanctioned Rs 1.18 crore for the safe city initiative in Indore, he added.
Queried about the youth ambassadors, Iqbal said they were culled from two NGOs, Bharatiya Grameen Mahila Sangh (BGMS) and Pehal Jansahyog Sanstha, assisting the IMC.
Each volunteer will train around 15 people from each locality sensitising them against violence directed at women. “Normally, when a woman is beaten or abused by her husband she takes it stoically because she has been raised to believe that the pati (husband) is akin to parmeshwar (god)," said the consultant.
The volunteers try to educate people that violence against women should be treated in the same way as violence against anyone else, Iqbal said.
Safe City is one of the components of the DfID-assisted MP Urban Infrastructure Investment Programme (MPUIIP, formerly MP Urban Services for Poor). A total of 69 slums in Indore have been selected under the programme.
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