Akshara’s safety audit in Prabhadevi is among the first of its kind in the city, and women’s activists and organisations have reacted to the idea with enthusiasm.
“Safety audits are extremely important to push the administration to improve the spaces we use,” said Shilpa Phadke, a sociologist who, along with Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade, co-authored the book, Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets.
Launched on Friday, the book explores how women negotiate public spaces differently from men because of their feelings of insecurity.
While researching for this book, authors conducted safety audits and walks in various pockets of the city and found that women tend to either avoid or rush through certain areas in the city, based on their sense of “discomfort”. “A lot of our audits were done in recreational places because we believe in the rights of women to not only use but also enjoy public spaces,” said Phadke, who claims that several city parks and grounds are ill-designed.
Hasina Khan, an activist from Aawaz-e-Niswan, says she would love to conduct safety audits in areas such as Mumbra and Govandi, where street lights are scarce, and in Do Tanki near Bhendi Bazar, where public gardens are inaccessible to women because of the alcoholic men loitering around.
“Women from lower classes have small homes, and when there are no safe public spaces left for them, they feel depressed,” said Khan. Pointing out the insecurity women feel in and around the slums of the Bandra-Khar area, Anandini Thakoor, chairperson of the Khar Residents’ Association, said, “We could make announcements about safety audits to encourage local women’s organisations to take it up.”