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Innovation key to making cities more liveable

Women-only spaces may be a good short-term solution, but in the longer run all spaces have to be made safe; we cannot have a city that is gender segregated. We must look at our cities’ inherent problems

gurgaon Updated: Jun 20, 2019 15:06 IST
Kalpana Viswanath
Kalpana Viswanath
Gender-centric safety,Gender,safety
This is a debate worth having—whether spaces should be segregated on the basis of gender as a solution to concerns over women’s safety. (Representative Image)

Cities are getting innovative with addressing the perennial problems of transportation, traffic, congestion, safety and pollution. In Delhi and Gurugram, there have been several recent developments that indicate the authorities are looking for innovative solutions. The most-debated one has been the promise of free Metro and bus rides for women in Delhi. While the pros and cons are still being assessed, there is no doubt that it is a bold step even if a modified version is implemented. However, the real issue at hand is how can we make our cities more women friendly.

Another interesting move has been the pedestrianisation of Ajmal Khan Road in Karol Bagh. A 2-km stretch of this road has now been made a pedestrian-only zone. Benches have been placed for sitting, food stalls are aplenty and bollards placed to ensure no vehicles enter, not even two-wheelers. Wander here on any evening after 7 and it is crowded with people walking, shopping and eating. You will even see women walking freely till at least 9pm. Several other areas in Delhi are also experimenting with pedestrianisation, including Connaught Place and Chandni Chowk. This is going to significantly change how these places are used and experienced. Further, their success can encourage authorities to adopt this model for more streets.

A couple of weeks ago in Gurugram, in response to repeated incidents of sexual harassment being reported from a park in Sector 10 and the area around it, the space was declared “women-only”. The move received mixed response. While many women welcomed it saying they could now exercise freely, others questioning whether this was the correct solution to the problem and if it was fair to exclude a section of the population from public spaces.

This is a debate worth having—whether spaces should be segregated on the basis of gender as a solution to concerns over women’s safety.

In my opinion, women-only spaces may be a good short-term solution, but in the longer run all spaces have to be made safe; we cannot have a city that is gender segregated. For a long-term solution, we must look at the inherent problems in our cities such as congestion, lack of walkable spaces and such. City authorities and people need to look for innovative solutions to these different social and environmental problems.

The need for efficient and low-cost public transport is an important issue that needs to be addressed urgently. It will not only address the mobility issues of different sets of people, such as women, workers in the informal sector, the elderly, school children and others, but will also reduce pollution and congestion, if it can work towards reducing the usage of private vehicles.

We know that behaviour can be changed if people are made aware of the consequences of their actions. We have seen this happen through sustained campaigns against use of firecrackers and single-use plastic. In some countries, to discourage car usage and promote public transport, charges have been levied on parking cars or cars entering the city centre. Bold steps and new ideas are needed to make our cities more liveable.

@SafetipinApp (Co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, the author works on issues of women’s safety and rights in cities)

First Published: Jun 20, 2019 00:32 IST