Delhi is considered to be one of the most dangerous places for women in the world, and as sexual predators continue lurking in its streets, ‘Safer Cities’ works to tackle the issue from multiple angles.
Safer Cities is an initiative by Plan India which is an organisation working for children’s rights. It works towards better infrastructure in city areas as well as in educating teens about gender equality and consent to change the existing dogma about “the place of women.”
Safer Cities was established in 2014 and partners with few other NGOs to tackle the issue of sexual harassment. Currently, the programme has about 10,000 members, 8,300 of which are girls and 1400 are boys.
The programme holds separate sensitisation workshops for adolescent boys and girls. The topics covered in the workshops are gender norms, stereotypes, and gender equality. Educating boys and girls at this age is crucial since this is when their mindsets can be shaped for better or for worse.
Including them in workshops that sensitise and educate seems to be a wise step to tackling sexual harassment in the present as well as the future.
One of the teenage boys who attended these workshops told Al Jazeera, “Now we tell our friends that we shouldn’t [harass] girls and that it isn’t right. If someone teased you like that, how would you feel?”
The lessons are getting ingrained in the minds of the youth, and have a broader scope of spreading since the attendees of the workshop will even restrict people from their vicinity from harassing women.
Safer Cities is working not only towards the future safety but also of the present. One part of the programme is to conduct safety audits in various areas.
They map out the area and check for blind spots where no street lights are functioning or areas where there are no CCTV cameras.
They then approach city officials to get the dysfunctional street lights working. Where there are no street lights, they urge officials to install. The programme has also successfully convinced shopkeepers to install CCTVs that assure safety to women on streets.
In addition to these measures, Safer Cities has identified about 100 shops and houses in Delhi’s Mangolpuri area which women can approach if they are feeling insecure. The houses are all marked with a neon sign and women can walk up and knock on their doors at any time of the day or night.
Safer Cities takes a multi-angular approach to prevent sexual harassment of women on the streets. They firmly believe that it is not just an individual effort that will work towards the security of women. Some members of the programme also conduct regular meetings with police officers and discuss safety concerns in specific areas. These concerns are backed by the stories of children who attend the workshops.
One of the members has also successfully convinced police to get rid of drunkards from a local park, and patrol the area so children can play there safely.