HOW TO ENSURE COMMUNITY SAFETY FOR WOMEN
Women are the indispensible part of the society. Many women have lived with the fear of being unsafe at certain times of the day and in certain places. For many women and girls around the world, just passing through a public space, a market, a crowded street or riding the bus, is cause for great anxiety. Women express greater fears for their safety in urban environments. This has a huge impact on women’s ability to engage in employment, adult education, civic and community participation, social and leisure activities.
To encourage advocacy for women’s advancement, the International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8. For the year 2014, the theme of the day is “Inspiring Change.” As per the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2013, India ranks 132 out of 187 countries on the Gender Inequality Index GII, which is a new index for measurement of gender disparity that was introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report. This is a composite measure which captures the loss of achievement, within a country, due to gender inequality, and uses three dimensions to do so — reproductive health, empowerment and labour market participation.
Since the past several centuries, Indian women were never given equal status and opportunities compared to their male counterparts. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 34 per cent of women in Odisha experience physical violence. The impact of fear, whatever the cause, on women’s use of urban places has implications for the role that planning and design of the public realm can play in increasing the use of spaces by women and reducing levels of fear. In terms of housing and residential neighbourhoods, women are over-represented in public housing. They are more likely to be pedestrians and require access to public transport. Therefore, the design of neighbourhoods for safety in and around the home and from the home to transit stops and facilities is paramount.
Women’s experience of safety in urban areas is different to that of men. Urban settings and the way they are designed affect levels of fear which are higher among women and which vary by location, time of day, mode of transport and the level and nature of other uses. Women in particular, construct detailed mental maps of parts of the urban area which feel safe, and those that don’t and should be avoided. They should, therefore, be involved in the design and planning process. Planning and designing for women and girls means creating public spaces with features that enhance women’s safety and feelings of safety and detract from features that cause women’s insecurity and feelings of insecurity.
Thus, planning and designing safe public spaces for women and girls also means analysing the various uses of public spaces, who uses them, when, and for how long. This is because when certain groups, like women or girls, do not use a space, it is usually an indication that the space feels insecure to members of that group.
Planning and designing safe public spaces for women and girls is the process whereby urban planners, designers, architects, women, grassroots and other community actors collaborate to make the physical features of public spaces safe and welcoming for women. If public spaces are dark, abandoned, unclean, overgrown, or lacking certain elements like benches or emergency phones, they are potentially unsafe for everybody, but for women in particular. Therefore, there is an increased chance that women will not use spaces where they feel and experience violence. For designing safe public safe public spaces for women, architects and planners place special focus on lighting, landscaping, visibility, motorised traffic, pedestrian traffic, urban furniture, signage, security personnel, proximity to other public spaces, proximity to emergency service, and access to public transportation.
The best way to ensure that spaces are welcoming to women is to consult them. However, women may find it difficult to participate in public planning and design discussions for a variety of reasons. In order to be successful, planners and designers must pay attention to how people express themselves in, and interact with, public space.
Previously many women may not have questioned the social factors that have contributed to their fears. But now, women form organisations to work to change the relations between the genders and the social frameworks. There is a need to create cities that are inclusive and respect the right of all people, especially women, to live and work without fear.
Each person feels tied into society, and proud of it. UN-HABITAT and Safer Cities purport an approach to urban safety that links women initiatives and local government initiatives as a way of influencing public policy and addressing the causes of violence against women. Women’s safety is increasingly recognised as a key health, development and human rights issue. To make meaningful progress in efforts to promote women’s safety, effective programmatic and policy approaches must be identified. Urban administrative division can have a major impact on the safety of women by developing careful strategic approaches.