The increasing importance of safety audit for women

Wednesday, 4 December 2013 - 10:38am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Being able to access safe public and private spaces should be a fundamental right for women.

The reality, however, is quite the opposite. With violence against women headlining every day, Kalpana Viswanath, co-founder of Safetipin and advisor to the Jagori Safe Delhi Initiative, explains the importance of Safetipin — a new safety app — in making public and private spaces safe. 

How does a safety audit work?
A safety audit is a process whereby individuals and groups can assess a space to see what makes it safe or unsafe for use. There is a checklist which has now been converted into a rubric for the safety app. The rubric has nine key parameters to make this assessment — light, openness, visibility (how well a person on the street can be seen), number of people in the area, gender usage (how many women in the area), any visible police or security, walkability, nearness of public transport and finally whether the person feels safe or frightened.

The key idea behind safety audits and the Safetipin app is that neighbourhoods, communities and cities will become safer when people begin to take responsibility and engage with safety concerns at the individual and community level.

What are the special features of the mobile app Safetipin ? Is it expensive? Can all sections and classes of women access it?
Safetipin is a map-based mobile phone application which works to make our communities and cities safer by providing safety-related information collected by users. It will always remain free for users. Safetipin builds on the premise that community participation and engagement will make our cities safer.  Users can set up ‘Circles of Interest’, which could be their own neighbourhood, a place of work, or a place where a loved one stays. Any post through the app in any of these circles, will show up on a wall tagged for that circle.

A post can be a safety audit, a place, harassment or a hazard. Users can agree to posts, put up their own comments, and even post them on Facebook.  Safetipin provides information about infrastructure to promote safety for women and other groups, to citizens at large and important stakeholders including the government, NGO’s, corporations and RWAs.

In each of their identified ‘Circles of Interest’, citizens can view (and contribute) information and comments on audits, harassment, hazards and places. They can report problems such as broken lights and bad roads. They can find information such as nearby 24-hour pharmacies, auto stands, ATMs and directions to them. When travelling, they can view audits to find safe and unsafe locations.

What will be the government’s role in this?
We hope to share information to public service providers (such as the PWD) with access to information from the app — such as non-functioning streetlights, to help them improve their level of service. We plan to use audit scores for advocacy.

What about Jagori?
Safetipin can be used as a tool by NGO’s and others working at the grassroots level in lower income areas for advocacy. We recognise that at this time, people in low income neighbourhoods may not have access to smart phones, therefore Safetipin will link up with NGO’s to ensure that some of the features of the app can be used by them. Jagori, for example, has bought four smart phones, which they have used to train community youth and women to do safety audits with. This also serves the purpose of building the capacity of women and youth in these communities.

Can you tell us about how the previous safety audits have helped organisations like yours to make public spaces safe?
In areas where audits have been done, there have been improvements in lighting, design of public toilets, visible policing and improved infrastructure. In 2010, INTACH Delhi used the findings of safety audits to inform their road redesign project in the Delhi gate area.

The writer is Editor, dna of thought


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