By Suhita Roy
Women’s safety has been a cause for concern for people living in Delhi. Manas Foundation, which launched a gender sensitization programme for auto–rickshaw and taxi drivers of Delhi in January 2014, has now reached out for safety of women travelling in DTC buses. Their campaign “Barabari ki Dagar—Surakshit Safar” (An Equal Path—A Safe Journey) is aimed towards creating safety for women travelling in buses.
The campaign, supported by UN Women and implemented in partnership with Delhi Transport Corporation, was launched by the state transport minister Gopal Rai on September 17.
Around 2,000 homeguards, recruited by the DTC, will be deputed as marshals on all the buses run by the Corporation. The homeguards will be taught to take appropriate action in case there’s any incident of sexual harassment in the buses. They will be trained in gender sensitization and dealing with issues of sexual harassment.
At the launch, social activist Kamla Bhasin, said, “Delhi is now called the rape capital of the world. The change has to be a joint effort by the city police, state government and common people. To talk about safety alone won’t help, we have to think beyond that. The idea of safety has to change at every step. Our idea is to change the mentality of people. From DTC buses, the message should reach the homes to respect women.” She added, “Safety in India comes at a price, with restrictions put on girls.”
Rebecca Tavares, UN Women Representative of India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives, added that for women, Delhi was the fourth most unsafe place in the world. Gopal Rai remarked, “Women think twice before stepping out due to the unsafe environment.” He assured that marshals will be trained to understand this and protect women travelling in DTC buses.
A marshal with Delhi homeguards, Gulshan Kumar believes the mentality towards women has to change. “To ask women not to step outside after dark or putting restrictions on what they wear will never help the situation.”
Manas Foundation, with support from UN Women, will develop a structured module to impart training to homeguards. A set of standard operating procedures will also be developed during the course of these trainings. Stickers with slogan messages that capture the spirit of equality and safety in urban spaces will be put up in the buses to bring in a sense of partnership with the public at large, as well as for a collective commitment to gender justice.