Manas Foundation is “Building Bonds” with drivers of public transport vehicles through gender sensitisation training to reduce gender-based violence and abuse. Building Bonds was incepted with Delhi’s auto-rickshaw drivers, and Manas has worked with over 70,000 auto-rickshaw drivers on fostering empathy and bridging the gap between drivers and commuters since January 2014. In a city where 80 per cent women commuters opt for autos and taxis as their mode of public transport, taxi and auto-drivers are critical to creating a safe transport experience. These two modes act as the last mile connectivity and are intimate spaces with higher chances of violence and abuse. This was brutally exemplified by the Nirbhaya incident and many others reported on a regular basis in the media.
Following the Uber rape case in December, Manas was mandated by the Transport Department to extend Building Bonds to Delhi’s taxi drivers. Since February 2015, Manas has successfully reached over 10,000 taxi-drivers with the support of Indraprastha Gas Limited (a CSR initiative), and in partnership with the Transport Department, Govt. of NCT of Delhi.
Monica Kumar, Managing Trustee and Co-Founder, Manas Foundation states, “What makes this programme unique is its mental health approach in engaging men in gender justice.” The Building Bonds’ innovative training module leverages scientific psychological principals that exhort participants to bring about a behavioural change in response to the cognitive dissonance that is intentionally created during the training. External evaluations of Building Bonds with Auto-Rickshaw Drivers has revealed that over 81% of the drivers remember/recall the training and have made behavioral changes in consonance with it.
Customised slogan messages on badges and stickers, such as “Mera Imaan, Mahilaaon Ka Sammaan” are issued to drivers and printed on their vehicles to instill ownership and develop social commitment that persists long after the training. “This taxi respects women” is now being seen on increasing number of taxis across the city. These messages have increased the visibility of the drivers’ efforts to ensure a safe space within the vehicle, creating the potential for a positive dialogue between driver and commuter.
THE TAXI SAHARA HELPLINE
The taxi-drivers will continue to have an ongoing support through the Taxi Sahara Helpline. This helpline not only creates a two-way dialogue on gender, but will also help the taxi-drivers with their gender-specific concerns, peculiar situations and challenges.
Manas along with IGL and its partners celebrated Building Bonds with taxi drivers today on 14th May, 2015, through a signature campaign to extend personal commitments to gender justice from the training to the public space. This creates a community of sensitised transport professionals and individuals in the nation’s capital. Through this event, the extension of this project and this campaign, Building Bonds reached out to bring the public into the fold of this initiative towards gender justice and equality, and preventing violence against women.
(Manas Foundation is a mental health organisation that has been working in Delhi NCR for the past 15 years. Contact them at: S-62, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-II, New Delhi-110020 / Ph: +91 9312233966 / www.manas.org.in)