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How safe is the neighborhood? These girls will tell you

19 September 2017
Safety Audit, Kalwa: Mapping Gendered Access to the Community

As part of the workshop held with our Change Agents in Kalwa (Thane, Maharashtra), SNEHA team working with adolescent girls supported by UNFPA India conducted a safety audit exercise with 36 participants on 16th September, 2017. 

An energizer exercise was conducted with the girls, who were asked to enact scenes from within the community, with alcohol shops, tea stalls, toilets, cigarette shops. They were then asked to talk about how and why they felt unsafe in these kinds of spaces.

Next, the girls were asked to fill out a form which consisted of questions like:

·         Where does harassment happen?

·         To whom does harassment happen?

·         Why does harassment happen?

·         In what kind of places does harassment happen?

·         At what time does harassment happen?

The girls then were asked to go into their communities, and draw a map that would depict safe and unsafe spaces. Safe spaces were to be marked with a green star, and unsafe spaces with a red star. The girls enjoyed this activity, and in Jai Bhim Nagar, one participant even presented the map in front of the community.

From the safety audit, it was inferred that girls find spaces like toilets, cigarette stalls and alcohol shops unsafe. It was also noted that even crematoriums (shamshan) were marked as unsafe spaces, as they were dark and isolated, making it easier for men to harass girls. In the other locations, girls stated that they felt unsafe due to the presence of men who frequently loiter outside small shops and toilets in groups, whistling at the girls and often trying to touch them inappropriately.

However, the participants said that they found the Buddha Vihar area of their locality safe: this is where meetings gatherings are held in order to plan developmental activities and improvements for the area.

At the end of the exercise, the girls stated that ensuring the safety and accessibility of these areas in the community is not the responsibility of just one person or group. The community must come together to ensure that these spaces are made freely accessible to all.