Claiming Safe Spaces in Novel Ways
What are small ways we can claim safe spaces in cities?
One of the emergent themes from the Amplify research trip in Delhi and Kathmandu has been space. Who owns it, who can claim it, how do we make it safe? The scarcity of spaces that are safe for the whole community, where women or children can gather and build networks and feel secure outside their homes has been striking. Emerging, overcrowded cities and informal settlements often lack these kinds of areas or any provision for making them. We visited
Magic Bus, an organisation which runs sports programmes and after-school clubs for children who live in slums across India, and the mentors in the community we visited told us how it had taken a long time to create a feeling of community and shared ownership around the small strip of government-owned land where they held their after-school activities.
YP Foundation, another Indian organisation holding after-school clubs for children who live in low-income, informal neighbourhoods in Delhi, told us how they had taken years to claim a safe, clear space for children to play and work with them in collaboration with the community. We also visited a youth group here in Nepal whose headquarters had been given to it by the surrounding community. They were able to do this because the community held a traditional form of shared ownership of the small building and square.
This made me think of small-scale ways we can claim ownership to land as a public and shared space. One global initiative is the guerrilla gardening movement, which uses gardening to claim abandoned or unsafe spaces for the community. There are many different forms of guerrilla gardening and it happens in cities all across the world. Although it's a small thing, it can make a difference to have a shared garden within a community. The concept of claiming a square or a building for the community may not seem significant but it can be a way of giving the community something in common, creating a safe, shared area and challenging patriarchal and exploitative notions of land ownership. How might low-income communities and women claim some space for themselves in cities?