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From the field in Delhi: Ladies Only

Amplify's first day in the field in Delhi after an early morning arrival from England and the US. Here's my first research contribution from downtown Delhi. An observation of Ladies Only train carriages by my team mate Luisa.

Photo of Nathan Waterhouse
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Travelling on the Metro in Delhi is an experience. It's a lot like the Central line in London only a lot more entertaining. People queue by the side of where they know the train doors will open, not it seems out of politeness (that is evident later) but because they know what comes next. Once the train arrives, the sardine–squashed passengers inside pour out like fish from a barrel. Seeing the smiles on people's faces, it doesn't seem to be an agressive thing, but seemingly a sport for many. 

My first observation was how very few women I noticed on the train. I asked Luisa how she felt. 

 

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Photo of Kasey Hurlbutt

It's really interesting that you mention this, Nathan! I was talking to one of my girlfriends after she had returned from a trip-I can't for the life of me remember which country, but it was certainly an emerging nation. She talked about how bold and brave she felt until she realized that she was the only single woman riding the metro. The only other women on the metro seemed to be partnered with a male.

We got to talking about this while discussing the Riyadh Metro which will be ground-breaking in Saudi Arabia. Women will be able to travel freely (currently can't drive in Saudi) for the first time ever (unless they change the law before the metro is finished..actually fairly likely). They will be able to travel in the "women and family" cars. Though a step in the right direction, the independent feminist in me was a little disappointed that the cars would be segregated. Upon expressing my discontent, my friend mentioned this story. And it dawned on me that there might actually be a real safety value (not just traditional, religious value) to having a separate car for women in some instances.

Hopeful to learn how Luisa felt!

Photo of Luisa Fernanda

Kasey,
Interesting insight. The feminist in me used to think the same way. However, I have realised that I feel safer around women, especially when in crowded spaces like riding the metro. When we got in the train and I realised that I was suddenly surrounded by mostly men it felt strange. This used to also freak me out while riding the subway in NYC. When I would ride the subway home and find myself with only men, I would feel suddenly afraid. This time in Delhi, especially when I was being pressed against bodies, I felt that my personal space was being violated. When I switched to the women-only-cart, it definitively made me feel more at ease.

It is vital to change the mindset of communities at large around women's safety. However, this is a process that will take a long time. Meanwhile, spaces where women feel safe by being supported by other women can improve our quality of everyday life.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Just letting you guys know that our Challenge Community Champion is based in Mumbai and is planning to interview women on these carriages there. She's put a call out for folks to suggest questions she might ask: http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/research/mumbai-local-ladies-special I'm sure she'd love to hear from you with anything you'd like further human-cenetred insights on!

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