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Participatory Safety Audits in Low Income Urban Areas

I have referred to a handbook created by Jagori and WICI on conducting Women's Safety Audits in low income neighbourhoods, with a focus on essential services. The handbook outlines a process of how such an audit could be conducted with participation of women in two resettlement areas in Delhi. "A safety audit consists of a group of women walking in public spaces in their neighbourhood to identify the physical or social characteristics that make these spaces feel safe or unsafe."

Photo of Sonal Shah
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A brief history
The safety audit methodology was evolved in Toronto in the 1980s, when a number of brutal sexual assaults and murders of women occurred in the City of Toronto.

A group of women organized themselves as “The Toronto Pink Ribbon Committee” and approached the Metro Toronto Chair. Acting on their suggestions, a task force to examine public violence against women and children was established. The task force worked with Metro Toronto staff and council members, more than 80 individual community volunteers, local experts and community and service agencies. A Final Report of their efforts was released in March 1984.

It recommended the Metropolitan Toronto Council appoint a body to implement all of the report’s recommendations. The “Metropolitan Action Committee on Public Violence Against Women and Children” was then established. 

METRAC, a not  for profit organization, traces its origin to this time. 

There are a number of organizations in Mumbai working around domestic violence ( SNEHA) and making the city safer. Akshara is also part of the Safe City campaign and has over the last year, organized " safety walks" and partnered with the media to audit public open spaces in the city. 

Jagori's handbook 
The handbook, I referred to, defines women's safety as strategies, practices and policies which aim to reduce gender-based violence (or violence against women), including women's fear of crime. 

It focuses on safe access to essential amenities as its premise and evaluates the resettlement colonies from that perspective. This frames the issue extremely well for me, by underscoring that women's poverty is related to unsafe access to services and infrastructure.

It recognizes the power of planning and design by emphasizing that spaces, which cause fear, restrict movement and thus people's use of that space. This creates a form of social exclusion. However, places can also be inviting and make people feel safe and comfortable. 

The question that these different types of practices pose for me is: 

What are different types of participatory audits to evaluate safety and security in low income urban areas so that they become an effective tool for action? 


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Photo of Meena Kadri

Great share, Sonal – and interesting to see this is being used in Mumbai (Love the work of SNEHA. I covered an initiative they were involved in a while back at Dharavi: )

Photo of Sonal Shah

This is great Meena. Many many thanks for sharing. I have also written to SNEHA about doing some joint workshops around mapping, seeing the physical environment. Waiting to hear from them. (Fingers crossed!)

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