There is a high incidence of sexual assault in India, which often happens when an Indian woman is out trying to access public sanitation. Our research indicated that even Indian women living in very disadvantaged communities are willing to pay to access bathrooms which are lighted, because they feel safer going to those facilities. As such, we focused on light as a solution. Through further research and having consideration to the massive endeavour it would take to install infrastructure in the often highly congested and unplanned slums in India, we learned about non-infrastructure requiring light sources such as photoluminescent paint and the starpath coating.
We spoke to Lidi Brouwer of Studio Roosegaarde about our project to learn more about Studio Roosegaarde's Smart Highway project and about the brightest glowing paints, where paints can be applied, how often the paint must be maintained and so on. After our research we felt that photoluminescent paint would be a viable method to apply to the problem.
Instead of having outside planners paint up the routes, we feel that public infrastructure officials and town planners need to work collaboratively with the local community, discussing with local women which routes are the best routes to light up, and taking in their input on where to paint and why, creating a sense of empowerment within the women as their voices are heard. Finally, the routes are to be painted by the local community themselves, men and women, to create a sense of awareness and collective ownership.
We feel that our idea might succeed because it does not require the installation of expensive infrastructure, and it will create lasting change because it not only empowers local women as a collaborative group but also creates a feeling of communal ownership and awareness in the local community.
- Pari lives and works in a slum in Mumbai. She saw a notice in the Times of India about a planning session for Prakāśa and decided to participate. She's since proceeded to help with the designs and painting in Stage 2 of the campaign and has been a more active and confident voice in her community since. At night, she used to band with her friends to go to an open space some distance away, and often faced harassment even in a group, but now with the lighted paths and better awareness she feels safer going about after dark.
- Anika lives in Bawana. Going to the public toilet after dark used to be a daily ordeal as her group would often be harassed for money or worse by men loitering along the way or at the dark facilities. With the communal ownership of the new Prakāśa path, and a greater voice given to her and the women in her community, the conversation started by the work done by WICI, Jagori and Action India has continued, and she is now safer going to the public facilities at night.
Check out our full PDF presentation for more info. We'll love to have some feedback on our idea. Thanks for reading!