We really need this project in Delhi - a city where by today's news figures, 6 rapes and 10 molestation cases have been reported everyday between Jan-April 2014. The city has high incidence of crimes like dowry, dowry-related wife-murders, marital rape, sex-selective abortions, and widespread acts of discrimination and neglect of girls and women. At the same time we have a history of strong women's movements, which have taken up each of these issues, & due to which these issues are visible and reported. From years of learning within Delhi's movements, and from a social science perspective, I know that groups like Action India contribute to a sense of women's agency in this city, building women's voice, confidence, and a discourse that counters violence and misogyny. At the present juncture there is an urgent need to strengthen these voices and take concerted action to generate security in order that women enjoy greater mobility, freedom and wider life-options.
A few suggestions to the project team - in response to their excellent ideas and ground-level plans:
1. The proposal focuses on women's safety in low-income areas -- gigantic slum settlements, ringed around India's capital city. I'd like to suggest that cross-class linkages between women be explored systematically, as part of the project. Mahila Panchayats function with low-income women's leadership - and this is something middle-class women need to know more about, learn from, build links of solidarity with - and contribute to. Dialogue, at different levels including public platforms, would be mutually beneficial for a forward-looking movement.
2. Young women particularly need to be provided opportunities to fight violence, within homes and in public spaces and institutions. They face the brunt of male violence and they are battered, beaten, assaulted - and simultaneously called insulting names, humiliated and defamed. Young women need as much chances for mobility, education, choice, and leadership, as possible. They also need to be respected, honored and heard - at many different forums. This project can set a model for this.
3. Women in low-income areas have evolved some incredible coping and fighting mechanisms. The project should identify, understand, and strengthen these. Women survive because they stand up for their rights, within families and outside. I know women who are strong beyond belief, living in adverse circumstances, all the odds against them. Their strengths and stories need to be highlighted. These women need to be respected as community leaders. They can teach many of us several skills, which can help us think on our feet, protect ourselves, self-defend... care for oneself, and at the same time, for others.
4. The project, with all its proposed activities, has deeper ethical and political dimensions. It will contribute to building up a feminist understanding of women's security/ human security. Women would be helped to clearly reject patriarchal definitions of security, and define and claim the right to security as we see it, to live without fear and controls. At the same time, women in this project would help re-conceptualise terms like justice, caring, human rights; satyagraha and ahimsa; praxis and dialogue.
6. Women's testimonies will gather. The dimension of writing and communicating human interest stories (through articles, features in the media, books and booklets, short films, public art-work, social media and wall journals etc) should be seen as an integral and inseparable part of the project. Everyday a story could come out of this project, and reach people across the globe. It can truly make a difference, not just locally - but also globally.