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We all talk about the safety of women in public places. But what do we do to ensure it? Maybe the answer lies in women reclaiming the public spaces.
We talk about women’s safety in public spaces. And to keep a woman safe we ask her to keep away from the public spaces and ask her to stay at home. The fear of the other is instilled since childhood. But won’t public spaces be really safe, if it has more women in it.
Last week we put up this picture, and asked our readers to share their stories of reclaiming public spaces.
These girls in the photo are my flatmates. We go to places where we see less or no women, like this bench near a street stall. There are always men on these benches. We decided to go, sit and eat there. Did you know, what happened? More women started coming and sitting there. Otherwise women come, buy and leave. This time a few sat.
A city becomes safer not when we give up the public spaces; it becomes safer when we reclaim them. The streets belong to everyone. Tell me, if you ever had to board a bus in Delhi at 10 pm at night, won’t you feel safer if the bus had 10 women passengers? You would. That is the point. The more we reclaim, what belong to us too, we create a safer environment for others.
Do, you have a story of reclaiming public spaces? Tell us your stories in our comment section.
We share 7 encouraging responses here.
Yes, I’ve been sitting on tea stall benches for over 15 years now for this exact reason and it never fails to work. What I love is that the men almost always courteously make space; even better, sometimes I have been preempted by middle-aged, saree-clad aunties who sit down and chat with these unknown men. One of the things I really like about middle-class Calcutta spaces is how the women of the neighbourhood are seen out and about fairly late at night, in their nighties or sarees, chatting with shopkeepers as they go. Now I’m the woman in my mid-thirties, sitting on the bench with my baby, and I still get courtesy and kindness from people who might have otherwise whistled or at least stared rudely as I went past! –Sunayana Roy
I am in my mid fifties. I started eating in such places, all by myself, during college when I taught pupils at their residence. Something in me, however, told me not to share this regular practice of mine with my somewhat conservative family. But I neither went out of my way to hide it, nor felt any discomfort while I did it. The men mostly called me ” Bon” or “Younger Sister” and often we would have a cheerful chat. But I lived in Kolkata then. I would NEVER ever stop at desolate or shady spots and invite trouble. I still stop for a kachori or a samosa or a plate of that “ghugni” (yumyumyum) and simply do not care whether I am alone, when I visit my hometown in India.( Of course they call me Didi or Aunt now!).Does this raise an eyebrow? Well, I have never cared to notice –Debjani Roy
I have sat on tea stalls, taken buses and chosen to stand in crowded buses, chosen to visit temples on menstruating days. I strongly support your move towards reclaiming spaces for women and deconstructing the gender politics around them. Keep posting. –Paridhi David Massey
Yup. In front of my college, there was one little hotel (kind of tea-snacks tapri) . We only used to see boys over there. In that area, only that stall was reasonable. We asked senior girls- they told us, don’t go there, only boys go there. We thought, if no girl started going there how girls will ever go there. My group went there and ate. After seeing us, many girls started going there! –Prajakta Talekar
Most sensible thing I heard in a long time…more we shrink, less space we will get..open up a little girls..just a little.. take your rightful place in universe.. not by demanding, not by shouting.. just by making our people realize that we exist. –Dr. Mrinalini Magore
Absolutely that’s the theory the more you are visible the acceptance also increases. This is what we have proved through our sport based program PARIVARTAN -by ICRW in Shivajinagar slum community in Mumbai with adolescent girls. –Madhumita Das
Yeah.. I do the same… I work in a government sector where there is this tea stall in the office complex where only men flock have a smoke and tea … I started going there a few weeks back and having tea and actually sitting there on the rickety bench for good 20 mins every day .. Since then I’ve seen more women coming there n enjoying tea and have a chit chat. –Deepa Margeret Ekka
Cover image via Shutterstock
Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.
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