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We spoke to Supreet Singh, co-founder of Red Dot Foundation, about the Safecity app and how it can help working women feel safe in public spaces.
As a woman, how safe do you feel when traveling alone at night or crossing a deserted patch? Most of us feel unsafe.
The feeling is not limited to dark alleyways or late nights. We are as prone to sexual violence and harassment in broad daylight on bustling streets or public transport. In 2021, India witnessed over 4 lakh cases of crime against women, including sexual violence.
From being verbally abused to being touched inappropriately – almost every woman confronts this traumatic and disgusting experience.
Working women who regularly need to access public spaces are particularly susceptible to sexual violence. Anyone from a corporate employee who spends time in a ‘private space’ to a journalist, retailer, healthcare, or social worker who works on the streets is at the risk of being violated by a stranger or co-worker.
Think about it – When you say you will return late from work at night, how many people do you need to keep looped in on your location? The bottom line is that safety is a concern for women at work.
Does that mean there is nothing that can help us prevent such experiences? There is!
The Red Dot Foundation’s Safecity Initiative is built just for this. Supreet Singh, Co-Founder of Red Dot Foundation, joined me in an interview to share how Safecity helps working women from falling prey to sexual crimes.
Supreet herself had faced sexual harassment at work when she was working as a manager at a liquor brewery. The perpetrator was her then-CEO, and the company only made minimal efforts to resolve the issue. Soon after, Supreet left her job but found a confidant in her co-worker, Elsa Marie D’Silva.
It was then 2012, and the Nirbhaya rape incident left India shaken. Supreet shared, “Elsa and I were talking about why this is happening in today’s day and age. We started asking questions, and whoever we spoke to had faced sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime. However, except for my complaint to the company, none of us had ever reported any other instance of sexual violence.”
Not reporting sexual violence is something that you and I have also done. Unfortunately, we are a part of the many cases of sexual violence that go unreported.
Supreet says, “Women do not report sexual violence for two reasons. First, there is a restricted understanding of what entails sexual harassment. Second, women know that it will not be the perpetrator but they who will face the backlash for calling out the harassment.”
Isn’t it true? Whenever a woman reports sexual violence, her freedom to access the public gets curbed.
Numerous women are forced to lose out on career opportunities because of the threat of sexual violence from long commutes, working in vicinities sans security, and sexual harassment from co-workers. The perpetrators, however, roam around scot-free.
Looking at the problem was born Safecity – an initiative that helps women report sexual violence anonymously and educates them about it.
All you need to do is share the time and location where you confronted sexual harassment. The platform pins these details on an online map, giving you and civic and legal authorities insight into the city-based crime hotspots.
You could be a woman enrolled in any sector or industry of work – the Safecity initiative ensures you can access your workplace without worrying about your safety.
The initiative has played a crucial role in helping women when they commute to work or are at work indoors or outdoors.
For instance, using data of the crime hotspots from Safecity, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Mumbai’s civic body, installed street lights in specific dark patches of the city. Additionally, an MLA supported the cause by installing CCTV cameras. The Mumbai police also contributed to the cause by changing the patrol time of officials to those aligned with the timings women had mentioned were unsafe.
Supreet says, “Safecity works toward ending gender-based harassment against women through education, advocacy, and research.”
The platform gives you a bouquet of resources. Primarily showing women the danger-prone hotspots, the digital safety tool also shares information on nearby police stations, legal regulations, self-defense training, and emergency aid and phone numbers.
The program also educates working women about sexual harassment inside the workplace.
When asked for details, Supreet said, “We conduct organizational workshops for women across professional sectors. We turn every employee into an ally for women’s safety by discussing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and gender sensitivity at work.”
Focused on this, I asked Supreet how Safecity helps working women address sexual violence when their co-workers are involved. To this, Supreet shared a crucial insight. She said, “Most women come forward to report sexual violence during these sessions.”
Her insight shows that many women may be unable to trust their HR department when dealing with such sensitive issues. To help them, Safecity provides women and organizational leaders with a toolkit to prevent sexual violence at work.
The foundation also gathers data from women’s experiences and releases whitepapers and reports to help organizations learn and unlearn what gender-based harassment at work means and how they can combat it effectively.
Safecity also collaborates with government agencies and nongovernmental organizations to train women on identifying sexual violence and educating them on reporting it through their safe and confidential platform.
When asked what’s her aim, Supreet said, “As an artist and an activist, I am fearless and passionate about everything I do. I am working towards building a global community that is equally free and fearless to take action against violence and be resilient for love and humanity.”
As a bystander or victim, it is your turn to report where you witnessed the crime of sexual violence in your city. Educate your friends, family, and colleagues about sexual harassment and be an agent of change with the Safecity initiative.
I am a researcher working toward understanding the complex fabric of society. I have a Master's degree in Sociology and am currently exploring Diversity and Inclusion in corporate spaces. read more...
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