Above: Girls in Lal Kuan, New Delhi paint staring eyes on a community wall to draw attention to unwanted attention and gender based violence.
Within the village of Lal Kuan in India’s Delhi Province, women were regularly molested as they went to a nearby jungle area to relieve themselves. Investigations revealed that public toilets within the community were under lock and key, and with no access to toilets the women had no choice but to go into the jungle, making them vulnerable and at risk of violence.
Safecity is an organization that uses technology as a methodology to highlight the issue of violence against women just like those in Lal Kuan. Through an online platform, people are encouraged to share their personal experiences of sexual violence in public spaces. The information is then collated as location-based trends and visualized on a map as hotspots. The aim is to use data and technology to make public spaces safer and more accessible, especially to women and girls.
Data captured in a joint survey between Safecity and Plan India’s Gender Resource Center, paired with Safecity’s crowdmapping platform allowed the women from Lal Kuan to successfully pressure local authorities to open and maintain the toilets. This success showed these women just how powerful information and communication technology (ICT) is in creating change.
Information is key to understanding an issue, making decisions, seeking help and pushing for change – in addition to holding existing systems accountable.
I launched Safecity just after the horrific rape in Delhi, India in 2013. Incited by the event, I began thinking about the everyday sexual harassment and abuse we face as women that is so rarely discussed or officially reported. It seemed at the time that it is only when a horrific incident like the Delhi rape occurs that we sit up and take notice.
The statistics on sexual violence are overwhelming. UN Women states that 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, and more than half of this occurs to girls below the age of 16. Furthermore, 80% of victims choose not to officially report an attack. Working in India, we know that these statistics are much higher. Underreporting and lack of communication of the issue result in official statistics that do not reflect the true nature and size of the problem.
Through the Safecity platform, women and girls can anonymously share and read each other’s experiences of sexual violence, serving to break the myth that we are alone as victims. Furthermore, data generated pinpoints trends which can be used to find effective neighborhood solutions – as in Lal Kuan, India.
Through the two years since I launched Safecity, I have learned that sexual violence affects women and girls irrespective of their nationality, ethnicity, class or religion. The magnitude of the problem is so great that global collaboration is needed in order to help devise a solution. As a result, Safecity is rolling out a mobile app that will make it easy to report, connect, share and receive information around the globe. To date, I have already begun working with colleagues in Vital Voices’ VVLead Fellowship Program so that women from Lal Kuan to Kibera and Kathmandu have the Safecity solution for safer communities and lives.