Creating safe and equal not “places” but “spaces” for women and girls and this means women and girls have free and equitable access to public spaces. It also implies that women and girls should be able to determine when and which public place they would want to be in instead of societal norms, practices and mindsets deciding it for them.

According to a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters Foundation and Action Aid, UK nearly four out of five women in India have faced sexual harassment in public place ranging from staring, insults and wolf whistling to being followed, groped or even raped.

Fatal gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus in December 2012 jolted many in the world’s second most populous country out of apathy. These facts and incidents clearly indicate that there is barriers women face every day in making decisions to exercise their choice and right to navigate in public places.

These barriers have a bigger bearing on the life of women and girls than what it may be overtly visible. Decisions of choosing education institute to pursue education, profession and job to opt for, choosing leisure and fun time are mostly determined by either public spaces actually not safe or the fear and notion of being unsafe.

Public transport has a larger share in constitution of any public space. Also public transport is an important link to navigate between different public spaces and large percentage of a person’s time is spent on public transport. So when we talk of safe public spaces, transport is not something which can ignored.

Also women and men use public transport in different ways because of their distinct social roles and economic activities. According to the UN, women often “chain” their activities by combining multiple stops and destinations within a single, longer trip as a result of their household and caretaking responsibilities.

With the afore arguments and facts in the backdrop Manas Foundation in the year 2013 designed a programme to contribute towards making public spaces safe and equal for women. Since then, there has been no looking back. It has been a journey of exploring and implementing new innovative approaches and path breaking strategies. Today this is one of the largest programme in Asia on engaging men to create safe and equal public spaces for women and girls for greater gender equality.

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