Gender justice programme as yet another flagship initiative of ours came into existence in the year 2014. The founding stones for this programme emerged from within the organization as well as the external ecosystem.
Our work on mental health with men and women in custodial homes build for us deeper insights into patterns mental health behaviors and their correlation with various socio-economic factors, structural constructs such as gender and patriarchy. Around the same time, a wave of public protests after the 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 and forced the government to enact stiffer penalties on gender-based crimes. Spike in media reports, government campaigns and civil society programmes increased public awareness of women’s rights and voices from across the strata demanded for safer public transport. The incident brought to light the magnitude of the problem when a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters Foundation and Action Aid, UK found that nearly four out of five women in India have faced public harassment ranging from staring, insults and wolf whistling to being followed, groped or even raped. 500 women participated in this study out of which 84 percent of them reported that they have experienced harassment were aged between 25 and 35 years old and were largely working women and students.
It became imperative to design and implement intervention to create safe public transport for women and girls, when we learnt that how men and women use public transport in different ways because of their distinct social roles and economic activities. Since women’s reasons for travelling generally differ from men’s, the purpose, frequency, and distance of their trips are also different. Additionally, safety and perceived social status play a complex role in shaping women’s transport behavior as they move between urban, suburban, and rural areas. It also called for equitable measures to address the issue as public transport has the potential to make employment opportunities, healthcare resources, and education more accessible to women.
However, due to unsafe and inaccessible transport planning, women often do not have equal access to public transport, putting these resources out of reach and limiting financial autonomy. Furthermore, sexual harassment and violence in bus-stops, stations and vehicles remain persistent problems for cities around the world. When women continually feel unsafe and lack the ability to report incidents, public transport ceases to be an equitable and accessible form of mobility.
While women face this on roads, the workplaces are equally unsafe for them as similar mindsets permeate within institutions as well. The POSH act of 2013 which superseded Vishakha guidelines reiterated that while it redressal and punitive measures are needed to curb violence and abuse based on gender, it is critical to invest enough on engaging communities for positive shift in mindset and attitudes.
The afore facts and learning clearly put out that high impact social problems need at scale, long term and programmes and interventions that seek to address the root cause of gender based violence. We also learnt that design needs to engage positively with the key stakeholders who have an active role to play in co-creating safe and equal public transport for women and girls. We also gathered that sustained solutions for gender equality lie in addressing mindset, attitudes and social norms which perpetrate gender based violence. This lead to Manas initiating one of South Asia’s largest programme on engaging men for promoting gender equality.
Stakeholders who play a key role in successful implementation of this programme are our valued partners like Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL), Ford Foundation, Uber India, State Transport Departments, Rupeek, Maruti, Hyundai and without who the programme is not possible are the thousands of public transport drivers, frontline employees in businesses and management teams.
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