Radhika R., who was previously a programmer, felt the need to look at what she could contribute to the social sector. As someone who grew up using public transport, the article in The Hindu announcing the Citizens for Safe Mobility Fellowship came at the perfect time.
As an initiative of the Gender and Policy Lab (GPL) of the Greater Chennai Corporation along with Delhi-based social organization Safetipin and its Chennai-based partner, Prajnya, the fellowship seeks to audit public spaces and transport from a safety and gender inclusive angle.
“It is imperative to understand the dynamics of public spaces and transport, safety being a key aspect,” said Sharanya Ari, Deputy Commissioner, Education of the Corporation and head of GPL.
“It is an opportunity to directly engage with the civic authorities and the public and a way to confront very obvious issues as simple as poor lighting”, says Ms. Radhika.
Ms. Radhika is just one of 22 fellows — 13 women, eight men and one transgender person — who have been selected from different educational and social backgrounds. These candidates range from undergraduate to postgraduate students, a journalist, civil service aspirants, and members of NGOs, says a consultant with the GPL.
Trained in methodology
On March 9 and 10, they attended training sessions that introduced and oriented them to the concept of gender inclusive cities, Safetipin’s methodology, urban planning and how to record field notes and conduct interviews. “The goal of the fellowship is to identify the gaps in public spaces and mobility and training focused on social science methods”, says S. Shakthi, research director, Prajnya.
These candidates spend three or four hours a day examining infrastructure facilities using parameters such as lighting, condition of public toilets and so on. “We have so far visited the Saidapet railway station and bus depots, the Mambalam station and the Guindy bus depot,” says Yakulan P, 41, who works in an NGO. He says he applied to the fellowship to look at Chennai from a new angle, keeping gender in mind. Mr. Yakulan is confident that the results of the fellowship will help the Corporation identify immediate implementable solutions.
Using an infrastructure checklist and conducting user interviews, these candidates record their observations and give inputs to the free-for-all Safetipin app. The fellowship will conclude on March 24 with presentations of findings to officials.
“While for some of us, using public transport may not be a daily occurrence, many depend on it and this fellowship could be a first step in making these spaces safer and more inclusive,” said Ms. Radhika.