The Red Dot Foundation
Safecity, is a platform that encourages people to share their personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces.
The data on abuse and harassment is never consistent and every agency agrees that it is an under reported problem. As many as 80% of the victims choose not to report to the police due to various reasons. Therefore there is little or no official records of sexual harassment and technically if there are not enough reports or statistics, how can we go about understanding this problem and solving the same?
Safecity encourages women to break their silence and report either anonymously or with their identity. This data gets aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. The idea is to make this data useful for individuals, local communities and local administration to solve the problem at the local level.
Individuals can check safety rating of areas just the way they check rating of movies, books and restaurants. They can then make choices which suit their needs the best.
Community groups can choose to use the data to bring about positive change in their neighbourhoods. When they approach law enforcement or municipalities with data and possible solutions, there is a stronger case to bring about change.
Law enforcement and municipalities can benefit from crowdsourced data and leverage common citizens to be eyes and ears for them. Keeping cities safe is a community responsibility and citizens need to play an active role.
Safecity has been in existence for the last 16 months in India and has over 2800 personal stories from over 50 cities.
To further achieve this vision, Safecity wishes to enable multiple channels of reporting and share this information for positive action. A web platform, mobile app, SMS and IVR based reporting for those not connected on the internet.
Safecity was the only international participant of the Fast Fwd Program organized by the City of Philadelphia. Safecity is also the Runner Up for the Facebook 2014 Social Innovation Award.
￼Safecity has been featured in various international media such as BBC World, Fast Company, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Al Jazeera to name a few.
Sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces has been a problem for decades but most often nothing is spoken about it. This leads to a culture of quiet acceptance of this form of violence by the victim and society including by standers. This under communication leads to under reporting that in turn translates to little or no official records with the police. The perpetrator gets away scot free and becomes emboldened over a period of time to move on from sexual banter to more serious forms of assault like rape. The law in turn can do very little to prosecute or bring about justice.
We felt this vicious cycle needed to be broken. Using technology we provided a platform for women to break their silence and share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. We have almost 5500 stories from over 50 cities in India. Some of them from over 20 years ago. Women can share these stories anonymously as our intent is to take away the focus from the individual and instead focus on the geographic comfort zone of the perpetrator.
We launched Safecity shortly after the horrific rape in Delhi where a young woman was brutally beaten and then gang raped in the moving bus. That incident shocked us tremendously. Through Safecity we are trying to crowdsource data that can be used to make real change.
We launched Safecity shortly after the horrific rape in Delhi where a young woman was brutally beaten and then gang raped in the moving bus. That incident shocked us tremendously. Through Safecity we are trying to crowdsource data that can be used to make real change either for individuals or at the neighbourhood level.
Individuals can use Safecity in several ways:
- A platform to anonymously share their experience. We have seen a trend of increased awareness and a growing willingness to report.
-They know they are not alone which gives them confidence and not internalise the issue.
- We have seen them offer help and solidarity, so it promotes a sense of community.
- With awareness of the issue and the laws/rights and knowing that they are not alone, they will be able to stand up for themselves and be able to confront their harasser.
Communities can use the data from Safecity to get a better understanding of the issues in their neighbourhood. They can design and implement solutions that are most relevant to them. They can use the data to hold government institutions and elected representatives accountable. Thus increasing citizen civic participation.
Safecity is using innovation - crowd sourced data and technology - to highlight a problem that has long existed, create awareness and encourage solutions at the local level.
I, ElsaMarie DSilva have been personally incharge of project implementation. I quit my airline management job a couple of years ago to focus on Safecity full time. I bring my corporate expertise of planning an airline route network to Safecity.
We have partnered with
1) Point of View in Mumbai to do a series of workshops in colleges on online/offline harassment.
2) Protsahan in Delhi to train their young girls on sexual harassment awareness, community organising and data mapping in Uttam Nagar.
3) The Gender Resource Centres in Lal Kuan run by Plan India International and in Paharganj to under take detailed data mapping of their neighbourhoods and implement solutions.
4) Breakthrough has used our data set for Delhi to plan their campaign on sexual violence.
5) The police force in Goa.
Highlighting the issue of sexual violence and abuse against women in public spaces.
Establishing a platform for women to share their personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces.
Collating this information to highlight local trends which in turn can be used to find local solutions.
Establishing models for use of crowdsourced information to solve public safety and civic issues.
USHAHIDI open sourced platform
Workshops with young women and men in universities to make them aware of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces and encouraging them to take action and report their stories.
Local pilots to show how data can be used by ordinary citizens to bring about change.
Collection of crowdsourced stories to highlight local trends.
Pilots to show how law enforcement can use crowdsourced information to improve public safety.
Increased awareness of sexual violence.
Increased willingness to break the silence and share stories.
Increased participation in community action to find solutions.
Some examples are:
a) Safecity data helped us identify one of the hotspots in an urban slum in Delhi where on a main road where there was a tea stall. Men would loiter around and intimidate women and girls with their constant staring. When asked what they wanted to change about their neighbourhood, the young girls said that they would like the staring to stop. So we organised an art workshop for them and they painted the wall with staring eyes and subtle messaging that loosely translates in English to - Look with your hearts and not with your eyes. I am happy to report that 6 months have passed and the staring and loitering has stopped and the girls walk to school, college or work without fear of being intimidated.
b) Another hotspot was one where women were being assaulted because they did not have access to toilets and were vulnerable when they used the forested area to relieve themselves. However when we zoomed into the area we found that there were toilets, except that they were locked and not made available to the community. Armed with the data we pressured the local authorities to not only make the toilets available but also promise to clean and maintain them.
Posters for adults and children in English and Hindi
Justice Verma Commission submission indicating a potential solution like crowdsourced information
Workshops on sexual harassment awareness and knowledge of law and rights.
1 of 8 organisations selected to attend the SE Forum Accelerator in April 2015 in Stockholm (Sponsored by SIDA) Finalists (1 of 9 organisations) at the Google Business Group Success Story Challenge 2014 Access Now Facebook Award 2014 for Social Innovation at the Rights Con Conference 1 of 10 organisations focussed on Public Safety selected for the City of Philadelphia's Fast FWD program Feb 2014 (part of the Bloomberg Mayor's Challenge) Finalists at the Manthan Award 2013 for Digital Empowerment in the Social Media category