These 5 entrepreneurs are taking the lead to ensure women’s safety in India
Safety remains a top priority for women in India. Whether it’s public transport, roads, workplaces or homes, it is natural to want to feel safe.
However, women in India are not safe. Every day, we hear of harrowing tales of sexual assault and violence against women in the country. The #MeToo movement in October 2018 brought to light diverse cases of sexual harassment in workplaces and the gross misuse of power by men.
It’s 2019, and women’s safety still remains a challenge. But there are some brave and enterprising women working hard for the safety of their sisters, bringing a change, initiating dialogue, and offering solutions so that women may be safe, wherever they are.
Elsa Marie D’Silva, Safecity
Elsa Marie D’Silva launched Safecity in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya gang rape case in Delhi in 2012. She decided to make the issue of sexual violence more visible by offering people a way to anonymously share their stories and make it available in the public domain for different stakeholders to act upon.
Safecity aims to make cities safer by encouraging equal access to public spaces for everyone especially women, using crowdsourced data, community engagement, and institutional accountability.
The startup used various strategies including partnerships and collaboration with people and organisations with community reach. It also offers volunteering opportunities for people to contribute to the cause and have a great team of supporters. Besides, it is a great way to build leadership amongst youth who go on to be its ambassadors.
Safecity also crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. This data, which maybe anonymous, gets aggregated as hotspots 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 identify factors that causes behaviour that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions.
Seenu Kumari, rape-proof underwear
The rising incidences of assault against women, crippling fear for one’s own safety, and its impact on women’s lives and dreams, prompted 21-year-old Seenu Kumari from rural Uttar Pradesh to devise a ‘rape-proof’ underwear. She says it will not only prevent rape but also help catch the rapists. The underwear is equipped with a camera, GPS, and an emergency calling button.
The installed GPS will alert the police officers and the family about the girl’s location, and a call can easily be made with just one click. The underwear will have a combination lock, which will only unlock with the set passcode.
Poorvi Mathur, Hera Global Tech
Founded by Poorvi Mathur in 2017, Hera Global Tech addresses the issue of women’s safety through personal safety products and solutions designed with the user and community in mind. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, USA, with a presence in Bengaluru, the founder started it as a response to the rise in sexual assault and abuse in recent years.
The company’s first product ‘Autonomous’ is a wearable device and an associated phone app that leverages emerging sensor technology to intuitively detect high-risk situations based on physiological and personal responses and alerts the wearer’s identified contacts or community with their location. It does not require one to press a button or make a phone call - it provides an instinctive reaction.
Silvy Kalra, FightHer
A former journalist, Silvy Kalra had her share of late nights and experienced fear while travelling alone in Delhi. She has also her handbag snatched on numerous occasions, and felt a gnawing sense of fear every time she used to return home late at night.
This led to initiate a series of self-defence classes in her neighbourhood, and her non-profit FightHer to work towards women’s safety in the city. At these classes, trainers teach techniques like how to defend in case of a knife attack, how to defend if attacked from behind, which spots to hit and run when attacked, how to defend with the chest, stomach and face, basic kicks, chin and elbow punches, knee defence, shin kick on the lower leg, and props one can use to defend oneself.
The purpose of FightHer is not just to teach self-defence but also to increase the confidence level in women so that they are prepared in case of an attack. Silvy plans to take this initiative to rural parts of the country as well.
Kalpana Vishwanath, Safetipin
Safetipin, founded by Kalpana Vishwanath and her husband Ashish Basu, is a crowdsource app, which allows the user to check the safety of a location. The safety is assigned a score based on a “safety audit”, which lists a certain set of parameters on the basis of which the safety of a neighbourhood or location is judged.
The parameters include lighting, deserted spots, average number of women seen on the road, condition of the pavements, and proximity to public transport. The idea is to assess how safe you feel in a neighbourhood. The safety audits are carried out by the Safetipin team or are crowdsourced. Thus, anyone who has downloaded the app can carry out a safety audit following the guidelines listed.
Having been involved in area of gender equality for over two decades, Kalpana has also worked closely with Jagori, an organisation for women as Senior Adviser for the Safe Delhi programme.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)