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Be an information activist by spreading the word about the problems that exist in our society. Here are some resources that can help you empower yourself and others.


Power to you


What is a safety audit and why you should do one Back

By Dr Nandita Gandhi, Co-Director, Akshara

Rekha has lived all her life in the G-South Ward of Mumbai. As the chairperson of a local self-help group, she noticed that women often narrated tales of harassment or misbehavior in the neighbourhood.

That’s when she contacted Akshara, a Mumbai-based organization that works towards raising public awareness about gender inequalities, and empowering women and youth. Akshara introduced Rekha to the concept of a safety audit.

A Safety Audit is a participatory activity in which groups walk through an area, interview local people, observe and note down their observations. It is hands-on, interactive and based on the knowledge of local people.

Armed with this information, Rekha decided to round up a group of 15–20 women and map some of the lanes where the complaints had come from. Local women—housewives or small entrepreneurs—thus became observers, photographers and interviewers. They ‘mapped’ the area as they spoke to chaiwalas, hawkers, passerbys; they whipped out their mobiles to shoot pictures or stopped to take notes.

An amazed woman said, “I walk these streets everyday but I have never looked at it with the eyes of a safety auditor. We were continually asking ourselves: What makes this area unsafe? We found street lights not working, some were hidden by trees so there was no light. There were construction sites which lead to bad roads, gangs of men standing about and cars parked every which way. Women felt scared to walk that stretch. In another area, we found that there was a maidan but no toilet. Now, how can women and children use it?”

These women are not the only ones undertaking walks for bringing in safety for women in their neighbourhoods. These audits have been conducted by women in Trivanadrum organised by Sakhi; in Bengaluru by Vimochana and in Delhi by Jagori. Like in Mumbai, they have been able to bring out some changes to increase the feeling of security.

What to keep in mind

  • A Safety Audit is generally done by five or more people, who select a particular area for auditing because they have information that it is unsafe.
  • Ideally, the group should consist of some locals who should take a day- or night-time walk through the area, and speak to shopkeepers, hawkers, residents or passersby.
  • All observations should be recorded in a document.

Checklist for a Women's Safety Audit can be downloaded here

Doing a Safety Audit

Step 1: Observe the area

  • The state of the roads or pavements
  • Street signage
  • Vacant areas
  • Number and working condition of street lights
  • The presence of groups of boys or men on the street
  • The presence of garbage bins or dumps
  • Generally, who uses the street and to go where?
  • Parks and amenities in the park like toilets, public telephones, a fire extinguisher, first aid, a child care room, security guards, etc.
  • Security guards or ‘eyes’ on the street like hawkers, etc.

Step 2: Mapping

  • Highlight dangerous zones in the document.
  • If marking people, gender should be mentioned by marking M or F in the document.
  • The Map should represent dangerous areas before and after dark.
  • Map should show the accessibility to hospitals, the police chowki, public telephone booths and other important public places.

Step 3: Record findings

  • Immediately after the walk, the group should spend some time discussing the walk and making notes.
  • It is also important to highlight the areas that are considered safe and secure by women.

Step 4: Formulating recommendations

  • After the walk, the group should formulate immediate remedies or long-term recommendations about design and planning, the usage of space, the working of local governments, crime-prevention measures, etc.
  • The recommendations should be drawn from the experiences of the people who went for the walk and conducted the safety audit.

So, what happens after the mapping is done? With some empirical information of the area and some recommendations from the safety auditors, Akshara helped the women who were part of Rekha's local self-help group to write letters to their local Municipal Corporator, and meet with the police to express their concerns.

That’s the strength of this tool – The Safety Audit. It helps you gather information, which can then be followed up by action and hopefully, change for the better.



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