The Asia Foundation

Her City, Her Future: Building Safe and Inclusive Indian Cities

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

In 30 years, around 60% of India’s population will live in cities, but municipal governments are already struggling to safeguard vulnerable urban residents. In Delhi—expected to become the world’s largest city by 2028—nine out of 10 women have experienced violence in public. To help urban residents more safely navigate their cities, Active Learning Solutions, a Delhi-based social enterprise, launched SafetiPin, a technology platform that offers a suite of free smartphone apps that crowdsource, aggregate, and map public safety data. Leveraging SafetiPin’s datasets, The Asia Foundation catalyzes government action to improve safe, inclusive access to streets and public spaces–from fixing broken street lights to increasing police presence in insecure areas. With support from MacArthur’s 100&Change, Her City, Her Future will build innovative new app functionalities and institutionalize SafetiPin’s data and analysis within existing city-planning processes, enabling vulnerable residents in 100 cities to walk their streets more safely and without fear.

Problem Statement

Sexual harassment and violence against women in public spaces constitute an ongoing human rights crisis in Indian cities. Generations of Indian girls have been taught to carry open safety pins to ward off unwanted attention from men on the street. In Delhi, 95% of women age 16-49 feel unsafe in public. Street harassment and threats of violence constrain women’s choices and potential, resulting in women frequently choosing lower-quality educational options, more expensive transportation, and longer commute times due to security concerns. When women cannot safely pursue their ambitions, the country at large suffers. Women’s workforce participation rates in India are among the lowest in the world at 25%; if that number rose by even a small fraction, India would stand to gain hundreds of billions of dollars in GDP. Meanwhile, women and girls comprise an increasing percentage of those migrating to cities for work and educational opportunities. India’s cities are already home to more than 200 million women and girls. Megacities and smaller urban areas alike are struggling to keep up with the challenges presented by their rapidly increasing populations, but municipal governments and urban law enforcement agencies are perpetually falling woefully short of ensuring secure and inclusive access to civic amenities and public transportation. Women want to walk their streets and pursue their dreams without fear. City governments, with scarce public funding, are seeking cost-effective, data-driven solutions that can have meaningful impact on the safety of women and other vulnerable groups.

Solution Overview

Her City, Her Future makes cities safer for women and other marginalized groups by: 1) empowering individuals to crowdsource information on safety risks and navigate and access the city safely; and 2) catalyzing inclusive, sustainable improvements of urban infrastructure and services. The free SafetiPin smartphone app can be downloaded and used by anyone, anywhere to monitor their city’s safety. Real-time crowdsourced audits are conducted by users who rate nine parameters linked to an area’s safety, and individual audits are combined with other data to generate a composite safety score. Users can input their destination and the app will calculate the safest route. Aggregating SafetiPin’s data at neighborhood and city-wide levels produces Safety Indexes that can be used by cities to identify areas requiring additional public investment to improve safety and accessibility of public spaces for all. The project works with municipal governments to explain the value and use of the data, train officials on inclusive urban policymaking, and encourage adoption of SafetiPin’s data platform into municipal governments’ routine planning processes. Comparing Safety Index results sets up competition among participating neighborhoods and cities, incentivizing increased investment and faster results. Expanding this solution to inclusive urban safety to 100 cities in India will achieve broad-based results by reducing public harassment and violence against women, improving women’s mobility, and increasing women’s economic activity. Analysis of Safetipin’s trove of data, combined with official statistics and periodic large-scale surveys, will allow the project to track outcomes and impact at the individual and city level.

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