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Gender and Space Project


Documentation of best practice

April/2011

Researched and Documented By:

OneWorld Foundation India

Executive Summary The Gender and Space Project was undertaken by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade, independent researchers, under the aegis of Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research (PUKAR). It was an extensive research to identify the gendered dimensions of usages and experiences of public spaces. The research creates a knowledge base on the broad context where the paradigms of womens access to public space are located. It critically examines the infrastructural set ups, the cultural environments and the ideological terrain that determine gendered usage of public spaces. Public spaces are rarely designed and planned to facilitate and enhance womens access to such spaces even when the narratives of risk and danger are often gendered in a city life. Gender issues in public spaces have not changed much on the grounds and the liability of negotiating danger continues to rest on women. The body of knowledge created and the pedagogic endeavours undertaken by the project are relevant for urban policy planners to address gender discriminations in public spaces. The research, through elaborate analysis of the determinants of access to and participation in public spaces, paves way for making urban planning inclusive and heterogeneous that will justify the rights to public spaces for all. This documentation aims to highlight this particular facet of the exhaustive research work. Right to a city space could be materialised for all citizens irrespective of gender, class, caste and community affiliations if infrastructural and attitudinal changes are be streamlined by urban planners. Sensitive and far sighted planning of public transportation, better lighting and toilets in public spaces, parks with heterogeneous mix of people, and lesser compartmentalisation of residential and commercial set ups are identified as the pragmatic solutions to accelerate womens public access by the project. Background Urban spaces in general and the public spaces in particular often create an environment that facilitates numbers of divisions in forms of various class, caste, community and gender identities in accessing and using a space that ideally belongs to all. Exclusion of the heterogeneous from everyday practice and thought is reflected in the construction of the modern nation-state1.

Low, Martina (2006). The Social Construction of Space and Gender, European Journal of Women Studies, SAGE Publication, Vol. 13 (2): 119-133.

3 Womens access to public space has been restricted by many factors, some of these being social and some being infrastructural. Constant concern for safety in public spaces not only restricts womens access but also allows fierce familial and societal control on womens movements and their bodies. In the Indian context the recurrent news on womens discomfort and lack of safety in public spaces, increasing demand for separate coaches in local trains/metros, need for women only public transports and various demonstrations, campaigns and awareness initiatives strongly project the existing problems women face on a day to day basis in public spaces. The safety question has relations with womens class, caste and community affiliations as well. The ratio of women in public spaces is considerably low, even if it may not look like if observed superficially especially in a city space. In the relatively more women friendly city of Mumbai itself, women comprise of only twenty eight percent of a crowd at any given place or time 2. Gender concerns have received attention nationally and globally. However research often have been directed towards issues particular to manifest violence against women such as rape, molestation, acid attack, and so on. The Gender and Space Project intended to explore ways by which women experience public space on a day to day basis, accessing them devising strategies to ensure safety and to avoid risk, and thereby transforming the very nature of urban life in the process. The multidisciplinary approach of the project moves beyond the issues of violence to encompass larger areas around womens feelings of equitable access and control of public spaces as both commuters and possessors of such spaces. Through mediating the binaries of risk and violence, and bearing the burden of producing respectability to maintain prestige and to ensure public support in need, women continuously produce a space that is restricted and way different from that of men. This first ever multidisciplinary research in India creates a body of knowledge that can be used extensively in urban planning in an attempt to incorporate gender as an indispensable element while designing an inclusive city.

Objective Primary objective To examine different dimensions of womens accessibility to public space

Phadke, Shilpa (2007) Dangerous Liaisons, Women and Men: Risk and reputation in Mumbai, in Review of Womens Studies, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 42, No. 17, pp 1510-18.

4 In relation to womens class, caste, religious, linguistic locations In relation to civic and sexual safety; and respectability and risk Secondary objective To sensitise citizens to the issues of gender and other artificial barriers in accessing public spaces in cities Working Design The Gender and Space Project studied the public space as a sub section of public sphere which include functional sites like streets, public toilets (in neighborhoods, on streets and railway stations), market places (local markets and malls), recreational areas (parks, maidans, restaurants, movie theatres) and modes of public transports (buses, train, taxis and rickshaws) as well as sites like bus stops and railway stations. The research was conducted over a period of three years. The project was located in and focused on the city of Mumbai. Two kinds of research methodologies were primarily used: 1. Conventional methods of social sciences and urban planning 2. Participatory research techniques The conventional methods include the locality studies, ethnography and mapping. Under the project fourteen different localities of the city were studied across geographical locations, class, religious, linguistic affiliations and usages. These locality studies produced knowledge on dynamic notions of familiarity, insider-outsider, homogenous and heterogeneous localities and the interplay of class and gender in the production of safety as well as the class position of the locality. These localities were also mapped Locality studies produced in-depth knowledge on architecturally to document the everyday gendered construction of places, Photo credit: PUKAR production of gendered public space by the http://pukar.org.in/ crowd and the strategies undertaken by UKAR, women to continuously negotiate the route and usage of that gendered space. Ethnographical observations at various sub-urban railway stations, parks, shopping malls and coffee shops helped in understanding the context of the space and the interaction of inclusion and

5 exclusion that is marked by determinants of gender and class affiliations. The project worked with Central Railway to assess thirty five local train stations for lighting levels. The participatory research included the film techniques, photography and pedagogic components involving elective courses in architecture and arts and short workshops. Topics of the elective courses includedUnveiling the city: gender, space and the built environment. Interrogating the city: gender, space and power Gender consciousness and the practice of urban planning Gender, space, youth and urban identity The workshops and lectures on the subject were open to all and at times organised keeping in mind specific groups working for women in Mumbai. The non conventional research techniques of video and audio documentaries and photography were chosen to engage in advocacy and to initiate public debate in the city. These tools were designed to sensitise the users of public spaces to the issues of gender and the right to public spaces. The research was conducted through interviews, focus group discussions, participant observations and secondary data analysis and scholarly literatures on the city. Methodology The Governance Knowledge Centre (GKC) research team identified Gender and Space Project as a best practice because the research through elaborate analysis of the determinants of access to and participation in public spaces paves way for making urban planning inclusive and heterogeneous that will justify the rights to public spaces for all. The team used both primary and secondary research methods for the preparation of this best practice document. Conducting desk based secondary research, available through online material the team gathered important information on the background, operations and achievements of Gender and Space Project. In order to validate the secondary research findings, the team adopted the interview method to carry out primary research. Responses were obtained from researchers of the Gender
Participatory research techniques such as photography initiated public debate and increased awareness, Photo credit: PUKAR, http://pukar.org.in/

6 and Space Project Shilpa Phadke, Shilpa Ranade and Sameera Khan through telephonic interview on many important aspects of implementation of the programme. The insights obtained were utilised with the desk research to prepare this document. Key Stakeholders The Gender and Space Project was conducted by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade under the aegis of Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research (PUKAR). Shilpa Phadke is an assistant professor, Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute and Social Sciences, Mumbai Sameera Khan teaches journalism in Tata Institute of Social Sciences and was a former assistant editor at The Times of India. Shilpa Ranade is associate editor of the South Asian volume in the series World Architecture 1900-200: A Critical Mosaic. Ranade is a partner in the design firm DCOOP in Mumbai. The project was funded by the Indo-Dutch Programme of Alternatives in Development. Lessons Learned As the research interrogates the binaries of safety-violence in public for women, riskrationality that has to be mediated to ensure day to day safety; and respectability and non respectability that has to be manufactured while accessing public spheres, it challenges the existing conjecture leaving ample clue for architectures and urban planners to design inclusive cities with more democratic public spaces. Infrastructure and design of the city largely influence womens access to public spaces: The gender and Space Project findings indicate that women on everyday basis strategise their route to mitigate risks and to ensure safety for themselves. Mapping technique undertaken clearly showed that women often resort to zig-zagging, instead of taking straight routes to avoid unsafe and uncomfortable situations. Lack of proper lighting, deserted roads, absence of street vendors and stores, often produce unsafe situation, both perceived and real, for women. Mostly women plan every aspect of her journey unconsciously. They often fail to comprehend and assert that the right to access public space freely and safely is valid for them as well. Simply planning and constructing better infrastructure can actually mitigate this recurrent burden of strategising public spaces to large extent. The Project points towards bringing in attitudinal change in the urban policy makers and designers to streamline infrastructural rearrangements for a more democratic urban space.

7 The prevailing discourse assumes the commuters and possessors of public spaces to be neutral decontextualised citizens which actually takes the form of an upper/middle class, upper caste, Hindu, able-bodied, heterosexual, young male. Moreover, a space itself can never be passive ground but an active experience which is experienced differently by male, female, rich, poor, old, young, able bodied and differentially abled. To build inclusive cities urban planning has to focus on the paradigm of equal citizen rather than on neutral citizen. Creating infrastructure that can extend a level playing field for all sections of society (marginalised sections, differentially abled people and women) an urban space acquires the attributes of inclusion, democracy and social justice. When the risk of accessing public space is chosen in a broad way, the risks associated with the lack of infrastructure like good roads, street lighting and adequate public transport are largely imposed by inappropriate urban planning. Public transport Access to public transport is a crucial factor influencing a lot of decisions of women regarding participation in public spaces. Larger workforce of women and college students rely heavily on public mode of transportation. The research points out that the existence of ladies compartment is one of the most important causes of adopting public transport by women in Mumbai3.
Female commuters are finding it convenient to take public transport with the introduction of women only coaches in Delhi metros. Photo credit: Rangnath Tiwari/ The Sunday Indian, http://www.thesundayindian.com/en/photos/3/20/

The provision of public transport at night will be another encouraging move for women, the project believes. The public transport related study conducted by the project has referred to host of other transport related infrastructural facilities such as toilets, lighting, foot over bridge, signals and bus stops and station that are to be designed considering the needs and comfort of women commuters. They are often not comfortable with waiting in bus stops as the existing provisions of shelter and seat are inadequate and badly designed; apart from being dark and isolated4 . Lighting Better lighting is another crucial factor in enhancing womens access to public spaces. The project studied thirty-five suburban railway stations of Central Railway in Mumbai in order to
3

Phadke, Shilpa, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade (2011) Why loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, New Delhi: Penguin pp. 74
4

Phadke, Shilpa, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade (2011) Why loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, New Delhi: Penguin pp. 225

8 analyse the lighting factor determining not only the sense of comfort but also drafting womens host of life style decisions (involving public spaces). On the basis of the extensive study the project asserts planners are yet to assign fair weight age to the urgency of illumination. The project believes that urban planning focuses more on lighting streets than on pedestrians depicting the priority given to cars over people in using streets. This class bias works against women as well. Along with lighting access, visibility and context play equal important roles. Study of maidans in Mumbai conducted by the research points out that between two maidans with equal lighting levels, the one with low wall and open access allows more participation of women in contrast with the one with high grill and strict access terms. The context of illumination is equally important that demands more than average lighting in areas such as corners, staircases and foot-over-bridges as there are perceived as vulnerable spaces by women.

Toilet Shortage of public toilets, specially locking of it at night is an irrational and discriminative aspect of urban life. The project shows that urban planners often justify the disparity in the provisions of toilets by relative lower ratio of women to men in public. The research calls public toilets as the most tangible symbol of male privilege5. Urban planners have to move beyond the stereotype that womens presence beyond private terrain is unwelcomed by providing more and better toilet facilities. This will allow more women in public space and will also send out a strong message that women are equal citizens in urban democracy. Lack of functional public toilets for women can have serious repercussions on female bodies. As they have to hold urine for the time they spend in public, women often consciously consume less water to avoid the inconvenience. Many of the cases of urinary tract infection will find its genesis in sheer lack of basic amenities in public spaces. The research finding stresses further on the inadequacy of toilets for slum women particularly. This section of women is not entitled to a dignified life as planners choose to ignore the urgent need for toilets designed for them. Slum women have to wait till dark to relief themselves on the sidewalks. The toilets available are also not designed keeping the need of women in mind. There are hardly any provisions for menstruating, pregnant, lactating and old women. The research suggest for Indian/Asian/squat toilets that are more hygienic to use for women as it doesnt require close
5

Phadke, Shilpa, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade (2011) Why loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, New Delhi: Penguin pp. 79

9 body contact and also easy to clean. Provisions for western toilets must also be there keeping in mind the need of the old and the disabled. Lack of childcare facilities in public spaces also restricts the access of women with young children. Unlike the private public spaces such as malls, movie halls and airports, the public public spaces such as railway stations, bus stops and sulabh sauchalays are not equipped with childcare infrastructure to change nappies, lower level wash basins, toilet seats for young kids; and on most instances not even a comfortable place to breast feed. Maidans/ parks The growing trend of urban planning is to construct public spaces in ways to keep certain sections of people consciously away; among them are the poor, roadside vendors, beggars and young couples. Entry fee has been introduced in parks to ensure class based differentiation and segregation of spaces. It depicts the level of territorial claim made by the privileged section of the society which thereby translates into control of these spaces by the most powerful. Metro Action Committee on Public Violence Against Women (METRAC), a non-profit organisation for women and children, founded in Toronto prepared an extensive report on active engagement with women park users. The crucial factors that came up included lighting, visibility, entrapment possibility, ear and eye distance, pathways and tunnels, police/ park staff present/ public telephone, parks programming officials, maintenance level and isolation 6. The beautification drive carried out with vigour by the planners and the mushrooming residence welfare associations have resulted in emergence of aesthetically pleasurable recreation grounds. But the beautiful high iron grills and paid single thoroughfare actually restricts womens involvement in these areas. The high fencing rather than providing security reduces visibility and separates it from the city. Single gates discourage womens participation in such places as it indicates low possibility of escape if any assault does happen7. The planting of multiple kinds of shrubs and climbing creepers beautify the places but it cuts visibility across the park and negated the sense of comfort and safety for women. Designing parks in a way to facilitate more and more engagement of the people from all walks of life will only ensure inclusion of all and exclusion of the undesirable elements such as drug users and criminals. Heterogeneous composition of city

Phadke, Shilpa, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade (2011) Why loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, New Delhi: Penguin pp. 238
7

Phadke, Shilpa, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade (2011) Why loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, New Delhi: Penguin pp. 93

10 Obsession with aesthetics often takes precedence in the doctrine of urban planning than safety and comfort for the marginalised and vulnerable section of the society. Indian cities are recently fashioned more and more in the format of global cities. The segregation and compartmentalisation of residential and commercial set ups have hugely impacted lives of women. Walking down a busy street full of people talking on the roadsides, street vendors resting on the pavements and stores lights illumination the roads ensure both real and perceived sense of safety for women rather than to commute through an aesthetically decorated and sanitised isolated road. The spree of sanitising roads of vendors, compartmentalisation of residential and commercial buildings and drive towards more and more homogenous class composition of residential spaces are nothing but a short sighted, bottom-line focused thinking that is slowly making the city into a cluster of islands of sanitised exclusivity 8. The vertically growing cities with multistorey buildings also make room for insecurity and discomfort as it reduces activity of the residents on ground and increases the need for illumination, social interaction and surveillance. Women rather than to seek a beautified clean secluded city, often seems to prefer a degree of chaos, ambiguity and multiplicity9. Need to restructure the discourse of urban planning to make public spaces accessible to all The urban planning recognises the need to ensure security for women; however the idea of security itself has problematic presumptions. Even though policing and surveillance are the most common methods deployed for the purpose, they in turn might work as instruments of restriction and oppression for women. The tools might control overt and covert unlawful behavior of people in public places but its effectiveness depends on the degree of its application. Surveillance may take the form of restriction and control rather than serving the need for order and safety if applied not in moderation. The research suggests that comfort rather than security and safety must be the guiding factor of inclusive planning. Comfort that denotes both absence of violence and sense of belonging will come not from surveillance and policing but from the feeling that a city space allows equality of risks for all, risk that is chosen but not imposed by short sighted and insensitive urban planning.

Phadke, Shilpa, sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade (2011) Why loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, New Delhi: Penguin pp. 102
9

Phadke, Shilpa, sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade (2011) Why loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, New Delhi: Penguin pp. 103

11 When a city space will be inclusive for all sections of society including the migrant workers, marginalised sections, the old and the differentially-abled than only it can be inclusive of women and their comfort. The urban planners have to look into the issues of inclusion more critically to emerge a new discourse on urban planning that will radicalise the existing polarity and will ensure a successful urban democracy. Every individual irrespective of class, caste, gender and other artificial barriers have the equal right not only to inhibit but also to commute and possess every dimension of city space. Construction of public spaces with a bottom up participative planning process creating equal users and citizens will fashion the future of our cities. The right to equality before law and the right to social equality and equal access to public spaces enshrined in article 14 and article 15 of the constitution of India will get a life only if the spirit of belongingness and comfort in public spaces are streamlines for all with a new face of urban planning.

Research was carried out by the OneWorld Foundation, Governance Knowledge Centre (GKC) team. Documentation was created by Research Associate, Ajupi Baruah For further information, please contact Mr. Naimur Rahman, Director, OWFI.

Appendix a References: Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research ( PUKAR), http://pukar.org.in/ Phadke, Shilpa, Gendered Usage of Public Spaces: A case Study of Mumbai, Centre for Equity and Inclusion, http://cequinindia.org/pdf/Special_Reports/Gendered_Usage_of_Public_Spaces%20by% 20Shilpa%20Phadke.pdf Phadke, Shilpa ( 2005) You Can Be Lonely In A Crowd: The Production of Safety in Mumbai, Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 12:1. New Delhi: Sage Phadke, Shilpa (2007) Dangerous Liaisons, Women and Men: Risk and reputation in Mumbai, in Review of Womens Studies, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 42, No. 17, pp 1510-18

12 Phadke, Shilpa, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade (2011) Why loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, New Delhi: Penguin Appendix b Questionnaire: 1. There are plenty of literatures available on issues pertaining to gender and space. What was the motivation behind initiating the Gender and Space project by PUKAR? What new dimensions the project aspired to add to the existing body of knowledge on the issue? 2. What were the objectives of the project? 3. What makes the Gender and Space project of PUKAR unique and effective? 4. Who were the key stakeholders in the project? What were their roles and responsibilities? 5. The project aims to facilitate urban planning with knowledge on the gendered dimensions of public spaces as well as on the necessities to transform these public spaces into more inclusive and accessible structures. What implication the research has on urban planners/ what are the policy implications of the Gender and Space Project of PUKAR? 6. What are the major suggestions the research point out to make cities more accessible to all? 7. The project aimed to sensitise citizens and planners on gender issues concerning active engagement in public spaces. How was this ensured? What were the efforts that were undertaken to engage public in the discourse? 8. Would you like to share some accomplishments of the project?

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