United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

UNIFEM South Asia Office

Initiative to make Delhi safe for women takes off with training of DTC instructors

A training was organized for Delhi Transport Corporation instructors who would orient bus drivers and conductors to the need to intervene when women are harassed in buses.

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NEW DELHI: A very large proportion of women and girls in Delhi depend on public transport for their daily commute in the city. It is something they do unwillingly due to the harassment they face at the hands of men. Women commuters have often reported that when they are harassed neither the commuters nor the bus drivers and conductors help them. Confronting harassers is not easy, and women are often forced to take the option of suffering quietly.  

An initiative by UNIFEM, in partnership with the Delhi Government and Jagori, an NGO, is making an effort to put an end to this unpleasant experience faced by thousands of women everyday. The initiative has been aptly titled, “Safe Delhi for Women”. A training programme was organised recently for the instructors of DTC buses who would in turn train DTC’s operational staff and motivate them to stop harassment in their buses. 

Some of the findings of a survey conducted by Jagori show that in the absence of support, women commuters are troubled even more if they confront the harassers. As a result, women have reported feeling very frightened with some of them even abandoning the use of public transport. A part of the reason why women have to share the same space as men is that the seats reserved for them are often occupied by men who do not vacate these when requested. The harassers most often are not intimidated by the presence of bus drivers and conductors and, sure enough, they usually get away without as much as a protest by the bus staff or the public. Women have also reported that men under the influence of alcohol hang about bus stops after dark which gives them an acute sense of insecurity.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Delhi, UNIFEM and Jagori, an NGO, on making Delhi Safe for Women. Seen in the photograph (left to right) are Suneeta Dhar, Director, Jagori, MK Parida, Secretary, Department of Women and Child, Govt. of Delhi, and Anne Stenhammer, Regional Director UNIFEM SARO.

The training of DTC instructors was conducted to instill a sense of responsibility towards women commuters among DTC staff – particularly bus drivers and conductors. Not tolerating harassment in their buses would go a long way in curbing harassers, it is felt. The recent training was supported by United Nations Trust Fund on Ending Violence Against Women. It brought together 50 Instructors to enhance their perspectives and knowledge to reflect on why violence and sexual harassment is all-pervasive and the need to find ways to eliminate it. Jagori facilitated the training in co-operation with Aakar and Centre for Health and Social Justice. As she inaugurated the workshop, Anne Stenhammer, UNIFEM’s Regional Director for South Asia said, “The ‘zero tolerance for harassment’ is the starting step for stopping this practice.” She told the participants that they were pivotal in ensuring safe transportation and, thus a safer city for women. She also appealed for expanding the existing provisions for women’s safety like those of the helpline numbers and women’s special buses. 

A range of initiatives has been planned as part of the Safe Delhi for Women initiative. These include immediately implementable activities such as training of DTC staff, awareness-building among young people. At the same time, UNIFEM and Jagori will work on policy issues (such as recruitment of more women to the police force) and measures that will enhance women’s safety (including installation of alarm systems connected to a control room which ensures that the harassers are immediately brought to book).