Twitter

How street lights can ease women’s lives and boost the economy
A major factor blocking women's economic integration is the lack of public safety. This is especially relevant in India, recently named the world’s most dangerous country for women. To make cities safer, decision-makers must finally consider women’s needs.

By Elsa Marie D’Silva

A recent McKinsey & Company study on women’s equality found that advancing the socioeconomic integration of women could add a whopping $12 trillion a year to global growth. The state that has most to gain is my own country, India. According to McKinsey’s calculation, it could add $700 billion of additional GDP in 2025 by advancing gender equality. Yet in order to achieve this, major efforts are needed to bridge both economic and social gender gaps.

To understand what keeps many women in India and elsewhere out of the workforce, it is worth looking at global urbanisation, which is advancing rapidly. By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. Three of the biggest ten cities will be in India, today’s most populous country with 1.3 billion inhabitants. Yet while more and more Indians are leaving the countryside for the cities, the number of women in the urban labour force is dropping – even though the country now has the highest number ever of women graduating from university. In order to bring 68 million more women into the non-agricultural labour force over the next decade as McKinsey recommends, India’s policy makers, business leaders and social-sector leaders need to focus concerted action on several areas, including education, professional training, job creation, gender-friendly policies and improving infrastructure and support systems. Most importantly, they must address deep-rooted attitudes and stereotypes about the role and status of women.

A major factor limiting women and girls in India from living a quality life and pursuing work outside the home is the pandemic of sexual violence in public spaces. In June 2018, an expert poll for the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that India is the most dangerous country for women worldwide, mostly due to the high risk of sexual violence. In order to fight this phenomenon, I co-founded the organisation Safecity in 2012. We bridge the data gap between under-reported statistics of sexual violence and the daily reality of sexual harassment that women face.

This year, my focus lies on how sexual violence and related gender issues must be considered during urban-planning processes, particularly given the Indian government’s Smart Cities programme, which aims to improve and modernise urban infrastructure. As is regrettably the norm in India, policy and decision-makers rarely consider the needs of women and girls, nor listen to their voices. Women are never part of the team, never invited to the table for discussions and rarely thought of when formulating policy. This is what I want to change.

Through a series of strategic events, I am doing my best to increase the gender consciousness of citizens and policy makers. Through the Global Diplomacy Lab, Eirliani Abdul Rahman and I hosted a session at Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum on 12 June 2018. Our aim was to provoke thought, discussion and debate around gender-focused urban planning and its intersection with security, safety, mobility and opportunity. We had about 20 people from different countries join our session, contributing diverse views on issues such as women’s safety in public spaces and transportation, women-only carriages, quotas for women on planning commissions and the usefulness of mobile phones as a source of security.

Later in June, my organisation hosted an Urban Thinkers Campus on Creating Resilience and Inclusion in a City for UN Habitat in Mumbai. Through panel discussions and innovation labs, we wanted participants – who comprised a diverse audience of citizens, government, businesses and NGOs – to think through the issues that affect women and girls disproportionately and limit their movements and opportunities, and to develop action plans that are hyper local and practical.

For example, many bystanders fail to intervene when they see women being harassed or do not feel equipped to stop it. One action plan is bystander intervention training. Confidence that your community has your back and will come to your aid can boost the morale of women and girls in accessing public spaces.

Infrastructure can also play a huge role in facilitating a safe and secure environment, sometimes through surprisingly simple means: street lighting, for instance, is known to strongly influence the perception of safety. Having adequate lighting can dramatically improve the feeling of being safe. Similarly, the broken windows theory of having well-maintained and clean infrastructure can be a positive factor. Another set of action plans may centre on creating effective support systems, like responsive helplines, sensitive police, fast-track judicial systems, safe shelter homes and gender-balanced policies. In combination, these can create an environment conducive for women to take more risks and push boundaries.

My most crucial message to urban planners, government leaders and the general public is this: everyone most help to make the world a more equitable place or we will never achieve the wealth and development projected by the McKinsey & Company report.

You can follow Elsa Marie D’Silva on Twitter (@elsamariedsilva).

Published on August 21, 2018.

About the author

Elsa Marie D’Silva is a social entrepreneur with interests in the fields of social and personal development, peace, aviation and mental health, and she is also the founder of the Red Dot Foundation (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. 

Further Articles

The Social Impact Travels of the Global Diplomacy Lab
GDL Member Imran Simmins explores how the GDL encompasses the message and essence of a book entitled “Crossing Boundaries: A Traveler’s Guide to World Peace”.
Dialogue with ‘opposite’ Actors: Business Sector
In the last posts and the ones to come, Gina addresses dialogue between civil society and stakeholders from other sectors. Today, Ginas describes her experience of the dialogue between the business sector and civil society in Latin America.
Water Diplomacy 4.0 - Hope is on the Horizon
GDL Members Kathryn Bryk Friedman and Elsa Marie D'Silva, joined by water expert Prof Irena Creed presented their vision on Water Diplomacy 4.0 - Process Matters at the Transatlantic Climate Bridge Conference hosted by adelphi.
Dialogues among different kinds of Actors: Religious Actors
In previous posts Gina has talked about processes of dialogue between civil society organisations (CSOs) and societal stakeholders, in the next few posts she will address dialogue between civil society and stakeholders from other sectors. Today, Ginas describes how to open up dialogue with the religious sector.
International Media for an Inclusive Diplomacy
GDL member Burak Ünveren shares his views on international broadcasters as potential conversation partners for a more inclusive diplomacy.
Responsible Leadership Starts With Me
GDL Member Amarachi Adannaya Igboegwu reflects on the SDG Global Festival of Action held in Bonn, Germany earlier this year. Read about what she learned when it comes to responsible leadership.

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder of Red Dot Foundation Global (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since Safecity started in December 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Nepal.

She is an advisor to Women 7 (W7) under the German Presidency and part of the working group on Ending Gender based Violence. The W7 is a group of civil society organizations who come together to promote proposals on gender equality and women’s rights to governments within the Group of 7 (G7). At the same time, Elsa is a D&AD Awards Jury member for Impact (2021, 2022) and Future Impact (2021) and an Impact Council member.

Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, Stanford CDDRL as well as the Swedish Institute Management Program. She is a fellow with Gratitude Network, International Women's Forum, Yale World, Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices , SE Forum, Vital Voices, Fast FWD Philadelphia, Chevening Gurukul at Oxford and a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at NED. Moreover, Elsa is a BMW Responsible Leader, Bosch fellow and is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. She has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

Prior to Safecity, she spent 20 years in the aviation industry, where she worked with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. In her last role in aviation, she was Vice President Network Planning.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Elsa's work at Safecity and see for yourself in this documentary. She also has a very clear vision for the Global Diplomacy Lab.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman

Eirliani is a student in the doctoral program in public health at Harvard University where she is a Prajna Leadership and Julio Frenk DrPH Fellow. She is a co-founder of YAKIN (Youth, Adult Survivors & Kin In Need), an NGO working in the field of child rights and child protection issues, a Chatham House Member
a Red Dot Foundation-Safecity Board Member and a member of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council.

In September 2015, the #FullStop to #childsexualabuse campaign that Eirliani led on behalf of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi reached 16 million people over six weeks. She won the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Award the same year.

She is an award-winning author. She was lead editor of "The Demographic Dividend and the Power of Youth. Voices from the Global Diplomacy Lab", a peer-reviewed compendium of essays on the demographic dividend (Anthem Press 2021). Eirliani also contributed a case study to the medical textbook Essentials of Global Health, co-edited by Babulal Sethia, Past President and Global Health Lead of the Royal Society of Medicine (Elsevier 2018). The book won first prize under the Public Health category in the 2019 British Medical Association book awards. She is co-author of "Survivors: Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse" (Marshall Cavendish 2017). Now in its third print run, the book won joint 2nd Prize at the inaugural Golden Doors Award in September 2020. She edited Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi's book "Will for Children" (Prabhat Prakashan 2016).

Eirliani worked in Singapore’s Foreign Service from 2005 to 2015, serving in Berlin as First Secretary (Political) and then in Delhi as Political Counsellor. From June 2015 to November 2017 she was a member of the Advisory Council of the Global Diplomacy Lab. She is a Fellow of the London-based Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

A graduate of the London School of Economics and Warwick University, Eirliani was a British Council Pathfinder scholar. She speaks English, Malay and German fluently, and has rudimentary understanding of Arabic, French, Hindi, Mandarin and Russian.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Eirliani in her latest blog article. You can also read her articles about her polar expedition and about human trafficking and learn more about her workactivism and contribution to the Gender Alliance.

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder of Red Dot Foundation Global (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since Safecity started in December 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Nepal.

She is an advisor to Women 7 (W7) under the German Presidency and part of the working group on Ending Gender based Violence. The W7 is a group of civil society organizations who come together to promote proposals on gender equality and women’s rights to governments within the Group of 7 (G7). At the same time, Elsa is a D&AD Awards Jury member for Impact (2021, 2022) and Future Impact (2021) and an Impact Council member.

Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, Stanford CDDRL as well as the Swedish Institute Management Program. She is a fellow with Gratitude Network, International Women's Forum, Yale World, Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices , SE Forum, Vital Voices, Fast FWD Philadelphia, Chevening Gurukul at Oxford and a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at NED. Moreover, Elsa is a BMW Responsible Leader, Bosch fellow and is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. She has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

Prior to Safecity, she spent 20 years in the aviation industry, where she worked with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. In her last role in aviation, she was Vice President Network Planning.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Elsa's work at Safecity and see for yourself in this documentary. She also has a very clear vision for the Global Diplomacy Lab.

Cookie Policy
This website uses cookies to help us customise your experience and to provide optimal functionality. To learn more about cookies and their benefit and how you can control them, please view our cookie policy. By closing this message, you agree to the use of cookies.