Women Safety (IN)

Team

Yashvanth Mohan Kondi
Daksh Varshneya
Marissa Memelink m.l.memelink@gmail.com
Bauke Bakker baukebakker@me.com

Commissioner:

Description

Blog #3 Recipe for curry

It has been one month now, more or less, since we’ve been here. In these last three to four weeks we have been breaking our brains over what we are researching. What exactly do we want to work on? How do we define these aspects and, how can we formulate our research question? Also, we had online meetings with team Amsterdam to see how they are progressing and Sruthi gave us a nice introductory lecture on India and its society. We will start off with the progress of our research question.

We were aware of the complexity of our problem, sort of. I like to compare it to taking a spoon of curry and we have to distinguish between flavors. The first thing we did to find the research question was blowing up the sentence ‘women‘s safety in public space‘. We took the spoon of curry apart and checked which spices we could see. What do we define as women and what kind of women are there? What is the definition of safety, for whom and why? What kind of spaces are there, which ones are problematic and what can we use from this? We can tell you now, these questions are more difficult than meets the eye, especially in a country like India… So many spices!

We found out that the subject we are working on has many variables. If separated, flavors might taste different than combined. The taste palette, or the width of our problem is extremely complex and intertwined. Reading in on the Indian culture doesn not go overnight, it takes a lot of work and good guidance. Maybe we can start by saying that we are not going to solve this problem on our own? Either way, all the work that we do for the sake of this subject is a step in the good direction and that feels great.

posters

After we figured out how broad each of our aspects were, how wide the spectra are, we started to think about what interests us the most. From this soul seeking on our interest came three main approaches to this subject. Short term: a project or product that can be realized within a short span of time. Long term: the longer term goals that the short term project feeds in. Unifying project: looking at the already existing projects and find ways to connect and unify them. The reason for these three aspects is as follows.

The problem we are facing is incredibly broad and deeply rooted. It does not stop simply at looking at busses or city-squares. The problem is deeply rooted in society and in the attitude of the citizens. It has been around for so long that we figured out that one single action wouldn’t make a big change. With a relatively small action we wouldn’t get to the core of the problem, thus a long term project is required. To really do this, we would have to research the norms and values of the society in general. How do people see each other and in what way do people respect each other? Why do they do what they do, in what ways? Only by doing this we could figure out where we should seek the ‘solution’. Although this seems like a very nice plan it is a little ambitious. Not only because the half of our team is non-Indian and knows little about the culture and traditions, but also because of the many variables at work. Last but not least, there is our limited timeframe in which we have to do something.

Short termed action seems to be a feasible goal within the time we have here. This is something we can finish. Ideally, the short term action feeds into a greater long term goal. How we are realizing this is not yet clear to us yet.

Then we have the unifying part. This part comes from the idea that there are already many initiatives in this field. There are already many projects about safety, or more specific, on women’s safety. Not only in India but also elsewhere in the world. All these projects would, first of all, be useful for us to study and see how they handle different situations and how we can get inspired by their visions and ideas. Next to this ‘fundamental’ research, we are looking for ways to interconnect these different initiatives to join forces and become stronger as unity. The main focus though, lays on the short term direct action. Different roles within our frame are: victims, bystanders, perpetrators, institutions, institution-representatives and media.

Designbrief

 

Our calls with the MediaLAB Amsterdam gave us a good insight in how our situation differs from the current situation in Amsterdam. Although we started off with the same ‘question’ or problem set, we immediately saw that team Amsterdam is going in another direction than we are. Amsterdam is relatively safe. The focus of their project, as for now, is more in the perceiving of safety. As for us, it is a combination of subjective safety (if you feel save) and objective safety (if it is safe).

One overlapping aspect we found out is that different groups of people perceive safety in different ways. Lets say that a student, born and raised in Amsterdam, feels relatively safe on the streets of Amsterdam. He or she knows where to go or where not to go. A tourist in Amsterdam might get another feeling; in a new city where you know nothing about anything that is going on there, you might feel less safe. In our case we didn’t focus much on the divide of locals or tourists, more on the social status and cultural hierarchy. How do people from low caste and low class perceive safety compared to high caste and high class?

co-call

In this blogpost we can’t provide you with a definite research question yet, unfortunately. The field of research is still too broad for us to be focussing already on something particular. For that, we can provide you with a focus of the research we are working on right now. How can we make a product/service to get the bystanders to be more alert or assertive? How can we influence the attitude of the Indian society to be more respectful towards women (in the long term)? How can we combine the work that is already been done to make a powerful unit?

Any suggestion about concepts, existing projects or insight on this matter are more than welcome. In the meantime, we’ll keep busy!

 

 

First day in the city: who watches whom?

On the second day of our stay in India, August 27th, our brand new colleagues took us out to Bangalore’s city heart. Their goal was to introduce us the different sites of the city and, especially, the inherent changing ambience of those sites at other times of the day. But apart from that, questions with a more fundamental background were the incentive of this day’s site seeing.

In this first blog we will therefore report our personal experience of the city as a non-Asian visitor, but also address the local’s response on our presence as white foreigners in their native environment.

Starting around 11am, the City Market gave us a relatively quiet first impression of the city. The market appeared to us as a place of the people, where the authentic locals meet one another. No ‘white’ or ‘western’ person was around, which made us very explicitly the odd ones out. But despite our awareness of our odd appearance within the crowd, we didn’t notice the gaze of people around us. Captured by all the colourful scenes at the Market, we had no eye for the ones that did had eye for us.

But on our way to another site of the city, our private city guides expressed their astonishment on the staring of the crowd. It appeared that this gazing didn’t occur in the extreme fashion as they expected it to happen in advance. On the contrary, they were pleasantly surprised by their kindness and had never witnessed the friendly gesture of vendors giving away freebees as a welcoming sign to their city.

 

Stip

 

 

Using public transport introduced us to more busy places of the city at that time of day. We took the bus from Shivaji Bus Depot, an already more crowded and chaotic environment. The vehicle itself was pretty packed, though more passengers kept entering the bus at every stop. Nevertheless, it was something else that struck us more.

In the bus, all the women were sitting in the front, all the men on the back. A strict division that, at first, seemed just a funny coincidence, but soon got a more serious tone when we noticed every new passenger obeying this code. This way, the public transport trip confronted us as Dutchies with the division between men and women for the first time. Separation in sex, division in restrooms apart from this, and the differences in the constructed gender roles never occurred to us that much, certainly not in The Netherlands but until then neither in India. And however there was barely time to think about this phenomenon with all the bustle around us, questions started to pop up in our heads. Why is this division necessary? And why is this habit absent in our culture? Unconsciously it triggered our attention.

Though, during the rest of the day, it was the cautiousness and caretaking of our personal guides that caught our eye: continuously checking if we were still following, if that homeless man wasn’t bothering us and if we had our backpacks safely closed. The whole day they looked after us and made sure that we were feeling comfortable and safe on the streets and in public spaces. By the end of the day we have had a fantastic city tour and a marvellous first impression of the city without any bad experience of people responding inappropriate to our presence. Unfortunately, our guides were exhausted and their obvious relief with ending the day without any trouble couldn’t be unseen. A remarkable sign, that suddenly shed another light on the question of how the Indian locals respond on our presence as white foreigners in their native environment.

Familiar with all the current circulating worrisome stories questioning the safety of India’s public environments, we didn’t expect a pleasant first impression. However, though it became clear that our presumptions were proved utterly wrong by our true experience, who would have thought that this preconception would be shared by our own caretaking colleagues? Who would have thought that the ones being most surprised by all Bangalore’s kindness would be our private, Indian city guides?

See the response of our city guide here.

MediaLAB in Bangalore

On the 26th of August we, Marissa and Bauke, left for Bangalore, India. We are former students of the MediaLAB Amsterdam. Last year we were working on the ‘Sound.it.is.’ project and the ‘LightChallenge’ project. In the end of the last semester, MediaLAB Amsterdam gave us a wonderful opportunity to work on a project in India, as an internship. This would be a mirrored project with the MediaLAB Amsterdam; the Amsterdam based team will be working on the same topic as us. We took our chances and without a doubt started packing our bags!

Here in Bangalore, or Bengaluru, India’s Silicon Valley, in the southern part of India, we are working on a project about women’s safety in public space. We are part of the research society Fields of View, located at the campus of IIIT-B. Our team in particular is 5 headed: Yashvanth, Daksh, Vikram, Marissa and Bauke, passionately coached by Sruthi. This blog will also be mirrored with the blog of Fields of View.

We have been here now for 3 weeks exact, already entering our fourth. We’ve been doing a lot and met many interesting people. Here is a short introduction-video we made last week. Enjoy, more posts are coming and we’ll keep you updated!