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Safecity – A crowdmap for sexual violence

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What is the purpose of your Lab/Collective? Your shared longer-term goal?
Red Dot Foundation works at the intersection of gender, data and tech, urban design and community engagement. Its flagship program is Safecity, a platform that crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public and private spaces. This data which maybe anonymous, gets aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. The idea is to make this data useful for individuals, local communities and local administration to identify factors that causes behaviour that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions. Our Mission: Red Dot Foundation aims to make cities safer by encouraging equal access to public and private spaces for everyone especially women, through the use of crowdsourced data, community engagement and institutional accountability. Our main objective is to: Create awareness on sexual harassment and abuse and get women and other disadvantaged communities to break their silence and report their personal experiences. Collate this information to showcase location based trends and make this information available and useful for individuals, communities and local administration to solve the problem at the hyper-local level.
What challenges are you addressing in your Lab/Collective?
Sexual violence is a global pandemic impacting one in three women according to UN Women. In India, the National Crime Research Bureau statistics indicate that a rape occurs every 18 minutes. Yet according to the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey, 99% of these cases go unreported. Our own study of the Safecity data on women’s experiences in buses indicate in over 50% of the cases, women stayed silent or fled the scene. Whilst in another study using Safecity data, Girija Borkar analysed that women are willing to spend an additional INR 18,800 (USD 290) per year, relative to men, for a route that is one SD safer – an amount equal to double the average annual college tuition. She further stated that these findings have implications for other economic decisions made by women and might explain the puzzle of low female labor force participation in India. Most women and girls do not talk about this abuse for a multiple of reasons - fear of society, culture, victim blaming, fear of police, tedious formal procedures etc. As a result women keep silent and this data is not captured anywhere but the perpetrator gets bolder over time and we accept it as part of our daily routine. This leads to under communication and under reporting of the issue. If there are poor official statistics, the problem is not visible and is not a true representation of the actual problem. Therefore we need to break our silence and document every instance of harassment and abuse in public spaces so that we can find the most effective solutions at the neighbourhood level. Safecity is bridging the data gap that exists and making the invisible visible.
Do you have a Lab/Collective core group?
We are registered as a Sec 8 Not For Profit company in India as Red Dot Foundation and in the USA as Red Dot Foundation Global a 501(c)3 organisation. It is a United Nations ECOSOC accredited non-profit. A total of 10 team members and at least 50 volunteers spread across several cities in India.
How do you enact your Lab/Collective’s processes?
We are creating a new data set which currently does not exist. Perception of the police's insensitivity as well as cultural backlash deters people from reporting. They feel more comfortable using our platform and this is seen by reports from over 20 years ago.
By representing the information thus collected on a map as hotspots, we are moving the focus away from the "victim" to the location and people can view the issue with a different lens. Today we make choices for pretty much everything based on reviews - books, movies, restaurants, hotels but we have nothing for personal safety. Crowdmap - Sharing of stories anonymously, aggregation of trends, notifications and alerts and offering solidarity through the comments section allows people to understand the "safety" landscape of an area and make the most informed decision for themselves. e.g. They can decide on time of visit, method of transport to use, if they need to be accompanied by someone or even what clothes to wear. Our anonymous dataset has been used by police, researchers and communities to understand the nuances of sexual violence better, improve situational awareness and implement better policies.
How do you collect the new generated knowledge?
The Safecity Platform is available on web and in Android and iOS in several languages - English and Hindi. We also have a Missed call for those with no internet access in India. They can give a missed call +91 9015 510 510 and our team calls them back for their story.
Do you have a group of people who practice and develop knowledge together?
We partner with local grassroots organisations or civil society to run community based campaigns. Thus far we have facilitated campaigns in over 25 neighbourhoods in India and Kenya.