Violence – within and outside the home – is an ever-present threat and an everyday reality for many women and girls across India. While domestic violence has been a topic of public discourse and research, addressing sexual violence faced by women and girls in public spaces has not been equally highlighted. In the past decade, safety of public spaces in cities has gained attention, but the issue remains unacknowledged in rural areas. And, although governance structures at the local level have been constitutionally mandated to undertake equitable development and address gender issues, these structures have largely neglected this mandate.
To address these issues, and pilot a model of rural public space safety, the kNOw Fear program mobilized women’s citizenship and youth participation to engage local governance structures (the gram panchayat) in responding to violence faced by women and girls in public spaces. The intervention used the following interlinked but distinct strategies to meet its objectives: empowering women’s collectives; engaging gram panchayats; and enabling young people to advocate for public safety. It was implemented in select villages of Dasada block, Surendranagar district, Gujarat, India over a period of 24 months – from April 2017 to March 2019.
The program had a positive effect on women’s gender equitable attitudes, feeling of safety while traveling in private buses, and increased knowledge of specific laws in relation to public safety. A significant increase was noted in women’s knowledge on functions of the gram panchayats and local decision-making structures.
Read the research brief here. Read the full report below.