If you are a woman and live in Kochi, have you ever felt safe in the city? Obviously, the question may not evoke a positive response with several incidents of harassment against women reported in the past few months. In the wake of Kochi Corporation budget presentation on Monday, ‘City Express’ asked various concerned individuals on what the civic body could do to boost the welfare of women in the city.
Three requirements were common in the wish lists made - a night shelter for women, adequate toilet facilities at least at the city centres and a proactive response of the local body in the cases of harassment against women.
“Women in the city, especially those from the migrant labourer community, feel increasingly threatened during the night. The Corporation can construct common night shelters and provide them adequate security,” said Nirmala Padmanabhan, professor of Economics at St Teresa’s College and a leading academic of gender responsive budgeting. Such measures are needed as local bodies of governance across the globe are increasingly waking up to the progressive face of gender responsive budgeting, she says.
“Gender responsive budgeting, hardly done in any civic body here, should include allocation of funds for women-centric schemes and also monitor the gender impact of other projects implemented in the city. The dividends will be huge,” she said.
Nirmala added that the Corporation should assess how many women have benefited from the subsidies provided in the health and education sector that are directly governed by the civic body.
LDF Councillor Mumtaz, the Corporation committee chairperson for the Welfare of Women and Children (Janakiyasoothranam) was of the opinion that the authorities should be more proactive in taking action in ensuring women’s safety. Last year, there were cases of women passengers being harassed by bus workers in broad daylight, a woman traffic cop being abused and so on but the civic body was always the last to react. She also said that Kochi was growing in leaps and bounds and it is up to the authorities to ensure essential public utility services. Mumtaz also said that the Corporation can augment implementation of social welfare schemes. “Under the ‘Janakiyasoothranam’ scheme we provide loans on low interest for women to open various kinds of kiosks. Those with disability and widows are given priority in the scheme. The civic body can replicate the scheme in a larger way by bringing into the spectrum a greater section of the population and more funds,” she said.
Napkin vending machines , breastfeeding rooms and other needs of women are areas where the budget seldom gives the required thrust, she said.
“The Corporation had set up e-toilets at various points but due to lack of maintenance they have become unusable,” she said.
At least, she added taking a dig at the civic body, the toilets in the main office of the Corporation should be maintained properly.
Meera Bhai, Director, Women’s Study Centre, Cusat, came up with another novel idea.
“Constitute awards to encourage women’s safety. Consider both individuals and NGOs for the award after analysing the merit of their work,” she said. Self-employment opportunities, more publicity to innovative steps like She-Taxi-a taxi owned, manned and catering exclusively for women commuters- should also top the list of priorities in the budget, she said.