Business Today

Bedrock of Safety

The 'Nirbhaya' incident was the trigger that made D'Silva take up women's issues.
P. B. Jayakumar   New Delhi     Print Edition: October 8, 2017
Bedrock of Safety
ELSA MARIE D’SILVA Co-founder, Red Dot Foundation (Photo: Milind Shelte)

How safe is a city street or an eatery or a pub or any other public place for women out on their own? Sexual bullying and harassment on the streets or in other public spaces have grown alarmingly but now the issue can be tackled more effectively, going by what Elsa Marie D'Silva, Founder and Chief Executive of Red Dot Foundation, is doing.

D'Silva gave up a lucrative career in the aviation industry when she started Red Dot in December 2012. Soon the foundation came up with SafeCity - an Internet platform that crowdsources reports of harassment and assault in public places, aggregates the data and creates local maps that highlight the hot spots of gender-based violence. The data and the maps enable individuals, communities and local administration to identify the factors that trigger such violence and work on solutions. SafeCity has gathered over 10,000 such incidents from more than 50 cities in India, Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal.

D'Silva was attending a Swedish management programme on women's issues when the infamous Nirbhaya incident took place in Delhi where a young woman was gang-raped in a bus and later died. 'Nirbhaya' was the key trigger that made her take up women's issues.

Her organisation started with a Rs 10 lakh grant from Tata Trusts. Last year it spent  Rs 35 lakh and the budget this year is `50 lakh.

SafeCity is also educating people on street violence against women and conducting awareness programmes on laws and safety options. It has a team of 500-plus volunteers to carry out these initiatives and partners with corporate houses for creating awareness.

"So far, we have reached out to four lakh people, held 8,000 workshops and created an e-learning module," says D'Silva. The organisation is now expanding globally, going to Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago. That is quite significant as women across the globe are coming forward to reclaim their right to live without violation and violence.

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