UN campaign to protect Delhi women from violence

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem) Monday launched a programme here with the aim of checking violence against women and adolescent girls in public space. Delhi is one of the five cities across the world selected for the ‘Safe Cities’ programme.

The other four cities where the programme, ‘Global Safe Cities Free of Violence Against Women and Girls’, will be launched are Quito in Ecuador, Cairo in Egypt, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and Kigali in Rwanda.As per the model, each city will adopt different and new strategies to check cases of violence against women and young girls.

Unifem executive director Ines Alberdi said: ‘Everyday women and adolescent girls face sexual harassment and violence as they go about their daily routines – whether on the streets, in buses and trains, or in their own neighbourhoods.”This limits their freedom and rights to education, work, recreation and participation in political life. Violence against women in their private domain, in their homes is recognised as a violation of human rights. But violence in public space remains a neglected issue,’ she added.

According to Alberdi, the programme has got the support of local authorities, NGOs and agencies involved in ending gender based violence, community safety, urban planning and development in all the target cities. It will especially focus on the slum areas and poorest urban dwellers.

‘Collecting reliable data will be an important part of the Safe Cities programme, because the lack of data on the cases of violence against women in public space hides the problems and hampers the solution process,’ she said.

Implementation of the programme will see training of urban planners, grassroots NGO workers and police, special audits to identify the unsafe places, mass media campaigns for zero tolerance for violence against women and activities to engage local communities, including men.

The Safe Cities programme has been inspired by a similar Unifem initiative in Latin America in 2004. This model will be offered for adaptation to other cities across the world.According to global statistics compiled by Unifem, violence accounts for at least 25-30 percent of urban crime and women are twice as likely to be victims of violent aggression as men.

In 2010, as many as 82 percent of women in Delhi reported buses were the most unsafe public spaces in the city.A survey conducted in the capital said women found street sides unsafe followed by markets and parks. Alcoholism among men in slums and the fringe areas of the city contributed to the problem.

Less than 1 percent victims of sexual abuse filed official cases, though an increasing number reported gender abuse either at home or to spouses in the capital.The Unifem campaign will be executed at the micro-level in the capital by an NGO, Jagori.’In the next stage, it will move to panchayats in villages to empower women to counter gender crimes,’ said Anne F. Stenhammer, regional programme director of Unifem.

Unicef’s online campaign to demand education for kids

Unicef on Tuesday launched an online campaign to mobilise the Indian society to speak up for illiterate children and to spread awareness that one can demand elementary education under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

The campaign, called ‘Awaaz Do’ or ‘Speak Up’, aims to have at least 500,000 people sign up by Jan 24, which is observed as the Girl Child Day.

‘India is home to a growing urban population that can be mobilised into demanding that the goals set forth in the RTE become reality,’ United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) India Representative Karin Hulshof said in a statement.

‘We must continue the momentum to achieve this objective and the middle class can help raise their voices to keep the RTE firmly in the national spotlight,’ she added.

According to Unicef, an estimated eight million children between six and 14 years were out of school in India in 2009. The RTE Act, which came into effect April 1, promises free and compulsory education to children in that age group.

The online campaign will use technology and social networking amply, allowing people to get actively involved and demand the rights for marginalised children.

‘Those who sign up serve as champions for the cause and help build awareness through social media forums, including e-mail, Facebook, SMS and a photography contest,’ Hulshof said.

Bollywood actress and Unicef ambassador Priyanka Chopra and Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal have signed up for the campaign that is in association with the Indian government.

‘Creative and sustained initiatives are crucial to train more than one million new and untrained teachers within the next three to five years and reinforce the skills of in-service teachers to ensure child-friendly education,’ the Unicef statement said.