What is Agenda 2030: Women of Chandigarh all about?
The idea is to develop Chandigarh as a Smart City that includes women’s perspectives in the process. This agenda is in line with the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. By 2030, we want to make Chandigarh a city that has been planned, keeping in mind, the needs and demands of all the diverse sections of the society, most importantly women. This year, the International Women’s Day’s theme was to attain parity for women across the world and we have to start from somewhere. We want to develop Chandigarh as a city that offers women the same rights, freedom and choices as men. Through this agenda, the idea is to create a city that is gender sensitive and believes in empowerment of women and men alike.
So how can Chandigarh be made a Smart City for men and women alike?
There are two aspects to making Chandigarh a city that caters to the needs of its women residents. We need to go back to the basics and think what does a Smart City mean to its women citizens and what does it mean for them. There are several key areas that need to be focused on. However, it is important that women are made a part of this consultation process. If only women citizens are involved in the planning, we will be able to realise these goals that we have set up to make Chandigarh a Smart City for women.
When it comes to creating a Smart City for women, what are the key areas that need to be focused on?
To begin with, safety is a concern. We need to create safe public spaces for the women in the city. Though Chandigarh is safer than a lot other cities in India, it is still not safe enough. At present, the rural and urban spaces in the city are not safe for women. Sexual harassment in urban areas is rampant and we need to relook at the kinds of environment women from rural areas are made to grow up in. Couple that with the drug peddling activities and we have a bigger problem to solve. Even the public transport system needs to be improvised so that women can travel in buses without fear. We need to create a city that has zero tolerance against violence against women. Public toilets for women also need to be created, women need to be given equal wages and we need to ensure an increased representation of women in all governing bodies in the UT at the micro and macro levels.
How can women be more involved in the planning process to develop Chandigarh as a Smart City?
Women need to be involved in the consultation process. Only then we will be able to create a city that caters to their needs. At present, there are ward committees in each ward. But there are still so many wards where women do not form a part of these committees. How can we aspire for parity if both men and women are not made a part of the consultation process alike?
How can we work towards achieving these goals for Chandigarh?
Women’s voices should be taken into account when the planning for Smart City is ongoing. Even when we talk about redevelopment of the city in terms of its urban and rural core infrastructure, women need to be involved in the consultation and planning. That said, we are currently working on preparing a Charter of Women Citizens of Chandigarh, which will list out the key challenges in creating a Smart Chandigarh. In the charter, solutions to the said problems will also be enlisted. At present, we are in the process of gathering more public opinion. Once we create a final draft, it will be submitted to the Chandigarh administration.
Another thing is, in the past there have been many charters that have been presented keeping in mind the demands and needs of the women citizens. However, none of these have actually materialised – something that the administration needs to pay attention to. For instance, the idea of creating a Mahila Bhawan was put forward a few years ago in order to create a hub for women to engage in constructive activities together. Land was sanctioned and the Mahila Bhawan’s building has also been constructed in Sector 38. But there are still issues that need to be resolved before the Bhawan actually becomes functional. So far, the purpose of having created the Bhawan remains defeated. We need the administration to be more proactive in realising plans that are conceptualised.
What are the major ideas that will be put forward in this charter?
The police machinery and the general public need to be sensitised on issues like women safety and how to deal with issues where women’s rights are being violated. We need to have a police force that works for its citizens around the clock and is sensitive to the needs of men and women alike.
A lot of places in the city where there are slum dwellings, there needs to be an increased focus on creating infrastructure keeping the safety of women in mind. Even at places like PGs and hostels where women coming from other cities stay, there needs to be a mechanism to ensure their safety and well-being. For city planning and redevelopment, smart ideas need to be incorporated keeping all these concerns in mind and by having equal participation from women of the city. A smart city is one with smart people with a human face and that is exactly what we need to work towards.