Friday, November 18, 2011

Gender Perspective on Urban Development and Planning

The Indian constitution guarantees equal rights to women. In addition, India is a signatory to the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (
CEDAW) thus underlining its commitment to the elimination of Discrimination against women. But it cannot be denied that gender inequality exists and in varying forms. In the urban space, women constitute a diverse group but with specific gender interests which are because of some common sets of roles and responsibilities. Cities in general have more number of women headed households, single women living by themselves, working women with travel needs, etc. In addition, urban life poses greater risks with regard to safety and security of women. According to a women’s safety audit study undertaken by UNHABITAT in 2007, feelings of insecurity and fear of crime and violence are highest in large cities.  The report says that though urban design and planning do not generate violence but they do create and environment that offers greater or lesser opportunities for violence. Thus, by virtue of bad design, isolation, inadequate and poor maintenance, women can be at more risk and insecure in public spaces. Thus any kind of urban development planning must address the needs of these diverse groups. In addition, the empowerment of women is imperative in addressing issues like poverty.

It is assumed that urban development is gender neutral and provides equal access to men and women. Infrastructure planning in India has been the forte of men. Women are generally under represented in the fields of governance and planning process. One of the main reasons is the absence of active involvement of women in the political sphere and local governments. Even this can be traced to the lack of freedom of women to move about safely and without violence (Bealle, 1996). Thus women have little say in the distribution of city resources and to make them work to their advantage. The various services and infrastructure projects that seem to respond to varied requirements for men and women have different impacts on them. For example roads that are designed without taking in to account the safety needs of women (without streetlights) increases crime against women and are not ‘gender neutral’. It is important to provide gender specific interventions which are implemented and monitored in order to benefit women. For example, if public transport is designed with a view to addressing the special requirements of women, then access points and schedules will ensure that women utilize the service well. Unequal access to education, health care, housing, etc. not only serves to dis-empower women and weaken their voices in planning, but it also impacts urban growth. (Khosla,2009).

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Random Ramblings

Sometimes there is this inherent feeling of loneliness, even while you seem to be totally engaged with the people around you. The sort of a hollowness. In spite of this, we smile, cheer, hug and talk and do all things that are expected of us by our acquaintances, friends, family etc. But deep within is that sense of disenchantment and shock with the way we are able to wear these different masks as and when required. Is it necessary this facade? This which makes us be what we are not.

All around me I see this superficial display of affections, fake words and overwhelming intolerance and nonacceptance of a human being as a human being. This also results in mutual distrust and suspicion. People talk about values, feelings, absolute right and wrong... forgetting that these are subjective and cannot be standardised for all. As a human being, I have my strengths and weaknesses, flaws,my own values and principles. I am similar to all but at the same time am unique. You may not respond to something the same way as I do. Thus, equal and same inputs for all more often than not, doesn't lead to equal and similar output from all.One would assume that the kind of institution that I am in right now, there would be individuals who would be mature enough to agree to disagree, wise enough not to interfere, and tolerant. But I understand now, that people do not change, that basic traits remain the same, whichever the institution, state or city... the majority rules, even if it may be wrong, promoting mediocrity, penalising the performers, etc etc. The pains people go through to make themselves look, sound and feel the way they are 'supposed' to while all the while their actions unwittingly show that they are not what they want you to think they are!! Confusing ain't it... but life is not simple. I am still unable to understand the motivations behind many actions and words of people... But surely, sharing it with you through this blog has definitely made my mind more peaceful.