Socially Smart Bhubaneswar : Safety, security suggestions for girls and women in institutions and workplaces

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Bhubaneswar: A state-level workshop on Safety of Girls and Women was organized today jointly by Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited (BSCL) in collaboration with UNFPA as part of Socially Smart Bhubaneswar initiative. Representatives from BMC, BSCL, Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA), UNFPA India, State Commission for Women, District Child Protection Office, NGOs, Child Fund India, higher education institutes along with students and Pragati Sathi peer leaders from various slums in the city participated in the this day long workshop. The workshop is part of observation of ‘Fortnight against gender based violence’, wherein the city has planned a series of activities including poster designing competitions, street plays and consultation programs.

After the workshop the recommendations included safety and security issues during transport by school vehicles, compulsory ID card for parents, boundary walls with security guards, clean and separate toilets for boys and girls, overloaded and overcrowded auto’s in which students come to school, adequate orientation and screening of drivers, peons, attendants etc.

Similarly, for residential schools the suggestions included sanitation and hygiene, counseling of wardens to be friendly and approachable, medical vigilance, helpline number and orientation of students on child and sexual abuse and their rights.

In case of public places, self defence training for girls, separate and sufficient number of public toilets, adequate lighting, active CCTV installation and proper and regular monitoring, privacy space like rest room for lactating mothers, basic facilities like drinking water/ first aid/ dustbin and awareness and IEC posters to share information about various issues and schemes featured in the suggestions. In case of workplaces proper transportation facility and formation of sexual harassment committee featured in the suggestions’ list.

Speaking on the occasion State Women Commission Member Sasmita Nanda elaborated on the legal provisions available for women facing gender based violence and stressed on the need for creating awareness among vulnerable groups on what constitutes violence against women. She also stressed on the need for efforts to change mindset of people towards safety of girls and women.

Elucidating the activities undertaken in different slums under Bhubaneswar Town Centre District as part of Socially Smart Bhubaneswar Initiative, Dr. Deepa Prasad, State Programme Coordinator, UNFPA stressed on augmentation of such efforts in order to provide a safe and progressive space to girls and women residing in the slums. In her address she highlighted the efforts made towards improving safety of girls in the slums, connecting them to skilling programs and how the 30 slum girls as ‘Pragati Sathi’ peer leaders helped in bringing change in their respective communities.

Addressing the gathering, Vanishree Pattnaik, District Child Protection Officer, Bhubaneswar threw light on increasing instances of children getting involved in criminal activities and attributed dropping out from school as one of the reason for the same. She reinforced her point with the fact that 612 children have been booked under Juvenile Justice Act since 2012.

Vishakha Bhanja, Regional Director, Water Aid in her address highlighted various issues concerning safety and security of girls and women at schools, higher education institutes, public places and work locations. Putting forward her views, Nirmala A, National Head, Child Fund India suggested increased involvement of children in curbing school drop outs and adopt the concept of child advocacy agents to effectively bring change in the trend.

Deepanjali Sahoo, a pragati sathi peer leader from Press Colony Jagannath Basti shared her experience at the workshop. While expressing that safety of girls is a bigger issue in the slums as well as educational institutions due to eve teasing instances, the intermediate student from Maharishi college in the city said that she would now create awareness among her friends on the issue.

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