Pin down the culprit

Pin down the culprit

Saloni Malhotra, one of the founders of Safecity.in, talks about the website’s plans to track reports of harassment and abuse of women across the country

POORNIMA KAVLEKAR

Saloni Malhotra (founder of DesiCrew), Surya Bansal (who works for a consultancy firm) and ElsaMarie D’Silva (aviation professional) met in 2012 at a management programme organised by the Swedish Institute. The three women were inspired to take up projects on women empowerment and mentoring and along with Aditya Kapoor, a technology enthusiast and entrepreneur, they started their first project; Safecity.in. The website tracks reports of harassment and abuse of women.

Based on an international model called Harassmap in Egypt, this website was launched on 25th December 2012 in response to the brutal rape and assault that took place in New Delhi. The website encourages citizens to actively be the eyes and ears of society by reporting all incidents of abuse and harassment. Within the first 23 days of operations, the site had 12,000 unique visitors, 42,000 page views, and 113 pins from all over India. It has visitors from 57 countries and volunteers from Brazil and Pakistan who want to replicate this initiative in their countries.  It also has volunteers from all parts of the country who help with its skill sets like legal work, website design, marketing materials, social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter and so on.

Saloni Malhotra talks to The Smart CEO on how Safecity.in works and what it aims to achieve.

How does Safecity.in work? 

Safecity.in is an online platform created to map areas of sexual abuse like comments, physical abuse and rape. One just needs to fill a simple form about the location where the abuse occurred and the category of abuse (it can be filled anonymously as well). This gets plotted on a map and in time will create “hotspots” or unsafe areas of a city.

As the number of pins grow, this converts into a hotspot. The larger the number of pins, the more prominent the hotspot is. This information can be used by individuals to check potential safe and unsafe areas, by the law enforcement agencies to increase security measures in unsafe areas and by local businesses in the hotspots to be more aware and help change the situation.

We have seen that many a time, people want to talk about what happened but are too ashamed to do so. Our informal, anonymous reporting system helps overcome this.

Anonymous and informal reporting is critical as the knowledge of the instance is more important than the name of the person. Also, the reality is that there is shame associated with some of this and anonymity allows the person to at least come forward and report and make others aware. If the person feels the need to make a formal report, their name and identity would be registered as per the procedure of law.  We are more interested in tracking the trends that emerge to change the mindset.

How do you plan to increase awareness about your website across the country? 

Several plans are underway which include partnerships with NGOs, youth organisations, schools, colleges and corporates amongst others. Social media and traditional media will play a very important role as well.

Do you plan to convert the reports on your website into actionables? 

Safecity.in is an informal reporting system and the reports are valuable in several ways. To begin with, reporting is poor in India and that is the first step that needs to be fixed. According to the Government of India there is a rape committed every 20 minutes and not all rapes are reported. Can we begin to imagine the statistic on the harassment? But, not all harassment can be reported formally due to several reasons. Hence, we need an informal reporting system to aggregate the data and look at the statistical trends, dig deeper and then begin solving this problem.

We have also seen that many a time people want to talk about what happened but are too ashamed to talk about it. In an informal and anonymous reporting system this can be overcome. It has a therapeutic value as it helps people find a release after what has taken place.

We are working with the police in some states to see how these reports can be made actionable. Also, sometimes it may be more important to work with departments such as transport and the municipal corporation amongst others to improve the situation. For example, if there are more instances due to poor lighting issues in an area then the police can do little.

The purpose of ‘Safecity Sundays’ (“feet on the ground” campaign where we will meet with like-minded individuals and use data reported on the site to make our cities safer) is to ensure that local chapters are created to solve local problems.

Are you planning to increase your offerings in any other way? 

We are in the process of introducing new features on the website, building an extensive knowledge section and commencing an offline programme through Safecity Sunday in addition to integrating with the police amongst several other initiatives that make Safecity.in a destination on safety in  India.


THE PLATFORM CURRENTLY TAKES INFORMATION THROUGH

An online form

(http://safecity.in) 

Facebook posts

(www.facebook.com/safecity.in) 

Twitter

(@pinthecreep, #safecity or #pinthecreep) 

Email

(info@safecity.in)