What are the issues that the women of Chennai believe must be urgently dealt with by our elected representatives? Twelve women – most of them community workers – drew up a charter of rights recently, which they will be presenting to candidates during the local body elections that are pending.
A meeting titled ‘Namathu Nagaram Namathu Urimai’ (Our city, our right), was organised by Prajnya, a Chennai-based NGO working in the domain of women’s rights. The women who attended the meeting had conducted safety and sanitation audits in Velachery, Royapettah and Triplicane. One round of complete inspection and audits take around eight months to complete, after which the issues concerning that locality will be listed.
The participants were community workers from six NGOs in and around Chennai – Centre for Women’s Development and Research; Forum for Women’s Rights and Development; Penn Thozhilalar Sangam; Positive Women’s Network; Roshni; Working Women’s Forum.
And the women – voters – have raised a call for a cleaner and a safer city from their local area representatives. Effective waste management, assured supply of clean water, installing CCTV cameras on roads and women helplines that work are some of the demands put forth by them.
The aim of the meeting was to list out the aspects concerning the city’s civic health that can be asserted as a right by the people living in that community.
Speaking to TNM, Sudaroli, the Programme Officer in Prajnya, said that the aim of such a meeting was to share ideas and concerns of women across the city to draw up a list of must-do’s for the local political representative.
The most pressing issues that concerned the women in Chennai was lack of cleanliness and safety in the city. Inefficient solid waste management, congested pavements, contaminated water supply and lack of clean toilets rank among the primary concerns of women in Chennai. Safety of women in Chennai due to physical, mental and substance abuse also found place in the list. Another major concern for women in the city is the lack of awareness about government-related e-services and grievance redressal mechanisms.
A draft list of demands put forth in the meeting can be read below –
A Clean City
Provide dustbins on every street to facilitate segregation of bio and other waste;
Ensure regular and timely garbage collection;
Distribute usable and potable water equally and fairly;
Remove illegal street encroachments;
Assure sanitary street food stalls;
Improve and maintain drainage and sewage systems;
Maintain clean and functional public toilets;
Inspect sanitation systems and services on a regular schedule.
A Safe City
Resolve and commit to protecting girl children in local government bodies, from the municipal corporation to the zilla parishad to the gram sabha;
Maintain efficient and effective women and children’s helplines;
Set up and ensure proper functioning of the Local Complaints Committees;
Position and regularly review surveillance cameras in sensitive and secluded areas;
Appoint more women administrators and police officers;
Sensitise parents, media and government workers to gender issues;
Commit to introducing sex education and self-defence training in schools and the promotion of girls’ and women’s sports opportunities.
A City Secure from Alcohol Abuse and its Effects
Relocate TASMAC outlets away from residential areas, school and college neighbourhoods and public transportation hubs;
Regulate TASMAC hours and insist on identity card checking to prevent underage drinking;
Install CCTVs and police patrol vigilance around TASMAC outlets in the evening;
Establish and fund deaddiction centres and helplines and family support services.
Accessible and Accountable Local Government Officials and Services
Assure smooth benefits delivery;
Streamline grievance redressal systems;
Create awareness about e-services.
An Equal Voice for Women in Government and Decision-making
Appoint women officials
Nominate 50% women candidates
Take seriously elected women officials and not as proxies
Vest decision-making power in women
Respect women’s freedom of speech and listen to their perspectives.
The draft was signed by the women-representatives who attended the meeting on Tuesday.
“The women who attended the meeting are all community workers, who are from different areas in the city. They will now go out and sensitise other women on the issues and this campaign,” said Sudaroli.
The campaign will go on for a year and audits will be conducted in all the localities in Chennai to understand the concerns that worries women the most.