The United Nations Women has launched its pilot project in Lahore to make public transportation facilities accessible, ‘safe’ and ‘harassment-free’ for women and girls.
The project, for now, has been launched in Lahore to conduct women’s safety audit in public transport to assess women’s perceptions of safety as well as actual safety, and increase their participation in local decision-making, said a press release here on Friday.
Internationally recognized as the ‘best practice’, a women’s safety audit tool is being introduced in Pakistan for the first time.
Local studies on women’s mobility reveal that women’s movement and their use of public transport is compromised due to the discomfort, social stigma and fear of harassment when they are compelled to sit in close contact with unrelated men.
Women also face distinct challenges from men when accessing public transport, including threats to their safety when walking to and waiting at bus-stops and traveling on public transport.
The Government of Punjab has attempted to address these concerns through their transport policy by introducing separate sections in buses and running women-only buses. However, the challenges still remain in ensuring women’s safety and comfort on public transport.
As a part of its ‘Safe Cities’ project, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) in collaboration with Punjab’s Women Development Department (WDD) and Aurat Foundation (AF) will pilot a Women’s Safety Audit in Lahore City with support from the Government of Australia.
This initiative will be carried out together with the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA), the Chief Minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit (SRU) and the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW).
In addition to determining on-ground safety issues faced by female commuters, through interviews, focus group discussions and safety walks, the Safety Audit will: provide statistics on the types and level of threats faced by women; identify gaps and barriers of transport services to prevent and respond to harassment; and put forward actionable recommendations for the local government, transport authorities, corporations and other stakeholders to end violence against women travelers.
The Safety Audit will be conducted in select bus stops operated by the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) and the Metro Bus System (MBS).
Jamshed Kazi (Country Representative, UN Women Pakistan) speaking of the ‘Safe Cities’ project said: “Gender equality, women’s empowerment and the prevention of violence against women in private and public spaces is a precondition for and objective of sustainable urban development.
It means that we are making cities sustainable for women and girls but it’s also about making it sustainable for all. UN Women has recognized, he said, that violence against women and girls impacts not only women, but entire families, communities and cities.
We have taken an important first step to bring this neglected issue to the forefront by hearing first-hand from women and girls of sexual harassment and violence against them in public spaces, highlighting the impact and the universality of the issue”, said Jamshed Kazi.
With our partners, we look forward to creating safer, smarter and more sustainable cities and communities where women and girls can move around easily, travel to school, markets, work or for leisure with equal rights, dignity and equal opportunities.”
Speaking of the pilot, Bushra Aman (Secretary WDD) said: “In aspiring for a safe city for everyone, a focused initiative is being undertaken to assess safety of public spaces for women.
The planned Safety Audit will serve to supplement the government’s priorities for women empowerment in Punjab. Safety concerns of the public transport in Lahore are being addressed to curb harassment of women in waiting areas and metro bus stations. Significant inputs leading to policy and implementation changes in urban planning are foreseen after the conclusion of the Audit being jointly undertaken by WDD and UN Women.”
Mumtaz Mughal (Resident Director, AF) shared: “The Women’s Safety Audit in public transport in Lahore is a unique initiative amongst many of the AF’s past endeavors to address women’s mobility and safety issues in public spaces. This pilot research project, will identify problems faced by female commuters on public transport.
The policy recommendations of this study will inform the provincial plans and policies and contribute towards making urban planning more gender-responsive”.