Often, women are subjected to harassment in public spaces that are a part of their everyday life – bus stops, super markets, cinemas, restaurants, etc. However, most women quietly brush it off, presuming that nothing will come out of complaining about the incident. This silence, in turn, contributes to the stigma of speaking out against harassment and calling out that a harasser is in the wrong.
Safety in a public space is not just one individual’s concern. As responsible citizens, each one of us is bound to ensure that gender-based harassment in any public space does not go unchecked. This is especially true of privately managed spaces that are open to the public, where the management’s commitment can make a world of difference to the user’s experience.
An initiative pioneered in Baltimore, USA, the Safer Spaces campaign calls on local businesses to pledge zero tolerance towards sexual harassment in their outlets. These can then be ‘safer spaces’ – spaces, where complaints of harassment or misbehaviour will be heard and addressed. Hollaback! Chennai and its host Prajnya, have adapted this campaign as part of the 2013 Prajnya Campaign against Gender Violence.
What do retailers need to do to be part of this? Just two things:
1. Make a public, visible commitment to “Zero Tolerance towards Harassment,” through a poster or other visual.
2. Bring together their staff for a training session on ways to deal with harassment.
Our first two Champions for Change are SPI Cinemas and Sandy’s Chocolate Laboratory. At SPI Cinemas, Prajnya has conducted a training session for the employees and the organisation has set up hotlines where aggrieved parties can call for help. The number and the zero tolerance policy will be displayed on their screens at Sathyam and Escape to reach out to their audience.
We’ve made a wonderful start and hope not to stop until every city business becomes a Champion of Change. Who will be next? You?