United Nations Women organization has launched its pilot project in Lahore to make public transportation facilities accessible, ‘safe’ and ‘harassment-free’ for women and girls. The project initially 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 a ‘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 travelling 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: (i) provide statistics on the types and level of threats faced by women; (ii) identify gaps and barriers of transport services to prevent and respond to harassment; and (iii) put forward actionable recommendations for the local government, transport authorities, corporates 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 making cities sustainable for women and girls but it’s also about making it sustainable for all. UN Women has recognized 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.