Plan's Safer Cities Project

Welcome to Delhi

Rehana practices the karate skills
she learned to defend herself
.

Rehana, 15, has lived in a crowded resettlement area of west Delhi for nearly seven years with her father, mother, and two brothers.

There are around 250-300 people in her locality and all residents use community toilets. There are two sections in a toilet unit – one for males and one for females. Ironically the men's toilets are always manned but there is nobody on the women's side. "There have been times when men have entered the women's toilet and many terrible incidents have happened there. If there was a female guard outside it might stop incidents like that from happening again."

Safety is a Big Issue

“Safety is quite critical for girls. Parents are very concerned that if their daughter goes out, there will be problems for her. This is true to some extent but how long should a girl remain at home? If she doesn’t leave the house she’ll never know how to deal with the outside world.”

“The girls venture out of their homes only when they feel safe. In Delhi we’ve had many unfortunate incidents so there are times girls don't go out of their houses in fear. How long can we continue with this fear? They more we fear the more we will be suppressed. We have to gather courage and move forward."

"When I go to school in the morning my father watches me from a distance until I enter the school premises. He also waits outside at the same corner when I return home after school to escort me back home. He has to adjust his work schedule to fit my school timings. I’m very happy that my father is concerned about me and he also takes care of my friends if they need it."

"I have no problems because my parents allow me to go to school. They say that if they don’t allow me to cover such a short distance to school, how will I grow up and gain confidence to go further later in life. However, there are some older girls in my street whose parents have taken a lot of convincing to allow them to go to school. Other than that they are not allowed out at all such as going to the market. Many parents don't allow their daughters to go out at all, especially after dark. This is mainly because there are a lot of boys who hang out on the streets and often misbehave with the girls. They whistle when girls walk past them on the road and make obscene remarks."

Self-Protection

"I go for a computing course with other girls in my neighborhood. In order to protect ourselves from any attack we sometimes carry red chili powder or safety pins. I’ve even used it on one occasion. There was an elderly man who was standing behind me on a very crowded bus and after a while he started to touch me inappropriately. I felt very uncomfortable and told him to stay away. He was okay for a while but soon started it again. I was really agitated. I had a safety pin on my necklace. I took it out and I pricked him with it really badly. Only then did he moved back."

"I feel brave now because I feel that girls need to come out and take care of themselves and they need to learn everything so that they can take care of themselves in all situations. I have learned Karate so I am prepared to defend myself if it happens to me."

Daily Impact

"We don’t go to play in the park at all. I don’t like it there. But sometimes in the summer I go with my mother for an evening walk. Boys and men in the park often stare at girls. They pass comments, laugh and harass girls. It is like they want to tell us that how dare we encroach upon their territory."

"I feel that girls always need to learn some additional life skills to be able to cope with bad situations. Maybe all girls should learn self-defense skills like Karate so they can take care of themselves. Even if they can’t learn karate, they should keep something with them like a safety pin or chili powder or pepper spray which can be of help in situations when their safety is at risk."

"I like going out and meeting people. Boys have a lot of freedom to go out wherever they wish and whenever they want. Even if they return come home at 2 am nobody questions them. However, if a girl goes to a party at a friend’s place in the neighborhood and gets home at 11 pm she is told off by her parents and threatened not be allowed out ever again."

Advice to Other Girls

"I always talk to my friends and other classmates from school that they should talk to their parents to treat them the same as they treat their sons. The girls should say that also need to be given equal opportunities so they can become what they want to be when they grow up."