This article in the Conversation.com from three researchers at Monash University explores what the new Covid normal looks like in terms of women’s safety and security in cities.
Even though 51 percent of the population is female, there is very little integration of women’s safety perceptions in the design and development of public space. And it’s not just public space that is an issue.
The Monash University researchers found that women’s perception of safety, not the risk was the determining factor in how they used public space. Perception itself is a challenging factor to measure and evaluate as it is personally experiential for each individual.
“Nuanced thinking and multiple gender-sensitive strategies” are required to engage women in public space. As each woman’s experience about safety is unique, there is a need for more gender specific data about experiences and knowledge.
Women’s safety audits were first incepted forty years ago by the Metropolitan Toronto Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children. These audits allow users to pinpoint the factors that lead to feelings of being unsafe and like co-design invite suggestions for how to make places safer. With technology these audits still provide valuable information and ground truthing today.
Safety audits can be conducted in “streets, residential areas, parks, markets and public transport – and offer a checklist of matters to consider. Part of any audit are issues like lighting, surveillance and sightlines.”
There are some interesting factors too, including evaluating how many other women are using the space and how much time they spend in the space. The reasons offered are valuable indicators on how to create good public space.
Safetipin is a digital crowdmapping platform as is Free To Be that offer women “geolocation software to pinpoint precisely where they feel safe and unsafe, and why. Safetipin now generates safety scores for very localised parts of the cities where it is active.”
These online safety audits move municipalities away from the traditional CEPTED approach (crime prevention through environmental design) often implemented in public spaces to one that looks at perceptions of safety and security with a gender lens.
As the researchers conclude: Women’s safety audits in their various forms are a means to meet the objectives… But, more than that, they amplify women’s voices and help them claim their right to feel safe and actively occupy public space.”
Images: Women Plan.It & Safetipin