What Small Steps for Safety Look Like
June 12th marked the first of a series of action-oriented Badal Ja! meet ups. As part of our ongoing ‘’Small Steps for Safety” campaign, activists, photographers, college students, social workers, musicians and friends met at Carter Road to explore the city and discuss ideas around street safety in Mumbai.
We had such a great time at the event and learned so much from each of you that attended that we wanted to take a few minutes to share some the highlights of what transpired on this very special night.
The meet-up opened with musicians Alisha Pais, Anaar Desai Stephens and Naama Choonawala, building up the palpable excitement as we prepped our Badal Ja! stickers and got ready to head out into the night. As the musicians strummed away, onlookers gathered around and started to ask questions on why we were here and what Badal Ja! was about.
We got some great conversations rolling on the importance of safety in the city and what it means to loiter and occupy public space, not only as a form of street activism but also to contribute to safety itself.
We even managed to attract some kids who were mesmerized by our empowered musicians!
As we took our first few steps, the heavens opened up and the first monsoon ‘blessed’ our walk, bringing laughter and smiles.
Throughout the walk, one could hear snippets of personal anecdotes and thoughts being shared on safety in Mumbai, gender equality and the role of feminism in India. Being with such diverse people, it was interesting to hear the various reasons people had for making it out to the event and their relationships with gender equality.
Turning the corner from Bandra East and ventured towards Khar, the streets slowly darkened, and there was an increasing sense of unease as the number of people on the streets thinned out.
The first pit stop featured Nandita Shah from Akshara (picture above). She spoke on the various initiatives Akshara has undertaken and highlighted Harassmap, an online crowdsourced mapping platform that allows any who has experienced abuse or violence in public to speak up anonymously. Harassmap reminds survivors that they too have a voice that deserves to be heard and that they are not alone.
As we continued to explore neighbourhoods, Harish Sadani and Ashwin from MAVA (Men against Violence and Abuse) spoke about men’s role in combatting gender equality.
People asked many questions, and a healthy discussion emerged on how gender politics often translates into power politics and what we as individuals can do to help address these issues. Some passersby also started to gather around our conversation and listened in.
Pictured above is above Raj Mahato, a former special ops military commando. Raj spoke on concepts of self-defense—and emphasized the importance of mental fortitude and awareness as key elements of self defense. He also showed us a few good moves to help us get out of a dangerous situation.
Finally, we all gathered around for a bit of cake, a lovely surprise by one of our supporters ;) and asked all our participants to think about what small steps they are going to take now to ensure safety in Mumbai.
For us, the walk was a powerful indicator that people do have a lot to say on gender and are willing to listen to each other. We were inspired by the conversations and ideas being shared, along with the willingness to understand, listen and act but most inspiring for us was the ability for our participants to come up with their own small steps.