Archive | September 2013

Mumbai citizens take on the police to make their neighbourhoods safer!

It was a scene that most of us do not witness in police stations on a regular basis. A lady was in the police station persuading the police to follow up on a filed FIR of the robbery that took place at her house and along with her were 12 of her neighbours who had come to support her and pressurize the police into taking action. How often is it that in a metropolis, people actually step up to help their own neighbours? How often is it that people who live in the same apartment building get together as a community to solve the issues they are collectively facing? Why were these people interested in helping their neighbor?

These people are the Bandra Bravehearts  in Mumbai. When Haiyya was initiated early this year, Haiyya fellows went around the neighbourhood forming teams of local citizens called Bandra Bravehearts, trying to find out the pressing public safety issues. After asking over a 150 residents, they found out about an increasing spate of robberies and chain snatching in Bandra and mainly in a localized area between Manual Gonsalves Rd and Chimbai .  However, each citizen saw the robbery as their personal problem and was often apprehensive going to the police to file complaints. While the Bandra Bravehearts were doing their survey, another robbery happened.  Ms. Delia D’souza, whose house got robbed, decided to approach the Bandra Braveheart team to help her – she had been robbed and the police was refusing to file her complaint. This time, the citizens decided to take matters into their hands. 12 team members decided to accompany Delia to the police station. Seeing the citizens get together for one robbery initiated police into action. The DCP, Chhering Dorje, agreed to meet them, where the team apprised him of the worsening safety situation in Bandra. From then on, police offered to give them support. Her FIR was filed, the robbers were caught within 15 days and she received all her robbed items back!

 

Public safety BandraA Bandra braveheart meeting in progression

We often think that the police will never act, things will never change, I can never change the system, I can never change the situation. But this example from Bandra shows that sometimes all that is required is for people like us to get together. From that one little step of going with their neighbour to the police station changed the sense of community in the entire neighbourhood. The Bandra team has now formed themselves as Bandra West Citizens Initiative (BWCI). They have been recording all the incidents of robbery and chain snatching that happens in their area. They communicate the same to the police, pressurizing them to take action. Groups have got together to install better lighting on their streets, put up CCTVs to increase surveillance, started a ‘Blow the Whistle’ campaign to alert immediate neighbours in  times of emergency, held awareness workshops on legal rights, RTI and Self Defence and initiated a signature campaign to make the police take more concrete steps.

Their actions have now got the attention of their local corporator, Karen D’Mello, who is now working with BWCI to ensure that public bodies, including the police, work on increasing safety in Bandra. People who were scared to step out on their own streets have now joined hands and made their safety issue an immediate and important one to be addressed by local authorities. This is how citizens can power change! You can power change in your community too. Write to us now if you are interested in building community leadership which is empowered to solve its own issues.

 

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Organising women to vote on their own issues this Election!

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Next year almost 800 million Indians would get the opportunity to cast their vote. This will be largest democratic election in the world till date. We as a nation will decide who should govern us. But do we actually decide? Do we really exercise our Right to Vote? Are we able to use the power that is vested in our vote?

Sadly, the answer for more than 40% Indians would be NO. Lesser number of women than men voted in the last general elections in 2009. It means that an astonishing 8.4 crore women in India did not vote! However, there were 6 states where women set the trend and outnumbered men. It is this trend that we at Haiyya want to further this election. While women’s issues have often been ignored by the politicians, we want to build a movement with women across the country to pledge to vote. In the current climate of the country, it has become more imperative than ever before that women’s issues take center stage. We believe that women need to come out in huge numbers. Women need to show that are not mere spectators of the democratic process. They need to affirm their power and they need to send out a strong message to the politicians that their issues cannot be ignored.

To bring the attention to women’s issues, Tata Tea’s JaagoRe initiative launched the Power of 49 campaign. Haiyya has partnered with JaagoRe for the on-ground action. The past 3 weeks Haiyya team worked hard on the field in Delhi to recruit citizens for this campaign. We started work in 4 constituencies of Delhi, Greater Kailash, Mehrauli, Model Town and Patparganj, where more than 60 volunteers joined hands with us.

These volunteers went to colleges, market places and door to door to spread awareness about the Power of 49 campaign, collect issues of women residents, register women to vote and to encourage them to come out and vote in the Election Day. The drive was hugely successful. Our teams in 4 constituencies, engaged more than 10,000 people across Delhi in conversations about women’s Right to Vote and encouraged more than 5,000 people to become a part of this campaign.

The team leader in Mehrauli, Ramani, says about her experience, “When you first start talking to women it appears that they are not interested in the issue. But 5 minutes down the line, you see a spark in their eyes, you know they are thinking that they are important too, that their issues are important too, that there should be a difference. You know you have begun to make a change. That is what made my work so satisfying.”

Another team leader from Greater Kailash, Shivaranjini, recalled her experience of engaging men in conversation, “Sometimes men seemed more interested in this campaign and that was such an encouragement. They were passionate about women’s issues and they really wanted to help with the campaign. In fact, one such guy whom I met while street canvassing became one of the most dedicated volunteers we had on our team.”

All the teams had several such inspiring incidents, where men and women, young and old, rich and poor, left enthused and feeling optimistic that they can do their bit to change the situation. A wave has already started, where women recognize that their single vote makes a difference, that if more and more women come out, together they will be a power to be reckoned with.

We need more people to join this campaign and support women’s issues and their Right to Vote. Our work in Delhi continues, with an increased intensity. If you want to support this cause too, please join us. We are looking for people who can inspire their community into action. Follow this link if you would like to work with us in Delhi as a Team Captain or as a Volunteer.