By Vishal Aggarwal
Seeing the events of the past few months in Delhi, it is clear that Women’s Safety is an issue that requires immediate attention – and I was excited to jump on board with Haiyya at the forefront. With Haiyya, we think about questions like: How can we make women feel secure on roads? How can women feel free in public spaces after dark?
I started working on Haiyya’s Rise Up and Women’s Safety Campaigns to find answers to these questions and create long-lasting impact in Delhi’s communities.
Until a few months ago, words like “field work”, “one on ones,” and “canvassing” spoke to me of something boring, tiring, monotonous, and irritating. It was only after the Rise Up Campaign in Delhi between August and December, started to empower women to discuss their issues and vote in the State Assembly Elections, that this picture got washed away from my head. After spending many hours per week actively participating in this campaign as a field organizer, I got a new vision of looking at my community and how I engage with it.
After the Rise Up Campaign ended, a long time passed I hit the streets again. Participating in the Community Walk on 13th Feb in Malviya Nagar let me head out onto the street and talk to the community about what mattered to them. After a small orientation we reached out to shopkeepers, autowallas , women who ran motels, and more. Through the walk, we aimed to better understand women’s perspective towards their access to public space in Malviya Nagar, and how they feel when they move out of their houses.
We covered an area from Hauz Rani until Khirki Extension, where we engaged with all different kinds of people. I learned how to engage a chaiwalla to get insight into women’s safety in his area. Seeing old ladies sitting outside their porches, I found out how much these ladies have to complain about. But I also saw how much the assumption of Delhi not being safe has been – often artificially – imposed on our minds!
But I didn’t just learn about mindsets and tendencies: I learned new things about myself as well. I realized how much these random conversations have helped me in improve my ability to communicate and connect. Every time I talk to a community member, I learn something new about myself: how to take people into confidence, how to make them feel secure so that they can open up to you, and how to show that I care. It was a whole new experience, one that I’m grateful to Aprajita and Haiyya for giving me the opportunity for, and one that I would love to do again. Next time, I want to bring others to learn with me at the same time.