Just last week, on my way from Bangalore, my check in luggage was taken away by a co-passenger from the conveyor belt by mistake. Maybe the luggage looked alike.
My complaint was very promptly handled by the airlines. The nearest security person, who was noticing my hyperactive state and my shrill voice, came forward to help me.
The first question he asked me was if I was travelling alone? Or was there a male member accompanying me?
The questions put me off further and at this point I asked almost rudely if was unlawful to travel alone? The security in charge realized instantly that I wasn’t pleased at his intervention and started explaining how he just wanted to help me.
He was convinced that if there was a man travelling with me, he could have sorted this matter easily. I was aghast and wanted to argue with him about how the problem or its solution would be any different if there was a man accompanying me.
In a metro like Delhi, with an educated and independent woman like me if such questions are still of any relevance then we really need to give a serious thought to the mobility of women in smaller towns and cities.
My work takes me to Haryana, where I have been privy to many conversations of women, young and old, about how they are still not free to step out of their houses, especially without either a male member or without their permission.
This conversation with the security person at the airport put me in the same bracket as these women whose mobility is forever restricted.
One of the programs in Breakthrough, on gender biased sex selection in Haryana, talks about the value of mobility of women and girls, using some interactive activities like street theatre, magic shows, folk music and songs to start conversations about challenging gender norms and the existing stereotypes.
My latest personal experience made me realize how herculean this task is going to be, within the 100 kms radius of the capital of India, the worth of women and their contribution lies unrecognized and under estimated. In the garb of protection, their very existence is threatened.
Our team continues to make endless efforts to mobilize more and more people to understand and acknowledge that the public spaces belong equally to women as they do to men!
We have managed to mobilize about 10,000 people in just two weeks and generate the debate on why it important for women and girls to step out of their four walls and reclaim public spaces for education, work, household chores and any hopefully leisure will follow suit.