India’s city, Mumbai, became the first city in India to include female figures on its traffic lights. It is a move which is hugely welcomed by campaigners as a step towards gender equality.
As part of a wider plan of making roads more friendly to pedestrians, authorities are interchanging the green and red male stick figures for female figures. Over 100 pedestrian crossings will become part of this broader plan.
Kiran Dighavkar, an assistant commissioner with Mumbai’s municipal corporation, said: “The signage reflects the character of the city … that it believes in gender equality and promotes women’s empowerment. This is just the start.”
However, the change may be small but it was vital, said equality campaigners. Many Indian cities have only a small ratio of women on the streets as compared to men.
“If a generation of little girls grow up seeing women figures on the traffic signals, it sends a small but powerful signal that women belong in the public,” said social scientist Shilpa Phadke.
“The presence of such symbolism in the public might undo the idea that the imagined person on the street is male … this is symbolically valuable in the long run,” said Phadke, co-author of Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets.
Mumbai, the financial capital of India already has suburban trains running only with women-only coaches. The city also runs buses with reserved seatings. Mumbai is considered as pone of the safest cities for women.
In India, women have to face several safety issues, including dim lights in lanes to crowded public transport. However, many states and cities have taken steps to make public spaces more accessible in recent years.
In the year 2018, India was rated as the most unsafe country in the world, as per a survey of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Last year, Delhi announced free public transportation for women in order to boost their mobility. Several Indian states provided free bicycles to girls to make sure that they do not drop out of schools. Many girls drop out of schools due to lack of safe or accessible public transport.