The Greater Chennai Corporation has inaugurated a gender lab, said to be the first such initiativeby an urban local body in the country.
The civic body has appointed three specialists in the first phase to launch the facility.
The three specialists, all women, will review every civic infrastructure project to suggest changes for improving the safety of women in public spaces.
Mayor R. Priya launched the gender lab in Ripon Buildings on Friday. Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi and Commissioner of Police Shankar Jiwal were present.
“The gender lab will start a study of various aspects in zones of Tondiarpet and Thiru. Vi. Ka. Nagar in the first phase,” said Ms. Priya. “Most of the designers of civic infrastructure projects have been men. Women will give a new perspective,” said an official.
“Urban planning and design do not take into account the diverse needs of men and women, resulting in cities that do not address women’s specific needs. Barriers in accessing public transport, lack of safety during travel and social norms restricting mobility severely limit women’s access to employment, education, healthcare and leisure,” said an official.
Women were under-represented in urban planning and design institutions and often excluded from decision-making.
The city needs gender-responsive urban mobility and public spaces so that benefits of city-led economic growth can be more equitably distributed, the officials said.
As part of the Chennai City Partnership programme supported by the World Bank and the Nirbhaya Programme of the Government of India, the Government of Tamil Nadu had facilitated the establishment of the gender lab. The preliminary work started in February.
The Corporation on Friday organised a workshop to facilitate knowledge sharing, which includes findings from studies conducted on gender responsive public spaces and transport by the World Bank as well as the findings from a safety audit of Tondiarpet conducted by an organisation for safety audit of public spaces.
ITDP South Asia Director Aswathy Dilip said women’s mobility needs were very different from those of men.
“Eight out of 10 trips by women are by public transport or on foot. Improving these modes will dramatically improve women’s access to work, education, health, and recreation. Gender Lab is a progressive step in the right direction. It is not about implementing a few projects for women, but every project needs to be reviewed with the gender lens. Every project should prioritise the needs of our women.”