Staying SAFE in Bengaluru

By Sanjana Gosh:

I come from a country where women are worshipped as goddesses and killed before birth at the same time; a country where everyone talks about democracy and equality and yet women have different standards from their clothing to timings of their public presence.

Why I understand this better and it bothers me more is because I come from the capital of this ‘great’ nation- New Delhi. This ancient city was once known for its magnificent architecture, the lip-smacking food and the hotspot of country’s politics is now only feared as a place that’s ‘unsafe’ for women. One incident was enough to shake the soul of this nation. The ‘Nirbhaya’ incident tagged Delhi as the destination of molestation, harassment and rape of women.

Since I’ve been living in Bengaluru, it’s been hard on me too. On my first day to college  a friend asked me, “So you are from Delhi? Really, isn’t it difficult staying there, especially for girls? I’ve clearly told my younger sister to go anywhere in India but not Delhi.” No matter how good Delhi is in many other respects, his words hit me like a brutal but true sword. I couldn’t defend Delhi or myself.

Many of my friends moved out of Delhi for higher studies. While Delhi has some of the best colleges in India, our safety is a priority too. Social media may troll Delhi for being the hub of crime against women, but this issue is much more serious than it is portrayed.

After the new years’ eve incident in Bengaluru, the city is not far from having a similar reputation. Increasing crowd in the city has given rise to many crimes. IT hub of the country is now coming next in line to Delhi.

Every day, girls everywhere have to encounter several problems while commuting- at work, in college, at home or during leisure times. Three major problems being:


One can easily find such incidents in the metro, streets, buses, autos and even homes on a daily basis. Victims of molestation who retaliate, are questioned by the police and often turned into culprits for the clothes they were wearing, the time of the day or something even more trivial.

Harassment at Work

There are growing numbers of harassment cases at work. This is yet another problem faced by most women on a daily basis. What is required to get a promotion or increment, in general? Hard work, good command over the process, excellent skills and good experience. These are the basic requirements and expectations from an employee to be eligible for promotions in every organisation of the world. But that is sometimes not enough for girls. They are often expected to please their bosses, cooperate with their inappropriate remarks and touches, and sometimes have to sleep with them to get a promotion. But why do women have to go through this? Sadly, if women do surrender to such behaviour, then they earn the reputation of a ‘corporate slut’.

Fear of Peeping Toms

Girls are facing it not only in parks also in malls, trial rooms, paying guest accommodations and public washrooms. There are many incidents when couples who are looking for some intimate moments in parks, get caught by peeping toms who later harass and extort money from them.

Likewise, there are several problems that girls face on a regular basis such as eve-teasing, vulgar stares and comments on their assets, but our government is as helpless as it was at the time of Nirbhaya case’. Till today, girls all around the country, rural as well as urban areas, have to face such problems on a daily basis and there is no stringent law implemented by the government or civil authorities. When ministers and officials are asked about such cases in the country, they blame girls for their sense of dressing.

When I joined college, I came across S.A.F.E (Students Against Female Exploitation) which surfaced in Electronics City, Bengaluru following the scarring events of 16th December 2012. A student-teacher duo from IFIM Institutions, Professor Rajarshi Chakraborty and Tauqir Eqbal founded the platform in February 2013. The SAFE movement was officially launched on February 16, which was marked by the creation of the SAFE Facebook page and conducting awareness activities within the college.

What is SAFE?

Very often women are harassed at home, they are scared of walking dark corners alone after sunset and being mistreated. Domestic violence to molestation to even rape, SAFE is a completely student-run and volunteer-driven movement and has tie-ups with ELCITA (Electronics City Industrial Township Authority) and the Electronics City Police. Any woman who feels unsafe can dial the helpline number and within minutes, students from the SAFE committee reach out immediately. What began in 2013 as just a helpline is now promoted through Kanyathon, an annual 5k-10k run and women and men in and around E-city are made aware of the cell.

Over the past four years since its founding, SAFE has been very actively working and helping women get the treatment and justice they deserve. Aiming to extend SAFE’s reach to more areas in Bengaluru, an app will soon be launched along with SAFE cells in more colleges. With the local police not ready to accept that another helpline other than 100 should exist, Professor Chakraborty has a lot to say “They aren’t ready to accept another helpline when 100 still exists. But, the difference is, the response is quicker with SAFE.”

SAFE has been a huge help to women in and around Electronics City with at least a few dozen women related cases have been solved by SAFE.

Not just Electronics City, the aim is to spread SAFE across the city through various other colleges and establish SAFE cells in each with the launching of an app.

I was very happy to be a part of this. Girls are often left helpless when they come across situations of threat to personal safety. S.A.F.E is the platform that is dependable. Comprising of a young bunch of students who are much more aware of the situations around them and the problems women face, they take their task as a service to humanity.

SAFE Helpline number : 9611216862

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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