How The Delhi Government Is Contributing Towards Gender Equality With This Initiative

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Smiling on receiving the pink tickets under the scheme, the women said they were happy that their savings will increase since they will not have to pay for the tickets in public buses from now on. Picture Courtesy: Hindustan Times

Gender Equality is a topic that we have studied in textbooks of Social Sciences but have seldom witnessed in the real world. When it comes to India, women have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to gender equality. They are not given the same rights and opportunities as men.

Data Speaks Of Inequality At Workplace

According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, (NSSO) and Periodic Labour Force Survey Data 2017-18, Women Workforce Participation Rate has always remained below the national average and has recorded a decline of 10% between 2011-12 and 2017-18.

The Women Workforce Participation Rate in Delhi is abysmally low at 11%. The World Bank Report states that India ranks 120 among 131 countries in female labour force participation rate.

Why Access To Safe And Affordable Public Transport Is Important For Women?

One of the contributors to the low participation of women in the workforce is the lack of affordable and safe public transport. Many times, this becomes a reason for women to let go of career-related opportunities if it requires them to travel to far off distances. A study by Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2014 ranked Delhi as the 4th most dangerous city in the world, for women travelling by public transport.

An Attempt At Changing Things For The Better

The Delhi Government decided to take a step in the direction of gender equality by giving women a greater claim in public transport. The free-bus-rides-for-women scheme is aimed at providing safe, easily accessible and affordable public transport to women in Delhi.

The scheme that was announced in August 2019, and implemented on 29th October 2019, on the occasion of Bhai Dooj, managed to pleasantly surprise a lot of women commuters travelling in DTC and cluster buses who were unaware of this move of the Delhi Government. Smiling on receiving the pink tickets under the scheme, the women said they were happy that their savings will increase since they will not have to pay for the tickets in public buses from now on.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s tweet on the day of implementation of the scheme where he said that “when women are empowered, only then the country will progress” conveyed the objective with which the scheme has been launched by the government.

How The Benefits Of The Scheme Are Not Just Limited To Women 

Affordable means of commute will help in increasing the representation of women in public spaces, which in turn, will make these spaces safer for them and will also give them a psychological sense of security. It will also open doors of new opportunities for them. The women will be empowered to take up work, education, and many other opportunities, that they would have otherwise left, due to lack of access to safe, and affordable transport.

Increasing Women Workforce Participation Rate is good for the economic growth of the country too. A study by two students from Harvard Rachel Levenson and Layla O’Kayne states that increasing workforce participation of women can boost India’s GDP by 27%.

The scheme will also increase the monthly household savings of women travelling by public buses. It will enable them to save an average of Rs.480 per month, (considering an average travel expenditure per day is Rs.20). Think of a woman from a lower-middle-class background. An increased monthly saving will help empower her economically as well, giving her much more financial independence.

Female Ridership In Buses Has Risen Post The Introduction Of The Scheme 

The initiative has already received a thumbs up from the women of Delhi. Data has shown, that there has been a 10% rise, in the percentage of female commuters, in public buses, after the launch of the scheme. The number of women commuters in buses is expected to rise further.

Criticism Versus Reality

While the initiative is being praised for the objectives it plans to achieve, that are: making public transport safer for women, increasing women participation in the workforce and increasing the household savings of women, there are also a few women who say that they do not need the scheme as they can pay for themselves.

Here, it is important to note that the scheme is optional and women who feel that they do not need the free bus rides can still pay for their rides. But the scheme will go a long way in empowering those women, who have had to struggle, to get access to basic resources.

Another argument that has come forth after the scheme was announced is that free-bus-rides-for-women are not enough to make public transport safer.

While the government does believe that providing free bus rides to women will bring more security for women in public transport, it is not depending solely on the scheme for this purpose. The Delhi Government has also taken measures like installing CCTV cameras and deploying approximately 12,000 bus marshals, to increase the safety of women.

A Move That Deserves A Chance! 

The scheme that has received appreciation from a large section of both men and women in Delhi, has also faced its share of criticism. However, the initiative which is aimed at the welfare of the other half of the population, that has always been denied equality, deserves to be welcomed by everyone, who envisions a gender-equal society, in the years to come.

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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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