Working women's hostels half a solution

Women who have been staying for over three or four years in hostel need to shift out after a point

It was a hassle the last few months of my post-graduation when I was working alongside,” says Sabeela Rasheed, who is working with Doordarshan.

Inflexibile varsity hostel timings and the repeated need to seek permission for staying out late can often turn out to be a hassle. For those who are not working but are enrolled in professional courses, which demands spending time in the field, the curfew can be a major problem.

“For several days, I used to stay back with my local guardian due to erratic work hours. But opting out of hostel accommodation was not possible because it was affordable,” says Rasheed.

After her course at Jamia Millia Islamia University ended, Rasheed chose paying guest accommodation. “But the timings issue surfaced again due to erratic work hours. Finally I opted for a rented flat in Okhla,” she adds.

Inam Mahfuz, who studied Mass Communication at Jamia Millia, agrees it is important that university hostels should maintain a strict curfew.

 “But it should not be 8 pm. The timings should be extended till 9.30 pm and the authorities can strictly enforce it. As far as safety is concerned, something untoward can happen at any time of the day. Students in professional courses go for shoots and film festivals regularly, and 8 pm is not justified,” says Mahfuz.

In working women’s hostels too, inflexible timings continue to be a major issue. Women occupants are not allowed to leave after 9 pm in most of them, though they are often allowed to return late if they work late.

In several hostels, women are not allowed to bring in even female guests in emergency situations. However, women with irregular shifts also find the hostels located centrally easily accessible.

“During my student years, I was staying as a paying guest. There were security issues, following which I decided to move to a hostel. One of the major advantages with staying in a hostel is that it is pocket-friendly. Otherwise, accommodation is expensive in Delhi.

With staying at a hostel, the security part is more or less taken care of,” says Saira Aslam, who works with a news agency. Aslam currently stays at All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) Hostel run by the Aga Khan Trust.

Several women staying in hostels in central Delhi point out that even though the hostels are safe, the roads leading to them are poorly lit. For short distances, autorickshaws are not available.

“The road from Mandi House to the hostel on Bhagwan Das Road is deserted and walking back is unsafe. There have been several incidents of groping in the evening. The municipal body should immediately take measures for better-lit streets, with the hostels located in this area,” said a hosteller, requesting anonymity.

Women who have been staying for over three or four years in a hostel need to shift out after a point, according to the mandate. “I recently shifted to the AIWC Hostel after four years of staying at the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council)-run Aakanksha.

The facilities provided are sound. However, even if we seek accommodation in a single-seater, accommodation is provided at the hostel only on the basis of your salary. So many of us are not eligible for single-seaters,” says Nazmun (name changed).

More women will be comfortable seeking working women’s hostel accommodation, if there were fewer restrictions on timings, she adds. “Suppose, I am at the station and my train timings have been altered. Coming back to the hostel is not an option in the wee hours. So there safety is compromised too. So hostels should tweak rules according to the situations,” she adds.

Pallavi Pundir, who is working with a national daily, points out that several hostels do not allow women guests even in emergency situations. “Suppose your friend is late and is not getting conveyance. Even in that case you cannot bring her along for the night. However, some hostels offer more flexible options too,” says Pundir, who earlier stayed at the YWCA Hostel.

Among the deciding factors in opting for working women’s hostel accommodation are the rent and the convenient locations, feel most occupants.

“It is almost impossible to get such accommodation rates in Lutyens’ Delhi if you are not staying in a hostel. Most places are accessible from these hostels. Also, you are getting sound facilities at basic rates which makes one zero in on hostels. Currently, several hostels have common areas where guests can come in too during the day,” says Pundir.

With working women’s hostels also offering mess facilities, several women find living there hassle-free. After long work hours, one does not need to worry about food. Apart from inflexible hostel timings, few occupants have any complaints.

“Hostel timings should be reviewed. I am sure more women will find working women’s hostel a viable option,” says Asra Fatima, who stayed in a hostel for a year here during her BEd course.

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