Game-based project to design, define public spaces for women in Bengaluru

How does a woman see the stranger on the street, telling her it is too late to be out?
Last Updated : 31 March 2023, 23:03 IST

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How gender-inclusive are your city’s public spaces? How late is too late — when does a trans person feel it is time to call it a night and head home? How does a woman see the stranger on the street, telling her it is too late to be out? Does a state-installed CCTV heighten her sense of security?

The answers could be varied and decided by the nature of the respondent’s engagement with these predominantly masculine spaces. They could also reveal patterns of systemic discrimination and open possibilities of addressing it but are we asking enough?

The Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) is drawing context to these questions through community engagement of working women in public spaces.

A three-year project CBPS launched in August 2022 aims to understand the individual and collective experience of three communities — informal and formal waste workers, street vendors, and sex workers — with public spaces and institutions, and among themselves, in two cities, Bengaluru and Mumbai.

The project will engage the communities through immersive, experiential learning using games to help them articulate their concerns and requirements better, and build knowledge-sharing networks.

Cities of choice

Niveditha Menon, deputy director and senior research advisor, CBPS, said a game-based design was preferred over surveys because pointed questions often limited the feedback they drew. The games, on the other hand, help participants respond to other participants’ preferences to create evolving, dynamic designs for mock

Access to infrastructure including transportation, street lights and toilets will be tracked, along with variations in institutional responses — who, for instance, are the first to get driven away by the police, and at what time?

“These could be multiplayer games where the participants tell you, through their designs, how they look at the city and what could make it a city they want it to be — is that a power grid or park, for instance. We are at the primary stage of data-gathering and are reaching out to unions and civil society organisations to help us engage with the communities. By mid-year, we hope to come up with the first prototype of a toolkit,” Niveditha told DH.

The idea is to build a discourse around public spaces. The first point of the intended framework will be the respondents’ expression of requirements, but it could also prod the public, and governments, to take note of these different world views.

“There are a few women, more so in rural areas, who are claiming public spaces in their own ways but our collective imagination seems to have failed them. As more women retract from public spaces, it becomes even more difficult for the women who work in or engage with these spaces by choice,” Niveditha said.

She underlined the larger point of looking beyond narratives that define public spaces for women entirely in terms of potential violence and the state’s response through security measures. These could also be spaces of “joy, openness and anonymity”, she said.

Published 31 March 2023, 21:05 IST

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