Gender Inclusive Smart City 06 Jan

Gender Inclusive Smart City

The “Smart Cities Mission” is a flagship program of the Government of India. It talks about assuring livability, infrastructure and immense possibilities of development. BSS believes in gender just viewpoint in all schemes, programs and policies for its effective outreach to whole society.

Gender perspective in Smart Cities Mission will achieve inclusive citizen engagement. We believe “Smart Cities Mission” is not only about infrastructure, systems, profitability and self-sustenance but it is also about human resource development and conducive environment for family.

BSS had extensive brainstorming with National Commission for Women (NCW) on active contribution of women in Smart Cities Mission, both at conceptual and implementation level. To make “Smart Cities, Gender Smart” a two-day national level consultative seminar was organized in Delhi on “Smart Cities with Focus on Inclusive Gender Empowerment” in association with NCW and Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), Delhi on 17th and 18th November 2016. City specific pre-seminar papers were prepared after discussions at local level in various states of India. Eminent speakers and participants were also from various cities and states.

BSS deliberated on Gender Inclusive dimension of smart city mission in consultative seminar. BSS Vice president Ms. Nayana Sahasrabuddhe delivered opening remarks in the seminar as “Women are beneficiaries of this Smart Cities Mission and their inputs and potentials in this venture must be valued. Gender awareness and gender sensitivity of Smart City Mission authorities (policy makers, decision makers and implementing machinery) is the biggest challenge in making smart cities, gender smart.”  NCW Chairperson Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam in her keynote address emphasized on comprehensive brainstorming prior to launch of any initiative or policy by the Government. She also appealed women to come out of comfort zone and perform active role in initiatives like “smart city project”.

Mr. Sajeesh Kumar, Joint Secretary, Smart City Mission Ministry of Urban Development – MOUD, discussing “A Year of Smart City Mission” demystified many facets of ‘Smart City Project’. Dr. Sushama Yadav, Chair Professor IIPA, talked about Gender Issues in Urban India. Ms. Rajyashree Kshirsagar, Freelance Journalist, clarified the concepts of Gender Budget as a component of participatory development. DR. K. K. Pandey, Professor, IIPA deliberated on urbanization and economic development of women. He mentioned that Sustainable urbanization emphasizes on inclusiveness where women play a pivotal role. Dr. Maneesha Kothekar, Organizing Secretary, BSS quoted with the reference of “National Policy for Women 2016” as “Elimination of all forms of violence against women through strengthening of policies, legislation, programmes, institutions and community engagement.” She also discussed facets of women safety, the major issue of the day. The concept of safety audit was unfolded by giving example of initiatives taken by Bharatiya Stree Shakti in Maharashtra and many organizations worldwide.  Mr. Anand Shekhar in his session covered the aspects like women’s safety, health, dignity and its association with Water and Sanitation.

Minal Patel, Architect and Urban Planner, focused on issues related to affordable housing and safety of women in smart cities. She emphasized on the need to create safe infrastructure, safe transportation, housing facilities, and various amenities to make women’s life comfortable. Ms. Sulakshana Mahajan, a town planning expert and Consultant, Urban Development, Mumbai, explained women’s participatory role in smart cities with respect to status of women in India. Dr. Sonali Sarnobat and Dr. Ila Gupta pointed out that public health and reproductive health facilities should be sufficient and efficient to cater to the needs. Its affordability and the awareness on health and hygiene is a challenge. Ms. Sonali Patankar (Responsible Netism) and Ms. Usha Munshi (IIPA) deliberated role of Information Technology in Smart Solutions for City Development.

Prof Medha Somaiya, Chair Professor, TISS, highlighted the challenge of an information and grievance redressal mechanism in the ‘Smart City Mission’. While concluding the seminar Ms. Nayana, Vice President, BSS stated that seminar is just a beginning and there is a long way to go ahead to achieve the goal of sustainable and gender smart cities. Further she appealed participants to deliberate on gender perspective of Smart City Mission at local level with respective city authorities and other stakeholders. She made a request to Government Officials for hand holding NGOs to conduct safe city audit, which will be a great achievement for organizations devoted to women empowerment. Women are beneficiaries of this Smart Cities Initiative, so their needs, inputs and potentials in this venture must be valued. Their involvement at each stage will be citizen engagement in true sense.

Total of 79 men and women along with 12 resource persons, participated the two-day long seminar and participated actively. Out of which 91% was women and we had a representation of as many as 38 cities from all across the nations.

Inculcating gender perspective in Smart City Mission (SCM) officials, ensuring women’s active participation in Special Purpose Vehicles- SPV of SCM, appointing gender officer, implementing gender budgeting to ensure allocation of funds, schemes for women and an assessment of outreach of schemes to women, conducting safe city audit and appointing Smart City level review committee to make it more gender inclusive, are some of the recommendations.

Our representatives presented recommendations to then Minister of Urban Development, Shri Venkaiya Naidu. Under the guidance of Hon Minister and then Chairperson of NCW Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, we discussed our suggestions and action plan in the meeting of inter-ministerial officials. We did emphasize on integrated approach to Gender Inclusive Smart City Mission. In February 2017, a meeting with Joint secretaries of schemes Swachh Bharat, AMRUT, HRIDAYA and HUPA was called to ensure “Gender Perspective” to schemes and programs in convergence with Smart City Mission.