An urban designer's approach towards re-appropriation of spaces by women in New Delhi, India

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Women inequality is a common practice in today’s world which is global in nature. Focusing on a developing country like India, violence against women, needless to say, is a grave concern. Crime in the form of rapes, molestation, and eve-teasing, has made public spaces fearful, and women have developed the fear of being a part of these places. The aim of this project is to redesign and reinvent the public spaces in New Delhi, India to reclaim the women’s right to the city in public spaces and make them gender inclusive and safe through the participation of stakeholders and community building.

The methodology adopted for this research includes “research by literature” and “research by best practices” which helps in evaluating the theoretical framework. The theoretical framework is used to relate spatial and social qualities of the site and recognize main issues by “research by design.” The site for this project is a neighborhood in Malviya Nagar, New Delhi, India. Womenspatialactivism is an urbanism approach devised in this project aiming towards re-appropriation of spaces by women in New Delhi, India. The concept of #WomenSpatialActivism is the re-appropriation of the front door by an old woman, the street by a working girl and the public park by mothers. It aims to spread in the city through digital media.

The women spatial activism is an urban designer’s approach which has three main components. These are the physical charter and physical interventions into space, a social stakeholder structure that connects the stakeholders (knowledge, financial and implementation partners) to implement the project and record the feedback of the interventions for its further scope and the third component is the digital structure which includes a mobile application “SHE-CONNECT” that allows women to travel together from the same source to the same destination. The physical structure works on a street and public park to make it more safe, lively and women-centric. The key projects taken up in the research are revitalizing streets (community building and cleanliness through guerrilla gardening), light your lantern (a fund-raising project for lighting the streets), the pink carpet (a wayfinding strip for a safer street), spatial activism headquarters (engaging citizens for temporary urbanism to achieve re-appropriation for women) and reclaiming the park (re-appropriation by women in the public parks with basic amenities). All these projects are a composition of small spatial activism physical interventions which are generic in nature and can be implemented in other areas. The implications have been tested with “Space Syntax” which proves the vitality and viability of the research.

Through these interventions, a gender sensitive neighborhood can be achieved which sets an example in the city of New Delhi and thereafter seeking attention globally. The research topic is socially relevant in terms of the problematics of gender inequalities and freedom of women in public spaces, especially in a country like India.