Shruti Kapoor is a gender equality activist, economist and social entrepreneur who is passionate about girls and women’s safety.
During this #ICTforWomanity series interview, we talked with Shruti about crowdsourcing and neighborhood mobilization and how they are a force for good against gender based violence.
Shaken by the horrific gang rape in Delhi in 2012 that caught the attention of the global news media, she founded Sayfty in June 2013 to educate and empower women and girls of India against violence. The initiative aims at not only creating awareness of laws and legal rights around the issue of violence against women, but also uses digital media, tech-for-good, self-defense workshops and storytelling for women’s safety.
When Shruti moved to the USA to pursue higher education, she started to understand what life could look like when you are not constantly harassed in public transportation or “cat called” on the streets
When she came back to India, she didn’t want to be a silent bystander.
“Sayfty is a crowdsourced initiative because the problem affects everybody. The community needs to come together to find a joint solution.”
The top 3 practical learning points Shruti took away from the conversations, campaigns and information acquired through Sayfty are:
- Violence against women is a global problem. What is needed is a shift of attitude and mindset. Engaging the community is very important. The government can only do so much, and unless we come together, the solution to the pandemic problem of gender violence is not possible.
- Girls are always told to keep their voice low. We need to break away from patriarchal rules and norms, all the stereotypes we tend to normalize because this is what we hear all of our lives. Parent need to teach their children that they are strong and powerful and that they should respect each other.
- Be a better bystander. We all need to reprogram ourselves and stop being silent.
“When a woman shares a story, or read other people’s stories, she realizes she is not alone.”
“We run self-defense workshops. We told the participants you’ll learn to break a brick with your hands. At the end of these 48 hours, you should be more confident and empowered. Each one of us broke a brick with our bare hands. In that moment, we that belief, we did it.”
Shruti talks about initiatives harnessing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to prevent violence against women, such as urban audits and crowdsourced maps that signal dangerous or unsafe urban spaces.
For prevention purposes, Shruti advises to use the power of neighborhood mobilization. The community needs to address local issues, they can form committees, start conversations with perpetrators, hold legal representatives to account, find the relevant people responsible, signal urban furniture malfunctions (eg broken street lights, unusable public restrooms). This would impact on everyone, not just women and girls.
“You can use mobile technology to record and evidence issues, use videos, pictures, social media, to mobilize people, reach out to wider networks and make some noise.”
“To build a world free of violence, we need to go back to the household level. We need to gender sensitize parents as everything starts at home.”