Safe Environments for Young Women

Gender-based violence is rife, in the country and within the Buffalo City Metro. In our household survey we found that rates of reporting experiences of GPV to the police are low. The physical environment of many young women, as we have found in our work, makes young women particularly vulnerable to violence. According to STATS Crime Against women report (2018), 39.9% of women fear going to open spaces and parks because they fear crime. Furthermore, 54% of women would feel very unsafe walking alone compared to 48% of men.

 As part of our strategy on primary prevention of gender-based violence, community clean-ups are essential. Most women restrict their activities because they fear being vulnerable. This reduces their level of community participation and makes them more vulnerable to being victims of crime. Feelings of safety in a particular space can be determined by our present and past experience of that space, of a similar space, or by the experience of other people we know or heard about. It’s accelerated in the case of women because they sometimes avoid going out at night or relaxing in the park, since they live with the fear that something might happen to them. It’s clear from the above information that if we want a place to be safe for everyone, we need to meet the concerns of the most vulnerable people in our community. In this case, that is women.

 “A community that is safe for women is a community that is safe for all”.

 What is a safety audit about?

The women’s Safety Audit walkabout is done to assess the general condition of the environment within the community. This exercise is aimed at identifying the hotspots or areas that are identified by community members as high risk spots for women and children. This information will be used to inform service providers and any other concerned member to take action towards building a violence-free society which women and children can enjoy and wherein they can exercise their rights.

Some of the things we look out for when we are doing the walk:

  • Conditions of roads and streets
  • The vacant and unused land/spaces
  • Overgrown grass and vegetation
  • Street lighting
  • Dumping sites
  • Observe the gendered usage of space 

After the walk is conducted, the facilitators meet with the Cis (Community Influencers) to consolidate the information that was collected.

Then, a community dialogue takes place with Community Influencers. This is done to give a feedback report of the safety audit that was conducted. This also provides community members with a chance to talk about their lived experiences. From there, the next step is to meet with the local authorities and stakeholders, during which the report and the report, and its recommendations on what can be done to make the community safer for women and girls, is discussed.