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Elsa Marie D’Silva, Founder and CEO of The Red Dot Foundation, India

Elsa Marie D’Silva, Founder and CEO of The Red Dot Foundation, India


Sexual violence is a power
dynamic where currently the status of women is low, but
we don’t acknowledge that. Even if our constitution says
we have equal rights, in reality and in practical
terms, you’re not allowed to exercise that equality. ♪♪♪ I started Safecity as an
immediate response to a horrific gang rape. This took place in December 2012
in Delhi where a young woman, Jyoti Singh, was gang raped
multiple times on a moving bus. And then she was left to die
on the roadside. That incident shook all of us up
in the country, and I was so mad that I wanted to do something
about it. And my response was to start a
crowd sourcing platform where women and any other
vulnerable group could report their experience of
sexual violence in a public space anonymously. The idea is to collate these
incidences because otherwise they don’t make it to
official statistics. Once we have access to this
information, we look at it from a location perspective,
understanding the patterns and trends. And that helps us engage with
institutions like the police, municipal corporations,
transportation authorities, or even community leaders to find
local neighborhood solutions. In our short history of 7 years,
we’ve achieved a lot but I think it’s been very
organic growth and I’ve been trying to scale this
because sexual violence is a global pandemic. And I thought that being part of
NED, as well as the Reagan-Fascell fellowship, I
would have access to experts, but also new thinking,
new perspectives. This experience has helped me
connect my issue to the larger theme of democracy in a more
tangible manner. And that is important because
if I want to engage with influencers, I really need to
make a case where we bring in the governance
aspect to it. And a case for why they should
invest in sexual violence prevention initiatives,
because otherwise it’s excluding women. Intuitively as a woman I know
that, but I realize that maybe people in power don’t see
that connection. Through this fellowship I’ve
been able to coherently message my work in a manner that
would appeal to them, that’s one. Second is I started to work on a
how to manual so that other people can benefit
from my experiences of starting a crowd map, as well
as using technology for this particular issue. I’m glad that I stuck to my
conviction of focusing on this issue alone. And it’s going to
be an important time for me to add my voice. So a fellowship like this also
gives me a platform and credibility to engage with
others not just in my country but also beyond. It’s a very important topic
because sexual violence holds women back from
participating fully in all aspects of life and society. And if we get that right, we
will see more women joining the workforce, more
women in leadership positions, more women in politics, and that
will only be good for the rest of the world.

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