Plan India’s Safer Cities programme strives to increase safety and access to public spaces for girls. The overarching goal of the programme is to build safe, accountable and inclusive cities with and for adolescent girls in all of their diversity.

“Everybody is precious and has their own values”, says Meera (name changed), a spunky 17 year old member of a Safer Cities girls’ club in Delhi. The youngest in a family of eight, she is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Commerce at Delhi University.

She is also the face of Safer Cities and its considerable work in her locality, but was initially very hesitant to join. This was because she endured constant eve teasing when walking to and from school. So much so, she and her friends only ventured out of home when accompanied by family.

All this changed when Meera attended a meeting organised by Plan India on gender equality and girl friendly public spaces. Struck by the immense possibilites that lay ahead, she became a member of the Pahal (“Initiative”) girls club and was soon leading community activities and safety assessments, in addition to advocating with adult stakeholders and government officials to address issues faced by girls in her community. With Meera at the helm, street lights and CCTV cameras have beeninstalled in her locality, security guards have been positioned outside local schools, and local leaders have been roped into programme implementation.

Needless to say, Meera has been integral to the visibility and success of Safer Cities in Delhi. Her sphere of influence has only widened with time, but began with her father, an electric rickshaw driver who is now also associated with the programme. With Meera’s encouragement, he participated in a sensitisation workshop for informal transport staff, and it is with great pride that she speaks of the marked change in his attitude towards girls since then.

Now, he is an avid promoter of girls’ rights and counsels other drivers on the need to ensure the safety of female passengers. What’s more, as a result of Meera and his encouragement, Meera’s mother too is part of the community level child protection committee that leads discourse on gender equality and parents’ responsibilties regarding child rights.

Galvanised by Meera, a powerful and self-assured champion of change, her entire family and community have made great strides towards building a safer city for girls.

“Because of the BIAAG programme, I’ve learned many things and grown from strength to strength. I want to change and better my community, and I am proud to say we’ve begun to see a difference because of our work. Now, girls and boys in my community – starting from their homes – are treated equally. What better way to ensure inclusive development than to equip both girls and boys with the skills to change the world?”