One Future Collective at the Urban Thinkers Campus (Mumbai)


Safecity hosted the Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) on June 21st, 2018 at ISDI Parsons, Mumbai in partnership with Developmatrix, The Urban Vision, Tata Capital, ISDI Mumbai, the US Consulate Mumbai and the BMW Foundation. Jessica Xalxo from One Future Collective reports:

The UTC is meant to be a place of sharing, learning and defining the way forward through individual and joint commitments to an action plan for cities which are hyper localised, community-driven, practical and implementable. The highly interactive sessions of the day achieved this as representative voices from the city – citizens and students – as well as voices from the authorities – government officials, CSR persons and NGOs – brought their thoughts, opinions and ideas to the UTC platform on ‘Creating a Resilient and Inclusive Mumbai– the topic of action and discussion.

Photo by Safecity @pinthecreep

The UTC started with a panel that discussed how cities could be better designed for women. Nappinai N.S. (Advocate, Supreme Court of India), Shalaka Joshi (Gender Lead, South Asia – IFC), Sia Nowrojee (Program Director, UN Foundation) and Harshad Bhatia (urban designer and architect) weighed in on this panel moderated by Meghna Pant. “Both the physical as well as online space is equally important, both need to be safe and inclusive“, said Nappinai N.S., emphasising how harmful constructs of the digital space mirror the cities and spaces we live in, often leading to acts of violence against women, transpersons and other marginalised identities. A member of the audience suggested that the media could play a role of aid and change by practising sensitivity and responsibility in their portrayals of the city and its citizens. Citizens also opined that better public and open spaces such as parks also play a crucial role in making a city women and child-friendly. “We need regulations for making places safe for women. Have judicial intervention while planning urban spaces. We need to create awareness of rights, needs and wants. Give legal backing for implementation,” said Advocate Nappinai N.S.

One Future Collective participated in 2 of the 8 innovation labs at the UTC: Lab 4 – Impact of Pop Culture on Gender led by Paromita Vohra of Agents of Ishq and Lab 5 – Creating Inclusive Cities for All led by Harish Iyer.

Photo by Jessica Xalxo. Pictured: Paromita Vohra from Agents of Ishq.

Breaking down gender and its influence on pop culture, Paromita Vohra said, “You never get a perfect piece of popular culture – just the way you don’t get a perfect piece of life.” Everyone in the room had a different opinion about the art that Paromita flipped through on screen, much like the way we perceive the city quite differently from one another. While watching old Bollywood songs set in the city of Mumbai and how men and women behaved and lived within the cinematic frame, participants began to think about how liberated portrayals could exist in cinema alongside regressive and domineering ones. Vohra encouraged us to “stop using stereotypical responses to pop culture,” and to “resist from saying there’s only one way in which things happen”. This struck most in the room since we had expected to critique pop culture.

We had the tables turned on us with the question – How would you make the city better for lovers? Tell us.

Photo by Jessica Xalxo. Pictured: Harish Iyer.

Innovation Lab 5 had Harish Iyer asking participants to step into the shoes of a person with a disability, and to make a list of what they see, feel and hear on a daily basis. The equal rights activist further encouraged all in the room to inspect the intersection between genders and the city too by posing the question: “Are cities only inclusive of genders which can procreate?” 

We set about to find ways in which the city and all its people could grow, exist and thrive in peace with its infrastructure because, as Harish Iyer said, “The onus of inclusion is on those who are already included and not on those who are excluded.”

Photo by Safecity @pinthecreep

The panel discussion on building inclusion and resilience in a city saw Anju Pandey (Program Specialist – UN Women), Harini Calamur (filmmaker and writer), Pearl Tiwari (Director & CEO – Ambuja Cement Foundation) and Brijesh Singh (Special Inspector General – Women Atrocity Prevention and Cybercrime) engage with the audience with Faye D’souza (Executive Editor – Mirror Now) as the moderator.

Photo by Jessica Xalxo

The audience said that they would feel safer if their neighbourhoods were to be carpeted in CCTV cameras. The panel discussed how safety and accessibility vary with each city and how there must be an intersectional standard of both for all – each and every citizen pays taxes after all. Faye D’souza recommended that “50 per cent of the Government should be women”.

The final panel of the day reimagined the city from a youth and gender perspective – a narrative that often lacks in the decision making process. Ayushi Banerji (CEO, The Gender Lab), Richa Pant (Group CSR, L & T Finance), Nirmika Singh (Executive Editor, Rolling Stone India) and Sonal Giani (Activist & Actor) spoke about their experiences of work and life in the city with ElsaMarie D’silva (Founder & CEO, Safecity) as the moderator.

Photo by Safecity @pinthecreep

Sonal Giani rightly questioned privilege and the access it provides to people in a city. This was significant as marginalised identities – such as people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community – are often invisible to those who plan and govern cities. There is a need for greater gender and sexuality awareness and sensitisation. A city that accounts for all, caters to all.

The Urban Thinkers Campus brought citizens together to introspect and really look at their city, encouraging all present in the room to ideate on actionable solutions while keeping all of the city’s citizens in mind. And that’s where the strength of a city lies after – in inclusivity, unity, equity mechanisms and peace.

Jessica Xalxo is a volunteer at One Future Collective. She tweets @IriscopeX

Feature Image Credit: Safecity (Red Dot Foundation)

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