WHO IS ELSAMARIE D’SILVA?
“The communities have to decide what is the solution they want for themselves. We cannot dictate that for them.“
ElsaMarie D’Silva is the Managing Director of Safecity.in – a website that uses crowdsourcing to identify locations where women have experienced or witnessed any type of sexual harassment.
ElsaMarie is an experienced aviation professional. In 2003, she made a career switch in order to improve the lives of women, youth and senior citizens through awareness, interaction and education. She is also trained in both directive and non directive counseling.
She is a Vital Voices Lead Fellow and an alumni of the Swedish Institute.
You can connect with ElsaMarie here:
IN TOR 054 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Safecity, the popular street sexual abuse and harassment reporting tool that has been met with acclaim and support from women around the globe, particularly in India, Nepal and Africa.
- ElsaMarie’s jump from the aviation industry into a work of her own, and the struggles she endured to launch it, including months of bootstrapping but also lots of volunteer help.
- Safecity’s and ElsaMarie’s measures and accounts of success, and how the value of a platform is in their contributors.
- ElsaMarie’s views of community empowerment as the only way to solve a problem sustainably, and what the global community can do to help.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Sexual harassment and intimidation; underreporting from women
- Aviation industry
- Social media
- Mumbai, India
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
Earlier: aviation professional
Captain crew, then instructor, manager, and planning head.
After trouble, decides to launch her own. Works in corporate responsibility, women’s issues.
Launched Safecity, met with a lot of response.
Crossmap that records experiences of sexual harassment, India and Nepal.
People report anonymously.
Women do not talk about harassment, but their stories need to be heard.
On the ground volunteers do most of the work, but the platform is social media rich.
College students are big contributors, they also help in campaigns for awareness and education.
Recruited IT professionals, part of the technology is outsourced. Friends pitched in.
Focus and geography
India and Nepal are the focus, India the largest one.
Documentation is a necessary step to raise awareness and change.
Women’s organizations in Africa have expressed interest. Expansion is seamless, but it takes resources they don’t have. Currently looking for sponsorship.
We have not received pushback. The idea has resonated.
It’s all about making information accessible for better decision making.
People take Safecity into account to decide amount of transportation, schedule, fee to pay, companionship, clothing.
It is also a tool for organizations, for neighbors to communicate and interact, with one another and the police or officials.
How ElsaMarie measures success
A combination: volume of reports, community organization. “It is not easy to get people to share their stories, come forward.“
An anonymous reporter in Bangalore had to cross a stretch and face an intimidating gang. Safecity allowed her to contact people at a nearby office building. She can contact them when she needs company.
Facebook is valuable for reporting and evolving discussion: “How do I talk to my children about sexual abuse?“
People are finally coming forward. A lady in Delhi has volunteered through the site. People refer Safecity to the policy, the community and local officials.
Architectural students have used Safecity to study and understand “what makes a city or area safe or not, from a women’s perspective?” The site provides all their data to researchers.
Self-funded. Not a lot of money, most developers volunteer, working space has been donated. A workshop helps raise funds for servers and some wages. Money has started to flow more steadily. “I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.“
“One ends up doing a lot of everything.“
She conducts workshops, management of people.
Startup culture. She interacts with a lot of young people.
To be the one site for location reporting. The largest database.
Start into reviews.
It started as an online platform, met with good reviews, feedback and media attention.
But initially they didn’t have on the field presence. People, victims even, “have better things to do than to report.” Not a lot of passionate contributors at the beginning.
Since then they tried field activities like ‘flash mobs’ and viral video.
If you intend to bootstrap, you need a ‘nest egg’ before the leap. Starting salaries, particularly for founders, are very low at the beginning.
Choose your focus. It is difficult to change it midway. Be patient.
Please share, participate and leave feedback below!
If you have any feedback you’d like to share for me or ElsaMarie, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! I read all of them and will definitely take part in the conversation.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask me directly, head on over to the Ask Stephen section. Don’t be shy! Every question is important and I answer every single one.
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