In order to promote and develop Madhya Pradesh as a safe destination for women tourists, the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board (MPTB) has launched a pathbreaking initiative called ‘Safe Tourist Destination for Women in Madhya Pradesh’. This project was proposed to the Ministry of Women &Child Development under the ‘Nirbhaya Scheme’ of the Government of India, for technical and budgetary support to implement the project. After the project was sanctioned, in the first phase, MPTB launched it in 50 major tourist destinations (grouped into 20 clusters) across Madhya Pradesh to make it a safer destination for women tourists. The project has been running successfully for the last 17 months and has received an overwhelming support from everyone involved in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.
The project has been successful in transforming the tourist destinations across Madhya Pradesh into women-friendly destinations for both international and domestic tourists. The footfall of women tourists has increased in the state because of the efforts made towards creating an enabling environment and women-friendly support systems in the tourist destinations.
MPTB was established in 2017 with an objective to promote tourism in the state. The core objectives of the Board are development of tourism sector number of investors, skill-development, publicity of tourist destinations nationally and internationally, identification and development of tourism infrastructure and ensuring a sustainable and responsible tourism. The ‘Safe Tourism Destination for Women in Madhya Pradesh’ project is being implemented by MPTB under the aegis of the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh, in partnership with Women and Child Development Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh and UN Women. UN Women is providing technical support in designing and implementation of the project, support in monitoring and evaluation, and HR support.
The project is forging strategic alliances with communities and local service providers towards the safety of women and girls in a tourism destination. While working with multiple stakeholders including the key stakeholder/line departments the project is also examining the effect on women’s perception of safety as a result of enhanced capacity and responsiveness of key line departments, NGOs, CBOs, the community, and other service providers.
Women tourists, whether they are travelling solo or in a group, often feel unsafe in tourist destinations, especially after dark. This can be due to several factors, including fewer women working in and around tourist destinations, non-availability of clean public toilets, improper street lighting, lack of public spaces like parks, temples, market areas, and dearth of information and support services specifically targeted at women .
KEY OBJECTIVES OF THE PROJECT
The Safe Tourism project is employing a multipronged approach in the implementation phase. These are the key objectives of the project:
• Provide safe, secure and women friendly environment in and around tourist destinations through community participation, maximising women workforce, bridging the infra gap through convergence and better use of technology.
• Provide self-defence and skill training to women and girls to promote women workforce in tourism activities.
IDENTIFICATION OF INFRASTRUCTURAL GAPS
To make the state women friendly in terms of women safety, infra gap audits are being done in selected destinations with the support of local administration and line departments. Infrastructural gaps with respect to women’s safety such as public infrastructure, CCTV, Signages are being identified and plugged.
Measures are being taken to ensure that street lights work properly. Other activities include maintenance of pavements, regular maintenance and monitoring of public toilets, installation of CCTV cameras, installation of GPS system & CCTV in all public and commercial vehicles and panic buttons in public transport.
The Government of Madhya Pradesh is committed to women’s
safety and wellbeing. The Safe Tourism Destination for Women
project, supported through ‘Nirbhaya Fund’, is an innovative
idea for the tourism sector. The project’s impact is reflected at our tourist destinations within one year of the field implementation. This will surely help in increasing the number of women travellers in Madhya Pradesh.
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The security mechanism is being strengthened through safety audits, awareness about use of safety mobile applications, inquiry system, support and acclimatization with foreign language, information of all safety numbers, signposts with city map and location map, local administrations contact details, female desk in hotels etc.
INNOVATIVE USE OF TECHNOLOGY
The project is making innovative use of technology and is offering safety audits, safety apps, and safety information through website and app. Realtime interventions to ensure the safety of women are also proposed like monitoring by CCTV camera, GPS system installation in all cabs, response of emergency cases, etc.
COUNSELLING AND SENSITIZATION
A key aspect of the project is counselling and sensitising of stakeholders which includes men and women who are part of the travel and tourism workforce. These include taxi drivers, conductors, front office managers, service staff, cleaners, waiters, guides, shopkeepers, street vendors, etc. Men and women are being brought into the proposed interventions and process so that they can be powerful community advocates for the safety of women. The media, private sector and research institutions are also important project stakeholders.
‘ Safe Tourist Destination for Women in Madhya Pradesh’ project is making innovative use of technology and is offering safety audits, safety apps, and safety information through website and app. Real-time interventions to ensure the safety of women are also proposed like monitoring by CCTV camera, GPS system installation in all cabs, response of emergency cases, etc.
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Capacity building, orientation, training, and sensitization: Project implementation requires stakeholder capacity building. Target-group-specific orientation, sensitization, training, and capacity building are being organised to address gender concerns such as violence against women, women’s rights and safety awareness. State, District, Cluster and Destination Level Capacity Building Programmes are being implemented. Coordination is being ensured with the concerned departments and sensitisation of local community is being done for civic awareness.
SKILLING AND PLACEMENT
8349572111literacy, leadership and confidence training, legal support and self-defence training.The presence of more women at tourist destinations reduces the chances of violence and harassment of other women and increases a feeling of safety. Tourism offers many income opportunities for women. Recognising gender issues within the tourism sector and taking proper action is a core agenda of the Safe Tourism project. The employability of women within the tourism industry also needs to be taken cognizance of by addressing skill gaps, employment, and self-employment challenges. For the socio-economic empowerment of women and girls, the project is providing skill development, vocational training, functional literacy, leadership and confidence training, legal support and self-defence training.
As many as 42 job roles have been identified in which trainings are being provided with the support of institutions like IHM, SIH IITM, hotel associations, tour and travel associations, line departments like Forest, Transport, Skill Council, and other skill training partners.
In all the tourist destinations where the project has been rolled out, self-defence training is being provided to school and college girls and the women engaged in the skill development programme. This is being done with the support of the Departments of Education, Tribal Welfare, Police, and Sports and Youth Welfare. The self-defence training programme is of two months’ duration and is aimed at protecting the women in any crisis situation besides boosting their confidence. While the self-defence training is for girls, boys are also being parallelly oriented and sensitised.
An important aspect of the project is the convergence with different government departments, without which it would not be possible to execute a project of this scale. MPTB has been coordinating with various government departments for this project. The most important partners for this project are the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Madhya Pradesh and the Madhya Pradesh Police Department. Other key line Government departments include Home, Urban Development, Transport, School Education, Higher Education, Technical Education & Skill Development, and the State Rural Livelihood Mission of the Department of R ural Development. The project has also received support from grassroots women’s organisations (including those working with adolescent girls and children) and local NGOs with strong community mobilization.
MPTB has mapped an excellent growth during the 17 months of the implementation of the Safe Tourism project. The project has succeeded in modifying the psycho-social behaviour of stakeholders, one of the key markers of the project. In the first phase of the project, taxi drivers were asked to take an oath to respect women. They were asked to proactively protest if they saw women being harassed in any way. A simple act of taking an oath has filtered a major modification in their attitude towards women and made them sensitive to women’s safety concerns. In the next phase of the project, there are plans to do follow ups, use awards and recognitions to encourage stakeholders, and provide some kind of accreditation (like ‘Safe Driver’, ‘Safe Taxi’ stickers and so on). Earlier, the project team would approach the stakeholders. Now, the stakeholders are coming forward on their own. This is a clear reflection on the change in the mindset of people involved in travel and tourism in Madhya Pradesh.
Another major thrust area where there has been considerable success is maximising women workforce in tourist places. Thanks to the project over 2,000 women have found gainful employment in tourist places across Madhya Pradesh. Women have also been employed at petrol pumps across the state. A hotel in Khajuraho is being run almost entirely by women staff. MPTB is also trying to ensure that there are at least two women staff present round the clock in all the government hotels.
In a nutshell, the visionary ‘Safe Tourist Destination for Women in Madhya Pradesh’ project has transformed the state as a tourist destination, making it safer for women travellers. Indeed, when it comes to the safety of women tourists, Madhya Pradesh is showing the way to the entire nation.
For more details, may please contact: Dr. Manoj Kumar Singh, Director (Skill), MPTBE-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: 8349572111