French embassy’s initiative to make Indian cities more accessible to women, transgenders

The initiative of the Embassy of France to make public spaces in Indian cities more accessible to women and transgender people by engaging the masses in public art projects will be inaugurated on Monday evening.

The week-long initiative has been taken up through an exhibition titled “The City for All?”. The exhibition will be inaugurated at the Rangoli Metro Art Centre on M.G. Road in Bengaluru. Bonjour India’s initiative ‘The City for All?’ is an artistic, cultural, educational, and social initiative by the French Embassy, its cultural service Institut Francais en Inde, the Alliances Francaises in India and the consulates of France.

At the inauguration, visitors will discover novel solutions that can make public spaces more accessible to women and transgender people. Also, at the inauguration, visitors will enjoy a live performance by the talented musician group Gopal Navale Music and go on a curated walk with artist and architect Swati Janu.

Five days before the exhibition, a pin-up map of the city had travelled across six Bengaluru neighbourhoods. The chosen neighbourhoods are diverse to allow people from different backgrounds to partake in an activity. People were asked where they like to go with family and friends. They had pink pins on these locations on the map.

Participants are asked questions like: Who are our cities designed for?, Who has the right to leisure in their cities? How can women and transgender people feel welcome, comfortable, and secure in public spaces? What barriers do transgender people encounter when they try to occupy public spaces? How can access to public spaces be increased for people of all ages, genders, sexual preferences, classes, and abilities? And what is needed, in their opinion, to compose an ideal public space?

On April 29 and 30, the maps used in this project will be exhibited along with dialogues and stories that emerged from each neighbourhood.

As a result, more discussions around public spaces and how to make them more accessible to this vulnerable lot, will take place. Also, at the exhibition, there will be a photo booth that would display popular local and French landmarks in the background where visitors can click lifelike selfies.

The Consul General of France, Thierry Berthelot stressed that “France is a beautiful example of restructuring and revamping cities keeping in mind the criteria that fall under sustainable, innovative urban infrastructure. I take this opportunity to underline that France has come forward to partner India in the smart cities project in different cities across the country.”

“In Bengaluru, with the support of the French Agency for Development, we are working on an urban mass transportation system like the metro as well as having worked on initial zoning, mapping and analysis that fall under urban planning. France worked on the city’s urban planning, always with a keen eye on accessibility of public spaces to all,” he said.

Architect and artist Swati Janu stated: “Cities across the world have largely been designed by fully grown, able bodied, cis-heterosexual men. Hence, women and transgender people must navigate urban worlds that were never created with their needs in mind. We need to look more closely at urban landscapes and figure out how they can be thoughtfully designed, considering the concerns, comfort, safety and representation of women, non-binary and transgender people.”

“The City for All?” has so far travelled to Jaipur, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Pune and will be showcased in Delhi on May 7 and 8. At the end of the exhibit, it will travel to Lyon, France.




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