Greenpeace India’s ‘Midnight Bus Tour’ highlights women’s mobility challenges and advocates for safer nighttime travel

Greenpeace India organized a ‘Midnight Bus Tour’ on 27th October in the national capital of India featuring an all-women lineup, including women from marginalized communities, journalists, researchers, influencers, social workers, and Greenpeace volunteers.

Greenpeace India is a non-profit organization which works towards greener environment. The midnight bus tour was aimed to shed light on the challenges faced by women in nighttime travel, focusing safety and accessibility concerns within public transport.

It was a vibrant celebration of women’s agency and freedom, carrying a powerful message against any form of gender-based discrimination in public mobility spaces. The evening also had a special performance by singer-songwriter HeyDitty. The participants travelled across Delhi to assert their Right to Mobility and demand more buses on Delhi’s streets.

The core mission of the midnight bus tour was to reclaim public spaces for women and emphasize the critical need for making Delhi’s public transport facilities safe and inclusive for all citizens. During the journey, participants engaged in candid discussions about the diverse challenges women face in accessing public transportation, particularly the lack of security during nighttime travel, offering an intimate, first-hand look into their experiences.

As women heavily rely on walking and public transport for various purposes, including employment, education, caregiving responsibilities, and leisure, the absence of adequate first-and-last mile connectivity in public transportation significantly hampers women’s mobility, particularly those from lower-income backgrounds, such as domestic workers, factory laborers, and informal workers who often travel shorter distances for work.

According to a recent World Bank report, a staggering 88 percent of surveyed women in Delhi have reported experiencing sexual harassment while using public transport.

Rifa Jawaid, a journalist and a participant of the tour, said, “While I don’t usually rely on bus transportation, I would consider using buses if they were more accessible. Bike taxis and cabs might appear more convenient, but they aren’t sustainable options, and many women can’t afford them. Having more buses on our streets and ensuring the safety of all passengers would greatly simplify our commuting needs and bring more women onboard”.

The tour also echoed the insights from Greenpeace India’s recent report “Halt for Women Bus Users in Delhi” shedding light on the various challenges encountered by Delhi’s women bus users such as buses not stopping for women commuters and women facing harassment and discrimination for travelling without charge due to the Delhi government’s free bus ride for women scheme. The scheme, which was introduced in 2019, has had a positive impact over the years, with women ridership increasing from 25 percent in 2020-21 to nearly 33 percent in 2022-23.

Reena Gupta, advisor to the Delhi government, commented on the findings of Greenpeace India’s report, said “The Delhi government is organising training programmes for bus drivers due to the reported incidents. Providing training is crucial, as stopping the bus is necessary.”

Talking about the discrimination faced by women commuters for travelling without charge, Gupta said, “We have to come together and talk about these issues. Nothing is provided freely; it is taxpayers money, it is our money. This is a decision taken by the government which has provided a degree of economic freedom to many women. Observing our steps, other states are motivated to take similar actions.”

The Midnight Bus Tour serves as an important reminder for the need to increase investments in public buses. “It is time for urban social justice and sustainable mobility to take centre stage in our city-building process, and for public facilities to become people-centric and integrated—centring the needs of women in their everyday lives. Delhi needs to work for its citizens, and not against them. Just and equitable urban planning requires a multifaceted and gender-affirming approach. A public transport system that integrates safety, convenience and comfort for women and other gendered minorities is the key towards sustainable, effective and inclusive mobility.” Said Avinash Chanchal, climate campaigner for Greenpeace India.

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