Dolonchapa, the female-only bus service operating in Dhaka, has got a new look for the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. This joint initiative with HerStory Foundation to create a positive bus artwork, is the result of a closed call for designs with a strong and bold message, on respect and safety for women. The selected design was printed and pasted on the body of four Dolonchapa buses on December 3rd, 2019 and can be seen throughout their service routes.
The HerStory team and Dolonchapa decided to come together to undertake this initiative. The project was implemented and initiated by HerStory Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that creates innovative content for development, with a focus on gender equality, youth empowerment and women’s rights. Dolonchapa is the first ever privately operated female only bus service in Bangladesh, initiated to ensure safer commuter service for women. The core objective was to provide women commuters an alternative mode of transport in response to gender based violence in Dhaka’s public transportation. The artwork and rebranding of the bus is meant to increase awareness, galvanize advocacy efforts and encourage more women to stand and speak up for their rights.
The winning design for the bus artwork is by Antora Mehrukh Azad, depicting an image of women of different walks of life and ages sitting inside the bus, an X-ray vision of the female commuters of the capital. This is a strong and positive message about visibility, which has improved many fold since the Fourth World Conference on Women, and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995. The slogan of the artwork is, Ekotai Protirodh, Shomotai Nirapod.
According to a joint research conducted by ActionAid Bangladesh and Jatiyo Nari Nirjaton Protirodh Forum, in Bangladesh, four out of every five cases, brought before the court by women, are related to violence. Female commuters in Bangladesh, in particular, report being harassed in some form or another, while using public transport.
“Security and safety of women, especially in public transport is important to ensure women’s right to move freely in public spaces. In fact, there shouldn’t even be a need to have a separate bus for women if men did not harass women. However, until that day comes when we successfully stop this harassment and women can travel safely anywhere they need to go, we need services like that of Dolonchapa. I am happy to see Dolonchapa coming forward to support 16 Days of Activism campaign with such creative artwork and hope others to join forces to not remain silent to violence against women,” says Shoko Ishikawa, Country Representative, UN Women Bangladesh stated.
Dr Abul Hossain, Project Director of the Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs says, “Government is committed to the security of women and children, and if needed, anyone can call National Toll Free Helpline 109 at any time.”
Zareen Mahmud Hosein, Founder and ED, HerStory Foundation, initiated this project to create awareness and prevent gender based violence. “The slogan and artwork is meant to carry forth a message of safety, encouraging a country that is free from violence against women and girls, with the illustration acting as a unifying campaign message depicted on all four buses. With this campaign, we aim to stand in solidarity with girls and women. As a movement for any girl and every girl, we want to turn the spaces and places where we meet into safe spaces for girls and women to let them know they are heard and accounted for. Hopefully we can carry forward this messaging in other public transport vehicles,” she mentions.
“The objective of initiating a female-only bus service was to reduce public harassment of female commuters and ensure a safer public commuter option for women. We were very keen on collaborating for this campaign as it aligns with all that Dolonchapa stands for - promoting gender justice, and working to break the silence, stop the stigma and end gender based violence,” says Sohana Rouf Chowdhury, Managing Director of Rangs Motors Ltd and Ranks Dolonchapa Express Limited.
Violence against women in Bangladesh is a pressing concern, one that requires urgent attention. Interestingly, buses carry more than half of Dhaka's commuters although they account for only 10 percent of all vehicles on the road. With around 54.38 percent of Dhaka's population being women and with the number of working women on the rise, the Dolonchapa service provides them with a safe travel option.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign takes place yearly, across the globe, starting from 25 November, with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on December 10 on Human Rights Day. The theme for this year’s campaign is: Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape! Multiple events worldwide, such as marches, art competitions, cycling rallies and marathons are being organised as part of the campaign to urge actions to end this scourge that impacts one in three women worldwide.