KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — Kuala Lumpur needs to be made a safer place for women, to support their full and active participation in public life here, said several advocate groups.
Advocates of women’s safety gathered for an online forum today, where they discussed the findings of a newly-published study on women’s perception of safety in Kuala Lumpur by urban policy adviser Think City.
The study included a series of surveys involving between 10 and 16 women in 2019.
It found that 94 per cent of respondents did not feel safe walking at night in downtown KL — areas such as Medan Pasar, Masjid Jamek and Petaling Street — although 100 per cent felt safe walking there during the day.
“Some comments just now said maybe women need to travel with a guy or another friend in order to feel safe.
“But why can’t we travel on our own and still feel safe?” said Betty Yeoh, a co-founder of Engender Consultancy.
The study also reported on group discussions done with the participants, where “adding lights” was the most suggested solution, mentioned 20 times.
Other key requests were for maintenance to ensure amenities and pavements were in working order, improved cleanliness, better design, and more active streets with diverse groups of people.
“With a lot of businesses that have shut down [during the Covid-19 pandemic], it does make you feel uncomfortable to walk around,” said Makissa Sophia S, co-founder of The Hungry Tapir, a restaurant in Petaling Street.
“But it is really promising to see a lot of business come back into Chinatown… it is a bit more reassuring,” she added, highlighting that there also needs to be more police and security personnel patrolling the area.
Meanwhile, other solutions that the Think City study suggested were to employ several gender mainstreaming experts in the city council and prioritising women’s voices in city planning and design.
It also suggested organising and curating activities for women in the city to increase their presence in public spaces, and build confidence and ownership.
Joanne Yeoh, the president of YWCA KL, said: “[Work for women’s safety] must be event driven. We are talking about calling people to come in from outside of downtown KL.
“Bring in people to the area, but make sure the event has a nice feel. Again if you have rubbish strewn around the place, and that things are not clean or whatsoever, it won’t give a nice effect”.