Our local paper this week published an article about a young University of Waterloo student, Sujay Arora, who has developed an app for women in India who wish to hail a taxi. As recent news stories have disclosed, travel on public transit is not always safe, especially for women in countries where patriarchy and general disorder are more prevelant than rule of law and caring for fellow human beings. The app would allow women to book a cab of their choice--it even has a "W" button for hailing a woman-driven cab--as well as texting the details of the cab ride to a friend or family member, so that someone knows where the traveller is and who she's with in case of trouble.
Arora's dream is to have every cab in Waterloo and New Delhi have his company stickers on them. He knows that his app won't end violence against women. "It is a really small step," he is quoted as saying. But I contend that that small step is really important.
A journey of any kind, whether to the local grocery store or to a world where everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, colour, religion, or socio-economic status can live in peace, is made up not of giant leaps, but of small steps. And the most important step of any journey is the first--the step that commits us to leaving the place where we are and going to a new one.
Arora's app certainly isn't the first step towards ending violence against woman. Although at times it seems like we're going backwards, the freedom women have today, especially in Canada, is huge compared to what we have had in the past. And the rage surrounding the recent rapes in India, as well as the move to make rape committed by soldiers a recognized war crime, indicate that the movement towards freedom for women is much more global than it has been.
Arora's app is important for the safety of women in two cities (as of now), but it's important for another reason. Charitable agencies around the world are spending a tremendous amount of money and effort to educate and empower women and girls, but those efforts will fail if we don't also teach men and boys that being a man does not mean you need to be violent, possesive, or "in charge". Arora's app is important not only becaus of what it does, but because of who developed it.
A young man realized that violence against women is the fault of the perpetrators, and our society, and went beyond vigils and protests to actually do something about it. A small step? Perhaps, but if every man(and woman)who thinks likewise went beyond tears to action, those small steps would add up pretty quickly.
My motto for the past few months has been a quote by tennis great Arthur Ashe: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. If, like Sujay Arora, we all lived that quote violence against women (not to mention a host of other social and environmental ills) could very well end in our lifetime.