Your Safety in Your Hands

Original artical, Bangalore Mirror, Sowmya Rajaram

A start-up is crowdsourcing funds to make security apparatus for women easily available, along with information on how, when and where to use it.

Dr. Shruti Kapoor (35) Economist and Founder,

The December 16, 2012 gangrape in Delhi was the straw that broke the camel’s back.The anger spawned the nation’s first such dialogue on gender equality. It was also economist Shruti Kapoor’s trigger for starting Sayfty, a start-up that equips women with tools to protect themselves — from pepper spray to self-defence classes.

Born and raised in Kanpur, Kapoor moved to the US to pursue a Masters in Economics, after which she went on to work with the World Bank. She says, “It’s not that women aren’t assaulted here. But I know how to protect myself. Sex education is a part of the school curriculums, safety classes are conducted, and women and even little children are taught to be alert to sticky situations.”

With the help of a hedge fund, five bloggers who generate 3-4 blog posts a month, two social media updaters, and videographers and consultants hired on a need basis, Kapoor set up Sayfty seven months ago. It’s not that they can’t buy pepper sprays or sign up for self-defence classes on their own. But how many do? “We conducted an online survey of 1,200 people from across the country. The level of ignorance was appalling. I’m not there to sell a pepper spray, but to create awareness.

Along with the products, we have videos teaching usage. Success stories of women who have used them will be uploaded to build a community of shared experiences.”

Sayfty has spoken to companies such as 360 degree sports in Mumbai and Justice for Women to provide self-defence workshops. Every $35 donated on the website will give a recipient 15 hours of self-defence classes. A donation of $10 will buy a can of pepper spray. The money collected through the campaign will be used for donating these products to women. After that these products will be available for sale through the website. “We will also provide women in vulnerable situations — say female call centre employees — self-defence training,” explains Kapoor.

She doesn’t deny that these are essentially quick-fixes to an endemic problem. “There are NGOS demanding legislation and policy changes. But until then, this is an urgent solution that women can use to take charge of their own safety.” A pepper spray isn’t just a way to fend off an attacker, it also boosts confidence, she believes.

Future plans include partnering with organisations such as MARD and Jagori to educate children, and change value systems. But until then, Kapoor hopes to generate sufficient funds to provide basic self-defence apparatus to women in India. “Using lipstick may make you feel prettier. Similarly, knowing you are equipped to deal with an attack promotes a feeling of courage.”