The traffic has stalled for what seems like a decade. Passengers keep on popping their heads out of their vehicles to see what the holdup is about. Many are honking as if that would make a difference, while some have stepped outside on the road to get the traffic moving – a small quarrel has even broken out within them. A woman sits quietly in her car, dreading what awaits her at home, where she never felt safe. As the pool of arguing men moved, she notices a rickshaw blocked between two cars. This rickshaw is nothing out of the ordinary, except the banner behind it advertises a “Khawateen Sahulat Desk” (Gender Desk) which provides counselling and information to women, children, and transgender persons in need. She quickly takes a picture of the numbers given on the banner before the way clears up for her car.
UNDP has established Gender desks, across five cities in Pakistan, to increase women’s access to justice and protection services. These Desks provide free legal counselling, referral, and protection advisory to women and transgender persons. During the 16 Days of Activism, UNDP and partners ran an awareness campaign where contact details and information on these Desks were advertised through rickshaws in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Quetta, and Swat.
Rickshaws are an affordable form of transport for most people in Pakistan. Advertising on them makes it an effective platform to reach out to vulnerable and marginalised communities, who may not have access to the internet or to the traditional media to call for help. The Rickshaw Campaign in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Quetta, and Swat kicked off with briefing sessions with rickshaw drivers, where they were given information about the network of Gender Desks established in the five cities, their addresses and contact details. They were encouraged to spread the word within their communities and distribute awareness flyers about Gender Desks to their passengers.
Rickshaws are also a good mean to get the message to remote communities due to their accessibility and availability to everyone. Whether the rickshaws are zooming across the roads, stuck in traffic jams, parked outside markets, or parked within drivers’ or owners’ communities, they are visible to everyone and a great medium for inclusive advertisement. They can also reach areas where traditional advertisement methods may not be able to reach, specifically in urban slums where vulnerable communities, and in particular women, children, and transgender persons, may need increased access to justice.
Tabindah Anwar, Communications Associate, Communications Unit, UNDP Pakistan.
Ayesha Babar, Communications Analyst & Head of Communications Unit, UNDP Pakistan.