Around three weeks ago in Pune, reports emerged indicating that unaccompanied women who were taking a relative to hospitals to get treated for COVID-19, were sexually assaulted. Responding to such reports, an ambulance service has emerged in Pune which is run by women. Its purpose is to provide women with the safe space they deserve while taking their loved ones to the hospital.
The ambulance service, called Stree Safe, was started by the Ninebee Foundation’s founder, Amarpreet Singh, and is being headed by Guneet Kaur. The service currently has two women drivers, and the ambulances themselves announce in bold pink letters that it is a “free ambulance by women, for women”. Five other women drivers are also being trained in self-defence and martial arts in Pune’s Kondhwa, and will soon join the fleet of ambulances.
“We launched the service soon after we came across a case of a woman, who was abused while her husband was in the back of the ambulance,” Singh told a news agency. “There are many more such cases that we never hear about, because nobody reports these. The woman is already stressed and is taking her loved one to a hospital all by herself. Under the circumstances, she is unlikely to turn the ambulance towards a police station to report a case of abuse,” he adds. “There have been instances when women have been sexually abused in return for medical services,” Kaur said.
Currently, Stree Safe is using vehicles that are pre-registered as ambulances, and a fundraiser has also been set up to buy three more for Pune. All the ambulances will be equipped with ventilators and other emergency medical supplies that COVID-19 patients may require in transit. The women behind this initiative also hope to start the ambulance service in Delhi, starting next week.