“Women deserve to have dignity. Women deserve to be safe.”- Engy
Sum of day two at the AWID forum: Young Women Rule the World.
The first breakout session I attended yesterday was “Bringing Gender to the Streets: Young women amidst the Arab uprisings.” What the 50 women in the room were able to hear and experience was incredible: four young women’s stories of resistance against oppression and hate in the face of extreme discrimination. They spoke in Arabic, French, and English, but their message was clear no matter what the language spoken. These women were bringing awareness and change for gender justice during and after the uprisings.
One of these activist was Engy, a woman in her early 20s who helped found Harassmap, an interactive website and community action campaign to help end street harassment. Out of 1,500 people surveyed, 70% said at one point they had sexually harassed a woman. Sexual harassment to most women in these regions has become an inescapable reality of venturing out to the street alone. These cases range from catcalling to groping to worse, and these four Arab women rejected this seemingly accepted norm. Women in all parts of Egypt are able to text in to Harassmap when they experience different kinds of aggression or violence on the street, then Engy’s program notes where the harassment took place on an online map for all Egyptians to view. Harassmap then connects those women with free psychological and legal assistance. They have taken this idea offline by creating community groups in all parts of Egypt and have given training to business owners and other individuals on how to stop the street harassment. They also learn how to file a police report when they see the harassment happen or experience it. Harassmap has effectively helped create a network of solidarity and support for women harassed, and this network includes women and men. Their number of volunteers continues to grow. At 300 committed individuals so far, they are “breaking the silence” associated with harassment and are well on their way to abolishing it as a cultural norm. Here is a video of Engy talking about “breaking that silence.”
Much more to come soon!