We’re taking back our streets!

sshThis is a guest post from Holly Kearl. Kearl is the founder of Stop Street Harassment and the author of Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women.
In the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, pedestrian bridges are supposed to allow people to cross busy roads safely, but because street harassment often occurs on the bridges, many women and girls would rather dodge traffic than use them.
Public places are less safe for women and girls worldwide; street harassment and the fear of sexual violence negatively impact our mobility and our access to public spaces. Yet too often, street harassment is dismissed as being no big deal or a compliment.
To bring attention to the harms of street harassment, Stop Street Harassment organized the second annual International Anti-Street Harassment Week. Anyone anywhere can participate by sharing stories, having dialogue –especially with men – about street harassment issues, and visibly reclaiming public spaces and engaging community members.
We are half-way through the week and already many of the more than 140 groups from 21 countries have taken action and have met with great success. (View photos.)
In Nepal, the group Safe City Nepal organized a group of women, girls and their male allies to take back one of the pedestrian bridges. Using sidewalk chalk messaging and signage, they engaged the many passersby in a conversation about harassment on the bridge and empowered themselves by reclaiming the bridge as a place they deserve to be.
“The take back the overhead bridge was so effective that we are planning to do the same on other overhead bridges of the city in coming days, too!” said Smriti RDN, a field research coordinator with Safe City Nepal.
In Waimanalo, Hawaii, the youth of the Brave Heart Program joined their families to create and hold up colorful anti-harassments along a busy road on Sunday. Pohaikealoha Wilcox of the Brave Heard Program said, “A lot of people showed their support by honking, waving, throwing the shaka, and stopping to ask what was going on & telling us keep up the good work and that they were proud! Day one was a success!”
In Atlanta, Georgia, Laura Grace Bordeaux, Co-founder Georgia Working Group, found out about the week on Saturday. In less than 24-hours, she put together an outreach initiative with about 10 people. She said, “This turned out to be the easiest and most enjoyable public event I’ve ever organized! ‘Chalk Walk’ jumped out at me and Facebook contacts took care of the rest.  All the interactions we had were positive, and we’re taking our chalk, posters, bubble, flyers AND candy out again on Saturday.”
I invite you to participate in the week, too! Join the daily tweet chats on various topics and share images and information on social media. Visit the events page to see if there is already a planned action in your area. If there’s not and you want to organize something, there’s still time! It can be as simple as printing flyers and posting them in your community or using sidewalk chalk to write messages. The biggest outreach days are Friday and Saturday. Just let me know what you did.
Join us, meet us on the street and help make our public places safer!
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One Comment

  1. Posted April 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    It’s great that women are talking to men about street harassment. We really need to hear your stories. I know I’ve learned a lot. For a long time I didn’t see street harassment as a big deal either. I was street harassed when I was younger and in shape. I just assumed that it was the same experience that women had. I would waive off a cat call and walk away. Women reported being followed for blocks. It happened to me maybe 10 to 20 times in my lifetime with about 3 or 4 times qualifying as “creepy”. Some women have said that it happens daily. Neither the frequency or severity were the same, but my opinion was colored by my experience. That might be why some men don’t think it’s a big deal.

    The other thing is I only remember seeing street harassment of women twice. Once when it was directed at a woman I was with and once on a bus when I decided to stop it. I’m sure I remember these instances because I was involved in a way. I’m certain I’ve seen other instances, but didn’t deem them important enough to remember. A 27 year old man had told me that he never witnessed it. A woman told us it almost never happens when she’s with her boyfriend, but all the time when she’s not. That’s another very important thing for men to know. Just because you don’t see it or recognize it, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.

    Just wanted to share what I learned.

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