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!

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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