18 March 2011

March 20: Pledge to Make the Streets Safe for All

Have you ever walked to the other side of the street in order to bypass unwanted attention? Given a wary smile or downward look in response to a catcall? Or worse, been forced to witness inappropriate sexual behavior on the bus or train?

Well now is the time to take back public space, talk back to the cat-caller, and stop street harassment. Join the movement this Sunday, March 20 for the first annual International Anti-Street Harassment Day.

Although studies show that over 80% of women worldwide face some sort of gender-based street harassment, this intimidation is too often ignored. In a guest commentary on our blog, Sarah Blake and Emily May of Ms. Foundation grantee Hollaback! -- an organization dedicated to ending street harassment through mobile technology -- write:
When Hollaback first started more than five years ago, we knew that we, along with thousands of other women and LGBTQ New Yorkers were sick of trying to ignore the aggressive lewd comments, public masturbation and groping that are so commonplace on the city’s streets, subways and buses. But, at the same time, when we talked about “street harassment,” few people knew what we were even talking about...we were often told that the problem was minor, "just the price you pay" for living in a city, or, "not a problem here."
The women of Hollaback! knew better. What they didn't know then was that their organization would help spark an international movement.

[Watch this video to learn from Emily May, Hollaback! Executive Director, about how it all began:]

"Hollaback has now become a network supporting a rapidly multiplying number of local leaders around the world," continue Blake and May. "Along with organizations like Harassmap in Egypt and Women Speak in Trinidad and Tobago, Hollaback’s volunteer leaders in twelve cities around the world are now working to engage their own communities to challenge the attitudes, myths and assumptions that allow street harassment to remain a daily, global, reality."

And as Hollaback points out, women are not alone in experiencing this reality. Public places can be equally forbidding for LBGTQ individuals, immigrants, and others who because of their perceived difference or vulnerability can face intimidation, harassment, even violence on the streets. No matter gender, race, class, immigration status, or religion, street harassment can affect many of us in different ways.

So on on March 20, the first ever International Anti-Street Harassment Day, join us in making a pledge to help keep the streets safe for all. Check your local Hollaback! affiliate for information on events, take action, share your story, post a photo flickr, use the hashtag #antistreetharassmentday, map your event, and find out more. And most importantly, any and every day, don't be afraid to hollaback. Holla!

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