An anti-street harassment protester in Kathmandu this week. Photo via Activista Nepal.
Marching down a dark street in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Monday evening, dozens of people came together for one common cause: more street lamps.
“We demand proper policy related to public services that will ensure women and girls’ safety in public spaces,” recalled Moti Lama, the National Coordinator of Activista Nepal, one of the participating groups. “We flashed placards and torches [flashlights] in the rally to demand proper street lighting system in the public spaces.”
Wearing masks in the shape of hands with messages like “Stop street harassment” and “My body is not a public space” written across them, young women and men alike spoke out against harassment in the area. “Youth are the largest population in the country and suffer the direct brunt of harassment in public vehicles and in the streets of Kathmandu,” said Lama. “Activista Nepal, a youth platform, raises its voice against this injustice.”
Nepal is one of 24 countries participating in the fourth annual International Anti-Street Harassment Week, organized by my nonprofit Stop Street Harassment. Many groups are holding sidewalk chalking events or are pasting Stop Telling Women to Smile posters in their community, while others held community events or campaigns or raising awareness online.
Indian group SafeCity documents street harassment with an interactive map of reported catcalls and violence.
There has been a ton of anti-street harassment activism around the world this week. SafeCity in India performed street plays about bystander intervention, hosted a film screening and discussion at a local campus, and encouraged people to share their stories at Safecity.in. Koru Kenya hosted a rally in Mombasa, at the Makadara Grounds. Women’s Networking Hub held an anti-harassment street demonstration outside a Tesco, in Birmingham, UK. In Australia, Hollaback! Melbourne hosted “Heckleback!” An Evening of Comedy Against Street Harassment.
Hollaback! Gent kicked off the week by hanging three huge banners about harassment near Ghent University, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat in Belgium. The English translation for the banner below is: “If mean words stream, you can come in between.” Jolien Voorspoels, a co-director of Hollaback! Gent, said, “The umbrella [in the banner] symbolizes the little gesture from a bystanders, literally keeping off the demeaning words. We want possible bystanders to know that little can impact greatly!”
An anti-street harassment banner in Gent. Photo via iHollaback.org.
The group hopes to prompt people walking by to consider the issue and “rethink how they behave in the streets and know that they are not alone in experiencing harassment,” said Voorspoels.
In Philadelphia, HollabackPHILLY launched a new anti-harassment transit ad campaign on Tuesday. The 18 unique messages explaining what street harassment is and what people can do about it will be grouped at eight bus shelters and seven subway stations across the month of April.
The ads are an expansion of a transit ad campaign HollabackPHILLY launched last April. These new ads are meant to continue the conversation those started and fill in some gaps. This new campaign includes examples of ways to intervene in the moment during harassment situations, and after the fact to support the targets of the harassment, says HollabackPHILLY director Rochelle Keyhan. “We also created LGB and trans* specific ads to get at the nuances of street harassment across multiple gender presentations.”
An ad from Hollaback Philly’s public transit campaign.
Over the weekend, I invite you to join in this week of awareness, too! See if there is an event near you. Request a PDF of Stop Telling Women to Smile posters that you can put up in your town. Participate in one of the remaining Tweet Chats (#EndSH). Or, simply share a story.
Street harassment impacts millions of people worldwide but it’s rarely recognized as being a problem worth doing anything about. International Anti-Street Harassment Week is the perfect time to start a conversation about street harassment with a friend for neighbor, to talk about why it matters, to break down the stereotypes around it, and to help make it socially unacceptable. Will you join us?
Holly Kearl is the founder of Stop Street Harassment, a consultant to UN Women, and a facilitator with The OpEd Project.