Three organizations that care about women’s safety in public

In light of my recent post about if “the left” cares that women aren’t safe in public, which is rather a downer piece, I want to do an upper piece and point out three organizations that do care. I applaud them for taking this issue seriously.

1. United Nations: Through UNIFEM the UN has a comprehensive Safe Cities project. The initiative started in Peru and Argentina and has spread to other countries, such as India.

“Harassment and abuse of women and girls in public spaces is a rampant yet largely neglected issue. This module provides guidance on how to create safe cities and communities for women and girls to live a life free of violence drawing on the knowledge of experts and on existing programmes that work.  This advance version, walks you through essential programming elements, giving step-by-step guidance for implementation with illustrative case studies and links to tools and other resources.”

Printed out, it’s over 200 pages. I’m in the midst of reading through it and I’m impressed by its scope and am SO glad that an organization with the caliber of the UN is addressing this issue.

2. Government of Wales: Recently they launched a “One Step Too Far” Campaign that illustrates the slippery slope between harmless interactions and harassment in public places.

“The campaign asks individuals to re-assess the impacts of their own behaviour and that of their peers. The absolute cut-off between harmless and abusive is subject to debate, and depends on the context and on the individuals concerned. One thing is not open for debate however, and that is that any behaviour that degrades, humiliates or frightens a woman is unacceptable.

Gender discrimination stems from a man’s perceived sense of entitlement. It’s this attitude that gives him the green light to direct derogatory and unfair behaviour towards women. By accepting this behaviour- either as a woman or a man- we propagate this attitude in society as a whole.

If it’s ok to express these attitudes, then it’s ok to express these behaviours, right? And if it’s ok to express these behaviours, then where’s the harm in pushing it a bit further, right? Sexism falls within a continuum of harm, a slippery slope of ever-worsening behaviours that moves women further and further from where they’re entitled to be.

Physical violence towards women, sometimes resulting in death, is where that slippery slope ends. Which is why we must all challenge these attitudes.”

The hidden camera video is excellent and they list numerous resources. There’s also a comments section though I’d pass on it unless you love reading comments from men who think it’s perfectly fine to harass women in public who dress “a certain way.”

3. International Center for Research on Women: They are running an excellent initiative in India focused on changing boys’ and men’s attitudes about masculinity and gender issues, including addressing the rampant problem of street harassment, or eve teasing, there. One component of the initiative is called “Parivartan.” Through it, cricket coaches and role models on community cricket teams attend workshops on gender issues and then, because the others on the team look up to them, expose large groups of boys to healthy definitions of manhood and respect for women. This excerpt explains the impact on one of the participants:

Rajesh Jadhav via ICRW website

“…As is custom, Rajesh explains that women stood in a compartment [of the train] relegated for them. But the train was packed on this day, so some women were in the general area, alongside men. That’s when Rajesh saw a few men deliberately brush up against women. His eyes caught the pained looks on women’s faces.

Another time – actually, many other times – Rajesh says he was with friends when they harassed girls with lewd comments. He says he’s seen friends do so if they thought a girl was too tall. If they thought her skin was too dark. If she was with her boyfriend, they’d comment about what she did with him sexually.

In India, such behavior by Rajesh’s friends is called “eve teasing.” It runs the gamut, from making suggestive remarks to groping women, and is relatively common in public settings.

“I always used to feel … that we look at women and girls from a narrow perspective, and we make fun of their existence,” says Rajesh, who is pursing a bachelor’s degree in commerce at a nearby college – a rare opportunity in his community. “I’ve seen girls break down and cry and I couldn’t do anything.”

Until now.

These days, Rajesh has the confidence to speak out against mistreating women and girls. Sometimes, he even intervenes to stop it. He admits to being pressured to harass girls, too – and has in the past – but no more. “I know now that is harming someone’s dignity.”As a participant in ICRW’s Parivartan program, Rajesh has become an ambassador of sorts, preaching to his peers that women shouldn’t be controlled, and that men need to learn how to handle problems without using violence.”

So wonderful. Can we please get a similar program in the US?! Additionally, check out ICRW’s publication What Men Have to Do With It.

“Most policies that strive for equality still focus exclusively on empowering women and neglect the role that men can play in the effort. This report summarizes how policies of seven countries (Brazil, Chile, India, Mexico, South Africa, Norway and Tanzania) involve men in gender equality goals. The study also examines whether the policies address social norms that reinforce traditional perceptions of what it means to be a man. The authors analyze advances, challenges and remaining gaps in a range of policy arenas”

I am so grateful for the programs of these organizations and hope that other big groups will follow suit and address the fact that nearly all women and girls are unsafe and unwelcome in public spaces at least sometimes because of some boys and men. That won’t change until we all do our part to make sure it changes.


One Response to Three organizations that care about women’s safety in public

  1. Wow. Very informative. Thanks.

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