HarassMap is an award-winning volunteer-based initiative founded in late 2010 to build a society that guarantees the safety of all people from sexual and gender based violence. HarassMap was born as a response to the persistent problem of sexual harassment on the streets of Egypt, to which society has become increasingly tolerant. It is the first independent initiative to work on the issue.
HarassMap was launched in December 2010, concurrently with the release of ‘678’, a landmark feature film about sexual harassment. The starting point was to use the online reporting and mapping technology to support an offline community mobilization effort to break stereotypes, stop making excuses for perpetrators, and to convince people to speak out and act against harassment.
The solution works to create an environment where sexual harassment is not tolerated by convincing bystanders and institutions to stand up to sexual harassment before or when they see it happen. This way, by taking a collective stand against sexual harassment, it aims to create social and legal consequences that discourage harassing behavior and seriously reduce it.
The HarassMap is based on Frontline SMS and Ushahidi – free software that can be linked together to make an anonymous reporting and mapping system for harassment. It uses online reports and maps them to show people the scale of the problem and to dispel myths about, and excuses for, sexual harassment – like for example that ‘how women dress’ or ‘sexual frustration’ are reasons and excuses for sexual harassment.
The volunteers all over Egypt go into their own neighborhoods to convince people in the streets to stand up to sexual harassment. Using evidence from our reports and communications campaigns to respond to the excuses people make for harassers, the volunteers aim to motivate a critical mass of bystanders to stand up to harassers, changing the social norm in the street. The solution also recruits “Safe Areas partners” and support them in enforcing a zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment in their space – shop, café, vehicle, or university, as part of our Safe Schools and Universities, Safe Areas and Safe Corporates programs.
The reports, researches and experiences from on-the-ground work to create communications campaigns to dispel myths about sexual harassment, change perceptions that place blame on the harassed, and mobilize people to take positive action against sexual harassment that happens to them or others. The solution also works to steer the media discourse on the issue towards a facts-based positive discussion of what needs to be done to end the sexual harassment epidemic.
As a result of enormous efforts, over the last years, sexual harassment has evolved from being a taboo topic to one that is being widely discussed and tackled by a new crop of independent initiatives. More women are also speaking up about their experiences, and reporting incidents to the police. HarassMap has partnered with Cairo University – the largest university in Egypt - to adopt and implement an anti-sexual harassment policy at the university.
The HarrasMap was awarded with the World Summit Youth Award (2011), Deutsche Welle Best of the Blogs (BOBs) award for “Best Use Of Technology For Social Good 2012”, Cairo University Recognition Award and many others.
Since the initiation, activists from at least 25 different countries have asked for help to set up similar initiatives in their home countries.
Cairo University, Megakheir (TA Telecom), Goethe Institute in Cairo, Ushahidi, International Development Research Centre (Canada), GIZ (Germany), local anti-sexual harassment initiatives, Nijel (US).
Person: Reem Wael, Director